Christian singer/songwriter Josh Wilson performed at this year’s Old Orchard Beach Camp Meetings in Maine. It was his first Salvation Army event.
Wilson, who plays many instruments, performed the entire concert solo with only an acoustic guitar and piano. “I’m honored that you would have me on your stage tonight,” Wilson said.
Before he ministered to the crowd, Wilson spoke with SAconnects magazine about his career.
Who has influenced you spiritually? My parents were influential in my decision to be a Christian. My dad is a pastor and I grew up in the church. I began to follow Jesus when I was 10 years old. They raised me on Bible stories and worship songs. I’ve also appreciated a number of Christian authors. Two of my favorites are C.S. Lewis and Tim Keller. My favorite book by C.S. Lewis is The Great Divorce. I’ve read everything Tim Keller has put out, but probably my favorite is The Reason for God.
Who has inspired you musically? I grew up listening to Jars of Clay and Switchfoot. Those are still two of my favorite bands. With the solo acoustic guitar looping thing, Phil Keaggy is certainly an influence and a hero of mine. David Brandon, well known in classical guitar circles, was an influential teacher. I like to listen to anyone who is a good songwriter. I pay attention to them to hone my craft; anyone from James Taylor to Patty Griffin to Simon & Garfunkel. I just like good songs.
The lyrics to your new song “Dream Small” are amazing. How did the Lord give them to you? The Bible says we’re all different parts of the same body. I thought about that and said, “Those little things really do matter. They add up. They make a difference.” The song is not anti–big dreams. I think big dreams are important, but I think that, on the way to those bigger dreams and goals, we can follow the lead of Jesus, who was not too busy or too important to notice normal people. There’s nothing about my life that anyone would make a movie or write a book about. I’m married and we have a two–year–old boy. We’re just ordinary people, but I wanted to use my life as source material. One day, I thought about an orchestra where everyone’s part came together in one symphony. I think that’s how Christian lives can be if we’re faithful to our calling. Our lives are the instrument that we get to play.
I think people would say your lyrics have such great depth. Where does it come from? I try to write from my life experience and things I observe. Certainly, my faith in Jesus filters what I see. I think songs are important and I take my lyrics seriously. I pine over every phrase. By the time the song comes out, it will have gone through 15 or 20 revisions. I also find inspiration as I watch what God does in the world.
Your song “I Refuse” was about the Nashville flood of 2010. I notice many of your songs are about remembering the forgotten people. After the flood hit, there was so much damage in our town. I realized our people needed help. I prayed, “God, please send help to our city.” After about two or three days of prayer, I realized God called me to be the hands and feet of Christ and to seek “the least of these,” the people who have really been through it. I called a friend and said, “Hey, I know your house is flooded. What can I do?” I helped him tear out drywall in his basement. That didn’t change the whole city or the world, but it certainly changed his day.
What is your songwriting process? I’m a slow writer. I jot down ideas as I think of them and as I’m inspired. Song titles or even melodies come to mind. I come back to them when I have time to sit and write. I also try to reignite the original inspiration. Generally, music comes to me before the lyrics do. I play and think, what does this remind me of? I’ll go back through my list and match the answer to one of my ideas. Then I write the lyrics.
You’re a long way from retiring, but how do you want people to remember your music? I hope my music will leave people encouraged and more connected to God.
You’ve been called the “future of Christian pop music.” (He laughs). That was a nice thing someone wrote a while back. It’s an honor to have someone say that about me. I love pop music and I consider it to be anything catchy. I want to write songs that stick in your head. That way, you think about the lyrics and let them sink in. I’ve been doing this for 12 years. In musician years, that’s a long time. I’m thankful to have come this far. I’m not looking to slow down anytime soon. I’m just taking it a day at a time and seeing where God leads.
interview by Robert Mitchell