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For many Christians in the arts, there’s a greater mission in mind that their music serves. For Shaun Groves, that mission is all encompassing.
The popular singer/songwriter returns with his latest release, Third World Symphony, and the title says it all. Musically, Symphony is as beautiful as anything he’s released to date, with themes centered around his experiences with Compassion International—an interaction he says literally redefined his life.
“In 2005 a friend who works for Compassion International, who had been gently pestering me for years to see their ministry for myself, finally got her way and we traveled to El Salvador together to meet the first child my family ever sponsored,” says Groves. “Her name was yanci and my brief time with her changed the direction of my life. I’m not exaggerating in the least. Since that trip I’ve done almost nothing but speak and sing for the benefit of Compassion’s children, because I know they can be released from poverty. I’ve seen it myself.”
Since that moment, Groves has invested his energy in raising awareness and growing in his own understanding—the latter a move that defined his latest album. A few years ago, Groves shared a deeply spiritual experience with a room full of Ethiopian pastors. He was moved by their joy amidst persecution and wanted to incorporate the experience into a gift for them. The end result is an album intended to change the perspective of the listener.
“I wanted to put the beauty, wisdom, joy—the greatness of those people—into song,” says Groves. “I wanted to share them with everyone back home. Instead of giving Ethiopia, Guatemala, India, El Salvador and all the other places I’ve been some kind of gift, I wanted to give them as a gift to America. I wanted to somehow connect the first world to the third world for the benefit of both—to change the perception of the third world from a place where flies crawl on bloated bellies and rusted cities sprawl for miles to a place of value, possibility, hope and so many gifts to be given to the rest of the world. So, I called the album Third World Symphony—something beautiful made of something thought to be third class, broken and without worth.”
For those picturing a world music direction with tribal drums or chants, think again. Groves’ music is still centered in the accessible, straightforward pop you’re already a fan of. But Groves intentionally keep things honest to his musical style to help affect the listener from the place they could truly appreciate the art.
“I never want to make music, write blog posts, or preach sermons that only get out to those who already think like me,” explains Groves. “I don’t want to preach to the choir. A record that sounds like the Third world might only attract those who’ve already experienced it and already have an appreciation for its beauty and culture and people. So I chose to make a record that is inspired by the Third world but sounds solidly First world.”
— Andy Argyrakis