Jeff Bates's New Song
By William Wiegman
The 700 Club
Original Air Date: September 30, 2010
“I was young and I was stupid. I regret it every day. I ain’t sayin’ I didn’t do it but I’ve paid for my mistakes.” (lyrics from "One Second Chance")
Jeff Bates’s 2006 single "One Second Chance" is more than just a song about an ex-con struggling to find forgiveness. For Jeff, it’s much more personal.
“That song meant so much to me, because it was the story of my life," Jeff tells The 700 Club. "I recorded it in the hopes that people out there like me who had gone through the things I’ve gone through could see light at the end of the tunnel and know there was hope.”
Jeff grew up in a poor, but loving family in rural Mississippi. His early years were happy ones, but those days came to an abrupt end when his mom told him that he was adopted.
“For the first time in my life, I felt like I didn’t belong, like I didn’t fit in. And I would go to bed at night thinking that there must be something wrong with me for my biological mother not to want me. I over-ate. I became more reclusive. I kept to myself. It was very hard to make friends. I was very awkward around other people and extremely shy.”
But Jeff did find one comfort in his life – music. He also discovered that it was his ticket to gaining acceptance.
“I started playing guitar in church when I was 11 years old, and I learned very quickly that my guitar was better at making friends than I was. I started taking it to school with me, too. Music was my friend.”
After graduating high school, Jeff spent several years performing in local clubs and developing his talent as a singer.
In 2000, he started driving to Nashville every other week to pursue his dream of becoming a recording artist. One night, a friend noticed that Jeff looked tired and offered him a quick fix.
“It was a glass pipe with meth in it. I didn’t know it was meth at the time. I didn’t ask. I didn’t care. I just wanted to feel better. So, I took it and smoked it. And I never felt like that in my life. I actually felt like Superman. Like I could fly. And I wanted to feel like that all the time.
“When you go years and years hating yourself and thinking that you don’t fit in and suddenly you feel like you have every answer in the world at your fingertips and you feel that good about yourself and you don’t care what anybody thinks about you… that’s very addictive.”
A short time later, Jeff landed a songwriting deal with Warner-Chappel music. He used all the money he made from writing songs to support his meth habit, and when that wasn’t enough…
“I sold everything I owned. When I ran out of things of value to sell – and I’m talking about family heirlooms, things that my mother and great-grandfather passed down to me – I started stealing.”
One afternoon, police found thousands of dollars of stolen music equipment in Jeff’s home. They arrested Jeff for grand larceny and drug possession. But he was so high on meth, he didn’t even realize what had happened.
“When I came down off the meth, I was already in a jail cell. I don’t remember much of it. I do remember waking up seven days later and thinking ‘Oh, my God, I’m in jail.’ I was ashamed. I had hurt, cheated, lied to, and stole from everybody I knew and loved and I just didn’t want to be that person anymore. And I got down on my knees and asked God to help me… I felt Him reach down and touch me and all I did was, I cried and said, ‘I’m sorry. I just wanna make this right. If You’ll help me, I wanna be a different man. I wanna be a better man.’”
Jeff joined a drug treatment program in prison and kicked his meth addiction. He also called everyone he stole from and asked for their forgiveness.
“I felt encouraged and felt strength, because all I did was say, ‘Okay, God, I’m going to make this call. Will you please make it with me?’ And I know He was there.”
Three months into his jail term, Jeff was released on an early parole. He got a job pouring concrete and eventually paid everyone back. He continued to write songs and, in 2002, Jeff auditioned for RCA records.
"The chairman of RCA stood up and shook my hand and said, ‘We’ll call you in a few weeks and let you know what we decide.’ So, I drove home and said ‘Lord, thank you for the opportunity. That was amazing. Whatever You want to happen is alright with me.’”
But RCA didn’t wait a few weeks. That afternoon they called and offered Jeff a recording contract.
“I was floored…I had chased the record deal for years and used people and did things that weren’t great things to try to make it happen with no results. And when I was in jail, I let it go. I thought, ‘It’s okay. I don’t need a record deal. I just wanna do what God wants me to do.’ And I let it go and I turn it over to God and there it is!”
Eight years and albums later, Jeff is more excited than ever about what God is doing in his life. He and his wife Kelly have been married three years and recently became parents for the first time.
“When I hold Brianna in my arms and Kelly and I are looking at her, I think, ‘Wow, I’m really a dad. I’m really a dad!’ It’s like everything that ever happened to me in my entire life led up to this one moment, in this one miracle which is my baby.
Jeff is currently working on his first inspirational CD, something he says is long over-due.
“I’ve wanted to do it since I started recording, but it was just finding the right songs that said what I wanted to say. I want people to know that you can’t be bad enough for God to not love you or forgive you or give you a second chance. He does not give you the right to judge yourself. So, stop there. And learn to love you the way He loves you – and then you can enjoy life more than you’ve ever enjoyed it before.”
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