Everything I Own – Making Artistry, Ministry, and Industry Play Nice Together

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In a recent email I sent out to those on my email list, I talked about Centricity’s recent decision to release “Everything I Own” as a radio single. We are offering you the radio version for free and I thought for long-time fans it warranted a little explanation. So here’s the longer version of what I wrote in that email:

“Centricity Records has bravely decided to release “Everything I Own” as the next single to radio. I say brave because it’s not the typical kind of song you’d expect to hear on radio (both lyrically and musically). But it is a song that we feel says something important, so we’re opting for a single that has more heart than it does dance mix potential. 🙂

Centricity played the song for some of radio’s big decision makers who felt that most stations would not play the song on account of the lyric “demons of lust” being stronger language than their audiences are accustomed to.

I’ll be honest and admit to being frustrated and offended by this initially – how can I hope to minister and really get to the heart of matters if I have to be afraid of how Christian radio’s more timid listeners will react? It’s this kind of thing that I sometimes fear is hurting Christian music as I wonder if we are guilty of “tickling ears” as the bible warns against. Are we trying too hard to give listeners what they want instead of what they need? (This is especially relevant when you consider that lust and pornography are at the top of the list of issues plaguing our culture.)

But the story of the gospel is the story of God coming down, meeting us at our level. So after months of prayerful consideration, we all decided that the song’s message was important enough for us to be willing to meet radio listeners where they’re at and make a minor lyric change for the radio version. The song’s value goes far beyond one line, and if changing it helps get this song heard, than we decided it’s worth it. I take comfort in thinking that for those who might hear the song on the radio and go on to listen to the original album version, the original lyrics we changed will actually take on new emphasis!

In the end the changes felt less like compromise and more like sensitivity, and as weird as all of this could have been, the new lyric is quite lovely. We hope radio embraces it and that it is a blessing for those who hear the song and take it to heart.

With the new lyric we also gave the radio version a musical treatment that makes me wish we would have thought of it for the album version! My friend Matt Patrick added some gorgeous guitar work that really sweetened the track and we have ended up with something that we’re all really excited about. We hope you will be too!

We wanted to offer the song to you for free as our way of saying thank you for your support and friendship. It will be available as a free download for the remainder of April on my myspace page (click here, and then look for the song in the music player and click the download button.) If you like it, please share it with others. (NOTE: If you don’t do myspace, you can also download the song from here)

Thanks so much for your support! Consider this a little glimpse into the hard work of making artistry, ministry, and industry play nice together.


40 Comments

  1. Drew

    Controversy! I had to pop the CD into my player and listen to the song again, because all these months I’ve had the CD, somehow I missed these controversial lyrics.

    Hmmm. So it’s all about the word “lust,” eh? I’m thinking that it’s “radio’s big decision makers” who are the timid ones. I can’t imagine that radio listeners themselves would have any qualms about the song.

    Since I have the CD, can you tell us how were the lyric was changed?

  2. Tony Heringer

    “Demons of lust” are you kidding me? That makes our session on vulgarity and profanity here in the room look like very deep thinking. It’s a silly change, but you made the right call. It was certainly not a battle worth fighting.

    It’s really cool how this worked out. I received your email yesterday and downloaded the song putting it in the directory with the rest of “All The Lonely Losers” songs. I listened to it yesterday in the midst of the work day. This morning as I was getting out to go into a local Starbucks it was on the local Christian radio station! How cool is that? I almosted called you, but not knowing what time zone or state of mind you were in, I passed on the call and just sat there enjoying a radio moment for my new friend.

    We took your music with us on our mid-week Spring Break trip down to Savannah. Cherie was diggin’ it and really enjoyed (as did I) “Curiosity Killed The Cat” — we’ve had a few cats over the years and would agree with the sentiment of that tune.

    Travis perked up as soon as “Blessed Be” came on — even though he’d only heard the acoustic version, he knew immediately that it was you. That my friend is high praise coming from a kid whose musical taste these days trends to what I would call “scream metal” — which I was subjected to all the way to Carollton to see you play last Sunday.

    Look forward to catching up when you are in town in June. Keep fighting the good fight my brother!

  3. Sid

    The lyric change was good, but I’m glad I have the original. I think the last line was changed too?? Who did the background vocals? That was nice but is the proprietor upset you cut him out? Thanks for the music.

