Jamie Soles here.
In my younger days I was of the mind to pursue my own course, and despite the counsel of wiser heads than mine, I lived to gratify my own desires. I was a liar, I was a thief; a petty complainer and whiner who did not much care how my actions affected others. I was all take and no give.
This downward path was mine, and like a slave to my own lusts, I followed it wholeheartedly. I would surely have gone on to my own destruction had not the Lord Jesus intervened and saved me, body and soul. All thanks to Him for what He has done in me ever since. Let me tell a bit of my tale from that time on, and to point out to you some of the works of Jesus that have made me what I am today.
When I was six years old, he brought into my life something which has been a continual love of mine ever since: an acoustic guitar. From the time I laid eyes on it, I knew that we would be best of friends. I learned my first chords by watching my older siblings, and doing what I saw them do. What joy I got from this! Thank You, Jesus, for that guitar!
I grew up in the Evangelical Free Church, and learned a great many hymns as a youngster. I loved to sing, and Jesus gave me opportunity most every week to lift my voice in song with all the local saints. I learned to follow music notes from having the hymnbook open before me as I sang. This was another great blessing Jesus gave me in my early life, for which I am profoundly thankful.
When I was eleven, one of my older brothers came home from Bible College with a couple of boxes full of records, and I first heard the music of Randy Stonehill, and Larry Norman, and Chuck Girard, and Phil Keaggy, and Keith Green, and 2nd Chapter of Acts, and several others. What cold water for my weary soul! What inspiration I was provided by this music! The Lord Jesus impressed upon me the idea that I could use my guitar to sing His praises. I can date my desire to be a professional musician back to those days.
I had the idea in my head when I was thirteen years old, and I am sure it was from the Lord, that I needed to be able to write my own songs if I was going to succeed as a musician. He then set me on a course of trial and error for a couple of years (nothing but trials and errors) before I succeeded at writing my first song. I had been trying to write according to the prevailing worldly paradigm; that songs come from within you, from your heart. I found no fruit down that road. I was enabled to write my first song when my attention was taken away from myself and directed toward the Lord and His works. This set somewhat of a template for me in my career; one will often hear songs about the Lord and His doings when listening to my music, but rarely one about me and my thoughts (Ps. 119:54). Thank You, Lord Jesus, for capturing my attention early in my life! May I ever sing Your praise!
When I was eighteen the Lord led me to Bible College, and into the company of a number of other young musicians. We formed a band at the school, and called it Damascus Road. It was with these fine fellows that I had my first experience in a recording studio, when in 1988 we produced our first album, a cassette called “Walk By Faith”. Jesus taught us many things through this experience, not the least of which was the necessity of solid preparation before recording.
Our second recording as a band happened in 1990, and the lessons we had learned from the previous episode were applied here, as we built our album “All Right With Me”. We had grown from a bunch of single guys to a bunch of married guys by now, and our days as a band were numbered. I thank the Lord for those days, as I learned how to (and how not to) work together closely with other musicians to accomplish a good goal.
In 1988 Jesus led me into the company of a wonderful lady named Valerie, and we married in 1989. How I thank You for this, Lord Jesus! She is beautiful, she is musical, she loves You, she works hard… what a magnificent gift from You she is! She has been a fountainhead of a great deal of the music that has followed us down through the years, and I thank You for her.
As the Damascus Road era began to close, the Lord began to open doors for me to begin recording solo albums. In 1990 I came out with my first one; “Fidelity”. As a sign of things to come, the first song on the album was a Psalm, and I was accompanied vocally by my wife Valerie. (I still have cassettes of this, if any of you have a way to play them!)
Our first daughter (Timbrel) was born in 1991, and a lullaby song for her appeared on my next album “Over The Line”, which came out in 1992. The master copy for that album was lost somewhere, which I regret, but the Lord was teaching me a number of things in the development of those early albums; the centrality of worship to life, the need to minister both outwardly and inwardly, to the world and to my own house; and many others.
My second daughter (Zion) was born in 1993, when Val and I were very much involved in our church`s worship team. I had been writing songs for worship at that time, and many of them came from the Psalms, which I was beginning to see were a very important tool in the hands of the Church. Many of those songs ended up on an album project we did as a Church, called “Prayers Of The Saints”, which came out in 1994. My first son also came out in 1994, and we named him Judah, which means “Praise”.
Three little kids in the house, which became four by the end of 1996 when daughter Jewel came along, meant a great deal of hands-on, labor-intensive times. With a musician for a father, things were pretty lean (financially speaking) in those years in the Soles house, and there was neither time nor money to build any more albums. There was a lot of baby bouncing to do, and disciplining, and diaper changing, and storytelling. There was no lack of desire on my part to get back at music-making, but the hand-to-mouth lifestyle we were living precluded doing so. The Lord Jesus had other ideas for me.
