Brandon Heath's Leaving Eden
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CBN.com - Leaving Eden is the no. 1 Christian Album in the country, according to Billboard's chart. That's the start Dove Award winner Brandon Heath's new record has had since its release two weeks ago. On top of that, the "Give Me Your Eyes" songster is already claiming the Christian radio airwaves with his new popular single, "Your Love".
Brandon Heath recently spoke with CBN.com about the pressure he felt after his success with his sophomore album, What If We, the fun he had working on Leaving Eden, and getting to be the wedding singer at a famous Country star's big day.
Leaving Eden's cover is a photo of you with a very determined look in your eyes, like you could kill someone... with kindness, of course. What were you thinking during that shoot?
Brandon Heath: (Laughs) I was thinking, how do I walk naturally while I’m getting my picture taken? I was walking in front a green screen and that image in the background is super-imposed, so I could really on fit in four steps. So I’m like, how do I have a natural walk?
The photographer kept going, ‘OK, now give me some attitude. Give me some attitude. Give me some magic.’ And so [the cover] was one of those ‘attitude’ shots. The head of my label says I look like the Terminator. I dig it though. I think it’s cool.
"Give Me Your Eyes” got you an Emmy award and was recently certified gold. You’ve said you felt a little pressure to perform after such a big hit, but that your new single, “Your Love”, came out of prayer.
Heath: “Your Love” was one of the easiest songs on the record to write, and it was the first. So I guess that says something about prayer.
My co-writer Jason and I felt a little pressure because “Give Me Your Eyes” is the biggest song that either of us have ever been involved with. And this is the first time we had been writing together since the last record and so we just wanted to dispel some of those pressures of delivering. The last time we wrote there wasn’t any pressure; it was for the love, and for the fun and for the honor of getting to write songs. “Give Me Your Eyes” became a big hit, but it came from a really natural, easy place. So we asked God to bring that back.
Jason really felt God was telling him we need to keep this really simple and keep the message really simple and make it foundational. So I said, let’s just remind people that they’re loved by God.
I was thinking about a guy that climbed Mt. Everest. A guy that I’ve met a few times and he has this thing… he loves climbing mountains, but he doesn’t know God. There’s just something very apparent about him; he’s searching. It’s a shame he didn’t find [God] there because He’s actually in the places that you might expect him to be... and that’s with the poor, with the hurting. That’s who I was writing that song for. For me, all the great accomplishments probably wouldn’t mean anything if I didn’t know the peace of God.
There’s a lyric in the song, "Your love is enough; all I ever needed is your love". How did you come to this conclusion that no matter what’s happened, God’s love is enough?
Heath: If we know that we are going to be taken care of, that we are covered by God, most of the decisions that we make in our lives, will be good decisions. Without knowing that you are loved by God, decisions are often based on fear or based on what other people would perceive you as. I’d say that’s me. My decisions used to be based on fear or what other people think about me.
Because you’re loved, you’re covered. It’s like a parent who can provide this big safety net for you to fall on, if you fall. I don’t want to base my decisions on fear. I want to base them on knowing there’s a safety net underneath me. We live a much more fulfilling life that way.
The title track, “Leaving Eden”, came from a conversation you had with a counselor, correct?
Heath: Yeah. It was a personal conversation, but what it came down to was something that covers all of us, that we are all affected by what happened in Eden. We’re all feeling the repercussions of losing our innocence and knowing good and evil.
A lot times to really get through something you have to go to the beginning, and the beginning of the beginning is Eden. It’s the loss of Eden that we feel on a daily basis. We don’t really mourn that loss; we’ve never mourned it. So it’s actually healthy to mourn that and then move on.
I look at Eden as ground zero... I could just stand there and mourn the fact that my innocence is there or I could move on in hope and make a difference with my life and not be so weighed down by the bad decisions that I’ve made, and that Adam and Eve made. We certainly have the power to change the course of our life. Jesus, ultimately, is that decision.
You’ve come to acknowledge your personal temptation, one you have said is "the apple I’ve eaten for too long”.
Heath: Each of us could probably name what our apple is. What is the thing that takes you out of Eden? What is the thing that is the “knowledge of good and evil” for you?
I could give you an example for myself. It’s the Internet; and it’s the news. My vice would be, I just need to know what’s going on. I need to know what the news widget says. What’s the AP saying? What’s the latest?
There’s so much bad news out there that that’s all just churning into my head and my heart, and I feel like I know too much. I feel like I’m too aware. Not that I want to be naïve, but I think God certainly wants to protect some of the innocence. There are occasions where I’ll feel a little bit more of my innocence dying. I’ll think, Oh, man, that’s another patch of garden in my heart that’s gone. So what’s left, I want to start cultivating a little bit and protecting. When it’s time for me to know what God wants me to know, then I’ll honor that rather than needing to know and see too much, too quickly.
In a previous interview, you said Leaving Eden is “the most pop you’ve ever gone”. Was that on purpose or did it just sort of happen?
Heath: It was on purpose. I let my producer Dan Muckala finally have his way. He just loves pop, and he’s good at it. Dan and I wrote more on this one than we did my last two records. I gave him a lot more ownership on this record. It bodes well for me because he’s doing what he does well and I’m doing what I do well; we just met in the middle. I brought in my favorite co-writers on this one too, which was fun.
One of the songs was inspired by Phil Collins ("Might Just Save Your Life"). What other musical heroes inspired songs on the record?
Heath: I really love Citizen Cope; so he would be one person that comes to mind. I love his beats and his lyrics. Another would be my Country influence. I just love Country. Both "Leaving Eden" and "Only Water" were written with a Country co-writer [Lee Thomas Miller], and so that was a big influence to.
You were a wedding singer for Ms. Carrie Underwood last year. Now, how did that come about?
Heath: It’s was funny. I literally had no idea until my mom called me. She said that Carrie said something really nice about me in People magazine. Later, I heard my publicist, Alisha MacArthur, say that they were going to play “Love Never Fails” at the wedding as their first dance. She said it was their song.
Our parent label is the same, so [Carrie and I] have close ties as far as management goes, and publicists go. Then, I finally met Carrie at a party and told her I’d love to come sing at the wedding.
It was a surprise to Mike [Fisher], her husband. I just came out and sang for the first dance. It was really cool. It was a very intimate, small wedding, 250 people. There weren’t any stars there. It was just family and friends.
Are you going for the hat trick for Dove-Award Male Vocalist of the Year? (Brandon won in 2009 and 2010)
Heath: (Laughs) ... I’ll be honest with you. I’m not putting any pressure on myself and don’t expect to. There have been some other vocalists who have had big years. I’ve been fortunate enough to be recognized and I’m always grateful for the recognition, but I’m not holding my breath.
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