For those of you who have been reading my blog for awhile, you probably know by now that I love sharing about people who are using their talents and living God’s will for their life. I also love meaningful music and catchy melodies. Today I get to combine these passions by sharing about Catholic artist, PJ Anderson!
Recently, I was fortunate enough to be able to listen to PJ’s yet-to-be released fourth album, RISE. What I kept coming back to while listening to each track was that these songs come from such an authentic, truthful, and passionate place. It’s a combination that can be rare to find, even among Christian artists. I love how the album kicks off with the anthem title track, “Rise”. It really sets the tone for the rest of the songs to follow. I’m excited for PJ, because I think this album is going to launch him to another level in the music world!
Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to get to know a little more about PJ and what inspires his music. He generously answered some questions for me, but, first of all, I must share that he’s a fellow midwestern native and Notre Dame fan! (GO IRISH!) He and his wife and two children also reside in Nashville, so I look forward to hopefully meeting them soon!
1. Your 4th album, RISE, will be released soon, so the fall is going to be a pretty busy time for you! What does the rest of 2014 have in store?
2013-2014 has been such a blessing! I started writing a song a week last year and that is where the songs for RISE and my last album, Let Your Light Shine have come. I played a mega-workshop at NCYC (National Catholic Youth Conference) in November where 25,000 come to grow in faith and spent the year traveling for concerts, youth conferences and retreats.
This past summer I lead worship and music at Catholic Heart Work Camp for 7 weeks. I’ve spent the last 6 summers working with CHWC leading music at mission trips across the country. This fall has been packed with logistics and promoting RISE. 1400 copies have pre-sold prior to the official release mainly through pre-sales at CHWC, an exclusive release with http://www.lovegoodmusic.com. The first single, “Beautiful Mess” debuted at #40 on iTunes Christian Charts.
The album releases October 7 and is currently on iTunes Pre-Order for special pricing of $7.99. The album release show will happen in Nashville at The Axis Church in Germantown (1423 2nd Avenue North) on October 10 with doors at 6p and show at 7p. Perfect opportunity for people to come listen and praise and then head over to Germantown’s Oktoberfest.
After the album officially releases, my year consists of traveling the country for youth conferences, concerts and retreats.
My wife, Rachel, and I also lead pilgrimages to Rome and Assisi for youth and adult church groups. I studied in Rome for a semester and returned for a year to work as a Resident Assistant at Loyola’s John Felice Rome Center. Since then, my love for Rome has led us to take others and hopefully encourage a love for Rome in others. Here is a link to a video from our last trip! Spoiler alert, our two kiddos were kissed by Pope Francis!!!! It was AMAZING! Here’s the video.
We will return to Rome in April and then Catholic Heart Work Camp will start again in June.
2. How did you experience God’s call for you to pursue music? Any significant obstacles or “God moments” on your journey so far?
God was laying seeds to write and pursue music, but I wasn’t always listening. I was actually the kid who got in trouble with my Mom for not singing at Mass! I started playing guitar when I was in 5th grade where I learned from a nun, Sister Charita. I played from 5-8 grade at school Masses but stopped playing in high school to pursue my dream of being in the NBA! I put all my eggs in the basket of playing basketball. I’m not exactly built for the NBA, but I thought I was! But, I picked the guitar back up in college and started writing songs then. Many of my first songs came while I was studying abroad in Rome. I didn’t start out exclusively writing worship music, but God was always a part of my music. I have now found a musical home in writing worship songs that lead the listener, the worshipper, into a close, personal space with our loving God. I am thankful for where God has led me. The path wasn’t always easy, but he equipped me with the faith, inspiration and relationships to create an album that will lead others to closer to Him.
I was a Youth Minister for 6 years near Chicago with my wife, Rachel. Long story short, but when we were expecting our first child, Rachel had some serious pregnancy issues and had to be rushed to the hospital and she was put on hospital bedrest for 3.5 weeks. Trey (Paul John III) was born 6 weeks early and was in the NICU for 2.5 weeks. It was a very difficult season filled with fear and joy at the same time. I also lost my job as a Youth Minister because I was not able to be in the office as I was staying in the hospital with my wife. As difficult as it was, God led us through the darkness of that season and opened up many doors in music, especially in Nashville. Phone calls started coming in from groups that I had met at CHWC mission trips and they started asking me to come to their parishes and youth groups for concerts and retreats. Relationships with producers, musicians and youth ministers started blooming and gave us the courage to make the big move to Nashville. God made it obvious that my time as a Youth Minister at one parish was done, but that He wanted me sharing music with many people across the country, if that makes sense. So, I now joke that I get to be like the uncle that comes in and riles up the kids before they go to bed. I’m now the traveling “Youth Minister” who comes in plays music, shares stories and talks and then I go home! No paperwork here! Ha!
We are so blessed with the life we have in Nashville and thankful that God led us here to continue to minister and lead others into relationship with Him. I mean, I get to write and sing songs, travel the country sharing those, take care of my kiddos during the week and call that work. It’s awesome!
3. What draws you to working with, and motivating, teenagers and young adults?
I love working with high schoolers and young adults! It’s the way God built me! He created me as an outgoing, extrovert that loves to interact, build relationships and laugh and love. Part of what draws me is the desperate need for hope amongst teenagers and young adults. There is a great sense of hopelessness at times in our world, especially at those ages. I was at a retreat where 3 witness talks in a row by 3 high school girls were all attempted suicide stories. That breaks my heart! That emptiness, that brokenness says there is no hope and that is the biggest lie of our generation. There is ALWAYS hope. And my goal and prayer is to make sure those that I minister with and to truly realize that. That “God loves you” isn’t some cheesy thing your youth minister says, but that it’s truth. He loves us so much that He has given and continues to give us everything. And we are called to give Him our everything. And that no matter how dark things get, how broken we are, God doesn’t love us any less. One of the songs from RISE called “Grace Is Hope” says, “No sin is more hopeless than my Savior has grace. My Savior is grace.” There is no sin, no brokenness, no pain that is too great for God to conquer. He is our grace. He is our hope. That is what draws me to working youth and young adults.
4. Do you have any favorite songs, books, Bible verses, etc., that you find inspiring?
Ooooh! Tough one. Favorite songs right now are:
“Lord, I Need You” by Matt Maher. This song is just a great reminder of our need for God, for the Lord. In a world that tells us that independence makes us strong, I think we forget that our dependence on God makes us even stronger.
“All The Poor and Powerless” by All Sons and Daughters. Oh man, this song! It’s been making me cry listening in the car! Ha! The need and calling for all of us to rise to God’s call to love and serve. That’s the theme of RISE and this song articulates that perfectly. “All will sing out hallelujah, We will cry out hallelujah” We serve and love the poor and powerless because that’s what Jesus did and calls us to do.
“Losing” by Tenth Avenue North – This song has helped me get through those dark seasons.
“Closer” by Bethel Music – Our desire and love Him more and to be closer to Him. That’s always my prayer. I stray from Him but want to be close.
Favorite bible verse is John 3:30. “He must increase. I must decrease.” This verse keeps my desire to serve the Lord close.This verse keeps me humble. This verse is how I try to live my life, not for myself, but for Him. Now, do I always do that? I fail everyday. That is why I need Him. That is why He must increase.
Thanks so much to PJ for answering some questions! I’m looking forward to attending his album release show in a couple weeks! Maybe I’ll see some fellow Nashvillians there, as well!