Interview: Jonny Lang on 'Turn Around'

Johnny Lang, who has toured with secular rock bands Aerosmith and the Rolling Stones, spoke about his fifth studio project "Turn Around” and how his life turned around when he met the Lord.

CP: “Turn Around” is your fifth album, and your first release to the Christian marketplace. Can you tell us a little bit about the writing process for the record?

I wrote and produced the record with a couple of guys: Drew Ramsey and Shannon Sanders. And the three of us began writing for this record - we spread it out probably over about a year, and then we began recording the album, and also finishing up writing while recording some other songs. But I think this is probably the most focused I’ve been, lyrically speaking, about what it was I wanted to say in a record, because this is really the first time that I’ve been outward about my faith in Jesus and what He means to me. (For this record) I definitely knew I wanted tell that story in some way, and about the wonderful things He’s done for me, but I also wanted it to be in the right way, in the way that God wanted it to be. So I did a lot of praying, and I really am happy with how it turned out. And I think it’s a good first step in a sense.

CP: Any favorite tracks on the album?

Hmm, not really, but I think if I had to pick one, “Only a Man” would be the one that I would pick. My wife sings with me on that, and it’s probably the most up front song (I’ve done) about what God has done in my life.

CP: You co-wrote "My Love Remains" with Steven Curtis Chapman. Can you tell us a little bit about that experience?

It was awesome. I’ve known Steven for a few years now, and we became pretty good friends, and our writing together was a result of sort of picking up that friendship. We had written a couple songs together and “My Love Remains” was one of them, and I thought it would be a good fit on this record.

CP: You’ve been a believer for almost seven years now. Can you share with us a little bit about your encounter with the Lord?

Sure. Basically, at a time in my life when I despised the things of God and wanted nothing to do with Jesus or the name of Jesus - people would try to get me to go to church from time to time or tell me about Him, but I just wanted nothing to do with it. And in the middle of all of that, He basically one night just showed up, and I was overwhelmed by His Spirit; I was just sitting there talking to my girlfriend, now my wife, and while we were talking - we weren’t talking about the Lord or anything like that, but unrelated things - and His name just came out of my mouth. I said "Jesus." And when I said Jesus, I started shaking and I just felt the power of God in me, and I felt myself being delivered from every addiction that I’ve had. I had a lifestyle of drug use and alcohol, and I could feel myself being completely set free of all that stuff. (laughs) I had always said, “If He is who you guys say He is, He’s just going to have to show up and reveal Himself to me,” and that’s exactly what He did. And when I was sort of done shaking or whatever, I just gave my life to Him right on the spot, and that was the beginning of it for me.

CP: It really reminds me of the story of Paul.

Yeah, that’s so funny…afterwards, I just thought, people are just not going to believe me, I initially thought, “This is most insane thing, they’re going to think I’m crazy.” But then I read about what happened to Paul, and I thought, “Ok, maybe some people won’t think I’m crazy.” And I’m so grateful that when I had totally just hated Him, He loved me, and it’s something I’ll never forget.

CP: Are you attending a church now?

Yeah, absolutely. I have an awesome church home and an awesome Pastor down in L.A., and I couldn’t be happier. I just feel so blessed – I spent a while looking for a place, my wife and I, and I just really feel, again, He’s done so much for me, and giving us a great church to go to, it’s been amazing.

CP: Do you perform at the church at all?

I sing with the singers from time to time, and I love to do that. It’s probably one of my favorite things.

CP: You’ve been on tour with some of the biggest names in rock music, and now you’re on tour promoting “Turn Around.” Can you tell us about the difference between those two experiences?

Well, it’s definitely different when you’re traveling around with a huge band like Aerosmith and the Rolling Stones and opening up for them, because for the most part people are just tolerating you until the people that they really came to see come up to play (laughs)…but the experience of it was amazing, just playing in front of that many people was incredible, and meeting all those people and kind of getting to know them, it was great. And it really is this huge production, and “shock and awe,” you know…So it’s very different from the level I play on which are theaters, 2500 seat places, as opposed to 20,000 seat places. But I think I like them both.

CP: How has the response been to this new record as opposed to your old ones?

I haven’t read a whole lot of the comments online or anything like that, but the ones that I have read, it’s pretty much the same: either they don’t like it, or some people aren’t comfortable with me mentioning the name of Jesus, which is to be expected; but some people are excited about it, some people are just like, “I don’t care what you believe but I just like your music.” So it’s all different kinds of people, which is great, I hope for that. I hope that it can relate to and be a blessing to anybody, with the hope that someday they will find Jesus Christ to be the same God that I’ve found Him to be.

CP: Have your thoughts on music in general if they’ve changed at all since you’ve become a believer?

Yeah. You know, music used to be my God and was something that I lived for and that my life revolved around. And since meeting the Lord, it’s taken a back seat, to say the least, to Him. And I feel like I have a lot more perspective now. Now, when I perform a song or when I write a song or when I’m just thinking about the career I have as a musician, it all, at this point, needs to fall in line with serving Him first, instead of the other way around. So, with that said, I definitely view music differently. It’s just like any gift anybody has. I feel like God gave me whatever gifts I have, and so those should be used to bring glory to Him and to bear fruit for His purposes. And I hope that it only increases from here to do both of those things.

I think what amazed me the most about your testimony is that you went through this rock n’ roll lifestyle at such a young age – I think you described it as kind of like a “blur” from your first record and going through that process. And now you’ve been delivered and you’re still at a young age, and you’ve got a lot of life to live and a lot of things to look forward to. I was wondering what your outlook is on your future career, and just your life in general since having gone through this kind of fast-forwarded experience that takes some people a lifetime to go through.

I’m sort of in the posture of somebody who really needs that connection with the Lord as often as possible – just to feel normal, to feel right, I guess, everyday. So I guess, I look at myself as more of a - this might sound cheesy - but I kind look at myself as more of a child, in the sense that I can understand how little I know about things, and how little control I actually have over my own life, except the decisions I make for or against God. And I realize that I’m just really nothing without Him, that I can’t do anything aside from Him, and it’s just taking it one step at a time. Where before it was load the gun, put the blindfold on, spin around and shoot, was my personal life before, I definitely feel like the Lord has given me a total direction and purpose now.

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