  4. Mike

    I’m new to Jason Gray music but not to this type of treatment. I have two pastor friends who feel that their preaching cannot go to deep on Sunday mornings because of the immaturity of most church goers. Thanks for the download Jason. Great song.

  5. Profile photo of Jason Gray

    Jason Gray

    @jasongray

    Wow, I just posted this as one of my personal blog entries here at the rabbit room and never expected it to end up as one of the main headings where everyone reads it. But it’s probably one of those things that’s worth talking about here. Thank you for the encouraging posts. I’m grateful and I think this is a good place to explore the tensions between art, ministry, and paying the mortgage.

  6. Profile photo of Jason Gray

    Jason Gray

    @jasongray

    Oh yeah! I forgot to address that. On the album version, Andrew Peterson graced the track with some background vocals. With the changes we made (trying to make a bit of a chorus with the word “everything…” etc.) we knew we needed to retrack bgvs. Because of the time constraints (we only had a couple days to do all the work we did) we didn’t have the time to send the tracks down to Nashville, have Andrew re-sing it, and send it back. Plus, the other thought was that a female vocalist might help connect the song to female radio listeners (who, if you don’t know, are the target demographic of Christian radio). Don’t get me wrong, I think we all know that the ladies all like AP (and he does sing kind of girly), but it was mostly a time thing. The woman singing is Elizabeth Hunnicutt and I think she did some nice pad vocal stuff, too (oohs and ahhs), so it was a good fit. She also sang BGVs on my cover of Pierce Pettis’ “Miriam”. I was sad to lose AP’s part, though. I remember I cried the first time I heard it. It will always live on on the album version.

  7. Profile photo of Jason Gray

    Jason Gray

    @jasongray

    One last thing (I keep saying that – again, I was unprepared for this to be one of the main entries. It’s cool though, thanks for reading and commenting!)

    The last line was changed. On the original it’s “what would I give… (pause, wait for it….) to be born again”.

    Now the song just ends with “What would I give…”

    The concern was that some listeners would be like, “what the? this guy’s not born again? I’m changing the station!”

    I know, I know, it’s all very disappointing to assume that we have to bring everything down to the lowest common denominator, but that’s how it works. Radio gets something like 800 new songs a year submitted to them and will add only in the neighborhood of 70, so in most cases it’s all about removing any reason for them to say no.

    Anyway, dropping the last line works artistically for me. I like how it just kind of hangs there unresolved and leaves the listener to fill in the blank for themselves. Gives the Holy Spirit something to work with in that way. In all of this, I don’t think we prostituted ourselves or in any way dishonored God’s call on our lives. I still think everyone was served well – radio, our artistic and ministry sensibilities, and hopefully God himself – the giver and receiver of these songs.

  8. Tony Heringer

    “NOBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition! Our chief weapon is surprise…surprise and fear…fear and surprise…. Our two weapons are fear and surprise…and ruthless efficiency…. Our *three* weapons are fear, surprise, and ruthless efficiency…and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope…. Our *four*…no… *Amongst* our weapons…. Amongst our weaponry…are such elements as fear, surprise…. ”

    Sorry, that popped into my head with you going on about “one last thing”. Plus the Pope is in the country.

    I’ve had “Jason Gray radio” today continously playing through “All The Lovely Losers” and “Live Vol. 1”. Good tunes my man.

    Since you are giving us insight into radio rotation, has “This Far” received airplay? This song sounds so familiar. If it’s not been on the radio, it should be!

  9. Bret Welstead

    “It’s this kind of thing that I sometimes fear is hurting Christian music as I wonder if we are guilty of “tickling ears” as the bible warns against.”

    Just curious, and I’m going to plead ignorance on this one, which is embarrassing for a music pastor on a thread about Christian music…

    But what’s the reference here? I’ve never heard warnings against “tickling ears.”

    By the way, I recently picked up “All The Lovely Losers” after reading a post of yours here in the Rabbit Room. We’re about to start a series at our church on the beatitudes. “Blessed Be” is perfect for it. Great music, thank you for writing and sharing it with the world.

  10. Profile photo of Jason Gray

    Jason Gray

    @jasongray

    Hey Bret!

    The verse I was referring to is:
    2 Timothy 4:3 (New International Version)

    3For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.

