Christian Living


Danny Gokey's Christmas Is Here

Christmas came in June this year for season 8 American Idol finalist turned Christian music artist Danny Gokey. Tucked away in a tinseled Nashville studio, the "Hope in Front of Me" singer recorded his first festive album, Christmas Is Here, a compilation of classic holiday tunes and a couple of Gokey originals.

Recently, CBN.com sat down with Gokey to chat about this new Christmas record and what truly makes this the most wonderful time of the year. Here are excerpts of that conversation:

Hannah Goodwyn: What does Christmas mean to you?

Danny Gokey: I feel like it's an event of drawing close not only to God but to your family. It's interesting how it brings people together, and to think about the songs that take you there, like "Mary, Did You Know?" and "O, Holy Night," and the classic songs that take you to those moments of remembering what God did for us.

Goodwyn: It's touted that "each song [on Christmas Is Here] reverberates emotional honesty and life-affirming messages that are hallmarks of Danny's music." What's the honest message you want to send to listeners?

Gokey: I want people to feel the hope that comes through Christmastime. Christmastime is about hope with what God did for us and with the expression of His love through the gift He gave us at Christmastime, which was Jesus...the one who heals us, who saves us, who delivers us, who is there in our darkest moments. I love to express that through the Christmas music.

I took it back with some classics as well, that make people remember. One thing I did with this record is it's not just for the Christian crowd, but it's for everyone. I didn't isolate anybody. So everyone will be able to understand it, and I hope they all feel that hope and I hope they all get those moments.

Goodwyn: What sort of Gokey holiday spice did you add to these classics?

Gokey: I think just vocally I have a little timber in my voice that God gave me that does work--it puts my own DNA onto it, and so we were able to do that. We put a classic touch on it, though, which is what I like. Music changes, but there's a timeless touch that we put to it, which I think is really important. But the soulfulness, the timber and the timeless touch, I think we accomplished it.

Goodwyn: Do you have a favorite classic song on the record?

Gokey: "Mary Did You Know?" and "Give Me Jesus." "Give Me Jesus" is not a Christmas song, but I heard Vince Gill sing it. I did an event with him and Amy Grant last year at Lipscomb University and he sang it. I had never heard this song before. It's a traditional hymn that's probably maybe a century, two centuries old. Gill sang it at Christmastime and I thought, how fitting. I've got a few friends who have gotten my album and they're like, 'Oh my gosh, "Give Me Jesus," I'm crying listening to it.'

I love that because it puts everything back in the focus. Really all we need in life is Him. I feel like more and more, maybe with Vince Gill, me, and who else knows who's going to cover that song...maybe it will become more of a Christmas song.

Goodwyn: Did it feel like there was an anointing on it, there was something different about it?

Gokey: Yeah, absolutely. There was just a celebratory anointing, which is good, because sometimes Christian music is really quiet calm, and it was like this upbeat, current--the sound for our day, I would say, that, you know, I don't want to come off too bold, but it fit the sound that we're in, you know? So yeah, it was definitely. I think there's a rejoice factor that comes with it when you sing it. It's like you get really excited singing it.

Goodwyn: Do you think back to those days in Milwaukee before you were on American Idol?

Gokey: I do. I think back to Milwaukee's where I got my start in church, in singing. Singing is really where I got my start in church, and above all things, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a place that I feel like it's undervalued. It's one of the most amazing cities I've been to. It has the most to offer. I think about it all the time, but I'm glad I'm in this new chapter of my life in Nashville, Tennessee. But Milwaukee, I'll never forget Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Goodwyn: It was probably hard to imagine back then the trajectory your life would take. But, can you see where you're going now?

Gokey: I definitely see. It's not all there clear, but I have a vision that God has given me, and this year, especially 2016 and ending 2015. It's so clear in my heart what I feel like to pursue. The way God has like, really blessed me, and the way God has poured into my life. I have a vision for what this music's supposed to be. I really feel like the Lord's saying entertainment and hope; mix those two factors together.

So one thing me and my band love to do in a show is entertain, you know, so we're putting that together, but we're bringing hope along with it. And I feel like the Church should have the most amazing entertainment and the best music, because we know the author and the source of music and entertainment, which is our Father. So I feel like we should never settle for second best, and so I'm pushing for that next year.

Goodwyn: Do you have a favorite Christmas memory?

Gokey: The one thing that made the most impact to me is when, on Christmas Eve, we'd go to my mom's side of the family and my dad's side of the family. We'd eat at my mom's side of the family, open gifts, go to my dad's side of the family, eat some more, open up gifts, and then we'd go home to our house and our parents would hand out gifts to us. As a kid, that's like, the most amazing thing.

And I think honestly another memory that I have, this one I must have been like, six or seven years old. I remember we had just got from my dad's side of the family, eaten, we were going to my mom's side and I remember in the car we put worship music on. I just remember thinking, the presence of God really filled that car. It was during the song, 'Jesus, Jesus, there's just something about that name. Master, Savior, my Jesus, let Heaven and earth proclaim. Kings and kingdoms....'

But what was unique is that as I'm listening to the song, I told God, I said, 'You can have my gifts.' And I had, like, racecars and stuff like that, and I said, 'I want you more than that." That's been etched into my heart for over two decades. I just remember that moment, just being so touched by who Jesus was that I remember thinking, 'God, you can take my gifts. You can have them.' Which, you know, that means a lot for a kid to give away his truck. So, that's a good memory.

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