Jean Watson On Her New Album "Home:" "All These Songs are like Pages from My Personal Journal"
Singer and songwriter Jean Watson is back with a new album. Home, Watson's first album in three years, will be released on June 24. The album includes the title track "Home," which features Phil Keaggy. "Home" is a conversation between the Lord and us in which he invites us to find my "home" in his love alone.
We are honored to catch up with Jean Watson for this exclusive interview.
Q: Jean, thanks for doing this interview with us. I believe that this new album came after a three-year wait. What happened there?
For much of 2020 and 2021 I felt like I had "lost my song." To not be able to do public ministry was heartbreaking for me! But during that time of stillness, I felt like the Lord was inviting me to discover my identity in who I am rather than what I do. There were many hours spent in prayer and in the Word. And then one day during that time of quietness and reflection, guess what? A song came. I took my one little song to Nashville last June and played it for producer Billy Smiley. Then another song idea came and another and another.
Billy took my crazy musical ideas (he calls me the "mad scientist") and brought together the musicians needed to bring the ideas to life. I was so blessed to work with a team of gifted musicians such as Phil Keaggy, Tom Lane, Gordon Mote, Jonathan Crone, and many others. The music that was created by all of us together was beyond my wildest imagination!
Looking back now I can see that what I thought was a time of loss was really a time of great fruitfulness. The new lyrics that emerged during that time mirrored my spiritual journey, and the musical arrangements were fresh and authentic. I am so thrilled to now be able to share "Home" with the world, and I hope that others will resonate with the "new song" God put in my heart.
Q: What or who inspire you to write and record again?
I can't force myself to write songs - believe me, I've tried! Music and words have to flow from an "overflow" in my heart. During much of the pandemic, I felt spiritually and emotionally dry. But during that time of drought, I dug deep wells asking the Lord to fill me up again - not from my own strength but by his spirit. So when song ideas began to flow again, I knew they were from Him. There were many tears of joy when I finally was able to record my ideas and sing again!
Q: Why did you entitle the album "Home"?
I named the album after the title track "Home" which I wrote last summer. The lyrics are like a letter from God in which He asks us to stop trying to find our value in our performance and discover it in his love alone.
In my love, in my love
You are chosen, you are precious, you belong
In my love, in my love
No matter where you wander you will never be alone
You are safe, you are found, you are home
I believe that our hearts never truly feel satisfied until we find our "home" in God's love. Each song on the album points to the Lord alone as our source of hope, joy and fulfillment in life.
Q: On this new album, besides your own compositions, you have also included a number of covers. How did you choose which songs to record?
I love arranging music as much as I do writing it! So, I had a lot of fun creating new arrangements for some cover songs and hymns that are personally meaningful to me. It was so much fun to add my own personal touch to familiar hymns like "Nothing But the Blood" and "This Is My Father's World."
I also included cover songs that spoke to my heart during the pandemic such as "For the Songless Hearts" by Jon Guerra, "Come to Jesus" by Chris Rice, and "The Joy of the Lord" by Rend Collective. My husband also asked me to record "Nella Fantasia" and "Holy is His Name" by John Michael Talbot. What a shock it was to get an email from Talbot himself saying he loved my version of his famous song!
"Jean Watson's version of Holy Is His Name is a refreshing, new masterful take on my song that includes aspects of the traditional and the contemporary that lifts the soul and spirit to God in worship." - John Michael Talbot
Q: Your daughter Kat was also involved in the record. Tell us more about her and her involvement.
Kat is my youngest daughter and an outstanding musician in her own right. But more than that, Kat is a worshiper! We were sitting in the living room one day worshiping and singing melodies to some of the psalms. When we got to Psalm 51, she began to sing a beautiful melody which I recorded on my cell phone.
I took that melody and crafted it into a complete song over the next few months. To me it seemed like Kat should sing the song, so she flew to Nashville and recorded the vocal and guitar parts. I supported her voice with my piano and vocal parts, and the result was a touching mother/daughter duet. Plus, the track on the album begins with the original cell phone recording in my living room! The finished song was so moving that producer Billy Smiley invited her to come back and finish an album of her own. So watch out for more from Kat Watson next year!
Q: "Nella Fantasia" is one of your standout tracks. Tell us more about why you chose this song.
Recording "Nella Fantasia" was definitely out of my comfort zone! The melody was originally called "Gabriel's Oboe" and was featured in the movie "The Mission" from the '80s. Sarah Brightman had Italian lyrics added to that gorgeous melody several years later. The words speak of a "fantasy" or "dream" of a world where people live in love, harmony and peace with each other. Though there is no direct reference to faith in the song, I feel like the hope that is expressed is a reflection of what God's kingdom truly looks like.
My husband pressed me to include this track on the album but I hesitated - first because it is so difficult to sing and second because it is a departure from my typical "Christian contemporary" musical genre. I wasn't sure how it would be received. But we released the song as a single at the end of April, and I was shocked to find it resonating with a whole new audience in many nations! I am so glad I stepped out of my "box" and tried something new. Perhaps this song will lead people to discover the Lord's love who were not even looking for it!
Q: How do you wish these songs would impact the lives of your listeners?
All these songs are like pages from my personal journal. Each one reflects aspects of my faith journey such as finding joy in the midst of struggles, freedom from the regrets of the past, and peace in the Lord's presence. My hope is that listeners will lean into the words of the songs and be drawn close to the heart of God, receiving his love right where it is needed. Most of all, may we all remember that we are never alone on our journey "home"!
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