    I think there is another translation somewhere that says something to the effect of looking to teachers who “tickle” their ears. I could be mistaken though. Thanks for keeping me on my toes! (which actually are ticklish)

  11. Bret Welstead

    Thanks! I hadn’t heard it translated that way, but you’re right: the NASB talks of people not choosing sound doctrine, but instead opting for having their ears tickled.

  12. Drew

    Tony, I’m sure I’ve heard “This Far” on our local Christian radio station. In fact, because of something I was going through at the time, I let that song be my personal soundtrack for most of February. (Thanks, Jason.)

  13. Curan

    “The last line was changed. On the original it’s “what would I give… (pause, wait for it….) to be born again”.

    Now the song just ends with “What would I give…””

    ..Are you kidding me? Maybe you should submit your music to Reg’s Coffeehouse or to Michael Jonathon and the Woodsongs Old TIme Radio Hour. Surely they will play it without editing.

    Can’t believe that’s whats happening on America’s Christian Radio? Are Christian Radios from other states like that too? how bout Canada and the rest of the world?

  14. Curan

    Woodsongs would surely welcome the likes of Jason Gray and the three Andys.

    This week they even got Alathea and The Lee BOys, two independent Christian artists.

    he always says “you don’t have to be famous, you just have to be good.” and Jason indeed is awesome! 🙂

  15. Curan

    Also Jason if christian radio did delete the line “what would i give to be born again” just because they’re afraid listeners will think the singer ain’t born again, then why do they play Matt Maher when infact he’s open about him being Catholic? and also Kathy Trocoli and the fact that CCM does support World Youth day and with TobyMac singing for the Pope?

  16. Profile photo of Jason Gray

    Jason Gray

    @jasongray

    Whoa, you just opened a can of worms there! While I understand some people’s concerns about Catholicism, I for one do not share those concerns. Many of the most passionate followers of Jesus that I have met are Catholic. Loving Jesus, walking in his way, and following him are the evidences I look for and I’ve seen it in spades. Besides, as I understand it, most if not every point of Luther’s laundry list that he nailed to the Wittenberg Door have been addressed and amended.

  17. Curan

    yeah, im not against catholicism too.

    i just make the point that if christian radios didn’t play your unedited version of everything i own because listeners might think that u ain’t born again, then they should also banned Matt Maher.

    anyways i love Matt Maher’s music though.

    but then again most (not all) christian radios exist not for the ministry but for the money…. but then again ot all of ’em ‘r

  18. Matt

    Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time nor the last but it’s the standard fare artists have to go through to get through the gatekeepers.

    I’ve heard some crazy stories of songs rejected and songs changed but last year at GMA a friend said they had to rewrite and then (obviously) rerecord most of an album of SCC of all people most of the songs were about the thread of brokenness. Radio personnel said it was too dark for radio to play.

    My thought was “if chapman, of all people, can’t even get on Christian radio, they’re a lot more powerful than I thought…”

  19. Curan

    that’s scary than i thought.

    next thing you know HIllsong United will be banned on Christian radio because their guitarist Michael Guy Chislett happens to be in a band The Academy Is… and 1969, a band that bombs the magic word that scares most christians and is led by Butch Walker.

  20. Drew

    When you have a ministry that relies on donor support (as many Christian radio stations do), then you have to perform to the expectations of your donors lest they take their cash elsewhere. Several years ago, I had some friends who worked at a local Christian radio station, and they said that anytime they played something a little too upbeat, they’d get calls complaining about that “rock music” and threats that those callers would stop supporting the station. One guy I know would politely explain that if the caller was uncomfortable supporting the station, then, yes, he should stop donating. Though I doubt that was the station’s actual policy about dealing with such calls, but he’d do that anyway.

    But it’s not just radio stations that have to deal with this sort of thing. Any ministry that relies on donor support has to walk that line between ‘What We Must Do to Minister to People’ and ‘What We Must Avoid Doing to Retain Support.’ As mentioned above, I’m sure many pastors feel there are certain things they cannot talk about in church lest they feel the wrath of the Elder Board.

    I sense a sea-change, though. I think younger Christians are more willing to speak frankly about issues that freak out the previous generation; probably because young people today are exposed to and openly discuss things that my parents’ generation would never consider a topic for public discourse.

  21. Tony Heringer

    Drew, thanks for the follow up man. “This Far” is a great song and I hope it gets more rotation.