One summer day, while working for the City Water Department, the Lord impressed upon me an idea which would enable my kids to learn and internalize the Bible stories they had been hearing. I began to think “How could I make a song out of a bible story?” So I began to play with a familiar one in my head, and made up a simple tune for it “Adam and Eve, Adam and Eve, the very first people that the world’s ever seen…” That was a great day. I stopped along the side of the road and wrote it down, so I could sing it for Val and the kids when I got home. Then I set to thinking about what other stories I could tell that way…
My household loved it. I had written a few more by the middle of next week, when our care group met together, so I (we!) sang them for these folks as well, to similar reactions. They urged us to sing one for the Church, which did the same… I began to realize that there was a deep itch for bible story songs in the Church, and that these sorts of songs would be able to scratch that itch. I started looking around the Christian world to see if anybody else was doing this, and lo and behold, the field was almost clear.
I was eager to set to work. There was a whole bible full of stories just waiting to be sung! I began to think about which stories were the most foundational to my own children’s understanding of the biblical story, and most of those songs eventually wound up on my first kid’s CD, “Good Advice”, which came out in 1997.
Son Jonathan was born in 1998, and my album “River” came out the same year. It was an album of worship songs, and reflections on a whole lot of other scripture passages. Jesus had put it into my heart to sing His Word; all of it. There was something He was showing me about the singing of His Word that enabled me to effectively hide that Word in me. God’s revelations, when sung, produce a whole different effect in the Christian than when they are read.
A few more lean, labor-intensive years followed, as daughter Eden joined the family in 2000, and daughter Chloe in 2002. We were still living on whatever other work I could find; CD sales and concerts were considered a bonus if they paid for themselves; they were not able to contribute to our everyday budget. I started to think a bit more systematically about how to present the Bible Story songs that I had been writing all this time, and the first fruit of that thinking showed up on “The Way My Story Goes”, which came out in 2002. I was self-consciously trying to show forth Christ from Old Testament Bible stories, taking what Jesus had said about how the whole OT testifying of Him, and putting songs to the idea. It was very well received, and that album is still my bestseller.
In 2003 I was able to put out “Up From Here”, which was the fastest album of mine to ever pay for itself. I think the previous album paved the way for it. UFH was a series of exodus-themed songs, developing a Biblical theme that reasserted itself time and again in the stories of the Bible. As this was now my third “kid’s album”, I was beginning to be known far and wide as a “kid’s musician”. This has become both a blessing and a burden; a blessing in that people are helped and encouraged by my kid’s music, a burden in that I have a lot of other songs to sing that are for you, Dad and Mom, and not just for your kids. Thank you, Jesus, for this burden. Please help me reach lots of folks with my other stuff as well.
2004 saw the arrival of son Joseph into the Soles household, and the production of my 4th kids album, Memorials. As you listeners may have noticed, my kid’s albums seem to be growing up with my bigger children, and perhaps with their father as well. Memorials deals with many stories in the Bible which are dark, or strange, or obscure (which should be said of none of them), and with some of the many instances in which something was spoken of as a memorial, a sign usually given by God to remind himself of a certain event. If it seems like an obscure thing about which to build a kid’s album, perhaps it is. But it is a great deal of fun anyway. Thank You, Jesus, for hiding so much fabulous stuff in Your Word for us to dig up!
I have long had the psalms-as-Christian-worship-songs on my heart, and in 2005 I put out my first album of Psalms, called “Ascending”, from the Psalms of Ascents, 120-134. I am glad to get this long-term project underway as well, and I pray that it will be a blessing to God’s Church.
In 2007 my 5th kid’s album arrived, called “Fun & Prophets”. My bigger kids, who have grown up to be music critics of the highest order, almost all regard this as my best kid’s album (one picks Memorials). It is a look at bible prophets; who they were, what they did, what it must have been like to live next door to, etc. This album was great fun to make! My kids were seasoned studio veterans by this time, and they sound wonderful on it. Judah’s voice had not yet changed, and his boy-soprano voice was really something. Thank you, Lord Jesus, for this excellent family task to which you called us in those days!
2007 also saw the release of “Weight Of Glory”, a Bible story album which was all grown up. This is my favourite album so far. Musically it is my loudest album, most reminiscent of my rock roots. A good home was found on this CD for several of my songs that had been with me for many years, and I am pleased with it.
2008 saw “Pure Words”, my 2nd Psalm album, arrive. This one does Psalms 1-16.
In 2009 came “Wells”, my 6th kid’s album, in which my younger kids play more of a role. I am feeling like I am just about grown up now, and almost out of making kids albums, but I could be wrong.
In 2011 came the third of my Psalm albums, “Songs From The 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s”, which contains selections between Psalm 42 and Psalm 69.
In 2012 came another album dear to my heart for its grownup Bible stories, called “Giants & Wanderers”, which I commend to you.
It is now 2014, and I am now a grandfather of three as of this writing. My two oldest girls have married well. My oldest son Judah has gone to heaven, and his departure has left a deep hole in my heart. The Lord Jesus, whom I have known from childhood, and who has known me from eternity past, is the only balm for such wounds. He is good, all the time, and his Spirit reaches into the deepest wounds with the healing comfort that only He can bring. He is acquainted with grief, whom I have now met as well. Thankfully, not all of my acquaintances will go to heaven…
“Highways To Zion”, my 4th Psalm album, is due out at the end of this year. May the Lord restore to His church the songs that she needs to confront the evils of our days.