The Agnostic Gospel

Searching for spiritual unity in spite of religious division.

Genuine Joy Music

Resolution — the debut album from Genuine Joy — was produced by Mitch Dane at the turn of the new year, and will be released by Soundly Music on November 17th. The album release show will be a one-night-only theatrical experience in Nashville, TN, in collaboration with the dance company FALL (exact date TBD – stay tuned).

The album uses dramatic elements of the 80’s — sentimentality, gospel, synthesizers — to convey an emotional, spiritual experience in song. From start to finish, an anxious and trembling voice evolves (with the help of others) into something graceful and sincere. Some moments are bombastic, triumphant; others feel curious and vulnerable. All provoke emotions, and compel you to release them.

Most importantly, these tracks absolutely kick ass. Find out for yourself when the first single “Until You Let Go” is released on September 21st. And then prepare to be blown away by the rock opera experience that the album release party is shaping up to be.

Until then, you can read more about the story of this album below, and follow me on social media to peer into the process of this production as it develops.

@6enuine.9oy on Instagram | Genuine Joy Music on Facebook |
Please e-mail us for early album access (for review, podcast, or interview).


The Story of “Resolution” by Genuine Joy

In the depths of December, 2017, I went to Sputnik Sound to meet with Mitch Dane. I told him how the election unearthed a lifetime of pain that I had buried a decade earlier, when I left the evangelical church. I asked if he — a Grammy-winning Gospel producer — would want to help me — an agnostic musician — process those feelings through art.

Calmly and kindly, Mitch told me that “agnostic gospel” was… well, tricky. He had practical (and theological) reservations, and rightfully so. Regardless, he was empathetic: one week later, we had begun the spontaneous production of a full-length concept album. It didn’t matter what we called it: by meeting each other in the middle, we were creating something fully beyond us.

While the rest of the country was on holiday, we worked alone. Starting with an intimate piano performance on every track, we experimented with evolving acoustic and electronic instrumentation, from guitars to samples to synthesizers. We argued over what the songs represented and whether they belonged, often breaking for philosophical and theological discussions. We tested each other, but left space for each other.

At the turn of the new year, this collaborative spirit grew — and so did the album.

I invited my former Humming House bandmate Kristen Rogers to add powerful gospel-influenced vocals in angelic and ethereal layers. I also asked composers (and current bandmates) Benjamin Chakoian Jones and Bobby Chase to arrange strings in tandem. In studio, Benjamin conducted a trio featuring Bobby (Violin, Viola), Avery Bright (Violin), and Melodie Chase (Cello), elevating the arrangements.

I never questioned their choices, and I paid them whatever they asked. We were making art, together, creating a space and context for the voice of everyone involved.

We even opted to include a remixed — rather than recreated — version of my song “Carry the Flame” (2017), which was produced by Stephen Turney and features Caleb Mundy on bass with Nathan Wahlman on drums. Even as we tinkered with the sounds to better fit the context of the album, Mitch insisted that Stephen retain the producer credit (and Stephen was happy to oblige).

As my approach to art evolved, my life began to follow suit. By effacing my own authority as the author, I was letting go of my pain — letting go of my own story — and opening myself up to something completely new. Something beyond me, and in turn, healing to others.

Thankfully, I now have a record of that transformation — literally. Resolution will be released by Soundly Music on November 16th.

Resolution is a somewhat ineffable experience. From start to finish, an anxious and trembling voice evolves (with the help of others) into something graceful and sincere. Some moments are sparse, sentimental, and beautiful; others are bombastic, theatrical, and triumphant. And while the songs provoke powerful emotions — desperation, love, even laughter — they simultaneously compel the listener to release them.

Through sentimental pop hooks and synth riffs, the musical motifs provoke both motion and emotion, leading the listener on a mythologically sonic journey. Piano maintains a powerful presence throughout, but more modern sounds dance playfully alongside it. All the while, massive gospel-influenced moments evoke an eruption of the spirit.

This is not a record you can simply play in the background: it’s art, it’s overwhelming, and — if you open yourself up to it — it will break you.

Why Resolution? Because like the term, the record defies a singular definition. It was recorded at the turn of a new year. It represents the working-through of a disagreement. It is the consequence of a firm determination in the face of fear. It is the deconstruction of complex elements to simple components. And, musically speaking, it begins on a Bb and ends on a C (you’re welcome, theory nerds).

As I prepare for the album release performance, the spirit of collaboration that started this process continues to grow. I am currently working with other artists in other branches of art — mostly, the dance company FALL — to grow the stage performance into a spectacle. Honestly, I may have accidentally created a rock opera.

Time will tell… but as I learned in the process, it doesn’t really matter what you call a thing. The thing is the thing (and never the thing being named). It is what it is. It is beyond words; it is beyond me.

@6enuine.9oy on Instagram | Genuine Joy Music on Facebook | The Agnostic Gospel

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