When passion, talent and determination intersect, great things can happen. John Tibbs is a prime example. Before joining the FairTrade Services family and recording his auspicious label debut, Dead Man Walking, the singer/songwriter had already built a strong foundation for his quickly burgeoning career.
A critically acclaimed independent success story—his discography includes Swallowing Death, Breathing Life in 2012, as well as 2013’s Anchor—John’s heartland sound and honest lyrics have earned him a formidable touring platform and household recognition among Noisetrade consumers.
With an earnest, evocative voice and genuine songs that naturally connect with listeners, it’s an exciting time for the Kentucky-born artist. He has already toured with such leading names as Newsboys, Crowder, Tenth Avenue North, Unspoken, Gungor and Audrey Assad, and he’ll be joining Matt Maher on the road later this spring.
John’s engaging live performances have more than whet fans’ appetites for his highly anticipated full-length debut.
One listen to the soulful, vulnerable title track (featuring Ellie Holcomb), the edgy truth of “Silver In Stone” or the shimmering buoyancy of “Hope,” it’s hard to imagine this pastor’s kid—who grew up immersed in a variety of musical influences—do anything but write songs and sing.
“There’s a lot of old school country and church hymn-influences in my music,” John says of his roots-rock orientation. “When I was about 6-years-old, my dad took a position at a church in Punxsutawney, in western Pennsylvania. Growing up there, Bruce Springsteen, John Mellencamp and Tom Petty became the soundtrack of my youth.”
As a teen, John began to feel the call to music ministry. “I was an athlete in high school and anytime I was outside the house that’s what I was doing,” he recalls. “Then I attended a Crowder concert in junior high and there was something very special about that experience. His music connected so many different types of people to each other and to Jesus. I thought, ‘I have to do this,’ although I didn’t fully understand at that time how it would come to be.”
After graduating from Anderson University in central Indiana, John spent a year as a worship leader at nearby Madison Park Church, where he began to truly understand his calling. “I had written songs that ministered to people at our church so I started wondering how I could share my music beyond our congregation,” he says. “I began to play at other churches, then camps and
conferences—God continued to open door after door.”
John also developed an online community of more than 100,000 supporters who helped crowd-fund some of his independent recordings, and it wasn’t long before he’d piqued the interest of FairTrade.
Produced by Ben Shive (Rend Collective, Colony House), John’s label debut— Dead Man Walking—is filled with hearty, ear-grabbing melodies and honest, autobiographical lyrics. His transparency is like an emotional magnet pulling the listener deeper into each song. “I didn’t want people to turn this record on and hear a cute or polished song,” he says. “I want people to listen to the record and hear heart.”
He succeeds in serving up his heart in a powerful way on such tracks as the infectious “Raining Pouring” and the potent truth of “Anchor.” The latter is particularly meaningful to John, chronicling his own journey from fear to faith. “I was trying to figure out how I was going to be able to do music full time, because my job at the church was our only income,” he says. “The song talks about going out into the ocean; I’m in the boat and I don’t know the places I’m headed or the people I’m going to see. I don’t know how it’s going to end up, but I just know God is on board too.”
John penned eight of the album’s 10 selections, including “Abraham,” a hopeful track inspired by Exodus. “I connect to the story of the Jewish people. It just paints a beautiful picture of God’s strength and consistency, yet He’s so gentle,” John says. “God went above and beyond to get His people out of Egypt, though they cursed Him and turned away. I do that daily, but God has shown me time and again how good He is in spite of me. It all comes back to Him.”
“Everything I Need” holds deep personal significance for John in light of his struggle with a lifelong speech impairment. “The song says, ‘Though my weakness ties my tongue, I sing of every good You’ve done.’ It is exhausting to try to hide something,” he shares of the issue he managed to conceal for many years. “Culture says you have to be perfect and have all the answers, but that isn’t a healthy attitude. I started being open about my speech difficulties in hopes that it would encourage other people. 2 Corinthians 12:9 says ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.’ All of us have our struggles, but our God is active in everything.”
Dead Man Walking showcases John Tibbs’ heartfelt explorations of faith and his insightful revelations about what it means to be a child of God in a complicated world. “Everyone struggles and there are things in each of our lives that act as chains and keep us from being the people God has called us to be,” he says, “Christ came and threw those chains off and because of that there’s Hope and Peace. I want this to be an album that acknowledges our struggles and then points people to Jesus.”
information on John Tibbs, tour dates and social media links, visit www.JohnTibbsMusic.com