Artist profile: Jeff Johnson interview

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Christian Activities recently caught up with worship leader Jeff Johnson. Since his appearance on season four of American Idol in 2005, Jeff has witnessed God use a chance experience to take his ministry to people and places never originally anticipated.
In 2007, the Jeff Johnson Band released the album Glorious Day. The band keeps a busy schedule leading worship at events around the country, including youth camps, retreats, conferences, DiscipleNow weekends and church services.
Jeff’s heart and the heart of the band members, as they write music and lead worship, is to facilitate an authentic environment of intimate and alive worship where students and adults alike can catch a glimpse of the God that heals, restores, and sets free; a corporate worship environment where lives are impacted and forever changed.
Jeff and the band also believe in the importance of investing in the lives that God has entrusted them to lead, making it a priority to get to know students and adults, being real and accessible to them, building relationships with them, and encouraging them on their own faith journeys.
Hope you enjoy getting to know this artist! Be sure to check out his myspace (www.myspace.com/jeffjohnsonmusic) and video blog on Godtube (www.godtube.com/jeffjohnson)
1) Start by telling us a little about yourself and your musical training:
JJ: I played piano for as long as I can remember. My mom made me take lessons. I always sang, too. In high school, I was part of a choir. I got a vocal scholarship to Texas Tech, and then that first semester, I decided that I wanted to make money (laughs), so I went into business at Texas Tech. I never really got formally trained in singing, but I’ve always loved it. When I moved to Dallas and became a worship leader, I taught myself how to play the guitar.
2) When did you feel God’s calling to get into the Christian music industry on a full-time basis?
JJ: I sensed that’s where God was leading me at Passion ’98, when I understood who God was for the first time. I was watching the worship leaders on stage, Christy and Nathan Nockels (Watermark), and thinking ‘that’s what I want to do with my life,’ but I had no idea how to do it. It wasn’t until I moved to Dallas and started leading worship at a church, that I really felt like this was what I wanted to do. I quit my job in 2002 to do this full-time and felt like this was what I was supposed to be doing.
3) What’s involved in your songwriting process and what’s your inspiration?
JJ: A lot of times, I’ll take song ideas from journal entries. I try to journal more and more. I get a lot of inspiration from sermons and I journal from those. I really enjoy opening up Scripture and taking a song directly from those verses. Like “Ruin Me” is taken straight from Isaiah 6. Scripture holds the most validity of truth, so if you back the song up with that, then it will be clear to people where it came from.
4) Tell how people have been responding to your songs:
JJ: It’s been pretty amazing. I’ve kind of been blown away, especially with “Glorious Day,” even though it’s not our song per say, and “Ruin Me.” With the song “Ruin Me,” I don’t know if it’s because people recognize it from the radio and are familiar with it, but every time we start it, it’s an incredible response during worship and afterwards the stories that I hear are incredible. People come up and tell me how the song has impacted them and made them understand more about who God is and what He desires for them. It’s been a pretty amazing response, especially this summer with all the youth camps.
5) Tell the story behind “Ruin Me”:
JJ: “Ruin Me” is a song that came out of a DiscipleNow weekend in Arkansas, with David Nasser as the speaker. That Sunday morning, David talked about the idea of “ruin me” and basically led us to dive into Isaiah 6. It’s basically saying the devastation of us — when we come to the end of ourselves and realize that we can’t handle everything in life and issues — that Christ’s strength is right there to do it for us. To be “ruined” for His glory, to be “ruined” to a point when there’s nothing left of us and we turn everything over to Him, that’s when God begins at that point and works through us. That’s really the idea behind “Ruin Me.” I really feel it’s a song of selflessness — forgetting about yourself and living for something much greater, for a much higher purpose and grander scheme. I guess the best way to say it is there’s a big story going on and we get to be a part of it.
6) What’s your hope as you speak to people through your songs?
JJ: My hope is that people would connect with who God is and truly get that He is not this intangible thing out there, but He’s someone who desires to be intimate with us. Faith in God is not about religion, it’s about knowing our Creator intimately and living for Him.
7) What do you hope people take away from your concerts?
JJ: I hope it’s a great outlet for them and it’s a personal response. I hope it’s not just watching us on stage, but it’s about individuals responding to the love of Christ. My hope when people leave is that they are dwelling on how awesome He is and how much He absolutely loves them.
8) Any interesting stories you would like to share from camps this summer?
JJ: We were at a Student Life Camp in Georgia, and as I was leading worship, I noticed this kid, who was so enthralled in the worship. It was like he was getting it for the first time and understanding what this was, singing corporately and understanding who God was. I could see that all over his face. He was passionately worshipping, and it just reminded me of when I first got who God was at Passion ’98. It was a cool connection, to be on stage and see kind of what it was like for me. I went up to him afterwards, and I said, ‘I hope this isn’t weird, but as I watched you worship, I just saw it was so real and I loved watching that.’ His response was that he initially came to camp just to meet people and hang out with his buddy, he didn’t really want to go to the main services. I asked him what God was doing through that time when we were worshipping and for him personally. His response was that, ‘I had no idea that worship could go to that level.’ It just blew his mind. It was awesome because I know that kid left changed forever, dwelling on God and knowing that 10 years from now, he will remember that experience and draw close to the Lord and be moved towards Him.
9) What’s your advice for teens that are interested in songwriting or thinking about becoming a worship leader?
JJ: I would first say to find someone older than them who has a mentorship quality. Hopefully, that person will challenge them to think about the decision they’re about to make. As far as becoming a worship leader, I think a lot of people become a worship leader because they just want to do music and there are many more outlets if you just want to do music. If you want to be a worship leader, that’s a different anointing and calling that God has placed on someone’s life to lead people to Him.
As far as songwriting, my advice that I always give to students is write out their thoughts a lot and try to turn those thoughts into songs. I tell students to always be Scripture based if they’re writing worship songs and to make sure it’s not one simple line repeated five times, but it’s something that really speaks truth in a way that somebody hasn’t said before.
10) What’s your favorite part of what you do?
JJ: Getting to travel with my closest friends. All the guys in the band are the guys I would choose to hang out with if I was just sitting at home, so getting to be on the road with them is a blast!
11) What has been one of your best experiences as a Christian artist?
JJ: Probably leading worship at Texas Super Summer and when I get to fill in for Michael Bleecker at my home church, The Village Church in Highland Village, Texas. The people really forget about the band on stage and really get into the worship. As a worship leader, that’s what you want, for people to forget about you and to solely focus on God.
12) What is it like being a Christian in the limelight? Do you feel any undue pressure to measure up to a certain standard?
JJ: It’s funny when I’m at a random place and people will recognize me and say hi. There’s a certain amount of responsibility, especially doing youth stuff, you want to be consistent. But I feel like we’re all in this together and the stage is just a wood floor, it doesn’t make me different than anyone else; we’re all called to the same standard to live in obedience to Christ and run the race together.
13) How has singing, writing, and touring grown your faith?

