Jimmy Needham brings soulful sound to Lee campus

Jimmy Needham brings soulful sound to Lee campus

Jimmy Needham performing at U-Church on Sunday, Sept. 11

photo by Jaclyn De Vries

Contemporary Christian artist Jimmy Needham brought soul to the Conn Center stage during U-Church on Sunday, Sept. 11.

Needham’s first-ever performance on the Lee University campus included tracks from his newest album, “Vice and Virtue”, as well as his hit song “Clear the Stage.”

Director of Facilities Josh York said that Needham was invited to perform at U-Church at the request of students.

“My main goal for the series each year is to provide a diverse lineup that will connect with the largest number of students and community guests as possible,” York said. “This year we wanted to start with a genre completely different from all of that. With worshipful and inspiring lyrical content and a pop/soul/blues feel, Jimmy Needham seemed to be the perfect fit.”

Needham, who grew up listening to soul music, tries to combine that style with messages that he wants to share with his audience.

“I grew up listening to Motown and like Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, Jackson Five, that stuff, so I just love soul music,” Needham said. “I kinda feel like my job is to sort of combine the soulful stuff idea with the content and stuff that I feel like is meaningful.”

In making and playing his music, Needham has also had to face his own challenges.

“Back in like ’05 or so, one of my pastors at the time said this to me: ‘The most dangerous place for a human heart is on a stage,’” Needham said. “I just so felt that over the years, just like the hardest part about this job has always been that sort of temptation…to want to be god instead of want to make God great.”

One can see that the aspects of Needham’s life are reflected in his music, especially his newest album, titled “Vice and Virtue.” Through the words of the album he explores “sin issues”, as well as the “muck” in his own heart, which made it difficult to write. He hopes that those who listen to it will be inspired to evaluate their hearts and lives.

“One of the things I wanted to highlight in this record was [determining] ‘am I just like the person who kinda grew up in this scene and just happened to be raised in a culture that taught me not to do really terrible things, or has my heart been changed?’” Needham said. “Jesus will make a distinction between pleasant people and new people, and I just felt like that’s a big enough deal and a scary enough prospect for folks that I think is worth dealing with [on] this side of eternity.”

Needham enjoys playing shows and seeing his fans respond to his music. Hearing peoples’ testimonies about coming to know and understand God better through his songs has helped keep him going.

“I love making fun music. I mean, the stage is a blast,” Needham said. “But the reason I do it is in hopes that at the end of a concert, at the end of an album, folks would have a sense of the bigness of God, the beauty of God, the majesty of the Gospel, the person of Jesus.”

Needham currently lives in Dallas, Texas with his wife, Kelly, and their two daughters, Lively and Sophia. He also blogs on his website, which he says is a way to help himself and others.

“Blogging for me is just another outlet to get the Gospel out to people, and so I see it as an extension of songwriting,” Needham said. “For me it’s sort of cathartic and helps me process, but at the same time if it could benefit other people, too, it’s a win.”

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