by Natalie Gillespie
On New Year’s Day 2018, recording artist John Waller faced a major life change. He just didn’t know what it was.
“I woke up on January 1st and knew I was done. Things had to change,” Waller says. “I knew I had to come off the road and try something new. I was tired of trying to make it happen, not relying on God so much. I asked God to put us in one place as a family.”
Waller quit touring and accepted a job as worship pastor at Hope Point Nazarene in Yuba City, Calif. Waller, his wife Josee, and the couple’s nine kids moved across the country last May and started over. At that point, the singer-songwriter expected his own music to be put on a back burner. He was wrong.
The new position gave Waller time to write and reflect, to worship and get his creative juices flowing again. He invited producer/songwriter Ian Eskelin out for a worship writers’ retreat and the music came thereafter. Waller decided to record again, and Explosions of Light (Radiate Music), his first album in three years, was the resulting music (out January 25). Waller also plans to release a live worship album in 2019.
“At first, I had quite a season of battling anxiety, some depression, trying to figure out in this new position, ‘What do I do every day?’” Waller said. “I found the freedom to create.”
It’s a freedom that feels very different from his days on the road. Waller spent most of the last two decades as a CCM artist, first as lead singer of the fan favorite According to John (1996-2003), then as a solo artist who found success in 2007 after releasing The Blessing. Casting Crowns’ frontman Mark Hall sang on the title track, and the single “While I’m Waiting” landed on the Fireproof movie soundtrack, then made it into the top 5 on iTunes Christian songs chart. Waller toured with Casting Crowns and Leeland on 2008’s The Altar and the Door Tour and found radio favor again in 2015 with the title track of his fifth studio album Crazy Faith, which was also featured in the movie War Room.
However, being a radio success means keeping your name out there—juggling the constant demands concerts, radio tours, and interviews to stay in front of fans. The Waller family, meanwhile, spent a lot of time waiting for him to come home. Now Waller is focused on connecting locally—with his family, his church, and his community—the way he connected with fans from a stage—only better, he says.
“I get the same connection with people that I got on the road, but I get to be in these people’s lives all the time and do life with them instead of blazing in and out,” Waller said. “I was so disconnected. There is more impact with worship. It’s not about my efforts, my striving.”
Waller said he hopes to find a new rhythm in 2019, one that encompasses all things new–his new home, new church, new job, new music, and new life. The Waller family is expecting their tenth child, daughter Journey, in May.
“We are so excited for this little girl,” Waller said. “And I am excited about what God is going to do. I’m putting this music out there, and it’s a great opportunity to see what He’s going to do with it. When I try to make things happen, it’s so hard. God always makes a way, and it’s not hard for Him.”