In his interview with Derek Thomas, Sean Lucas confessed to being a fan of country music. Since he's given the genre his imprimatur, I'll 'fess up, too. I, however, came to country music rather recently, when I met Tom Douglas in Nashville last fall. I was there to do a lecture and Tom was there to do the special music. A lot of people, including me, talk about Christianity and culture. Tom lives it. In fact, Tom helps me to see the difference between talking about Christianity and culture and Christianity in culture.
You likely don't know Tom. Songwriters essentially consign themselves to anonymity. But you do know his songs, if, like Sean, you're man or woman enough to admit you listen to country music.
Tom cowrote Martina McBride's "God's Will", Tim McGraw's "Grown Men Don't Cry," and most recently he cowrote with Tim McGraw "My Little Girl." Tom will tell you two things, his songs are about stories and about redemption-he'd want the latter in all caps.
With the hopes of not sounding too much like a VH1 retrospective, here's a bit about Tom. He tried to be songwriter in the early 80s, pitching his songs up and down Nashville's Music Row to no avail. He then moved to Dallas and worked in real estate. He kept up with his songwriting on the side, writing songs for his Sunday school class at Park Cities. Tom is in the PCA (another reason I like him). In 1993, he wrote a song called "Little Rock" and took a demo cassette to a songwriter's workshop in Austin. Eventually that song got recorded by Collin Raye and climbed to number 1 on the country music charts. Tom returned to Nashville with a songwriting contract with Sony/ATV Tree and has had a number of top tens since.
Track down "Grown Men Don't Cry," "God's Will," or "Love's the Only House," another Tom Douglas song that Martina McBride recorded, and you'll see how Tom Douglas is a Christian who happens to be a musician. If you like Tom's songs you hear on the radio, now that you know they are his, or you are an aspiring songwriter, get his DVD, Songs and Short Stories: Tom Douglas, at my.musiccitynetworks.com/domain/819. I just got it myself and enjoyed it immensely. Besides, when you look at Tom's picture you'll see that he's a dead ringer for William H. Macy, who by the way plays the ukulele.
Country music, like the south from which it comes, is a rather Christ-haunted genre. That's true of Tom's songs, but it's also true of Tom. Stan Lynch, former Tom Petty and Heartbreakers drummer turned songwriter, describes Tom Douglas as "soulful, beautiful" with "a lot of heart." A description like that doesn't come by accident but honestly, as one cultivates a Christ-like character in his or her relationships and work, as one is a Christian in culture.
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