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Interview with Canadian Worship Leader: Chris Bray

Interview with Canadian Worship Leader: Chris Bray

By Admin on January 18, 2012

We recently had the opportunity to interview Canadian worship leader and songwriter, Chris Bray:

For those who may not know you, can you share a bit about yourself and where you're from?

I’ve been married for four and a half years. My wife Katie and I have two little girls, Molly, who is two and a half years old, and Norah, who just turned one. I originally grew up in farm country in south-western Ontario. When we got married, we decided to settle in a small town close Katie’s roots.

What motivated you to become a songwriter?

Peer pressure. I just wanted to play electric guitar in a rock band. I had no aspirations to sing or write music, but it was something that was encouraged, and eventually led me to grow in that. The more I started song writing, the more passion I realized I had for it. In the last 8-10 years, I’ve really felt a calling to writing songs that people can relate to and use as a tool to aid them in their spiritual journey closer to Christ.

I understand you've had the opportunity recently to co-write with other professional songwriters in Nashville. Who were they and how did that experience help you as a songwriter?

This spring when I was in Nashville I had some writing sessions with a couple of guys from the Word/Warner music group. The first was Michael Farren from Pocket Full of Rocks and the second was Paul Alan who has a song on Point of Grace’s latest album. Both guys are very talented song writers, and it was exciting and humbling working with them.

I could relate well with Michael because of his heart for worship and sharing his experiences ministering to people on the road for so many years. I also appreciated Paul’s discipline in business and his commitment as a husband and father, taking care of his family, while still being open God’s plan for his life with respect to music.

I felt like I had developed my song writing skills on my own as much as I could and that I had plateaued. So many songwriters stay in that rut, and write the same kinds of songs over and over again. Forcing myself to write with others (especially more talented writers) was like flexing my writing muscles, introducing new ideas that challenged me, allowing me to get stronger and nurture the gifts God had given me. I personally think it’s something that needs to be done continually.

You are an independent artist and songwriter. How do you manage to get your music into the marketplace and have the opportunities that you've had to open for major artists such as Matt Maher and Point of Grace?

I’ve realized along the way that nurturing relationships for both business and ministry is extremely important. When you look at most circumstances in life, the choices you make are usually based on the recommendation of someone you trust. If you need a plumber, you go ask your neighbour who they use. If you need a dentist, you ask a friend. As a musician, a recommendation from someone who can influence the decision makers can go a long way. Even more especially in Church and ministry. A pastor doesn’t want just anyone coming in front of their congregation introducing concepts that may not align with the churches beliefs, etc.

I’ve been blessed to have a wonderful management team to help me develop as an artist, take some of the burden off of me so I can focus more on ministry, and to facilitate the relationships I wouldn’t normally be able to on my own.

Being based in Canada, with a lot of the gospel music industry being based out of the United States, how do you go about releasing your music and how has the Canadian marketplace embraced your music?

Christian radio in Canada has been so welcoming, and I’ve been blessed to have the opportunities that I have. Stations have fewer and fewer spots for “new” music and the few spots available are extremely competitive to get, just because there’s so much great music out there. Promoting a new record and a new single is a lot of work, but it’s worth it. I know so many artists that spend the money to make a great record, and then don’t remember to budget for promotional efforts. Then I start to think, what was the point of spending all that money if no one knows about your music and you have 950 of the 1000 copies you got pressed sitting in your closet still?

Christian radio and retail distribution have taken my music from “the local worship leader” to a more national level. Even today, beyond my belief, my music is reaching and ministering to people across the continent, and that’s an amazing opportunity I feel honoured to have.

What would you say to encourage other songwriters or worship leaders who may want to get their music heard?

I think it’s important to recognize that there are various methods to distribute your music and by not getting radio play or retail distribution, doesn’t make an artist’s song less effective. A recent example I have with my own music is a slow melodic ballad I wrote with another local artist called, “Pursue Me”. I never intended it to be a “radio” song; it was more of a prayer to God. But a friend of mine led it in worship during a youth pilgrimage to Medjugorje . He said it turned into their theme song by the end of their mission trip because it spoke to them and allowed them to worship God effectively.

First off, I was honoured that a song I had a hand in writing was able to be used for that purpose. Secondly, I don’t feel that song is any less effective because it didn’t chart on radio. It served a great purpose and additionally, that song was nominated for “Inspirational Song of the Year” for this October’s Canadian Gospel Music Association Covenant Awards.

Artists—share your music every way you can (YouTube, MySpace, Facebook, worship events, radio, television, retail, iTunes, etc.). But personally, the songs I’ve been most touched by aren’t the ones I’ve heard on the radio. It’s the ones I’ve seen live, where the artist shares the story about the circumstance in their life that inspired the song, being able to relate to it myself and leave feeling touched. It’s the songs I’ve had an “encounter” with.

Something that I’ve had to learn along the way is to forget about the accolades, the awards, and the charts—because there is always going to be someone better. Work towards creating opportunities for people to encounter your songs. Keep focused on Christ and His plan for you.

When you travel and lead worship, you also speak for Compassion Canada. How has being an advocate enhanced your ministry?

My wife and I always “talked” about how it would be a good idea to get involved, but it took us a long time to put those words into action. When we finally did, our eyes were opened. We realized how good we really have it here in North America. How many people around the world suffer and go without. We realized that in our cushy lives, some days our biggest burden was getting our pizza delivered and they forgot the extra sauce, or ordering an ice cream cone, and they ran out of sprinkles. We didn’t know what it meant to go without like so many in our world do today.

We sponsored Marianna from Columbia and we instantly saw a change in our family. We started to see interest from our girls to write letters and draw pictures for her, to pray for her, and we were excited that we had the opportunity to bestow those values in our children at such a young age.

We really felt called to share that with others, which is why we have partnered with Compassion—to free more children from poverty, give them the opportunity to learn about Christ and to help folks that have been blessed, experience the graces received from giving and sacrifice (even though it is a relatively small sacrifice).

A question that we ask at the end of all All About Worship interviews: if you weren’t able to be involved in music, what would you be doing?

God only knows. If you would have asked me that question in my pre-teens, I would have said an action hero—most likely Superman, but I would settle for Batman.

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