    As for the Christian music business, it has always seemed to me to be a business first. I liked Rich Mullins take on this subject. He considered it good wholesome entertainment — nothing more. He felt musicians were the most screwed up people on the planet (he said it, I didn’t) and if people wanted to be fed spiritually then they should go to church.

    That being said, this sort of thing happens to other genres of music too — for you old timers — remember the Rolling Stones “Some Girls”? I know this will tempt folks to go back into that other thread on coarse talk, but stay focused! 🙂

    For me, The Proprietor has one of the more infamous cuts in his beautiful song “Nothing To Say”. The line “turn off the radio” is cut. To me, that is the ultimate insult to our intelligence. Can you imagine the marketing meeting “Now, we can’t have folks running around turning off their radios just because some poet tells ’em too! We got stuff to sell!” How goofy! Andrew, when we took a family trip to the Grand Canyon, I made sure that song got plenty of air time — the unfiltered, “offensive” version too! 🙂

    By the way, wwe need a better name for Andrew — “The Proprietor” seems a bit stuffy and not in keeping with the spirit of this place.

    How about Barliman Butterbur in honor of Professor Tolkien?

  22. Drew

    Hey Jason . . . the edited version just came up on our local station, so . . . it’s out there. : )

  23. Profile photo of Jason Gray

    Jason Gray

    @jasongray

    That’s great to hear! Where are you from? Also, not to be weird, but if anyone reading this hears the song played on your radio station, it helps me if you let them know that you appreciate them playing it. They’ll usually introduce a song for a couple weeks and see if they get a response before they commit to actually adding it to regular rotation on their playlists. So if you hear it and you like it, please let them know!

    Okay, I’ll now try to refrain from any further self-promotion :-). So grateful to hear that some of you are hearing it out there, though. The song is such a long-shot that it feels like a little victory knowing it’s getting played.

  24. Drew

    Well, I’m in Wisconsin, so they plugged you as “Minnesotan Jason Gray.” How’d’ya like that?

  25. Tony Heringer

    Jason,

    Very good, the station I heard the song on is online. So, everyone in the Rabbit Room can listen in and then send them an email thanking them for playing your song :-).

    http://www.wwev.org/index.html

    Drew is your local station online?

  26. whipple

    Jason &c.~

    There’s a brave little program that could here in Knoxville on our local “Christian Hit Source: Love 89-point-one-FM!”

    Kris Love has been spinning music on a program called The Detour for a couple years or so. He plays a lot of local music, including mine and that of some of my friends. He also plays a lot of Square Peg stuff and music that’s a little prickly for the industry game. Now, the cd he has of mine is rather ill-constructed, like a hare-brained scheme gone AWOL, so the musical quality certainly runs the gamut on the program. That’s a risk you run, though, when you truly support local music, and you can’t only foster the prodigies. But the most interesting thing is that it has become the most popular hour on the radio on that station (which is itself quite popular). So either the 35-year-old soccer mom (that is their main demographic) isn’t interested anymore, or she’s feeling more comfortable with discussing spiritual things with her kids and neighbors (no offense to any soccer moms out there. My mom diligently and tirelessly taxied me to soccer back when I was scrawny and had more energy).

    It’s a little weird, especially when it used to be so that you couldn’t go ten minutes without hearing the latest Jump5 hit, but their listenership (which includes my wife) is interested in something a little more storied than the “Cliff’s Notes on the last chapter,” if you will.

  27. Matt Algren

    Curan (#17) said “Are Christian Radios from other states like that too?”

    Curan, as long as K-LOVE is has 401 stations across the country, the answer is decidedly yes. One of the best decisions (music-wise) that I’ve made was to turn off K-LOVE a few years ago. I dig harder for the good stuff and pay better attention to what artists that I like are listening to. I find that I’m getting more out of the experience.

    I believe the Proprietor gave an interview a few years ago in which he spoke briefly about the control Christian radio stations have over the industry. Maybe it’s time to repost it.

  28. Electroluminescence

    I absolutely LOVE the discussion that this song started.

    i just stumbled upon this quote & i thought it was interesting after Jason said this in his blog, “It’s this kind of thing that I sometimes fear is hurting Christian music as I wonder if we are guilty of “tickling ears” as the bible warns against. Are we trying too hard to give listeners what they want instead of what they need?”

    so true…

    “Most people use music as a couch; they want to be pillowed on it, relaxed and consoled for the stress of daily living. But serious music was never meant to be soporific. ~Aaron Copland”

  29. Kaitlyn

    I absolutely love the new version of the song. It’s so beautiful. The original was already beautiful enough, but this is like beautiful overload. You did some amazing stuff with this song.

