Singer and songwriter Jerry Salley has just released his Gospel album "Gospel from My Grassroots." Salley has been writing and singing in Nashville, Tennessee since 1982. To date, he has had 300 songs recorded in his career, including by Reba McEntire ("I'm Gonna Take That Mountain"), Wild Rose ("Breaking New Ground"), John Anderson ("I Fell in the Water"), Wade Hayes ("How Do You Sleep at Night"), and 10 top twenty gospel songs.
Salley is also a six-time Dove Award nominee, and won a Dove award in 1990 for Inspirational Song of the Year. He won the award for co-writing "His Strength is Perfect", with Steven Curtis Chapman.
Hallels: Jerry, you have written over 400 published songs for artists as diverse as Elton John to Reba McEntire to Steven Curtis Chapman. When you write your songs, do you write with a specific genre or artist in mind?
Jerry Salley: Not all of the time, sometimes I just try to write the best song I can. Then, after the song is finished decide who would be the right artist to pitch it to. Having said that, when I know a specific artist is looking or I have a special idea that I think sounds like it would be good for a particular artist, then obviously I do try to write for that artist.
Hallels: Of all the songs you have had ever written, do you have a couple that really impacted you?
Jerry Salley: Yes, there are a few. I especially love the message in "The Broken Ones," a song about God's love for those who are broken, and also, the special angels He has on this earth helping others. In addition to that, "His Strength Is Perfect" will always be one of my favorite songs I have ever written. To be honest, every song you write is like one of your children. They are all different and unique in their own way, and yet you love them all the same for different reasons.
Hallels: One of my favorite songs you have ever co-wrote is "Love Builds the Bridges (Pride Builds the Walls)," recorded by Patty Loveless. The song has such a Christian ring to it and it is so true of any relationship. Many of your songs speak deeply into relationships, what inspire you to write such meaningful songs?
Jerry Salley: That's a very hard question to answer. I obviously don't always succeed, but I try to live my life by doing the right things and I try to reflect that in the songs that I write. Whether it is repairing a relationship or helping others, I would like for the characters in my songs to try and do the right thing. Unfortunately, not all relationships are good ones. I like to write about "real life," whether the relationship is good or bad, and want the listener to relate to the emotions in the songs.
Hallels: Let's talk about your new record "Gospel from My Grassroots." Why release a Gospel record?
Jerry Salley: I was raised in the church and have always loved singing and writing gospel songs. As a matter of fact, I have always included two or three gospel songs on every project I've recorded. Because of my Christian upbringing, I am drawn to writing songs that reflect my faith. I have always wanted to record and all Gospel project and just felt like this was the right time to do that.
Hallels: "The Preacher and the Stranger" is a song that I raved about in my review because it's a story song with such a shocking twist. I love the way you tell stories in songs. What inspired you to write this song?
Jerry Salley: "The Preacher And The Stranger" was actually an idea brought to me by my co-writer, Carl Cartee. It is a song about forgiveness. I don't know anyone that doesn't either need forgiveness, or needs to forgive someone for something. Forgiveness, for some reason, can be a very, very difficult thing for us to do sometimes. Carl had the basic idea for the song, which I loved, but the challenge was to make sure every line was perfect. When you only have 3 1/2 - 4 minutes to tell a complete story, it can be very challenging. This has become one of my favorite songs to perform.
Hallels: You have also worked with Steven Curtis Chapman since his earlier days. What was it like having him sing with you on the record?
Jerry Salley: It was a great honor to have my old friend sing with me. In the early days, starting out as singers and songwriters, we formed a very special bond and quickly became friends. We actually co-wrote a lot of songs back in those days. Again, it was very special to me for him to be willing to sing with me on one of our biggest hits that we ever co-wrote.
Hallels: You have been writing for many years and today many artists including Chris Stapleton are still cutting your songs. How do you stay current as a writer?
Jerry Salley: I do my best to try to stay current by listening to what is going on in the various genres that I write for. Although I personally prefer the "traditional country" and "grassier" type of songs, I really enjoy writing with some of the newer artists and songwriters that are coming to Nashville. The best way to stay up-to-date on what's going on is by listening to everything you can, and getting involved with some of the younger writers. They have different perspectives on things that give you a fresh look at how to approach a song.
Hallels: How many songs do you write per year? Has your style of writing changed over the years?
Jerry Salley: On average, I write between 30 to 40 songs a year. That includes all genres: country, gospel, and bluegrass. I've written over 1,000 songs in my career, having had over 400 different songs recorded. To be quite honest, my writing style "lyrically" really hasn't changed that much. I may look at a lyric a little differently these days depending on the genre I am writing for, but I've always tried to be a storyteller and do my best to get emotion and stories across. If anything has changed, it is probably the way I approach "melody". I have had to "reinvent myself" at times, in order to be relevant to some of the more "contemporary" country songs.
Hallels: Besides being a songwriter and singer, you are also a Christian. What does your faith in Jesus mean to you?
Jerry Salley: Everything. At the age of 10 I excepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. Although I have disappoint him and failed him countless times, my goal has been and will continue to be, serving him and trying to be as good of a Christian as I can be.
Hallels: For our readers who would like to check out your new record or find out more about you, where can they go?
Jerry Salley: I invite all of your readers to visit my website, www.jerrysalley.com, and "like" my songwriter page on Facebook, www.facebook.com/Jerry-Salley-Songwriter-Singer. My website contains my bio, schedule of appearances, news, and a merchandise tab where all of my CD's can be purchased, including my newest release, "Gospel From My Grassroots." I also try to communicate the same information, and more, on my Facebook page.
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