Shaun Groves defies typical expectations and simple labels.
He is an insightful songwriter, one who displays such incredible
lyrical prowess that his musical peers nominated him for Songwriter
of the Year solely on the strength of his 2001 debut. He’s
also a solid on-stage performer as the lanky Texas native can
hold his own whether standing solo before a college crowd or fronting
his band at a youth event or festival. And to listen to Shaun
Groves’ music showcases a complete and talented artist in
full bloom, constantly reaching for excellence.
However, none of these positions—songwriter, performer,
artist—totally grasp the significance of the man or what
he hopes to convey to audiences everywhere.
More than a musician, Shaun Groves is a communicator, a man full
of messages and ideas that he hopes to translate through a variety
of media. A writer, teacher, preacher, father, husband…
and yes, most definitely a songwriter, performer and musician,
Groves encapsulates everything that one would hope an artist could
be. His songs reflect the bare-bones honesty of a searching, passionate
faith. Unafraid of the questions or of stepping on toes, Groves
sets his sights as high as possible, aiming to pursue profound
theological truths in the most accessible lyrical metaphors he
His newest CD, White Flag, reflects how Shaun has been inspired
by IKON, a college and young adult Bible study he began co-teaching
last spring at his home church in Franklin , Tennessee . “When
I started working towards a new CD, I went months writing songs
that felt true but trite,” Shaun recalls. “They were
good but not great. I couldn’t produce a single profound
lyric or moving melody for almost a year. Then I began teaching
at IKON along with my best friend/brother-in-law/road manager
Brian Seay, and the studying, speaking and conversations made
me think in ways I hadn’t before.”
IKON began in 2004 with a verse-by-verse study of Acts and the
first church because Shaun and Brian quickly discovered that their
18-25 year old audience was disenfranchised with organized religion.
From there, the group delved into Ecclesiastes, and by the fall
the Bible study turned its attention to the Sermon on the Mount,
beginning in Matthew 5.
“I became obsessed with the beatitudes, so simple and so
profound, so counterintuitive,” Shaun recalls of teaching
the first 12 verses in the chapter. “I became fascinated
with the simplicity and relevance of their message. Jesus outlines
the progression of a heart from depraved to committed to Christ,
from being a believer to being a disciple. I understood what had
hindered that progression in my life so far. The beatitudes triggered
a change in me. They are the closest thing to a formula for following
Jesus that I've ever discovered in the Bible. They are an excellent
gauge for me of where I am in my relationship with Christ, and
they remind me of what really matters: my heart.”
The songs on White Flag reflect Shaun’s response to the
beatitudes, to how Christ’s teaching in those verses has
changed his perspective on his world, church, family, community
and, most importantly, his faith. Each song relates to a specific
beatitude, and the album is sequenced in the same order as the
Scriptures. From poor in spirit to persecution, these concepts
find a home in Shaun’s poignant lyrics, with each song building
upon and adding to the ideas expressed in the last.
The album’s title cut offers a deeper look into “Blessed
are the meek for they will inherit the earth”: “ Meek
isn’t a word we use very often,” Groves explains.
“When using ‘meek,’ Jesus is referring back
to Psalm 37 where it says that the meek will inherit the land.
The people aren’t angry, they’re not uptight or worried
because they know God is in control of them. They’ve committed
their way to God; they’re surrendered to God. A white flag
is a metaphor for surrender. A surrendered heart transforms the
way we see each other and life. Surrender goes beyond agreement
or belief alone—it means giving up any notion of competence
without God. Churches are filled with believers. The mission field,
the food shelters, the AIDS clinics and the history of martyrdom
are filled with surrendered disciples of Christ. This CD is about
being a surrendering follower of Jesus and not just a believer
in Him. How do we get from belief to discipleship? What does that
path look like? It begins with giving up.”
The harder-rocking “Crave” takes the next step on
the journey. “The song ‘Crave’ comes out of
‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.’
Before we surrender to Christ, before we become meek, we don’t
have this hunger, and we don’t desire the things of God.
Now that the Spirit is in us, we’re moved to be righteous.
And so, the American dream, the house in the suburbs, the SUV
in the garage… those things are just not going to fill us
up. Crave is a defiant song, it’s an anthem. For me, it’s
about getting in the face of the billboards and the magazines
and the commercials and all the temptations and treasures of this
world and shaking a fist and saying ‘You cannot give me
what I really crave!’”
Musically, Shaun’s modern tastes—influenced of late
by everything from Jimmy Eat World to Dashboard Confessional—appeal
to any who might listen. Pop sensibilities marry driving rock
guitars and sensitive songwriting to produce songs full of catchy
hooks and mesmerizing spirit, an instant radio-friendly album
that offers substance with its splash. Perhaps most impressively,
White Flag also showcases Shaun’s debut effort as a producer.
“Producing is sort of like eating Tex-Mex. It’s great—one
of the best feelings on earth maybe. But if you get too much of
it at one sitting, you’ll be miserable afterwards and swear
you’ll never do that again. But inside you know you’ll
be back for more when the empty comes back. I’m so full
of producing that I never want to see a studio again in my life.
I’m asking my wife to remind me of how stressed I’ve
been, how preoccupied and sleepless and manic. In the end it worked
out. I used my band and I chose the songs and the studio and the
parts. This record is all me, for better or worse.”
A progressive pop-rock sonic masterpiece married to perceptive
lyrical depth, White Flag is the defining moment of Shaun’s
career to date. But more importantly, it’s an album of music
that has the potential to impact listeners in a profound and life-changing
“We all find ourselves somewhere between poverty of spirit
and persecution, and I hope this record helps us determine where
we are and where we should be and inspires us to get there. I
hope people who hear this record, myself included, are encouraged
to admit their wickedness, mourn it and roll it onto Christ. Then
I pray we’ll hunger for righteousness, and I hope we feed
that hunger and not our competing appetites for the junk in this
world. I hope we show mercy by feeding the hungry, clothing the
naked and aiding the poor and oppressed people across the street
and around the world. I hope we love nothing more than God and
obeying Him, not success, practicality, fame, fortune, comfort
or approval. I hope we love our enemies, pray for them, ask that
they be forgiven, feed them, clothe them and never harm them.
I hope doing all this, being a disciple of Christ, makes us aliens
in this world who are willing to be misunderstood and despised,
hunted down and harmed for righteousness’ sake. I hope we
follow Jesus and nothing else.”
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