Chris Unthank: Before we talk about your new solo record – what has this year been like transitioning from a trio to a duo with your husband Jim?
Melissa Brady: I think this past year can be summed up in three words. Unexpected. Wonderful. Hectic.
When Jim was with the Booth Brothers, and the schedule would permit, he and I would record, travel and sing as a duo. So, what we have now just feels like a coming home to those days. We’ve stayed busy both on the road and in the studio, as well as writing. So the days have been hectic, but filled with doing what we love most. So every busy day, and every mile traveled, is worth the effort!
Although we didn’t plan to transition into a duo, we’ve thoroughly enjoyed this year of making music together, and the fans have been incredibly supportive of this new adventure. We’re grateful, and looking forward to whatever the future holds!
CU: You surprised your fans with a new solo record and a new record label. What inspired the surprise?
MB: I didn’t really intend for it to be a surprise, as I’ve recorded solo projects in the past, but our lives have been pretty busy, since Jim & I started traveling together again, so we’ve kept this project simmering on the back burner, and finished each song as time allowed. Still, folks are sharing with me that it’s been a happy surprise, so that brings me joy.
CU: Tell us about the new record.
MB: As I mentioned, this recording has been in the works for a few years, and it’s thrilling to finally have it out in the world where it can, hopefully, bless the listeners. Jim is my biggest fan and he supported me every step of the way, producing the songs and singing many of the background vocals. He also surprised me with the information that he’d called David Phelps to sing with me on “Just Beyond The River Jordan” and I couldn’t be more happy with how that turned out. David did an amazing job, and I love listening to him sing my song.
CU: How is writing for a Melissa solo record different than a group record with Jim?
MB: Hmm..I don’t know if there’s a big difference in writing for one recording or another, except that, sometimes, the message portrayed in the songs will be different. This recording was birthed out of my desire to encourage women and each song, whether newly written or a favorite classic, were chosen to be an encouragement to the listener.
CU: What are some common themes found on the new record?
MB: Encouragement and celebration is woven throughout many of these songs. “Finest Hour” reminds us that it’s never too late to be who God made us to be, while “Windows Of Heaven” and “It’s Your Song Lord” celebrate the gift of music and joy found in Christ. “The Warrior Is A Child” gives us permission to lean into Jesus for the strength we need, while “Heaven” and “Just Beyond The River Jordan” help us mourn with hope, knowing that though we may lose loved ones here, for a time, we will see them again! “Broken Treasures” are a reminder that we don’t have to be weighed down by the broken pieces of our lives, because God can, and wants to, create something beautiful through us.
CU: Narrow it down – what’s your favorite song to stage and what song means the most to you?
MB: Oh, that’s a hard one. Last year, I opened and closed our women’s conference, Something Beautiful, with “Finest Hour,” because I wanted every woman in attendance to KNOW that her best days are still ahead of her!
“Just Beyond The River Jordan” holds a special place in my heart because when I wrote it, several years ago, it quickly became my Granny Shuler’s favorite song. At the time, I was singing with my Dad and Jim, as The Shulers. Dad would play the guitar, Jim sang the verses, and we would sing it around the living room at family gatherings. Every time we sang it, my Granny would say “That’s my favorite song!” and my heart would swell with the love and encouragement. The Shulers were working on a new recording, that included Jim singing “Just Beyond The River Jordan,” and we had no idea that my Granny would go to Heaven before we even finished the recording. Now, when I sing it, my words come back to me as an encouraging reminder that I’ll see my Granny in Heaven, some day.
“All Is Well” is another song of mine, that was originally recorded by The Whisnants, and became my very first #1 on the charts. When The Whisnants first recorded it, both of my parents were going through major health issues and it was a scary time for me. Honestly, this only-child-daddy’s-girl had days when it felt like I couldn’t breathe, because the weight of fear was so heavy. Yet, I’d listen to Susan sing my words back to me and I’d say to myself “I believed it when I wrote it, and I believe it now!” and I’d get the strength I needed to carry on. So, it’s a joy for me to sing it now, with the hope that it will encourage someone else, who may be facing something big in their life.
CU: To me, there are some VERY obvious musical influences coming out in this record. Share with us some of these artists and how they shaped you as a singer and songwriter.
MB: Musically, Sandi Patty has been a huge influence in my life. Her vocal ability will inspire any female singer, and I’ve loved her music for as long as I can remember.
When I was a teenager, and going through all of the challenges that time of your life brings, Twilla Parris’ “The Warrior Is a Child” wrecked my life in the most beautiful way. It still does. I cried through most of the recording of it, because I’m so grateful for the permission to leave perfection behind and lean into Jesus when things get hard.
Wayne Watson wrote “Finest Hour” and I have a feeling that he never imagined it would become an anthem for encouraging women. It is an incredible lyric, and one I so enjoy singing!
CU: What’s next for Melissa (and Jim too)?
MB: We’re currently finishing up our very first Christmas project and, I have to tell you, I’m as excited about this as anything we’ve ever done! Jason Webb produced the entire recording and, beyond his incomparable producing and arranging skills, he brought out some of the best vocals we’ve ever recorded. Half of the songs are classic Christmas tunes and half are originals that we wrote, just for this Christmas project. It’s been an incredible creative journey, and I can’t wait for everyone to hear it!
CU: What has God been teaching you lately?
MB: Oh…so many things. I’m learning to have a little more patience. With myself, with my dreams, and with others. I’m coming to realize that some things just take time and, in order to get the outcome I desire, I must surrender to the process and the time needed. I’m also aware, more than ever before, that I need to feed my soul. Because, if we want the stamina we need, to face whatever life throws at us, we have to be ready BEFORE the unexpected comes.
To purchase Shine and learn more about Melissa, visit www.jimandmelissabrady.com.