AGM Editor-in-Chief Chris Unthank got to talk with Jim, Melissa and Layke of the Jim Brady Trio about life on the road after three years, the group’s newest recording Hope Keeps Writing the Song, and the life of a songwriter. Check it out!
Chris Unthank: The Jim Brady Trio has been on the road now for three years and only seems to be gaining in popularity with every passing day. How have things changed since embarking on your own, and what challenges have you come across in this short time?
Jim Brady: It’s hard to believe we’ve been on the road for three years. What a journey this has already been! We started the group and God’s blessings were pouring in, as we traveled all over America, Norway, Sweden & Canada, with a full schedule. Then, as were were starting our second year, Tim, our first vocalist, decided to come off the road, so we found ourselves looking for a singer to fill the void. We got a call from Bill Gaither, who introduced us to Layke Jones, a music major from Anderson University, whose been with us for two years now, and what a blessing it is to have him in the group. We still focus on harmonies and, with Layke, they’re a richer, deeper sound that, thankfully, the crowd has quickly embraced! We also have a new sound engineer, Tucker Steele, who is a godsend. We all love him. He’s a hard worker and gives his best, every night to make the sound the best he can for each audience. This JBT team is enjoying ministry together, and we couldn’t be happier.
CU: You guys have established yourself around a sound that’s definitively progressive yet firmly rooted in traditional sounds. How do you find that right balance?
JB: Our history is filled with a love of traditional southern gospel music and yet, we’re drawn to songs that speak to our hearts. So, if the sound of the song is a little beyond traditional, but the message is what we want to say, we’ll sing it. We just love a good song!
CU: Tell us a bit about your new release – Hope Keeps Writing the Song.
Melissa Brady: After two years of writing, arranging, and recording, we are so excited to be releasing this project. We hope everyone will feel it’s been worth the wait. It’s filled with the stories of our lives and really tells the listener where we are in our faith walk, right now. Once again, God has proven Himself faithful. So this one’s filled with hope and joy, because we want the world to know that what He’s done for us, He’ll do for you too! It’s truly a celebration of God’s goodness in our lives.
Layke Jones: This new project has been in the works for more than two years, and we are very anxious for folks to give it a listen! What I enjoy most about this new album is that it covers a wide range of styles and spiritual perspectives. This is completely biased, but I believe versatility is a strength within the group from a musical aspect, so I’m very much looking forward to sharing this music with everyone!
CU: The title cut, “Hope Keeps Writin’ the Song,” has a unique perspective and topic. Explain the thoughts behind that song.
JB: When we started the group, we wrote “Steppin’ Out In Faith” to express our journey of faith as we started Jim Brady Trio. We’ve spent the past three years enjoying great blessings, but we’ve also experienced great difficulty. In a fifteen month period of time, we buried four immediate family members and were hurt deeply by someone we loved, all the while working to build our ministry and encourage folks along the way. Yet, there’s still hope in our hearts. Our faith is even stronger now. So, once again, we sat down and wrote a song to commemorate where we are in faith walk. This one’s filled with snapshots of our lives. We’re still standing, still going strong, all because the hope of Jesus continues writing the song we sing. Our prayer is that the listeners will hear it, and find that same hope resonating in their hearts!
CU: Your current single “Lost” is a beautiful song with intricate harmonies and a poignant message. Who wrote it and what inspired such a brilliant tune?
JB: “Lost” was written for us by two great writer friends, Tony Wood and Rodney Griffin. When we first heard the demo, we were fascinated by how they turned the lyric from being lost, without God, to being lost in the wonder of His love. It’s a truly brilliant lyric, with beautiful melodies, and we’re so happy they shared it with us!
CU: Where did the Black Gospel infused “I Got Out” come from? What was it like recording a song where Melissa could really let loose?
MB: I was sitting at my desk, doing a little office work when “I Got Out” came on the radio. As I listened to the lyric, I thought of where we’ve come from, the difficulties that God has brought us through, and I started crying, lifting my hands and praising God. I thought, I HAVE to sing this song! So, I bought the CD, played it for Jim and, thankfully, he supported my belief in the song, so recorded it and included it on the CD. For me, it’s simply a song of celebration. I HAVE been through the fire and, with God’s grace and help, I GOT OUT! I think it might be the first time I’ve hit a high “G” on a recording. You can thank Try Ivey for that one. HA!
CU: Layke does a fantastic job on the Hillsong hit song “What a Beautiful Name.” How have Southern Gospel audiences responded to such a pivotal song in the church today?
JB: The Bible tells us that God inhabits the praise of His people and “What A Beautiful Name” is a song filled with praise for Almighty God, something that resonates in the heart of every christian!
CU: With two prolific writers in the group, how much do you work together and separately. How do you decide whose songs are making the cut with each release?
MB: We enjoy writing together, writing individually and co-writing with friends. We love it all. The variation keeps our creative juices flowing, which gives us a greater variety of songs and is, simply put, fun. When it comes to picking songs for a recording, the songs often make the decision for us. As with every other song we consider, when we’re looking at our own songs, it all comes down to where we are in our lives, and what story we want to tell the listeners. On this project our theme was hope and encouragement, so we focused on writing and finding songs with a fresh, creative way of sharing this message. We’re living testimonies of how God can walk you through difficulty that you think will break you, but you get to the other side of it and find out He brought you through, making you stronger in the process.
CU: What advice can you give to aspiring songwriters?
MB: First of all, feed your soul. The only way you’ll write anything worthwhile, is if you fill you heart and mind with good things. Read a book, enjoy nature, whatever it is that feeds your soul and gets the creative juices flowing, do it. Second, go to a writing class. Learn the craft. Study great songs to learn why they work so well, and why they’ve lasted. A song is timeless and worth the effort, so put the work in, and learn all you can. Write and then write some more. Fail at writing something good so you can fail better the next time, and write something even better. You learn by doing.
CU: Layke, what’s it like living on the road with two such creative personalities?
LJ: Traveling with creatives makes for entertaining experiences for sure! We are always singing, humming, whistling, or listening to music on the bus, so in short, we never experience a dull moment while traveling!
CU: What artists are currently inspiring the Jim Brady Trio?
JB: The Gaither Vocal Band continues to be an inspiration, as well as Bill Gaither, who has been a great mentor to us. We’ve also really been impressed by a new artist, Zach Williams, whose writing is fresh and has blessed us tremendously.
CU: What else can we expect from the Jim Brady Trio in the coming year?
JB: As we’ve worked on Hope Keeps Writing The Song we’ve also worked on another project called The Legacy Goes On which is close to our hearts, because it honors the legacy of faith handed down to us by our parents, as well as our musical mentors, who’ve encouraged us along the way. It includes old recordings, with our families, and new recordings that feature Jim’s mom, Melissa’s Dad and Layke’s mom. And pictures…there are lots of pictures…old album covers, family photos, the first buses we ever traveled in, and us with our mentors. We had a lot of fun with this one!
CU: What has God been teaching you lately?
MB: Live on this earth for very long and you will face difficulty. Pain is inevitable. But the beauty in it all is that God will redeem the pain and give it purpose. He will give you the strength you need to get through it and then, when you get to the other side of it, He’ll give you opportunity to use that pain to help someone else. When He does, He’s redeeming your pain, and that is a beautiful thing!
To find out more about the Jim Brady Trio and their new Daywind Records release Hope Keeps Writing the Song, visit them online at www.jimbradytrio.com.