CCM artist, Jody McBrayer, has released his debut album for StowTown Records, Keep Breathing, February 12th. The 11-song project was produced by StowTown Records' Wayne Haun and features such notable award-winning songwriters as Michael Farren ("Every Time I Breathe," "Let It Rain"), Tony Wood ("Satisfied," "Dangerous"), David Frey and Ben McDonald (Sidewalk Prophets) and Wayne Haun ("I Will Find You," "I Wish I Could Have Been There"). McBrayer, co-founder and former member of the award winning group Avalon, was co-writer on the title track.
Hallels: Jody, thanks for dong this interview with us. Looking back at your time with Avalon, what did those years teach you about ministry and the Lord?
Well, a lot actually. Avalon was an amazing time in my life and something that I will always be FOREVER grateful. But, if I'm being honest, I'm not sure I was the best steward of that season of my life. I was so easily distracted and my priorities were all wrong. I'm EXTREMELY thankful that God uses us in spite of ourselves and that many people were encouraged by the music of Avalon. I just wish that I had been more focused on Him and His calling for my life. I've literally had to go around the world and back since I left Avalon, to realize just how important 'ministry' really is.
Hallels: Why did you leave Avalon?
In late 2006, I was diagnosed with a degenerative form of heart disease, which I'm still being treated for today, and that made it very difficult for me to keep up the schedule that was necessary. By that time, my life was spinning out of control. My marriage was falling apart, with my wife and I both crazy busy and traveling in separate directions. She worked for a record label and was often leaving when I was returning home. Plus, we had just had our daughter. It was not a healthy environment for any of us and it was crumbling quickly. We made the decision, with my doctor at the time and our family, that I would step down. The decision saved my marriage and I believe my life.
Hallels: I believe you left music ministry for a while, what promoted you to come back?
I actually stepped away in 2007 for about eight years. I sat behind a desk working for my wife's family's business and just resigned myself to the fact that music was a closed chapter. I was growing extremely depressed at the thought of being 'shelved' for good, while not understanding God's plan. It wasn't until 2014, when I got a phone call from Roger Breland, [founder and director of the music group TRUTH, a band that I spent several years with before starting Avalon] asking me if I could be in Uganda by Friday. It was Wednesday. I wasn't sure that was even physically possible. However, I said yes and flew to Uganda to sing for Benny Hinn Ministries at one of his giant crusades. Soon, I became part of his traveling staff and God really used the experiences I had with Pastor Benny, the friends I made, and most of all, the things that I experienced, were to change my heart. There are no words that will ever be adequate for what I witnessed God do both in my life and in the lives of others. All I know now is that I have a responsibility to help people realize that God is real. He's tangible, living and He has a purpose for all of us. My happiness and contentment has really become secondary because of who I am now, who I was created to be, and to be solely purposed to making Him known to the world. If happiness is a byproduct of that then I'm all the better for it. That is why I came back.
Hallels: Why did you agree to sign with StowTown Records?
It was interesting because I knew a year before being approached by Landon Beene from Stowtown that I wanted to make another recording and get out there again. I just didn't know how. So, I just continued to be faithful to whatever God placed before me. I continued to travel with Benny Hinn Ministries in the hopes that doors would open. In early 2015, I had two different people talking to me about recording deals. The thought of the whole 'music industry' thing again scared me to death, but it's the only way to get your message to the masses so I had to try. Landon presented his vision to me in such a sincere way. First, we talked about Cana's Voice. The new trio that I'm a part of along with TaRanda Greene and Doug Anderson. (New project release date is May 27th). I loved the idea of a group and I loved these people. We all came from broken and restored places and I felt like we had a lot to say. However, I also had my own personal things to share and really wanted to be able to make my own recording. Landon was supportive of that and by Spring of 2015 I had signed a contract with StowTown. It's a predominantly Southern Gospel label and I'm going to be a branch out artist for them. The relationships, along with the heart and the soul of StowTown, just felt right to me and I've had nothing but confirmation since then.
Hallels: How do you think your sound has changed from the days with Avalon to now?
Besides sounding older?? LOL! My wife and I were listening to the CD in the car the other day and she said I sounded more 'mature.' I thought that was a very diplomatic way of saying 'older.'(we've come a long, long way, she and I.) The music isn't as pop driven as Avalon once was, but I'm not 29 years old anymore either. I would say that my wife is right - ahem - it's a more mature sound. It's fun at times but extremely introspective and vertical.
Hallels: What's it like working with Wayne Haun? How did he challenge you for this new record?
Wayne is so laid back compared to many of the producers that I've worked with in the past. He's a musical genius and his brain is always processing. He's not a 'jump on the console and shout when you get something right' kind of producer. If it's wrong he says, 'Do it again' and if it's right he says, 'Good job. Moving on.' He has an amazing ear and great direction for each song. However, he's also open to suggestions, which I tend to give often.
Hallels: What are some lessons you wish to impart through this new album to your listeners?
Wow. There are a million things I'd say here if I had more time. Suffice it to say this; God has a plan for you regardless of who you are, where you live, your past mistakes or even your future ones. If He was going to wait for perfection before He used us, there would be no pastors. No churches. No Christian musicians. We are all broken vessels longing to be filled. God can repair that brokenness and fill you up with His purpose. Don't give up on yourself. God hasn't. Keep Breathing and know there is a plan.
Hallels: How has your faith changed over all these ordeals?
I actually have faith. I have substantial proof that God is real and that He is working. I'm not sure I actually believed that many years ago. I just did what my parents did. Believed what they believed. It's amazing the path that God has led me down to get to where I am today. I have plenty of scars, bumps and bruises but I know they've all made me seek after Him even more. I have so many friends who say to me, 'God just wants me to be happy,' so they make decisions that affect their lives in a negative way, and the lives of people they love, because they think their happiness is paramount to God. It's just not. Of course He loves us and shares in our joy but that's not our sole purpose for existence. Our purpose, what we were created for, is to praise God in all that we do and all that we are. To tell the world about Him and to bring light to this broken world. If happiness is a by-product of that, which how can it not be, then so be it! This is where my faith is now. Where my heart is now. I'm exactly where I feel like God wants me to be for the first time in my life and I'm not going back.