Every now and then, a producer and artist intersect and create something together that just feels right. In a sense, it’s as if that artist…that voce…is coming home.
Michael English’s latest solo project, Some People Change, his first in six years, lands decidedly in that camp.
Produced by long-time friend and music legend in the making in his own right, Jay DeMarcus of Rascal Flatts the album hits all the right notes. And from beginning to end, the relentless mercy, grace and redemption of God take center stage in a non-assuming, approachable way that lets the music speak for itself, while showcasing one of the most powerful voices the industry has ever known reminding us all why Michael English is decidedly, as Jay describes it, a world class singer.
“I get inspired by great singers,” says Jay. “When you get in the room with world class singers like Michael, it’s a privilege and blessing. You can’t make Michael or his voice anything it’s not. I love letting his voice get a hold of big songs.”
And from beginning to end, the big songs, the big voice and the honest heart of a life lived in the trenches and the mountain tops weave together a brilliant mirage of the kind of music that makes you step back and look at life with newer, kinder eyes.
“When people listen to it, they’re really happy about it,” says Michael.
With good reason…
The eclectic mix of old songs and new, guest artists and good ol’ fashioned vocal chops intersect beautifully — yet another testament of a great artist — one with whom other great artists want to collaborate. On this particular record, powerhouse Crystal Lewis makes an appearance on the duet “Knew You Were Waiting,” originally sung by Aretha Franklin and George Michael, and later re-cut by Michael McDonald.
“Singing with her has always been a dream of mine,” says Michael.
Other songs on the record include “Stubborn” formerly recorded by Lee Ann Womack, a remake of his arguably most popular song, “In Christ Alone,” and the title track, originally cut by Montgomery Gentry. Through powerful stories and imagery, the song tells a tale of everyone who has faced adversity, been beaten up a bit by life, yet come through even stronger for it.
“Choosing this as the title cut just fit for the album,” shares Michael. “The lyrics are amazing. It’s how I grew up.”
Here’s to the strong; thanks to the brave.
Don’t give up hope: some people change.
Against all odds, against the grain,
Love finds a way: some people change.
Thank God for those who make it:
Let them be the Light.
–Some People Change
And when it comes to seemingly insurmountable odds, it doesn’t take long to realize that, indeed, against the grain, despite anything and everything, Michael is indeed a light to many. Perhaps nowhere is this more beautifully or poignantly translated than through the new, compelling recording of “In Christ Alone.” Sonically, it travels in a new direction. But the heart of the song is as alive today, perhaps even more so, than ever within Michael’s life.
Like everyone else in life, Michael has traversed his fair share of valleys. While at a precipice of his musical success, life showed up in ways that forced Michael to step back, regroup and rediscover what it means to be truly dependent on Christ.
“When that song went number one in 1990, I was being treated for depression,” he shares.
Several years later, with mercies anew each day, Michael is now singing the song with a wisdom that only life, trial and transparency can lend. It’s that same transparency that has allowed Michael to identify with, pray for and connect with people around the world who are struggling, who are flailing, who are… people.
“I hear people leaving concerts saying that they were ministered to and touched by my story,” shares Michael. “They are telling me that they now have feelings of hope.”
Understandably a bit trepidatious about reworking such a well-loved song, Michael did his due diligence to run it by one of his most esteemed fans…quarterback Frank Reich.
On January 3, 1993, Reich replaced starting quarterback Jim Kelly, to lead the Buffalo Bills from a 31-0 deficit to a 42-40 victory over the Houston Oilers. It remains the largest comeback in NFL history to this day. In a press conference following the game, Reich shared that his inspiration came from listening to “In Christ Alone” immediately prior to taking the field.
Michael, a Buffalo Bills fan had not seen the end of the game or even knew that his team had pulled it out until he started getting phone calls from others who heard Frank crediting the song and Michael in a post-game press conference.
“I wanted to make sure Frank was ok with the new version,” shares Michael.
Frank set his mind at ease and echoed the sentiment of all who have been privy to the epic remake with his simple and spoton reaction: “It’s a masterpiece.”
From track one to the end, the album is the work of a master artisan. With truths that are undeniable, a heart willingly transparent for the glory of God’s work and refined musicality that can only come after years in the studio of life, Michael English is once more affirming the source of his ultimate strength, the one who is endlessly creative and relentlessly in pursuit of the hearts of his children in the sweet spot of anointed collaboration and undeniable talent.
As enigmatic and soul-stirring as ever, Michael is proof positive that yes, for better or worse, some people do change; but the gifting from the one who sings His own melody of salvation, when committed into the hands of the Giver only gets better and better as the years go by.