(Photo: Ma'm Recordings)
For Andrew Greer, Scripture is most alive in song.
The singer-songwriter burst onto the Christian contemporary music scene with 2009's Open Book, a collection of achingly vulnerable songs about faith. His next release – this month's Angel Band: The Hymn Sessions – sees Greer going in a completely different direction. It's a sophomore album heavily slanted toward covering classic hymns, a move he says reminds him of home.
"Hymns take me back to my roots," said Greer. "They're where I learned music so it's a very honest place for me. There's a purity being able to connect with that again as an adult. I think hymns are very personal, and very much my story."
Angel Band: The Hymn Sessions includes the title track “Softly Tenderly,” featuring renowned bluegrass singer/songwriter Sonya Isaacs; the song “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus,” a duet by Greer and Dove Award-winning singer/songwriter Cindy Morgan; and “I Am Thine O Lord/Near The Cross,” performed by Dove Award-winning singer/songwriter Ginny Owens.
Greer said the tale of his life begins in rural Texas. Raised by parents of "strong but not overbearing" Christian faith, he said he frequently attended church and fell in love with choir hymns. Hearing their harmonies and melodies, he said he found the majesty of Christ.
"Music has played a large role in starting, growing and sustaining my relationship with God," he said. "Hymns in particular matured my faith and anchored it. They're a conversation with God. That's what I want to do with my own songs."
Greer relocated to Nashville's Belmont University to study music and find his muse. Upon graduation, he worked at singer Michael W. Smith's Rocketown Records, only to discover he valued songwriting more than business sales. The solo artist has worked as professional musician ever since.
"It can be scary working in a critical and artistic field," Greer said of his work. "You have to get a tough skin and just go for it. All the same, it's very fulfilling surrendering yourself to what you love to do. It's both wonderful and harrowing at the same time."
Greer's path to musical success was not without its struggles, however. Greer said he recorded Open Book during a time of deep personal anxiety. Alone and afraid, he used his music as a way of finding his faith again.
"I was in a really raw place with my relationship with God and my back was against the wall," Greer said. "I wanted him to show up and I was in a place where I was OK if he didn't. I needed help and a sign. He showed up in an extremely personal way."
After going through the personal trial, Greer said he started focusing on exploring Jesus' sacrifices for humanity through hymns. He reached out to a collection of other Christian artists for input, and the resulting hymn reinterpretations are Angel Band: The Hymn Sessions. Returning to the music of his youth, Greer said he realized the hope present in hymns.
"I've been through bouts of anxiety and it's literally felt like my body is crying out," he said. "What I've learned is that I'm not in my final state yet. I'm not home. My soul is anchored in Jesus."
Greer said he hopes his new hymn collection makes listeners understand the effort needed for an energetic relationship with Christ. The best faith takes place in personal interaction, he said, and grows the more people approach God.
"I've learned from life that God must be a very interesting and intriguing person," Greer said. "We can't just bottle him. We have to have a relationship with him to understand who he is."