Anthony Evans talks grief after family deaths, mom's cancer diagnosis and questioning God

Anthony Evans
Anthony Evans album cover, Altared May 2019. |

Billboard No. 1 selling artist Anthony Evans, son of world-renowned Pastor Tony Evans, says he’s been honest with God about the grief he’s faced in the midst of family tragedies and how it’s inspired the theme of his new album, Altared.

The Dallas native who resides in Los Angeles released his seventh studio album Altared in May under his company, Sherman James productions. The music was created in the wake of the sudden deaths of Evans' aunt, uncle, and cousin, and the unexpected news about his mother’s cancer battle. Amid all the losses, Evans says he's leaning on his faith more than ever.

The album consists of Evan’s new single “Hope is Alive,” combined with “Altared,” and versions of some of the most popular worship songs in the church world including: “What a Beautiful Name,” “Great Are You Lord,” and “Who You Say I Am.” The project features his signature gospel influences, as well as pop, R&B and hip-hop flavors.

Evans and his sister, best-selling author and actress Priscilla Shirer, will be touring together through October at FerVent 2.0 worship events.  

The following is an edited transcript of The Christian Post's interview with Evans. 

CP: What prompted you to name your new album, Altared?

Evans: There have been scenarios in my life, over all of my life, but a lot in the last couple years where God's allowed situations to be altered in my life. And those situations He allowed so that I would actually be drawn back to Him. That's why I changed alter to altar because He allows situations to change in your life so you're drawn back to Him, so you can see Him again for the first time.  

I got to see different aspects of His grace, different aspects of Him that I would never see if the scenarios in my life weren't what they changed into. So I decided to name the album Altared and spell it the way that I did because I took songs people know. People know them one way, and I changed them so they can hear them again for the first time. And it was all because of what God has allowed to go on in my life.

CP: Your family has suffered a great deal of loss recently, how do you deal with that type of grief without blaming God?

Evans: In my family, I'm the emotional one that leans toward having moments with God, like, "come on, like for real? I'm not saying that life should be perfect, but You can control this, and you're stacking the losses on top of each other."

Me losing my uncle, my aunt, my cousin, who was 38, and this stuff with my mom going on, this is all in like 18 months. And I'm like, "yo, come on, man." So I do have those questions, and what I realized is that questions are not wrong. Feeling some type of way, asking God "why?" that's not wrong. I feel like God is with me in that.

And as crazy and life altering as those situations were, we have been able to see Him from a different perspective. So when I come down, I get to see some beautiful points of view because of the stuff that's gone wrong. I wish that it wouldn't have gone wrong, but now that it is, how am I going to live? I can live angry or I can live hopeful, and I have chosen to live hopeful.

CP: Tell us about how God has walked you through your seasons of grief?

Evans: There's been so many different ways that God showed up, but the way that I've dealt with it is choosing hope but then also dealing with my emotions at face value. I don't try to pretend anymore that I'm OK. I don't try to put on the worship leader face or do all this stuff. I don't do that. I go and deal with the real root causes and root issues of what's going on.

The grief process, I don't try to short circuit the process, because I know that I have to go through it. You trying to cut short a grief process is like cutting corners and building a house. It will show itself later, you'll have issues later if you try to cut corners. You have to be strategic in building yourself back up.

So I have gone to therapy quite a bit. I have made sure that I'm not saying yes to too many things as it relates to work because I don't want my ministry to take precedence over my well-being because my ministry comes out of my well-being.

It's a bunch of different things, but the most beneficial thing has been getting my emotions out and going to therapy and dealing with it on that level. Then also, continuing my relationship with the Lord and pursuing hope.

CP: What made you choose to re-create some of the worship songs you selected for the album?

Evans: I wasn't just choosing the most popular ones, the most current ones, because some of them are actually a little bit older. I chose songs the same way I would be strategic about choosing furniture in a home. If I want people over to my house, I want to choose things that resonate with me, that makes people comfortable and that's inviting.

