Dallas-based singer/songwriter, worship leader and multi-instrumentalist John Marc Kohl, has just released his album Still. The set delivers deeply vulnerable, autobiographical themes grounded in the promises of God's unyielding faithfulness.
Co-produced by Kohl and Will Hunt, with two tracks produced by Bryan Fowler (TobyMac, Newsboys), Kohl penned or co-penned the entire 12-song set, collaborating with such acclaimed songwriters as Fowler, Shane Barnard, Mike Donehey and The Worship Initiative's Aaron Williams, among others.
We are honored to catch up with John for this exclusive interview.
Q: John, thanks for doing this interview with us. Let's start with yourself: tell us a little about your current ministry.
I'm a worship leader, recording artist and songwriter with The Worship Initiative. A typical day could include songwriting, making resources and content for worship leaders, and leading worship for an event or church gathering.
Q: How and when did you feel the call to be a worship leader?
I grew up singing at my church, but it wasn't until high school that my youth pastor, Canaan, asked me to lead worship for the junior high group. I absolutely did not deserve that opportunity! Although I was a good singer, I had no experience in leading people. But Canaan gave me a shot, and people at my church began affirming what I was doing. I remember several instances where staff members pulled me aside and told me I was meant to do this. Ironically, for the next 10 years, I ran from that calling as far as I could. Even though the affirmation from people in my life continued, and the opportunities grew, I fought it and found ways to justify not pursuing it fully.
Q: What's The Worship Initiative? How did you get involved with them?
The Worship Initiative is a multi-faceted ministry that develops a variety of resources for worship leaders. I had a mutual friend at The Worship Initiative who asked me to come sing on an album they were recording, and I've been involved with them since.
Q: Tell us about your new album, what were some of your joys in making this record?
My album has songs written a few years ago and even a few months ago, so these songs feel like a collage of God's faithfulness throughout the seasons of my life in between. The greatest joy was making music with dear friends, new and old. The meals we shared in between recording, the jokes that were only funny at 1 am, and the honest conversations throughout made it worthwhile. Making music is a beautiful collision of lives, all of us creating from the deepest parts of ourselves.
Q: Who are some of your co-writers on this record? Care to share a story with one of these songwriters?
Mike Donehey, Shane Barnard, Bryan Fowler and Aaron Williams are some of the writers who impacted this record deeply. I am so grateful I had their wisdom and instinct guiding me in the process.
I started writing "Tapestry" with Austin Haas, David Rudd, Lizi Bailey and Zach Castillo at a songwriting retreat. I ultimately ended up finishing it with Bryan Fowler, who also produced the track. We were in the middle of the finishing touches on the lyric when we got stuck. We took a break, and Bryan took me out to his backyard to show me a garden he had been working on. But we weren't there to look at plants or flowers, he wanted to show me the colorful caterpillars in the garden. I wanted to finish the song so badly, so I only stayed outside for a few minutes. Ten minutes later, I look out, and Bryan is still staring at those caterpillars! We went back to the studio that night, and he mentioned how much God cares for even the smallest things in creation and makes them beautiful. That thought provided the inspiration we needed to finish the lyric!
Q: One of my favorite songs off the album is "Desert Places." How did this song come about?
I wrote "Desert Places" with Aaron Williams and Shane Barnard. I was reading Isaiah 58:11, "And the Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your desire in scorched places..." before Aaron and I began writing that day. We both connected over the passage, and he said something like, "It's almost as if God does His best work in the desert place." We had that moment you see in movies where we stopped and just looked at each other. It felt special, even then.
Q: How do you hope these songs would impact the lives of your listeners?
I hope that if you listen to the record, you'll realize it's ok to struggle. Faith, art and living are sometimes messy. It's ok not to have it all together. It's ok to not be ok. If you're doubting your faith, wrestling with questions, or struggling in general right now, I'm so sorry. I really hope it gets better soon. I hope that these songs are a comfort to you, and I hope they show you Jesus.
Q: If worship leaders would like to use these songs, where can they go to get the chord charts and other resources?
theworshipinitiative.com is the place to find all these resources.