    It is kind of frustrating that the radio station wouldn’t take the song just the way it was. It’s disappointing that things have become like this, that three words like “demons of lust” have to be removed from a song for the people at the radio stations to be pleased with it. I don’t want to feel like i’m repeating myself because this is my third time commenting on this song. I like it either way, and in the end if people want to know more about your music they will eventually come across the original version. 🙂

  30. Curan

    i compiled some of my personal worship music into a disc and here it is:

    1.Thankful- JONNY LANG ft MICHAEL McDONALD

    2. Ain’t No Grace- CROOKED STILL

    3. Praise The Lord- DAN TYMINSKI

    4. Waiting For The Rain To Come Down- GRIFFIN HOUSE

    5. Everything I Own- JASON GRAY

    6. Only Love Remains- JJ HELLER

    7. Be Merciful To Me- CAEDMON’s CALL

    8. Faith To Be Strong- ANDREW PETERSON

    9. Last Chance ( Psalm 88)- ANDREW OSENGA/JEREMY CASELLA/ SANDRA MCCRACKEN

    10. Your Love Will Never Change- DAVE BARNES

    11. Let Your Light Shine- BETHANY DILLON

    12. O, For A Thousand Tongues To Sing- DAVID CROWDER BAND

    13. Calmer of the Storm- DOWNHERE

    14. Strong Tower- KUTLESS

    15. Your Ways Are Higher- CHRIS NESBITT

    16. Every Grain of Sand- BOB DYLAN

    17. I Need Thee Every Hour- ANATHALLO

    18. All That I Am- THE AFTERS

    19. Prayer of saint Francis- DENISON WITMER

    20. A Living Prayer- ALISON KRAUSS & UNION STATION

  31. The Rabbit Room

    […] content in a few of the lines that radio stations were squeamish about sending over the airwaves. (Read Jason’s post here.) I respect Jason’s decision to change the lines so that the song (and the rest of his music) […]

  32. Profile photo of Ron Block

    Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Jason,

    I just read your post and as er..carnal as it may be, I am engaging in a large amount of eye-rolling. At least internally. And I do see your point in changing the lyrics, meeting people who have trouble with King James English (“demons” and “lust”) right where they are to get the point across. I wonder what they do with “pisseth” and other KJV words. Have they never read Ezekiel where God uses some..er..very graphic comparisons to get His point across?

    But anyway, it’s good for you to meet them where they are.

  33. Peter Eason

    Wow , I thought (wrongly,obviously) that christian radio had grown up alittle more than this. It’s no wonder Pastors ( like me ) pull out what little hair they have left ( mine’s pretty much non existant ! ). If all we’re ever going to feed people is milk and pablum , is it any wonder that there’s more childishness , rather than the child – likeness Jesus spoke of , represented in the church today? The blatant hypocrisy is that some of those who get squimish at such lyrics probably partake occasionally, or frequently , in other forms of entertainment that this world offers without batting an eyelash ( ie: TV , Movies , Internet , etc. ). I think it was Tony Campolo who once said to a church crowd something to the effect of : ” This world is on its way to hell and most of you don’t give a damn – and most of you right now are more offended that I just swore then you are about the truth of what I just said”. God help us all. Surely people (believers especially ) can discern between the gratuitous use of profanity and/or strong language and the need sometimes to make a powerful point in order for people to stop, take notice, and hopefully listen. I remember hearing about Charlie Peacock ( Ashworth ) getting all kinds of heat for his song ” Kiss me like a woman” off of his brilliant “Love Life” cd back in the early “90’s , not to mention other great artists like Mark Heard not garnering airplay because the name of Jesus wasn’t mentioned the obligatory number of times. I guess I just hoped that we as a church had grown past a Pharisee – like approach to everything we hear and see. Anywho , thanks for the opportunity to vent alittle – I’ll have to pick – up your cd Jason!! And for what it’s worth , Andrew’s right when he said it wasn’t the hill to die on. I respect your reasons and the decision you’ve made. God bless and keep you, and yours, always HIS !!

    Peace of Christ to you;
    Peter Eason
    The Salvation Army
    Meadow Lake , Sk. Canada

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