Ryan Stevenson’s powerful faith-based message is couched in catchy pop music
There are artists in contemporary Christian music who water things down. They make their messages vaguer to appeal to a broader pop-music audience, moving away from specific calls to worship, praise, or pray.
Ryan Stevenson is not one of those artists. On his most recent album, 2018’s “No Matter What,” Stevenson is a direct lyricist, singing confidently about his faith.
“No matter what you’ve done/ You can’t erase His love,” Stevenson sings on the title track; “All I know is my God/ Will never let go of you.”
That direct approach has served Stevenson well, both artistically and commercially. He’s landed nine singles on Billboard’s contemporary Christian charts, and in 2017, a Gospel Music Association Dove Award (Christian music’s equivalent of the Grammys) for pop song of the year for “Eye of the Storm.
“It was an honor winning that award,” Stevenson says. “There are a lot of amazing talents and amazing songwriters out there, and there are only a few people who win Dove Awards, so to even be in that room with your name on a ballot is special.”
The hit singles and acclaim are all great trappings of success, but Stevenson says he would be singing his songs without compromise, regardless.
“I can say that with a clear conscience that I hate watering things down,” he says. “I just won’t do it. I don’t want to water down the truth. I don’t want to make a song sound cliched or use a bunch of weird-sounding phrases just for the sake of being palatable to the masses.”
What’s fascinating is the reasoning behind Stevenson’s drive to be as clear as possible about his beliefs. He thinks that modern Christians need to hear his message because it’s one they might not hear in churches.
“We have a generation of people born and raised in the church who think they have to earn God’s approval,” he says. “They’re living performance-based relationships with God, where the only thing that’s important to him is our most recent ability to do really well or look really good. And that’s a lie and a trap, and I know that because I lived that way for years. And I know that what I wanted to say was that no matter what you’ve done, you can embrace his love. That’s right out of the Bible.”
Of course, it also helps that his message is couched in ultra-catchy, electronics-tinged pop music, something that Stevenson again makes no apology for.
“I love producing and creating pop music,” he says. “It’s in my DNA. Some of the times I’ve been most inspired in my life it was because of a song or a sound that I heard, a melody or emotional vibe that awakened my ear.”
Stevenson will be bringing that powerful pop music to the Bon Secours Wellness Arena on Friday as part of seven-time Grammy-winning Christian rap artist TobyMac’s “Hits Deep” tour.
But despite the large-scale setting, Stevenson says that his aim as a live performer is intimacy, not bombast.
“I like to treat people like we’re all sitting in a coffee shop together, even if we’re sitting in an arena,” he says. “I like to communicate honestly and calmly and show them that I believe what I’m singing about.”
What: TobyMac’s “Hits Deep Tour” with special guests Jeremy Camp, Jordan Feliz, Ryan Stevenson, We Are Messengers, and Aaron Cole
When: 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 15
Where: Bon Secours Wellness Arena, 650 N. Academy St., Greenville
Vincent Harris covers the local and regional music scenes for the Greenville Journal. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter @HarrisVince or write to email@example.com.