TCB Exclusive: Jodi Essex Reveals Heart Behind ‘Irreverent’

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Met with positive response worldwide after a series of single releases, Christian-rock artist Jodi Essex continues to speak boldly with the same fearlessness required to take a leap of faith that inspired her to release faith-based music in the first place. As she continues answering the call to live for Christ in a way that is unapologetic to the world, Jodi extends the invitation for listeners to be Irreverent with her on her upcoming record. On June 26th, Essex will release her new album with a livestream premiere on Facebook and YouTube at 8 p.m. CT, followed by an accompanying devotional, available as a free download on July 3, 2020. Jodi recently talked with us about the significance of the album’s title, her hopes for the collection and the response to pre-release tracks. 

Congratulations on the upcoming release of Irreverent! Can you share a little about the meaning of the title, and how it reflects the project as a whole?
Thank you so much, appreciate it tremendously! But first – I really want to start off with a huge thank you for all of the incredible support that TCB has so generously provided in support of my music. I appreciate all the features, mentions, and interviews that have been published on your platform and through social media as well. I’m easily reminded that all the media platforms and respective journalists always have a choice of who and what they will write about and publish. I am grateful for every time you made the choice to feature my journey in music!

Now back to your question…The album, “Irreverent,” is unabashedly guitar-driven rock; definitely melodic with some unique turnarounds. I’d describe it as bold, energetic and anthemic but with some laid-back, straight-ahead tunes reminiscent of a classic rock vibe. I also wrote a couple of introspective and empathetic ballads that make you take a pause on life. The lyrics are very open and truthful; at times, very “in your face,” meaning they evoke an entire range of emotions that we all have as humans. Emotions that we may be afraid to feel or admit. I put it all out there. From Track #1 to Track #10, there is an entire story of how life ebbs and flows and how we deal with the highs and lows. It almost reads like a theatrical production, in that it begins with Act 1 scenes, then Act 2 and so on, ending with the Finale. My favorite song on the album, Track #10 is the Finale and Reprise, wrapping it all up with lessons learned so, “Stay out of your rearview mirror…” I should note that Track #8 on the album is a cover I did of Amy Grant’s, “All Right” off her ‘Lead Me On’ album from back in the day. That song – actually, the entire album – came at a very poignant time in my life and I was listening to it constantly.

As for the word “Irreverent,” it’s interesting in this case because for some at first glance, it would seem like the word itself has an unpleasant or negative connotation to it. With that, if you were to look up the definition of it in your typical English language dictionary, it means much more to me than that; I can’t just cram that bold of a word into a box and be satisfied with it. It’s more behavioral and actionable, expresses reveling in a rebel spirit, being fearless and courageous enough to speak your mind, to stand up for what cries out in your heart. It’s going against the flow with little regard for others’ judgment, all for the sole purpose of furthering the kingdom of God. At the heart of it all, it is simply the spirit in which this album was written, imploring listeners not to rebel against God’s calling, but rather to live for Christ in an authentic way that is unapologetic to the world.
We, as a culture, spend so much time glorifying things, brands and objects. We have all seen just how fiercely people can jump in line to sell, promote, or defend whatever or whomever they believe in; we spend so much time endorsing products all day long on social media and don’t think twice about it. We are all getting bombarded by marketing companies that claim they have the “next big thing.” Our culture has an “irreverent” spirit about whatever it is they have a strong belief in and they are unabashedly bold about all of it! What about Jesus? What type are his crusaders? Are they as loud and proud about Him? Are we going to the ends of the Earth and back again to proclaim the love and salvation that is available to us through Him? Being a warrior for God is not an easy task. We need to be unswayable in our faith, confident in our journey and “irreverent” enough to offend for the gospel!

