Behind every great songwriter, from Johnny Cash to Paul McCartney, lies a series of greater stories of heartbreak and redemption. Jeremy Camp is no exception.
Camp’s army of fans know how much heart goes into his music. The raw, unbridled spiritual emotion of his debut album, Stay (recorded without a thought of hit singles, record labels or the “industry” whatsoever) resonated with a large group of kids filled with their own yearning for the Lord’s mercy. His acclaimed follow-up, Restored, spoke of the grace of such fulfillment found.
Filled with hope, praise, and an even deeper comfort and understanding of God’s mysteries, Beyond Measure looks to be the Midwestern singer/songwriter’s defining chapter, heralding an even greater peace inside Camp’s expressive soul. Like his Dove Award winning and 1.7 million selling catalog, the album is sure to inspire sing-a-longs that could make even Dashboard Confessional blush.
Never one to shy away from wearing his heart on his sleeve Camp was relating his powerful testimony to a journalist when the new album’s title track began to form within. He remembered something his late wife, Melissa (whose passing formed a crucial nexus of the raw honesty that informs his work) had said to him: “If one person were to accept Jesus through my death, it would all be worth it.”
“I said that in this interview and right when I said that, this whole fog of everything that had been going on in my life finally cleared,” Camp recalls. “I was getting distracted and busy. Sometimes even when you are busy doing the right things you don’t realize what is going on to the full extent of your life.”
Blessed with his new wife, Adie, and their daughters Isabella and Arianne, Jeremy reflected on everything that God has done. “I remember just being on my face, just weeping, saying ‘Lord forgive me for getting caught up and busy.’” He wrote the song. And then, quickly, he realized its theme would shape the entire new album.
“This album shows even more what God has done in my life than Restored. It’s a little more personal to me, more like Stay, but musically and vocally it is leaps and bounds above both. This album is so diverse, but in such a good way.”
“This record is just me,” he says, repeating for emphasis: “It’s ME. Period.”
From radio pop to rousing hard rock to soft-spoken ballads - experimenting with falsetto a la Keane while still dipping into the baritone that won comparisons to Matchbox 20 toward the start of his career - Camp’s diversity makes sense. After all, he grew up in Indiana, where the radio dial boasted Top 40, Classic Rock and Country in equal measure. “In the Midwest there is a wide range of people and variety and that ties into my writing,” Camp reasons.
Case in point: “Yesterday my bass player was like, ‘Are you going country on us? That lick sounds country.’ I was like, ‘I don't know, that just came out, I guess.’ Some people just like a group to be mellow, or pop, or rock, but I can't help it, that's just how I write. The variety defines a lot of my music.”
Camp was raised in a Christian home and drew musical inspiration from worship music and secular tunes alike. Touchstone albums in his artistic development include U2’s The Joshua Tree (“you hear the passion in it when Bono sings, it’s huge”), Delirious’ King of Fools (“the first worship CD I heard that was really outside of the box”), Jars Of Clay’s debut album (“it really stepped out from the scene”) and Steven Curtis Chapman’s The Great Adventure. “The albums that drive me are the ones where you can hear the passion behind it,” he proclaims.
Contrary to the mythologizing that has happened in some of Camp’s press, Bible college did not steal him away from a football scholarship, but he was certainly headed that way when the Lord, and music, took him in that direction.
Camp spent two years studying scripture at Bible college, from Genesis to Revelations. “That was a huge part of my life. It really gave me a foundation of the Word of God. It really got me grounded in life. God did a huge work there.
“And that started a lot of the writing of the music. It added some depth,” he says. “It was a big part of why I’m doing what I’m doing, why I share and minister and speak my heart when I play live.”
Stay was written during the most broken time of Jeremy’s life. “I did not write that record thinking ‘this will be a hit.’ I wasn’t signed. I just wrote that record as my heart.” It’s an impossible record to duplicate. And Camp hasn’t tried.
Carried Me: The Worship Project was his next release, as fans came onboard behind the truth on Stay. “I have just tried to move on to the next chapter. I remember the emotions involved in most of those songs. It’s special.”
As the Jeremy Camp phenomenon took hold on the road, an incredible thing happened. Jeremy met South African singer Adie and the pair fell in love. He wrote the song “Restored” in the back of the bus after they became engaged.
“You have restored me/ my feeble and broken soul.”
“After Melissa died, I never thought I'd be here,” he says humbly. “But God just opened up my life. Somebody asked me how I could say everything is fine. I never said everything was fine. I just said that God restored me from that confused, hurting place in my life. He has given me strength and taken me out of that dark place in my life. There are still scars. There are still memories. But I can't deny that God has blessed me immensely. I have to be so thankful. I have two kids, my beautiful wife, I'm just blown away at God's grace and God's faithfulness.”
“Restored” became the cornerstone of the album by the same name. The record catapulted Camp to even greater success and acclaim but looking back, it was all a bit of a whirlwind. “I hear story after story of how God has used those songs, and it's great,” he reasons. “But I look at this new record and I go, ‘Wow.’”
“When You Are Near,” “I Am Nothing” and Beyond Measure’s title track are filled with messages that Camp says God really pressed on his heart. “I even wrote a worship song. All of my songs are definitely worshipful but this is a straight up worship song like you’d hear in church. I wasn't going to put it on because it ‘didn't fit the album.’ But I couldn't help it! It poured out of my heart.”
While there are new flourishes of melody and depth on Beyond Measure none of it sounds contrived because Camp says he didn’t set out to do something different. “I just wrote my heart and let God take care of the rest.”
“We were getting all caught up in, ‘What is the first single going to be?’” he relates with his trademarked honesty. “And you definitely want to be wise in everything you do. But finally I was just like, ‘Just put out a song!’” He laughs. “What God lays in your heart – you have to rest in that. You can’t over-think things.”
And that attitude is a good approximation of Jeremy Camp’s entire vibe. Where he’s been, where he’s at, and where he’s going with Beyond Measure.
“I'm looking to touch the heart of God and He'll take care of the rest. I think this is the best record I ever put out. Stay, I can't compare to that, because of what happened, but I can say that this is the one where it's the best record I've put out in every aspect. And this is not because, you know, this is what everybody says about a new record; I do feel that way. I'm really, really excited.”