You know the feeling of refusing to do something you feel like you're supposed to do? It is from this place of resistance the song, 'Irreverent', came to be. After years of casually ignoring God's prompting to write faith-based music, Christian-rock artist Jodi Essex is ready to answer it boldly with her breakout single, 'Irreverent'. A fearless declaration, this song invites listeners not to rebel against God's calling, but rather to live for Christ in an authentic way that is unapologetic to the world.
Written and recorded at Uphill Studios in Atlanta, GA alongside Studio Owner, Producer and Drummer Sean Hill (Jamie Grace, Clay Crosse, Landry Cantrell), 'Irreverent' is part of a 10-song record that is both guitar-driven and melodic with lyrics that are forthright, yet introspective.
Although Jodi has been a Christian her entire life, "Irreverent" highlights something she has experienced for years; through her work in entertainment, which included television, film and the pursuit of a more-secular music career, Jodi has felt like her heart and purpose weren't always in the right place. As doors have opened and closed, Jodi's music journey has been marked by moments she's felt God saying, "It doesn't matter; trust me and my plan for your life."
Q: Jodi, thanks for doing this interview with us. Let's start with yourself: how did you come to know Christ?
Of course, my absolute pleasure! I'm grateful for the opportunity! Great lead-off question!
I grew up in a church-going household. My parents were always involved in church ministry as far back as I can recall, so I naturally fell into it. As a youth, I was invited to be the Sunday soloist who would close out every worship service with a special song, and then eventually moved into being part of the regular worship team.
It wasn't until the age of 12, where my faith journey was first clearly defined for me and I started to understand and explore what it all meant. Not just what I was being taught by people in my life and church but starting to think for myself and ask the discerning questions. I had a very soul-stirring point in my faith journey where I began truly understanding what being born-again in Jesus meant. In that same year, I was attended a women's worship retreat with my older sister and in a deep moment of singing and praise, I felt a prompting to open my bible. I sat down in my chair, grabbed my bible and started randomly thumbing through it. I kept feeling like I needed to be in Psalms. I turned to Psalm 40:3 and there my eyes went: "He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the LORD and put their trust in him." I knew even then that I was being prompted to pursue ministry in music. However, I did not heed that prompting then, which was one obvious example of growing in faith, but not yet spiritually mature enough to pursue the prompting.
Q: Before you recorded any faith-based music, you had quite a journey in secular music as well as movies and TV. Tell us about your journey.
Well, I grew up doing a fair amount of musical theater, which combined my love for music and acting. I signed with my first talent agent when I was really young - about 13 years old. I started doing commercials and such, and, as I got older started to segue into bigger, more diverse projects. My first episodic role was on Candid Camera, which was a great experience. During that same time, I was still pursuing music and ended up played in a couple of rock bands. I'd also do national anthems for sporting events on occasion and perform for non-profit fundraisers.
I chased my tail in that circle for a long time and I started to become really discouraged. I had some really good opportunities; experiences I am forever grateful for and met some really awesome people. I mean, having Dr. J (basketball-great, Julius Irving) give me a pep-talk before a public performance?!!? OK! But over the long-term, I didn't feel like most work opportunities were totally fulfilling. There were also just those times when I questioned the path I was on and the teams of people I was working with.
The entertainment industry is extremely difficult, unforgiving, and can wear you down. You need a really tough skin to work in it and you need major resilience to survive it. There are also very few people you can trust. I finally had just reached a point where I needed a respite from parts of that industry. It was a tough decision. The industry was what I had always loved most, therefore the most difficult and disappointing when things weren't working out like I had hoped. I packed a lot of those dreams up and put them away.
Q: What was the turning point that made you want to record faith-based music?
How much time do you have (laughs)?
The story is long and started decades ago. Due in part to my stubbornness (well, I am half-Irish, ha!) and will to do things my way. You know, the better way (wink). I ignored God's promptings for me to do faith-based music until finally, after many, many, MANY life-changing experiences and "rip you to your core" seasons, I was forced to listen.
There was a huge ah-ha moment where I was reminded I had nowhere else to turn for peace. Time was up on my own clock. I had lost a serious amount of faith through those hard times and I had spent a fair amount of time mad at God. It's amazing how often we don't take God seriously, though. I laugh at that absurdity now. We put him off, we rationalize and talk ourselves out of all kinds of things. We sometimes pretend that voice reverberating in our heads and hearts, guiding us to make a change we know need to make is literally a figment of our imagination.
Gotta hand it to God - we have something in common: we are both bold and like to deliver messages in such a way that can't be unheard and is "in your face." I like his style! It finally stopped me and left me no choice but to take notice and heed his prompting! "Irreverent" was born! That's the story in a nutshell. I might write a book one day.
Q: How would you describe your music now?
