by Matt Conner
Gospel artist and worship leader Casey J is not only a dynamic vocalist and songwriter, but she’s also using her creativity to help her think outside the box when it comes to her ministry. Her recent release, The Gathering, was recorded at a grassroots outdoor worship gathering, an organic setting within which the Spirit could move in an intimate way through prayerful songs of praise.
As Casey says, worship isn’t just about Sunday. Instead, she says, people are in need “of a Tuesday afternoon God and a Thursday night Savior.” Her vulnerable yet creative approach helps bring the Creator and creation together in a beautiful way. We recently sat down to ask her about the new album and what it was like growing up in a house where sermons were replayed over and over (and over) again.
CCM: I’d love to hear more about your own musical background. What was the soundtrack of your childhood like?
Casey J: I spent the majority of my childhood in my grandmother’s home, which pretty much meant one thing: holiness! [Laughs] I know I know, it’s hard to imagine that the chick with the tattoos and piercings grew up in such a rigid religious household but it’s true.
Most of the soundtrack of my childhood wasn’t even musical. My grandmother would go to the “tape room” of our church every single service to get a recording of the message. We would listen to the sermon until the next time we went to church! I would hear the same sermon sometimes 20 to 30 times! At the time it felt like torture, but you would be shocked how many scriptures have become rooted in my heart because of that.
CCM: Do you come from a musical family?
Casey J: I do! My mother was—and still is—a children’s choir director and my grandmother was a children’s choir director before her. Unfortunately, or maybe quite fortunately, I never inherited the kinesthetic skills of flinging my arms around and singing at the same time! More than the obvious musical traits, I think what I inherited most is the heart to serve. Most members of my family have served in the church their entire lives while still pursuing a “marketplace” career. What I have learned most explicitly is that when you serve with a pure heart, God will honor the sacrifice of your serving with more than just things. He will honor your serving with His presence. That’s more than a paycheck could ever cover.
CCM: What was the first inclination you can remember having about being a career musician? Was there a point you remember thinking, “I want to pursue this for a living”?
Casey J: This is going to sound so naive, but I never thought about being a “career musician.” In fact, I still don’t. When I think about what I want to be known as or for, it really isn’t music at all. My “career” isn’t in music; my career is being obedient. What that has meant for me in the recent past is that I am a Christian storyteller, song carrier, and worship leader. But truthfully, I don’t know if that is what God has for me forever. So I don’t know if I ever decided that I wanted to pursue music for a living; but I have decided that I want to pursue Him forever.
CCM: The Gathering was a literal outdoor worship gathering for the new record. What inspired the whole thought process behind the recording and what you wanted to do there?
Casey J: I think the heart of the record is spiritually rooted in Acts 4:31 “After they had prayed, the place where they were gathered together became shaken. They were filled with the Holy Spirit and walked away speaking the Word of God with boldness.” Although I was born and raised in the local church, I have been graced to experience worship in a number of unique and special environments. I have seen God move in huge megachurches and small coffee shops. I have seen Him speak to “spiritual veterans” and watched as He softened the heart of a new believer for the very first time.
I recognize that there is sometimes this unspoken narrative perpetuated by local assemblies that God is only for Sundays. Of course, no one is making signs and posting that throughout our communities, but we often have this mentality in the church that “all roads lead to Sunday.” We hardly even recognize that for some people Sunday isn’t even a blip on their radar. They’re in need of a Tuesday afternoon God and a Thursday night Savior.
I wanted to create an experience and music that spoke to all of those places and people. That no matter where we are gathering and with whom, we can experience and respond to the amazing power of God.
CCM: Were you nervous at all about how things would come together?
Casey J: Absolutely! I think I maintain this constant feeling of nervousness with every God given creative idea. I used to be embarrassed about those feelings and wonder if they were indicative of a weakened faith walk. I have since come to recognize the nervousness as an indicator that everything that I do is inherently subpar without the supernatural power of God supporting my every move. So what seems like “I am so nervous” is really my heart telling God “I really need you,” so bring on the nerves!
CCM: You also have a podcast of your own, Musings of a Wildflower. Can you tell us more about that and your goals for it?
Casey J: Yes, I do have a podcast. It’s a collection of short stories and the discovery of immutable truths. This TSA worker listened while I was at an airport and described them as “modern day parables.” That’s a perfect description. I take stories from my own life and the lives of others around people with the hope that we see the God in them. Some of them have happy endings, some are silly, some are embarrassing, but they all have the same ending. Whereas fairytales end with “and they lived happily ever after,” our stories end with “and He is, has always been, and always will be good.”
I hope the podcast inspires others to confront their faith questions without fear that God will be offended. I pray that it challenges others to walk through their valley experiences openly and with confidence that all of our stories end the same. We are bound to run smack into the goodness of God, and if we take a second to really look at our current circumstances, we will find that His goodness is available not just at the end of our stories, but in the middle and the beginning, too.