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Interview with Sam Hart – Songwriter and founder of MissionalMusic.org

SamHartWCS Interviews Sam Hart, Singer/Songwriter and Founder of Missional Music.  What is Missional Music all about? According to the website: Jesus-transformed artists & bands donate music. People stream/download it. 100% of the profits meet urgent physical & spiritual needs around the world..primarily taking the Gospel to the more than 40% of the world currently unreached.

 Tell us a little about yourself, your faith journey.

I was raised in a Christian home. When I was four is when I understood the basics about Jesus and the Gospel and my parents led me in a prayer to invite Jesus into my life. I went through a time in high-school and into my 20s when I needed to trade in my childhood religion for a grace-based dependance on Jesus. My wife and I went through a super-hard season in our marriage, which was the catalyst that drove me into, what I consider, a real faith in Jesus. Now we have a very rich marriage dependent on God’s grace. And we have three great kids :)

How did you get started writing songs?

My parents always had a piano around. That helped. But when I was seven my mom took me to a Christian concert at the church I grew up in. It was Dallas Holm’s band “Holm, Sheppard, Johnson”. And I can distinctly remember thinking, “This is what I want to do with my life.” So I started playing drums and writing little songs. By the time I was 12 I had learned a few chords on guitar and piano and my parents paid for me to record a couple of albums after that. So most of my “training” has been experiential…with some classes thrown in here and there. I consider myself a self-learner and so I’m always paying attention to ways I can suck less at being human :)

What is missionalmusic.org and how did the project come about?

For the last 15 years or so, I’ve been a part of the Christian Music industry in various ways. At some point I lost interest in the idea of trying to “make it” in Christian Music. I started to question my motives. Then a couple of years ago, while in Nicaragua, I realized how removed those particular people were from Christian Music festivals, Air-1, GMA, and the Dove awards. I mean the neighborhoods we were in had no paved streets, houses were made of block, tin panels, mattresses, or whatever else could function as a wall. People owned one set of clothes, and sometimes not even shoes. They had to walk with a dirty bucket to get water. Getting out of North America can really put things into perspective. So I came back and began to have conversations with my wife and friends in the music world about how we could use our music to meet the needs of people around the world. The idea grew until we realized the best way to do this would be to open our idea to other artists who feel the same way, and then as a community of artists, give away our music to fund God’s work in the world.

We’re just getting started but our mission is simple: Music sales that support reaching the unreached with the Gospel. It’s like a label and a mission’s agency had a baby.

You mention on your site that musicians you have gathered have gone from promoting themselves to promoting Jesus. Can you explain this more?

Well, I’m speaking for myself first. As God’s Spirit changes our nature, our worldview, our desires, our priorities, our motives gradually change as well. For me this has transpired in many ways but one way has been my motives and desires related to music. I used to desire notoriety and money…mostly notoriety from the music I write, record, and perform. I’ve learned that it mostly came from a place of my need for acceptance and affirmation from an incomplete identity. Once Jesus began to supply those things through His Grace and the Gospel, He also began to change my desires. I’m still interested in notoriety and money…but not my own. I’m interested in His fame and money that will accomplish His priorities, not my own.

I’m beginning to meet others who can relate and they are the ones who we are partnering with…if their quality of craft is awesome. An artist or band can submit anything they’d like to donate from our website.

How did you gather the musicians to be on the project?

So far all we’ve done in the short time since we started is a 12 song compilation. All of the artists on that were artists that either Kyle (one of my partners and Missional Music board member) or I knew. We just asked them to donate a song to help fund missions. They were all super stoked to be a part.

What is the scope of missionalmusic.org? You currently have volume 1 – are there plans for more volumes?

There are plans for more albums, and in the future we hope to release music in various ways. In a few short months we learned that, by ourselves, we don’t have the ability to make much of a dent in the statistic that states 40% of the world doesn’t have access to the Gospel. So we are currently talking with a well-known, well-established organization that would take care of the missions side of things.

What are you learning about the connection between songwriting and Kingdom building?

I’m learning that such a powerful thing as music shouldn’t be reduced to profitable combinations of lyric, rhythm, and melody. Music is a gift. And it’s a language. It can put words to deep feelings or transcend words altogether. Those of us connected to the Source of creativity should have profound things to offer in the way of art…music included. We have the ability to assist the rest of the art-world in pointing to God and His narrative of Grace throughout history. There are endless ways we can do this in terms of craft. I’d just like to see believers who are artistic create really really good stuff. This happens of course…but it’s not what we’re known for as Christian musicians.

Many Christian songwriters struggle with self-promotion, yet there are times when this is the only means of getting their music out. Do you have any advice on managing this tension?

Promote God as the greatest thing in the universe. It’s that simple. Self-promotion isn’t in the Bible…except from one person: Jesus. Jesus promoted Himself. And rightfully so. Everyone else reflected honor and praise and glory and openly admitted that everything they had they had because God gave it to them. If you desire a career in music you’ll have to think long and hard about what you’re willing to trade for a shot at short-lived fame and fortune. Or you’ll reinvent what it looks like to have a career in music.

If you could give one word of advice to someone getting started in songwriting, what would you say?

There are a lot of people who you can learn from about songwriting. Study songwriting…It’s an art. But also, be authentic. Do what you love and say what you mean…and maybe people will listen.

Support church planting and the spread of the Gospel!  Visit missionalmusic.org right now and download “Missional Music Volume One”.

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About Ben Chilcote

Ben Chilcote is a husband, dad, full-time minister and online singer/songwriter. He is a lifelong student of music and the founder of WriteChristianSongs.com.