ROCK-N-ROLL, 100% for His glory! I keep hearing and reading media pieces that argue whether rock is dead. Or questioning if guitar is dead. NEITHER IS DEAD! I'm here to help remind listeners of that and/or resurrect that in listener's minds! Jesus would totally dig this music.
Q: Let's talk about your new single "Irreverent." What's the song about? And how did it come about?
It's a guitar-driven rock tune, with a rebellious attitude/vibe about being unapologetic to the world when it comes to being your true authentic self. However, the second part to that is perfectly stated in a recent press release, saying "this song invites listeners not to rebel against God's calling, but rather to live for Christ in an authentic way that is unapologetic to the world."
"Irreverent" came as an observation of people (both believers and non-believers) continually feeling like they truly need to be something they're not. This could mean the clothes they wear; the way they speak; thinking based only on the results yielded by validation of others. All of those things can be really unhealthy as its layer upon layer covering one's authentic self. You get further and further away from who you're called to be and closer to a pseudo-confidence being built solely on what others think about you and their approval of everything you are or aren't. It's similar to the human "house of cards" model. That's damaging to live a life like that.
It needs to start with our self-acceptance, building our own unswayable confidence. Know your value, worth. Of course, the most important layer to that is inviting God in and allowing him to do the amazing transformative work that only he can do through Jesus. And look - being a crusader for Jesus and being a Christian is no easy task. I sing about that in the bridge, "Not for the meek, brave and the bold." It takes guts to stand up for yourself, for your beliefs, and speaking your truth about your faith journey. We need to do that, no matter who our audience is; we don't just change face out of fear. Stand your ground and be proud of what you represent. By the grace of God, you will be strengthened by that. "Irreverent" definitely has a crusading feel to it and gives way to an uninhibited solo rock out session!
Q: Give us a sneak peek at your new album. What kind of songs can we expect from it? And when will it be released?
It's unabashedly guitar-driven rock; definitely melodic with some unique compositional turnarounds and vocal layers. I'd describe it as bold, energizing and anthemic but gives way to some laid-back, straight ahead tunes reminiscent of a classic rock vibe. I also wrote a couple introspective and empathetic ballads that make you take pause on life; feel and think. The lyrics are very open and truthful and, at times, very "in your face," meaning they evoke an entire range of emotions that we all have as humans. Emotions that we may be afraid to feel or admit to.
I put it all out there. From Track #1 to Track #10, there is an entire story of how life ebbs and flows and how we deal with the highs and lows. It almost reads like a theatrical production, in that it begins with Act 1 scenes, then Act 2 and so on, ending with the Finale and even a Reprise (Track #10) also my favorite song on the album, wrapping it all up with lessons learned so, "Stay out of your rearview mirror..." Obviously, most of it has an autobiographical slant to it.
As I mentioned previously regarding my favorite song on the album, Track #10 is the Finale and Reprise, wrapping it all up with lessons learned so, "Stay out of your rearview mirror..." Obviously, most of it has an autobiographical slant to it. I should note that Track #8 on the album is a cover I did of Amy Grant's, "All Right" of her "Lead Me On" album from back in the day. That song - actually, the entire album of hers, came at a very poignant time in my life and I was listening to it constantly.
There will be 5 singles released, along with several full-length music videos up to the album release in June 2020.
Q: Who are some of the people you have had worked with for this new record?
The entire album was written and recorded at Uphill Studios in Atlanta, GA alongside Studio Owner & Producer, Sean Hill (Jamie Grace, Clay Crosse, Landry Cantrell). Sean also played the drums. He's super creative, talented and was a blast to work with! The musicians that played on the album are: guitarist and bassist Jadan Sorenson (Angie Stone, Montell Jordan, Crystal Nicole, Sounds of Blackness, Bucky Covington), Pablo Melgar - Keys (touring with FRVR FREE; previously with New Song, Passion, Jesus Culture), Josh Smith (Strings), Jon-Paul Keller - Background Vocals (David and Nicole Binion, BJ Putnam). They seriously are such a stellar group of musicians and all have the biggest hearts. I couldn't ask for a better team. They ALL brought their A-game! The album was also mixed by Sean Hill (the guy wears many hats!) and mastered by Bob Boyd (Ambient Digital, LLC), who is a veteran superstar in his field. He really does amazing work!
Q: How has your journey thus far helped you to understand God and worship?
I am reminded more than ever of God's forgiveness, grace, compassion, and FIRE. That's right, FIRE. Lack of passion is fatal. Living every day where we think we can just cherry-pick through everything and sleepwalk through this miracle of life we've all been given, will only prevent us from living and knowing the exquisite, impassioned, love-filled adventure, and purpose that can only be found in the arms of Christ. "Irreverent" is an album of worship songs. I want listeners to find energy, renewal, and hope in this music! Be emboldened! Listen to the message! ROCK ON.