If you ask Ross King why he writes music, he may tell you it’s the only skill he has to offer. As we explore his music, ministry and career, you may discover a completely different outcome (or come to the same conclusion). Regardless, the depth of his skill is one to be admired and applauded.
Ross, a dedicated husband to Staci since 1998 and a proud father to four adopted children ranging in ages from two to eleven (Sam, Jude, Naomi and Sunny), glows as he describes the fun and the “circus of colors and personalities” that is his family.
With a mother that played the piano and the saxophone, much of his musical influence came straight from his own home. Growing up, his parents would take him to concerts, church performances and expose him to a variety of music. The early rock and the old country styles played a major part in influencing his writings and his passion for music.
That same passion for music continued to shape his life and the lives of his children who now sing and play their own instruments. Ross also shared that music was one of the first things that brought him and his wife, Staci, together after hearing her sing. She continues to bless the masses with her tender, organic voice on several of Ross’s CD’s. A real treat for Ross and a great blessing for the listener as well, that she would take the time to get into the studio in the midst of being a full-time mother and full-time teacher to their four young children! Music surely has and will continue to be a major influence in the Ross household.
Having had a few opportunities myself to meet Ross and follow his music, being able to do an official interview and pick his brain, so to speak, was quite appealing. There is always that awkward question that musicians are asked–you know, the one that says, “How long have you been singing,” or, “when did you start writing music?”
Yes, I asked Ross those same questions, and found his response to be quite fascinating. In his own words he says,
“The first actual song that I remember finishing was called, “Wait for Me.” I was 15 or 16, playing drums (very poorly) in a rock band with some pals at school, and they had written some songs that we wanted to record ‘in a real recording studio!’ And I had taken piano lessons as a young kid, so I knew enough to get around, and I wrote this little love song about a guy who had to go away somewhere and was asking the girl if she’d wait til he got back. It was totally hypothetical and insincere (and unbearable), but I remember seeing it as more of an experiment. I just wanted to see if I could do it. The band guys were super gracious and helpful and we ended up putting it on the little recording we made. After that I just sort of fiddled with songwriting thru high school and early college, but didn’t start to write consistently until I was about 20. To be clear, all of my early songs were very, very bad. But somehow I was getting paid to be a musician and write by the time I was 22-23. That, my friends, is God’s grace at work.”
There is a beauty in seeing the humble beginnings, and how God’s grace in his life fostered and developed this skill to become a means by which he would eventually support his family. As an encouragement for those who also feel the desire and pull to write, but are hesitant, to that Ross would say:
“Do it! Don’t be scared. Don’t take it so seriously. Just write. Write about everything. Write songs that matter and songs that don’t. Re-write songs even when you think they might be good already. Write multiple songs, in multiple styles, about the same great idea.”
As well as being an accomplished staff writer for Simpleville/Fair Trade Records and a singer songwriter, Ross has released over 12 albums, has had many songs recorded by various artists and is highly respected in the music industry. With so many self-released albums (of which I have several and love each one), when Ross said that his latest album, “Unfettered” released this year, 2015, was his greatest piece of work to date, it made me wonder and question: How could it get any better?
In 2013, he released an album titled, “This Hope Will Guide Me,” with amazing songs like, “My One Response,” and “Hallelujah For the Cross”, which was recently recorded and released by the Newsboys as their title track. In regards to the Newsboys covering his song, Ross stated that,
“As a songwriter, there’s no higher honor than to have another artist choose to record a song that you’ve written. That one (Hallelujah for the Cross) is probably even more special for a couple of reasons.”
One of the reasons this song was so special to him was due to the fact that he wrote it with a good friend, Todd Wright, a Texas worship leader, over Skype (a face-to-face internet streaming service). Not always the easiest, but as you will hear, it fostered an amazing song.
Secondly, Ross explains that this song was birthed out of the emotions, questions and pain that came from the unexpected loss of his father. Writing this song, for Ross, was part of his effort to fight the anger that he felt. The result was a magnificent response not only for him, but for many who battle the pain of loss, and the anger that goes with it. The response is clinging to the truth of the victory of Jesus over Sin and death. The result is a declaration of the power of the cross.
And maybe, even more powerful than the song, was the journey with his friend, Todd–a journey that now impacts the thousands of people that hear this song and stand as one in times of sorrow and joy.
With the powerful songs that came out of his past release, I was now ready to jump in and experience, “Unfettered,” and understand why Ross made the bold statement of declaring this his best album yet. His reasons are made clear in this statement,
“I’m just a lot more self aware than I’ve ever been, and a lot pickier about what I ‘put out there’ than I’ve ever been, so when I wrote and recorded these songs, I just refused to put anything on the record unless/until it was as good as I could – with my resources, money, and talent – make it.”
These words have wisdom and insight that can be applied to many facets, not just in writing music, but to life and the work of our hands. As he continues to share, Ross says,
“But I guess to get more personal about it, I’ve just never worked so hard on songs before, and I’ve never believed and “owned” the songs more than this. These songs came from real places of victory and defeat, doubt and belief, depression and joy. I wrote these songs because I needed to. That’s certainly been true about songs I’ve written in the past, but never to the level that it’s true with this album.”
Now, I could list every song on this new album, but my words and descriptions would probably come short. For instance, I could tell you about “More Now”, which is a song that touches on his Father’s traumatic drowning death in 2012. A song that, for Ross, comes up against the notion that trauma can destroy you, with the truth that even in spite of it, one’s faith can grow. This song is a personal story of how God worked in his life and it has the ability to minister to others in theirs.
I could also tell you about one of my personal favorites, “Love is a Hammer” a song that takes you on a journey of seeing God break the chains of shame with the power of His perfect love, a song that gives hope to those who feel the stronghold of depression, a song that was written with tears from a heart that felt that same burden and saw the truth of God’s love and power. With lyrics like, “I’m too ashamed to meet your eyes, to speak your name, scared that I’ll be held in chains bound in lies forever. And I long to hear a sound like something metal being shattered. Shame is the chain, love is the hammer,” the listener is propelled forward and nudged closer to the cross; closer to the remedy.
Unfettered is full of hope, wit, and a bit of sarcasm. Even some unexpected songs made the album that Ross had originally co-written for other artists. When these songs were left unused in their original form, Ross followed his instincts and tweaked the songs to fit his audience. As a listener, I am thankful for his follow-through on tracks like, “Hope Dies Last,” “Opposite Day,” “First,” and “Give Your Life Away.”
Weaved throughout this album is a clear message and theme of recognizing that, without God, we would all be a mess. But, because of His truth and His great love for us, we are on a set course for freedom and life. When we think we are knocked down, He has the power to lift us up.
That, my readers, is an album worth listening to, an album worth buying. Beyond the powerful message, soothing vocals, the top notch production and mixing allows for a flawless listening experience.
Opening this CD is like opening a great novel that takes you on a well-guided journey and adventure with all the highs and lows and the perfect resolution. You come out at the end feeling challenged, encouraged, and as the album titled explains, you come out feeling, free, unrestrained, and UNFETTERED.
So regardless of what conclusions may have been drawn, even if writing music were the only true skill Ross had, I will take it in all its magnificence. The reality, though, is that he is gifted in so much more as a husband, a father, a theologian, a teacher, and a man of God who teaches and preaches the gospel of Jesus Christ in Psalms, Hymns and spiritual songs.
To learn more about Ross King, his music, ministry, services and booking opportunities please visit his website at www.rosskingmusic.com