JJ: Even doing what we do as a job, we have no idea where money is going to come from or planning ahead. I live everyday trusting in God’s provision that He will take care of me. Each day, my faith is what impacts the decisions that I make and what keeps me on the right path. God is always teaching me something as I make these decisions and growing my faith.
14) Tell about the guys in your band and how your band came together.
JJ: We met through random friends and worship leaders. We came together five years ago when I first started doing Metro at Prestonwood Baptist Church. That was one of the first things I needed a band for. They were the first guys that I called and they started playing on the side, and as we got referred to more events, they kept playing with me.

15) What are your upcoming plans?
JJ: If I knew that, it would be great! Again, living in faith! I don’t really know what my upcoming plans are. I hope that radio continues to pick up and we get some distribution out in stores. We have some conferences scheduled for this fall, like Youth Evangelism Conference in Louisiana and we’re opening for Jeremy Camp in Fayetteville, Arkansas (November 14) and in Tulsa, Oklahoma (November 15).

“Jeff Johnson’s Favorite Things” —
16) Worship song: “Mighty to Save”

17) Pizza topping: Hamburger

18) Fast food: Chick-fil-A

19) Ice cream flavor: Cookies & Cream

20) Favorite cartoon as a kid: Wiley E. Coyote

21) Drink at Starbucks: iced zebra mocha, with 2 pumps peppermint

22) Place to visit: West Texas (to see my family)

23) Time of the year: Fall

24) Color: Black

25) Animal: Dog
26) What is one thing you have always wanted to do, but haven’t yet?
JJ: Sing with Garth Brooks
27) What words best describe you?
JJ: Not serious, joker, prankster, funny
28) Most embarrassing moment while leading worship?
JJ: That would be when I was leading worship at Metro Bible study at Prestonwood in Dallas. I began to sing “Sweep Me Away” by Charlie Hall. While I began the song, I started in a key that was more than a few notes higher than what I could ever sing. So I was stuck on stage, in this worshipful moment, trying to find my pitch as I howled in the mic. The band was totally confused, but trying to play it cool. All the while, I was so confused why I couldn’t hit the note. When I realized I had started way too high, I picked my hands up, moved them down the keyboard and started correctly.
29) What’s an interesting fact about you, that maybe not a lot of people know about?
JJ: I love photography, and I’ve just started trying to take pictures and getting more into photography.
30) What do you like to do in your spare time?
JJ: I like to spend time with my friends in town and sit in a coffee shop or at their house and just catch up with them.

31) What’s your biggest pet peeve?
JJ: The sound of girls filing their nails and when people smack while eating.
32) If you were stuck on a deserted island, what 3 essential things would you bring?
JJ: My laptop, power cable to my laptop, and my wireless card
33) Which Bible character are you most like?
JJ: Job
34) Look down the road 5 or 10 years. Where would you like to see yourself?
JJ: On a larger platform — using our music as a platform to speak for organizations that are helping people around the world, investing in upcoming worship leaders who desire to do what we’re doing and building relationships with people, as well as being very involved in a church.
35) How can we pray for your ministry?
JJ: For defense from Satan, who is always trying to destroy what we’re doing, that’s the biggest. For contentment with where we are (to realize the blessings we have with the opportunities we are given) and that we would be faithful enough that God will take us to larger places.

36) Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions. Any final thoughts or message you would like to share with your fans?
JJ: Thank you to all the people who believe in us and support us — (listening to our music, requesting our songs on the radio, all the people who believe in us to bring us out to their events). Those things are always HUGE BLESSINGS! That is why we get to do what we do, and we couldn’t do it without their support!

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