Thursday, July 24, 2014

Conversation with Joseph Habedank

Earlier this week, I had the chance to catch up with Joseph Habedank. I was excited when he agreed to do the interview and appreciated him taking the time with his busy schedule. We talked about his life as a soloist, the new project (which is incredible and released Tuesday), songwriting and how he's changed in the past year.

I wanted to leave the interview very conversational so you can really hear from Joseph. I appreciated him being so candid and honest. So here's the complete interview -

Joseph Habedank during his solo concert
in Vilonia, Ark. in January
Lauren - How does it feel to be back on the road as soloist after being in a group so long?

Joseph - At first it was really intimidating, because I never really envisioned myself as a soloist. I had thought about it, but I always thought I would be with a group. I came off the road for about seven months before I sang again. In that time, I had a lot of time to think and pray about what God wanted me to do. A part of me wanted to start a group, but I didn’t have peace about that.

I thought about doing something with Lindsay (Joseph's wife). She’s a great singer and great songwriter; she’s amazing. But we just didn’t have peace about that either. The only other option was to be a soloist, and I just felt like the Lord was leading me to be a singer/songwriter. And, at first I fought it. There are a lot of doubts and fears that go into that process. At first it’s scary being on that stage alone.

But it’s funny, because last night I was outside of Dallas, and I had someone tell me “you seem more at peace on stage that you ever have before… you seem really happy.” And that’s kind of how I feel. It’s ironic that you ask me that question, because yesterday was one of those days where I just felt like this is working. I can do this now. The Lord has really eased my nerves. It’s been challenging, but it’s been such a great experience, learning to fully rely on God and trust Him in every aspect of your ministry including what you do on that platform. It’s so sacred anyway, but when you throw in the fear factor, and you saw me probably my third week out.

Lauren - I didn’t realize it was that early on.

Joseph – Yeah, I think it was Jan. 19 in Arkansas. It was either my third or fourth weekend as a soloist. It’s been amazing though. I’m happier and I’m more at peace in my life than I’ve ever been. It’s remarkable.

Lauren – That’s awesome. Talk a little bit about the pre-release concert that you did, what that experience was like and some of the friends you had there.

Joseph – It was amazing. That was another thing where I was really scared. It was one of those concerts that lasted about an hour and a half to an hour and 45 minutes. There was no break; it was just me having to carry the whole program, singing every song obviously. Usually on the road, I’ll do about 40-45 minutes at the most and then take a break, but I had to double that. It was a little scary at first. The people who were there were so supportive tho. Lindsay said to me that everybody who comes to this is rooting for you and believing in you and wants you to win. That was encouraging. It was easily one of the greatest nights of my life. Seeing the outpouring of support and the presence of God was pretty remarkable.

Russ Taff was amazing. He actually had the flu. He had just flown in from North Carolina the day before and had gotten sick. He came and drove an hour and half, sang and sat in the back so he wouldn’t get anyone sick. He left as soon as he sang, because he was so sick. But that’s just the kind of guy he is. Since last June, Russ Taff has been a major role model in my life. He was there for me when I needed someone to be there. He has been an amazing friend and mentor, a mentor more than anything.

It was just a great night all around. My parents, step-parents and in-laws were all there, about 20 family members all the way from Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee. One of the Oak Ridge Boys was there, Duane Allen. A ton of songwriters Steve and Annie Chapman, an incredible husband and wife duo, and so many other people from around Nashville came out. It was so encouraging.

Lauren – You wrote all songs on the project, right? Do you have one that is a favorite or that you are most proud of?

Joseph – Right. When I was going through the process of choosing songs, the guy that I wrote the majority of the record with and who I consider to be my songwriting mentor is Tony Wood. He has been amazing in my life. I asked him one day if he had to choose between the “End of Grace” and the “Beauty of the Blood,” what would you pick? He said that would be like choosing between his two daughters. And it’s kinda like that.

There are two songs that stand out to me tho. One is called the “Beauty of the Blood,” which I just referred to. Something about that song really speaks to me. I think when people hear it they will know what I mean, and then “When the Lights Go Down.” I know some people have heard it on YouTube. I love that song because it’s such a heart song for me. It is the most personal song I’ve ever written. Those two stand out. And the one that Russ sings on, “Empty,” mainly because it’s Russ. I wrote “Empty” with Benji Cowart. I wrote “When the Lights Go Down” with Matthew Holt, and “Beauty of the Blood” with Tony Wood and Michael Farren, former lead singer for Pocket Full of Rocks.

This is the most blood I have in any collection of songs. These are the 10 best songs I have ever been a part of. The Lord has really given me a lot of inspiration and so many opportunities to write with people I never would have gotten to write with because of the different paths I’ve taken over the last year or two.

Lauren – Yeah, I love the new project. It’s awesome. 

Joseph – Awww, glad you like it. So what’s your favorite?

Lauren – Oh…. .now you put me on the spot, turning the tables. I do like “When the Lights Go Down,” because I remember seeing it on YouTube a while ago. I also really like the single, “Never, No Never.”

Joseph –  Good, I’m glad you like the single!

Lauren – I’ve been hearing it a lot on the radio too. It sounds like it’s been getting a lot of plays.

Joseph – Good, I’m glad. I haven’t heard it yet.

Lauren – Awww, hopefully soon! My next question was actually about “When the Lights Go Down.” I know you did write it several years ago, but now with your solo project it really seems like the perfect platform for the song as opposed to recording it when you were in the group.

