Between the liner notes
Robbie Seay and The Social Gospel
By Jennifer E. Jones
Nashville, TN Gospel Music Week is the most manic few days in any given year of contemporary Christian music. Thousands of artists, managers, journalists, fans, and everyone in between fill Nashville’s busy streets and hotels in a networking frenzy. It’s easy to feel lost in the crowd… or downright invisible some times. So, when Sparrow Recording artist Robbie Seay looks you square in the eye and genuinely asks you how you’re doing, it's enough to stun you.
Chatting with the Robbie Seay Band’s namesake is among the most sincere moments of my professional career. His laid back demeanor puts you instantly at ease. I can see why his music is so good. Based deep in the heart of Texas, few trios on Top 40 radio today can match the feel-good vibes that this band can create. And I knew it the moment my ears first heard Better Days, the band’s breakout album released in 2005.
First of all, thanks for listening to our song
We hope this finds you driving in your car
Or wherever you are, breathe out and breathe again
And know that life is hard but it’s worth breathing
I tell him that I really was in my car the first time I heard the song and the lyrics left a lasting impression on me. He laughs and is grateful. That’s just the kind of humble guy Robbie Seay is.
In a world where crossing over or simply starting out on a secular label is increasingly popular, it’s a wonder that a band with as much talent as Seay’s chose to stick with Christian label Sparrow Records. Why not swing for the fences and go mainstream?
“I grew up in the church. It felt pretty natural,” he says. “I had a lot of misconceptions about Christian music. I fell into a lull there for a little while where I was concerned and a little jaded about things. Through the relationship with Sparrow, I’ve met some amazing people who want to do some amazing things. They not only care about the gospel, which obviously is huge, they care about great art and great music.”
Seay says he’s never looked back about being with the good people behind Sparrow Records and considers himself lucky to make music with them. Another person he’s glad to have in his corner is postmodern church leader Donald Miller (author of Blue Like Jazz). It’s a relationship where the inspiration goes both ways.
“We’ve known Donald for years. He’s originally from Houston,” the native Texan says. “He and my brother are real close. Donald has spent the last several summers with us. He’s just been a friend. His writing inspires us and moves us. When Donald’s writing, it cuts at your soul and reshapes the way you see Jesus and the way you see the gospel.”
Donald was among the few privileged to hear early cuts of Seay’s new album, Give Yourself Away. “He’s a fan of the music,” Seay says.
… As he should be. The latest offering from Seay, which releases in August of 2007, is in the same vein as his last project – simple adult contemporary sounds that pour peace into a weary soul. And in typical Seay fashion, it comes straight from the heart.
“Right before we went on the Crowder tour, Katrina hit. That put 300,000 folks from New Orleans in our city. At that point, we started writing again,” he says.
His church was deeply involved in the relief efforts for the Katrina refugees. The devastation that he saw spurred his heart to make music that not only entertained, but healed as well.
“It’s hopeful, but it’s also 'missional'. Faith really is stale when we sit on it. Our tendency is to sit on our hands and hope that our music does something cool. If you look at who Jesus was, He wasn’t that way. He cared about the people that society hated. He fought for people who were suffering at the hands of injustice. It’s exciting to hear about the social gospel. Young people across the country are awakening to the idea that the gospel is really bigger than our American version of it.”
He also wanted the record to give people a sense of hope. He explains, “We go through so much junk. Life is crazy for all of us in different ways. I talked to a close friend last night who is going through some unimaginable things. Yet he’s sharing with me the hope that he has in Jesus. He’s able to say that to folks in a whole new way that’s alive to him.”
Seay’s music has always stretched a little further to make a real connection with his listeners – much like he does in real life. Before we part, I let him know that as well. What he doesn’t know is that weeks after speaking with him, I popped in his new album on a particular gloomy, lonesome day. The first words I heard were:
I’m gonna sing this song
To let you know that you’re not alone
And if you’re like me
You need hope, coffee and melody
I smile and have to laugh. It’s the social gospel he described in practice and in perfect harmony. I’m encouraged yet not the least bit surprised. That’s just what you can expect from the Robbie Seay Band.
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