A C|C Music Artist Interview Featuring Rick Lee James
The good people at Comments on Christianity were kind enough to Rick Lee James for their featured artist spot on their web site. The interview is below.
Originally featured at
Q: What got you started in music?
A: My family was always very musical. We traveled when I was a kid doing concerts and revival services. I’ve always loved music but I really got serious about it in high school when I started playing guitar. From then on it was all I wanted to do. I ate, drank, and slept music. I’m not sure how I graduated high school with passing grades come to think of it, I was so busy trying to learn every instrument and song that I could get my hands on. Music actually got me away from my first love, comic books. At some point as a teen I had to decide between buying guitars and buying comics and guitars won out. I’ve since come back to comics though, but it’s getting to be too expensive of a hobby to keep up again.
Q: So did you end with many guitars because of this change – and what guitar do you use most?
A: I’ve had a dozen or so guitars over the years. Some I’ve sold or traded. The one I use this most isn’t even my guitar. A friend of mine let me use his Cadillac of a Taylor guitar on Basement Psalms Live and I’ve been using it ever since. He’s kind to let me borrow it whenever I have need. Other than that I play a Fender Stratocaster electric guitar and I have a Larivee cutaway and a Taylor 310 Dreadnaught of my own that I use. At my office at church I also have a classical guitar that I do a lot of service planning and arranging on.
Q: To deviate for one moment on the comic side, what is your favorite comic hero? and what about comic arc?
A: At the moment my favorite character is Superman. He gets a lot of hate from people because he is perceived as a Boy Scout, but I’ve always had a soft spot for the guy. I think he is one of the more Christ like heroes that we have in comics if for no other reason than his meekness. Meekness is controlled power, not weakness. Superman always has to hold back when he’s battling a villain so he doesn’t hurt them. He only uses enough force necessary to subdue evil and I think that is admirable. I love the death of Superman arc. Not so much his return. The death actually makes me cry every time I read it. I kind of wish they had never resurrected him because it was such a perfect ending, a good tragedy.
Q: What has been your motivation to keep on playing?
A: God’s love for me has led me into a deeper love of music. As I seek to find ways to know Him more, I find that I am continually found by Him in music and in prayer. The closer I am with Him, the more creative I seem to become and the more music I want to make. I can’t help it really, music just calls to me, and God calls to me through music. If no one ever buys another one of my albums, which might happen, I still will make music because it’s just a part of me. I feel God’s joy in it, even when it frustrates me.
Q: Would you say this is the same motivation to get you into writing your book “Out of Depths”?
A: I definitely felt like I had to write the book. There was just so much that I wanted to say and sometimes you need to write more than the confines of a song will allow. Writing the book became a discipline for me. Since I watch our baby all day long during the school year and write music/travel/podcast in my spare time I had to knock out in numerous late nights and early mornings writing. It just uses different muscles from songwriting.
Q: Did they come one at a time, or did they birth together? I ask because I found during the album you show much insight into the Psalms.
A: They actually came one at a time. After I released the album I just felt the book needing to come out. It took about 4 months to write and close to a year to go through rewrites, editing, Kickstarter funding, and publishing. I very much had the album in mind when I wrote the book but I wanted them both to be able to stand alone. I think the readers/listeners/film viewers will have a richer experience if you use the book and the album together but they certainly don’t have to combine them. They just sort of complete each other.
Q: What is your favorite song on your latest album and how did you come to the point to write a song like that?
A: My favorite song on my latest album, Basement Psalms Live, is the song I wrote from Psalm 130 called More Than The Watchman. I love it because of the message in Psalm 130 which reminds us that with God there is grace and restoration. It reminds us that if He were to keep a record of our wrongs then none of us would be able to stand before Him, but He isn’t a God like that. He continually pours out grace, mercy, and forgiveness. It seems like the writer of Psalm 130 is so desperate to pray through and be right with God that he’s willing to lose sleep, go hungry, and even be in a continual state of quiet, listening for the word of the Lord. “More than the watchman waits for the morning so does my soul wait here for you Lord” became a pray that I would pray along with. For me, when I pray something long enough it often turns into a song. That was the case with this one. We’ve been singing it on Sundays at prayer time in our church as we wait together and listen for God. I feel like not so much my song as much as the words of the Psalmist put into my own musical language for the congregation at my church. I really love that song and that Psalm.
Q: Do you use a lot of your own arrangements and songs for worship in your church?
A: It depends on the week and if it fits the theme of the service. Right now we are doing a few of mine pretty regularly but we can easily go several months without doing any originals. I always want out music to serve the service and if my songs don’t fit the. We don’t do them.
Q: How much do you handle in your home church? (From what I have seen you are the pastor, the music minister, and maybe Batman?)
A: We better keep the the Batman stuff on the down low, wouldn’t want my secret identity to get out there. My main responsibility at my church is planning services and leading on Sundays when I’m in town. When I’m not because of concerts/camps/retreats and such, I either make sure the band is ready to lead without me on Sunday or we make arrangements with other local musicians to lead that day. My church has been so kind to me though, they always allow me to accept any invitations I receive to play music and/or speak. If I’m there they pay me a little bit for my work and if I’m not I don’t. It has worked out pretty well for us over the last 4 or 5 years I think. BTW, my church is First Church of the Nazarene in Springfield Ohio (Website). If you are ever in the area, stop in and say hello. Just don’t tell anyone my secret identity as Batman. Nobody but you will be reading this right? (“I’m Batman”)
Q: What advice would you give an artist just starting out?
A: Learn your craft and learn it well. Don’t be content to just learn a few riffs, really learn how to play your instrument. Take vocal lessons if you are a singer. Learn as much as you can now and it will pay off down the road. Don’t just play a song, learn how to play it right like the record does. Later on you can make your own interpretation, but learn from those who came before you first. Don’t be content to be good, be as good as you can be. The Psalms tell musicians to “play skillfully.” Christians should be the best and most creative artists that they can be because God is the most creative being in the universe. Let God be your muse and go to the very depths of His heart. You don’t have to make Christian music to make art that is pleasing to God. But whatever you do, let it be glorifying to Him. Bad, lazy art is a poor reflection of who He is so seek Him in your craft.
Q: For the starting out musician would you say they should stay shut up and keep their gift under lock and key until they are ‘good enough’?
A: Not at all. Church can especially be a place where we can nurture our young musicians, even if it hurts our ears at times. You have to have a place to learn and try things out and the body of Christ is a good place to receive grace. If you wit until you get good, which is subjective, you my be waiting forever. If you wait until you can play guitar like Lincoln Brewster then you might never get there. I say play anywhere and everywhere you can and it will help you develop your craft. Open mic nights in coffee houses are great for this also.
Q: Finally I want to be sure I represent all the ‘things’ you have available to others. Music, books, or anything you would like people to be able to find all in one page:
A: There are a few great places to get my stuff
“Basement Psalms LIVE”, the concert, is on Amazon Instant Video
My Web Site
My Book Site
My Podcast – Voices In My Head Podcast
My Twitter: @RickLeeJames
More Merch – CDBaby (then Search For Rick Lee James)
More More Merch – Amazon (then Search For Rick Lee James)
Derek is a Children’s Pastor and Men’s Leader in his home church, an unemployed Drafter, a Music & Book Reviewer, and Prestidigitator. He is a Fantasy reader, Whovian, and Funko Pop and Toy Collector. Derek lives in Alabama with his wife and four children. Contact: Email | Twitter | Blog