In an era marked by “followers” and wanting to be “liked” has come a time when Christ-followers are unfollowing their faith. Acknowledging the fear of rejection and division may be a root cause for the reservations of thought leaders, Jodi Essex is fed up with rising fear-based excuses. Bearing witness to public denouncements of faith and the watered-down messages of mainstream culture, Essex implores, “Would you offend for the Gospel?” Out September 10th, with a music video, “Offend” is ready to shatter the silence through what some may call “unpopular opinion.” Written by Essex and Josiah Prince of Disciple, “Offend” is the first track in a series of songs to mark their new collaboration. In this TCB Exclusive, Essex shares more about what inspired her bold new song, what it was like collaborating with Josiah Prince and her hopes for the rest of 2021.
Congratulations on the upcoming release of your new single titled “Offend!” Can you share the inspiration for this track’s title?
First, thank you so incredibly much! Appreciate it! Great to connect with you again since the release of ‘Irreverent.’ To answer your question about the inspiration for ‘Offend,’ first off, it’s about standing up boldly and speaking out for your deepest beliefs, even at the risk of being unliked or offending others; in this case, a call out to accountability for the truth of the gospel. Things like religion, the bible, Christianity – inherently are offensive to some people. They may be offended just by the nature of something. So, I’m not referring to the act of being “offensive,” or unkind, or brash to another, but more in the vein of standing up for what one believes even if it offends someone. How someone else feels is out of our control, so we say what we have to say, stand up for what we believe in, in truth and love, and however someone is going to feel, is how they’re going to feel. It’s not our job or responsibility to manage that; their feelings belong to them.
The actual inspiration for ‘Offend’ came to me last year while our world was deeply buried in the throes of COVID-19. In one way or another, it seemed as if anything and everything was happening to our world and affecting everyone in it. One of the biggest observations for me was the huge onslaught of Christian leadership everywhere, caving in and stepping down, in some cases, denouncing and renouncing their faith in the same breath. The shocking stories of well-known and loved thought leaders, faith-based musicians, and public figures who were once followers of Christ, were proclaiming that Christianity was a farce, perhaps even a form of brainwashing, which was sad and disappointing.
I felt like I had a lot to defend, to say. And to say it as boldly as I possibly could because Jesus deserves that. To deny something is to declare it’s untrue. To deny Jesus is to say with our words, thoughts or actions that we don’t really believe the truth of who Jesus says He is or what He says He’ll do.
How did you translate the single into your vision for the music video, also set to release September 10th?
This was an easy one for me! Reality wrote the song and the song wrote the concept for the video. It was just a matter of putting it together and making certain that it conveyed correctly, matching the lyrical content of the song while ensuring the message was clear for viewers.
Can you take us back to when you were writing “Offend” with Josiah Prince of Disciple? Is there a moment that solidified your resolve that this was a message and song that needed to be released?
Ha! Oh I knew and felt that this song and it’s message needed to be released the second I wrote it, which was before I met Josiah. What I couldn’t give to the song then, but what brought the song to where it is now, was Josiah’s creative genius to give it this serious wind-up, one-two punch, in-your-face, “freight train comin’ atcha” rock sound. Based on the lyrics, I definitely felt the direction of musical composition needed to be intense, full of conviction and impactful.
After Josiah read the lyrics, he immediately grabbed onto the message of what the song was saying and started tooling around with the melody for the chorus. Inside of 15 minutes after working back and forth on different parts, it had its identity. It couldn’t have been better matched between music and lyrics. We threw together a scratch track and spent another session fleshing it out a little bit more and then did the final recording of it. I was psyched. IT ROCKED, literally. And it delivered on everything I felt it needed to be and then some!
Is there a lyric within the track that you think the world most needs to hear at this moment?
Ohhhh yeah: “Will you offend for the gospel?”
Well. Will you?
“Offend” is the first single to be released in your next series of songs. How did you approach this project differently than previous projects?
Well initially, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to get out and tour in support of the ‘Irreverent’ album last year or the beginning of 2021 for obvious reasons. So I decided to write some new music. I wasn’t going into this season thinking this would yield an entire album like I did previously… I wrote a few songs and then began thinking about the sound and production of this new chapter. As a side note, I like data and I also began exploring which songs had been the most impactful for people last year. Coincidentally, me and an amazing group of listeners around the world who have saved or downloaded my songs to their devices, happened to be on the same page in terms of what we liked musically as it related to my past music releases. Rock it was. ROCK it was going to be, but with a little bit more edge, a slightly different sound, and some serious “teeth.”
I began researching producers with my team that I could possibly work with, and would be a good fit in terms of delivering the sound and vibe I was envisioning. There in that process, I met Prince. Josiah Prince. Kidding…I just had to go “007” James Bond there! Anyway, a natural fit from the beginning, which isn’t always the case with new songwriting collaborations/partners, we began first with constructing the sound of ‘Offend.’ At that point and after a huge sliver of inspiration hit, I decided to pen a couple more tunes with Josiah at the helm as producer. So…will there be Album #2? Stay tuned!
Who, or what, are some of your current biggest inspirations, spiritually and musically?
Right now, I’m on the train of listening to thought leaders, speakers, and musicians who are not afraid to use their voices, especially if they have “reach.” I feel like our world and where it is right now, with all of its hardships and political/social issues we’re all affected by, needs a steady stream of follow-through on action. Ideas are great but we need the bold hands and hearts, cloaked in tenacity to actually see them through, even past all who may oppose positive change. Let’s not be angry just to be angry. Let’s not oppose things just for the sake of opposing. Let’s not shun ideas of change simply because we lack full understanding of what a change may mean. Seek to understand. Seek to understand your brothers and your sisters of the world. Seek God. There’s nothing more inspiring than letting Him in and letting ourselves be loved.
What are you most expectant for in the remainder of 2021?
Ohhh the countdown is on! 4 months to go until 2022…hard to believe! Well, first and foremost with all my heart, I am looking forward to the day when we truly have the pandemic under control. It needs to end and everyone needs to do their part to eradicate this thing.
Second, following the release of ‘Offend’ I have other music in the pipeline that is being primed for release, as well as more music videos. I may even go back a century, with a possible traditional Hymn project in the works for November and a holiday jingle for December. Other than that, we need the remaining months of this year to plan for next year! I try to stay present in the moment as much as I can, but duty still calls! Gotta continue to ROCK ON!