I wanted to choose songs that are inviting. I'm not saying that some of the super current songs aren't, but because my career is driven by life experiences, life events, I wanted to make sure that I had songs that were super inviting. Some of the newer songs, not everybody knows yet. So I wanted to make sure that when I start singing most of these songs, I don't care who you are, what background you're from in the audience, you will know them. It was about songs that resonate with me but more than that, it was about songs that I know will resonate with the audience.

CP: You talked about not being accepted in Christian music for many years because you were not considered gospel enough nor contemporary Christian enough. How do you think that narrow grouping of creativity can expand to help artists that are not just one genre of music?

Evans: It's really like turning the Titanic in some ways. I definitely feel like it's gotten better but I would really think that there would need to be a subsidiary genre, where it's not gospel and it's not contemporary Christian music, where it's like some other situation.

Now there are more artists like me. There's Jonathan McReynolds or Travis Greene. There are a bunch of soul singers that are not African American. I feel like it would have to be people being more open-minded, the gatekeepers at radio trying to change the paradigm, which a lot of them don't want to.

I know that it's about the songs too. It's about having the right song. I'm not gonna say that every song I put out has been worthy of being played on the radio. I don't want to make it sound like I've made amazing music and they won't play it. At the same time, I just think they have to take risks. People don't take risks when related to the church especially, they like to do what they do.

CP: You've been on “The Voice” and “American Idol.” How's it been for you being in those circles while having the message of faith that you do?

Evans: I love it. It's a reminder that that's what we're supposed to be doing. My dad told me one time: "You are not salt of the shaker, you are salt of the Earth." And I will never forget that. I have a lot of opportunities out here in L.A. — that's part of the reason why I'm out here. I always get asked to do things that are way outside of the box, that Christians might not understand because it isn't me standing on a stage at a church, leading worship.

The audience will never see what happened behind the scenes because that's not on camera. The conversations that I get to have with these people who have never stepped foot in a church, or they will go to events like me and my sister's tour [FerVent 2.0]  because that's not a part of their world.

I feel like it's my job, without compromising my faith, to go meet them on where they are. I love every opportunity I get. I enjoy the opportunities I get because we are not salt of the shaker, we are salt of the Earth.

CP: Talk about collaborating with your sister, Priscilla Shier, while on the tour?

Evans: I started a production company a few years ago because my family was doing so many events but doing it for other people. So I started Sherman James productions, which are my grandfathers' names, because our whole family is in the position we're in right now because of our grandfathers making decisions to follow the Lord, not knowing what was going to happen. They just made decisions to follow the Lord's word.

We love to bring excellence to the audience. But not just that we want the audience and ourselves to experience God in a fresh way that night. We want to bring excellence but we stay so far away from calling this a show. No, we want to experience God with you! We want to bring excellence but we want to experience God with the audience. And that's what the tour with Priscilla is about. That's what Sherman James productions is about — leaving people with something that reverberates in their heart, far beyond the two hours that we spend in the room.

CP:  What happens during the tour?

Evans: It's worship. There's a prayer experience where we actively pray in the room, connecting people in the room. There's a part of the night where if somebody has experienced healing, God's healing them, Priscilla has them stand and then go pray over somebody in the room who needs healing in their life. We have a moment where we pray things forward for people, it's a connected experience. That's what FerVent represents.

CP: How is it collaborating with your family?

Evans: I really do love it. It's great because you can't manufacture sibling chemistry. You can't just throw people on a tour and it feels like that because they didn't spend 18 years in the same house and them talking every day for 40 years — that just not a thing. So it's really amazing.

CP:  What do you want people to take away from the album?

Evans: From the album, I want them to take away that even though circumstances in your life might be different than what you expected, if you take a beat, take a second and ask God to show Himself, 100% of the time you will see Him again in a fresh way for the first time.

You will see a different aspect of God if you can get out of your mind what you expected it to be and look at what it is and trust that He's going to work all things together for good and do what He says, which is be faithful when we are faithless. Then you will see a new perspective of Him. That perspective of Him, in that scenario, will draw you back to the literal alter.

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