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When did you first start dreaming for this album and how long did it take to execute your vision?
This album actually has been in the making for 10-plus years. I just was too stubborn to do it. God’s prompting to do this album just became so great, just as certain circumstances in my life were starting to really make me sit up and take notice that God had a message for me. It was a convergence of sorts. A perfect storm of my resistance, God’s timing and His plans for my life. I felt the strongest prompting to finally do this back in 2017. I did some brief research on who I wanted to work with on this album. One week back in January 2019, I walked into Uphill Studios, in Atlanta, owned by producer Sean Hill with a few song ideas. By that Friday, we had written the entire album in just five days! After that, we then took one week to track each instrument, two weeks for lead vocals, and one week for background vocals. About 7-8 weeks to knock it all out before it was mixed and mastered!

You pre-released several tracks prior to the full album’s release. How did you go about selecting these songs and the order of pre-release?
I, along with the marketing team I work with, Marketing With Wisdom, had a discussion about each song and truly took a pretty organic approach to just analyzing what songs would best represent my sound as an artist right out of the gate. The order of pre-release was equally as simple in terms of sensibility with respect to sound, impact and flow.

What has the reaction been to these pre-released tracks? Have there been any impact stories shared with you or a track that seems to be resonating exceptionally well?
The reaction has been amazing from all over the world! I knew what I was up against in terms of being a singer/songwriter in the rock genre, Christian no Iess. We rockers are a minority and can easily become lost in the huge sea of all the other CCM genres! But from the first release, it started to become clear that listeners, both in the secular and Christian markets, were missing the sound of some good ol’ rock and roll! They missed the simple sound of real, organic instrumentation, melodic but driving guitar riffs, solid drums and some rock vocals! I started receiving messages from all over the country and world – Brazil, Turkey, Canada, Southeast Asia… it was crazy! It’s even getting difficult now to keep up with notes and comments from listeners. I really love it! They are so inspiring to me! Waking up to see that someone on Instagram has made a video of themselves playing one of my songs just blows me away. I am humbled and grateful that my music has resonated with so many “rockers at heart!” And all age demographics as well. I have listeners from 16 [years-old] to 60! It’s been truly an awesome ride so far.

You plan to celebrate the album’s release day with a live-stream event. What are you most looking forward to that evening?
Ah! Just being back on stage performing for all the listeners that have been streaming my music for the past 4 months! This will be the first time ever that I’ve performed any of the songs from this album, live. With COVID, musicians have obviously had to get creative with playing their music live for audiences. I think everyone has done a really great job of that! People have gotten so creative! So, even though playing to an empty venue might present its challenges in terms of not feeling the usual “crowd energy,” I still look at it as an incredible opportunity to finally perform live, with a full band, and just celebrate the release of my album with all my listeners watching!

In addition to the album release, you have an accompanying devotional to follow the album. What prompted you to prepare this devotional?
I think lyrics to songs are really important and some people really scour them looking for the messages in them, or try to gain some insight into the story or thoughts behind a song. I wanted to provide that for my listeners, along with the song stories and inspirations for them. Of course, with every song and its story, there are also scriptural references to them within the devotional. While the messages in my songs may be from my own unique experiences, there will likely be something in my songs that have a different significance to the reader/listener. What means one thing to me may mean something different altogether to someone else, but the message is there. I hope that all the songs and their stories speak to people in a way that is meaningful to them.

What is one key message you hope listeners take away from Irreverent?
I want listeners to feel empowered and emboldened in representing themselves in Christ. I want them to feel energized and re-energized in their mission. I want them to feel outspoken and not fear the judgment of others, believers or not. Rock your worship! There are NO rules about how worship should look, sound or inspire. Worship from your heart. Give it your loudest and highest!

Who or what is currently serving as an inspiration to your sound and lyrics?
All the time and space in between life with God in it and the autobiographical moments where I walked away from Him. That provided plenty of inspiration for me for sure! [Laughs.] He really got a hold of me and my displaced focus. Of course, I had an amazing dream team of a producer and musicians that understood my vision for the album. They completely crushed the musical arrangements and went above and beyond my sphere of AWESOME!

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