Legendary Gospel Music Hall of Famer and guitar virtuoso Phil Keaggy has joined forces with multi-instrumentalist, singer/songwriter and producer Rex Paul for their transcendent new rock album,Illumination, which is slated to release to retail on May 31, 2019 from Strobie Records.
The independently released project is already generating strong reviews from the media, including Robert Berman of Christian Musician Magazine, who calls Illumination "...a supremely catchy arena rock/pop album recalling the '80s
heyday of Survivor and Foreigner."
Q: Phil, what an honor to do this interview with you. Congratulations on the release of "Illumination." I believe this is your third album released this year. Before we talk about this new record, tell us a little bit about the other two releases.
Hello ~ I'm very glad to do this interview with you! Before I talk about Illumination, the new album I did with Rex Paul, I have also two other releases out this year which are: The Bucket List, an instrumental album I did with world class bassist Tony Levin and equally world class drummer, Jerry Marotta. The other release is Cappadocia, a project I did with Jeff Johnson, which happens to be our third collaboration. Bucket list is a fun album of free form studio jams that holds together very well. In fact, we recently did a number of dates in the Northeast. Cappadocia is, in my opinion, a work of beauty, thanks to Jeff. We collaborated well!
Q: With "Illumination," you have partnered with Rex Paul. Tell us more about Rex.
Well, Rex is a fine producer, a fine guitarist, and overall accomplished musician and singer - but equally, he is also an amazing friend and brother in the Lord!
He is so enthusiastic about music and the good news! I felt very comfortable working with him. We have worked in the past--I helped him on a few recordings of his own and we co-wrote a song on my last album, All At Once, a tune called "I Love the Way You Love Me." Rex has worked in the studio as a producer for many years. He has earned a reputation as a fine producer, especially in Nashville.
Q: How did the two of you decide to do a record together?
We were just hanging out one day at my place, listening to some recordings that he and I had both done, and I played for him a bit of a tune that I had written in 1971. This tune had a chorus and the chords for the verses, but I had forgotten what those verses were, so we wrote new verses together. The song is called "I Believe," and it was the first song that we worked on for our album together. Once we got that one under our belt, he presented some unfinished songs that he had started writing. We finished them together and combined those new songs with a few of my old 70s and 80s tunes. Rex's production skills breathed new life into these old songs of mine with more urgency and a new sense of passion with a more prog-rock style.
Q: How is "Illumination" different from the other two releases?
Well, for one it's a vocal album and its aim is to speak to hearts with the truth is of the gospel and our responsibility to care for those less fortunate. There are times when the message is horizontal to our fellow man and also a declaration of faith to our Lord and Creator.
Q: What are you most excited about "Illumination"?
I think one of the things I enjoy about this album is its sense of youthfulness and playfulness.
As guitarists, we certainly sound like we're enjoying playing our solos as we trade off here and there throughout the album. Rex provides such a solid foundation with his drumming and bass playing & keyboard work that it made it a pleasure to play my guitar bits over it and to sing over these tracks as well! And with regard to the singing, it's up there with the best I've done in recent times, thanks to his producing!
Q: You have been in the music industry for many years, how has Christian music changed these years? What do you dislike and like about Christian music now?
Not only has the music business changed, but culture, as I see it, has changed and the way people see things, the way people live. Still, in my opinion, we are all essentially the same throughout time and we have the same hopes, desires, dreams, aspirations, fears and struggles. As regards to the Christian music scene today, as opposed to decades ago, styles have changed, emphasis has changed in terms of how the message is communicated or the admirable desire of leading and teaching worship, which is a wonderful thing. I believe that artists who have a heart for God will continue to communicate His love--and that's what's most important.
Q: Over the years, how has your faith grown or changed?
I feel after almost 5 decades of following and believing in Jesus, that my faith in him is sure and solid! Not that I haven't had my struggles and my weaknesses, but my confidence in Him is a reality in my life. I owe it all to His grace, His Word and the wife he gave me, Bernadette, who has stood by my side through all these years. I'm grateful to say that we have also tried our best to keep friendships alive over the years--and that's a very special thing. One thing the years have taught me--God is love and nothing can separate us from the love of God, thanks to Jesus Christ our Lord!