Jeremy Camp has heard it all before. Christian music artists are not cool. Christian music is just the purview of home schooled Jesus freaks. You can not be successful—not really successful, anyway—by singing Christian music. That is the reason why any Christian act that has attained a level of mainstream crossover success has dropped the “Christian” label as soon as convenient.
But Camp does not see it that way; he never has. For starters, the 37 year old Camp has been pretty darn successful: four gold albums, a Grammy nomination and nearly 3 million Facebook fans following his exploits.
But more importantly to him, Christian music is not just a way to avoid a day job. It is a genuine calling. In a phone interview from his home, Camp explained that he does not even feel like writing and performing Christian music was a conscious choice.
“I was just playing music,” he explained of his start. “From that, I think (my spirit) was just naturally directed that way. I wrote songs that just pertained to my relationship with the Lord. It was naturally what I wrote about.”
And even as the gold albums and awards continue to pile up on his wall, Camp knows that, for him, the idea of jumping genres may be on the table, but God is non-negotiable.
“People ask me 'would you ever go mainstream',” he agreed. “I'll do whatever the Lord opens up to me. But I'll never compromise my faith.”
“I think that actually hurts more things than it helps,” he continued, talking about acts that stop talking about their faith as soon as the checks start rolling in. “Because you've got people looking at you and saying “well, what do you stand for?” I'm not saying you have to be preachy, but just take a stand. Nobody likes people who are wishy-washy. People like people with integrity.”
It is that idea of integrity—the simple notion of “to thine own self be true”—that permeates everything Camp does. It is evident when you talk to him, it is apparent when you see him perform, and it filters down through his songwriting.
“I don't have an idea of 'I'm trying to reach out to people who don't know Christ, or people who are at church',” he said, explaining his creative process. “It's all about the moment. I'll read my Bible, or see something that moves me, and what comes out just comes out. A lot of songs are very personal. It can be something God's teaching me, so I'll pass it along. Or it's something else that I'm passionate about. I think things like that can give hope to people that know Christ, and for those who don't, it might make them think.”
“I remember going into this last album thinking 'what am I going to say?',” he continued. “But I feel like it's one of the best records I've ever put out. That's the greatest thing: I've learned that it just keeps coming. Creativity is infinite.”
So yes, smirking general public, Jeremy Camp knows that some of you scoff. He knows that not everyone is going to listen, and many who do still will not hear. But that has never stopped him, never made him waver from his true calling. And that calling is not to be a “Christian music artist”; it's just to be a Christian.
“I want to speak the truth, but I want to do it with love,” he said. “You can do all the greatest things in the world, but if you don't have love, it's just noise to people. And that doesn't help anybody.”
Originally appeared in Cityview, January 21, 2015