Jean Watson is a contemporary Christian artist with ethereal vocals and a Celtic twist. She has recently released her 5th album "The Place You Have for Me," produced by multiple Dove Award winner, Don Koch. Jean also maintains a full concert schedule in the US, Ireland, and the UK. She has also committed much of her ministry time to "the least of these" by regularly visiting prisons, jails, and homeless shelters. When she is not traveling or recording, Jean enjoys playing violin in the Kalamazoo Symphony, spending time with her children, and riding her horse "Rosie". We are honored to be able to chat with her for this exclusive Hallels' interview:
Hallels: Jean, thank you so much for your time in doing this interview. Not many artists that I know plays the violin, have such a crystal-clear voice and mixes both contemporary worship and hymns in such a unique way. Can you describe for our readers what your style of music is like?
Well, I was trained as a classical violinist, so the violin always influences how I process and perform music whether I am singing, writing, or playing! I love all styles of music and find beauty in all kinds of genres, however, so I try not to limit myself to a particular style. If I had to describe the sound that is 'Jean', I guess I would say it is pop with strong classical, folk, and celtic influences. My voice has that 'Enya-ish' quality which pervades everything! I love world music, and I think you can also hear that influence in my sound.
Hallels: You also have quite a journey, before God lead you to record your music as an artist. Can you describe for us a little of your journey?
I think that anyone who was used by God in a significant way in the Bible had a journey that involved struggle. I can relate to so many of those characters, especially Joseph in the book of Genesis. Joseph had great dreams early in his life of what God would do through him one day, but the journey to that place was long and difficult. I think struggle is so important because it leads us to the knowledge that we can do nothing great in our own strength. In my case, I suffered for a large part of my adult life because of choices I made that were not God's will for me, and choices that others made that were costly for me. About 14 years ago, I reached a point of brokenness and surrender where i knew I could do nothing without God. I prayed for God to help me, and at the moment doors began to open for me to sing and speak about my journey. In a very short time, my childhood dreams were being fulfilled, and I was traveling around the world sharing God's love through music! I would not want to go back through the pain I suffered, but I am so happy to see the fruit that God is now bringing through my life!
Hallels: On your latest released album "The Place You Have for Me," you have recorded both hymns as well as original songs, why do you think it's important to sing the great hymns of the church?
I love hymns. I think some of the hymns express deep spiritual truths in beautiful ways! I also love the idea of connecting and learning from the faith of those who have gone before us. It is a lot of fun for me to think of new, creative ways to sing hymns without destroying the beauty that's already there. Hymns will probably always have a substantial place in my repertoire.
Hallels: I love how many of your songs deal realistically with suffering in the light of the Gospel, especially "Glory in the Fire." What were some of the highlights for you in making that album?
This album really reflects my heart in an authentic way. I wanted my audience to see me for who I am, complete with doubts and fears! 'Glory in the Fire' is a challenging song. I have learned that the word 'joy' in the Bible is almost always mentioned in the context of suffering. The Lord has taught me that we don't have to be afraid of suffering in Christ. God can use it to bring about His glory in amazing ways. The fun part is learning to find Christ in any situation and find joy in HIM all the time, no matter what our circumstances are! To me, learning to dance with the Lord in the fire is real victory! The song 'Fragile' is another example. I share in that song that feeling fragile and vulnerable is OK because it keeps us close to the Lord and allows us to be used by Him more fully. The message I want to communicate is that we don't need to live as victims. With God in the equation, it is possible to live joyfully no matter what!
Hallels: Currently, you are working on a Christmas album as well as a new EP. Will the EP be similar in sound to "The Place You Have for Me"? What will be the musical direction of the EP? Contemporary Christian pop? Live worship?
I am so so excited about the new recordings! I really wanted to try a more 'vertical' worship direction on the EP. In the past, my songs were usually for the edification and encouragement of the listener. But, my own life has been really focused on worship these days, so my writing is more worship-focused. The new songs are not 'light and fluffy' - hopefully, they still have depth to the lyrics and beauty. But my goal is to give the listener a glimpse of my own heart of worship and draw people into a more intimate experience with Him.
Hallels: Who are you working with for the EP and the Christmas album? And when will they be released?
The making of this new music has been truly miraculous for me. Producer Billy Smiley contacted me a few months ago, and doors just opened for me to be able to start creating new music. I had always wanted to do a new Christmas CD, and we have had a lot of fun choosing the songs and arranging them in really creative ways. The sound is different this time. Its all acoustic with lots of guitars, mandolin, cello, keyboard, bass, drums, percussion, and lots of Irish instruments, too! The big surprise for me was the song 'Do You Hear What I Hear'. I was up late one night sitting at my piano and recorded an idea for an arrangement that suited my voice. I sent it to Billy and told him I could hear 'Phil Keaggy-ish' guitar parts in my head. I never dreamed that within a few days, Phil Keaggy would actually be recording the song for me! He did an amazing job of creating a magical guitar 'soundscape' that wraps itself around my voice. When I first heard it, I was brought to tears to hear my dream come to life!! I can't wait to share that song and all the others with the world. The Christmas album should be released in September. There is no date set yet for the release of the EP, but I will be posting updates about that on my website.
Hallels: If our readers would like to find out more about you or purchase your albums, where can they go?
There is lots of information about me and my ministry on my website: www.jeanwatson.com. People can hear my UCB Ireland Radio podcasts, read my blog, and purchase music on my website or through ITunes. I also communicate a lot on my Facebook page which is called. Jean Watson Music. I love to personally connect with people....it reminds me that people are listening and God is working!