Joseph – Yeah, in fact we had talked about recording it when I was with the Perrys, but we had just done a song called “Almost Morning” two or three records before. The song did well, but they didn’t think we needed to put another solo song, and that makes sense. It was a little disappointing to me, just because the song is so personal. But it’s amazing because the Lord knows exactly what He’s doing. He’s like you don’t know this now, but you are going to be a solo artist in about two years because it was for the album Through the Night that we were considering it for. And He said you don’t know it yet, but it will be perfect for this.

And not only is it perfect for me as a solo artist, but it’s perfect for what I’ve walked through in the past couple of years which has been a crossroads of my life. What kind of man will I be? Am I going to be a good person, a person of integrity and character? Am I going to live off stage what I sing on stage? And I’m at the point in my life where I know I’m not perfect, but I’m living the Christian life the best I can. I strive every day to be the best man I can be, the best husband, the best song writer, the best singer. I just want to be the best I can, not only going with outward appearance, but also with my heart. For a long time, I was trying to fix up the outside, because I just wanted everyone to be impressed. I wanted them to think “Oh he’s a good singer” or “He’s a good looking guy.” A lot of vanity goes into that. You finally come to a point where you think that all that’s going to pass away. One day I’m going to age. My voice is probably going to fade. What these people are going to remember is how kind I was to them, how I treated them and how I invested into their lives. And that’s what I’m passionate about now. I’ve just been praying that God would open my heart up, and I would have a bigger heart for people. Someone told me the other day that I was so candid and honest now, and I think it’s that I just want the people to know that I’m a normal person. I mess up, and I cannot be perfect but I can be real.

So yeah, it’s a perfect song for me right now. And I’ve started doing it before “If You Knew Him.” It’s the perfect segue song. It works so well together. My wife actually made that call last week at Stamps Baxter, and it was really powerful. I don’t know why, but those two songs really work well together in concert setting. And I hope it ministers to people.

Lauren – It’s an awesome song. So talk about Ricky Free and choosing him as your producer. Was this your first time to work with him?

Joseph – I had never worked with Ricky before in a producer setting. Ricky and I grew up together. When I first started going to Quartet Convention in 1998, I was 12 years old and Ricky was probably 14 or 15. It’s when he had just started playing drums for his dad. He might have been a little older than that. We were early in our teen years. I’ve known him for a long time. Ricky and I were never close, but I always had a big respect for Ricky as a musician and as an artist. He’s very smart, and he has a great music mind. We started talking about producers, and we talked about bringing in a bunch of different ones like contemporary producer, Brown Bannister, or  even Wayne Haun. But I had worked with Wayne for so long, and I was like let’s just do something different. And I even talked to Wayne about it. And he’s been cool, totally supportive; in fact he came out to the prerelease concert. It was so cool of him to do that.

So I called Lindsay one day, and said, “What about Ricky Free?” I love what he’s doing with Brian. It’s not very southern, but Ricky and I have this incredible passion to make the music sound different, something fresh and something new. We realize Southern Gospel is declining as a genre. We want something that will draw different types of fans, not necessarily just a younger audience. We want to bring in new people.

Ricky just absolutely knocked it out of the park. Everything that I wanted him to do, he did better. Every expectation I had he surpassed it. And in the process, we have become even closer friends. He called me the night of the pre-release concert. It was one of the nicest phone calls I have ever gotten. He left me a message because I was still at the table. He said that not only did he love working together but he have loved becoming closer friends and that what it’s all about. We have such a mutual admiration and respect for each other. And we are already talking about a second record, what we are going to do and how we can make it better.

Lauren – So you talked a little bit about this, but stylistically it’s different from what people are used to hearing from you. Do you feel like it’s more you and what you want to do?

Joseph – Oh, absolutely. There are two tracks in particular. One is “Empty” and the other is “Little Bit of Thunder.” They are much more progressive than anything I’ve been a part of, and it scared me. And the reason that it scared me is not because I would make people mad, but I grew up in a very strict Independent Baptist home. I didn’t want to offend people, especially like my mom and stepdad are very conservative Independent Baptist. I was a little scared to let them hear it, and when they did, they loved it and were very supportive. I told Lindsay that if my family has hopped on board with this, then we will be ok. My family was so supportive, and said that it is more progressive than what you did with the Perrys but we like it, because it’s you, and it’s your heart.

It’s not that I want to go out, be a rebel and buck the system. It’s not that at all. Sometimes to make things better you have to change them. Some changes needed to be made for me personally as an artist. And at my age, I can probably get away with a little more than say Ivan Parker could. But at the same time I’m not as established as Ivan, so there’s always that risk. I told my mom this - The Lord knows my heart. I don’t want to offend anybody, I just want to make great music and uplift the name of Jesus, and that’s my heart. I feel like the Lord knows that.  So yes, it’s more me. That’s my long answer of “yes, it’s definitely more me.”

Lauren – Anything else coming up that you want to share with readers?

Joseph – I think the biggest thing would be to share the album. Share with your friends, your lost friends, young friends, old friends and whoever, because I feel like there’s so much hope, redemption and peace in the album. I want people to hear the message. I know I’m never going to become a multi-millionaire because of my music. It’s not about the sales for me; it’s about making an impact in somebody’s life. I have such a passion now to help people. Before I was just very young and very self-involved, now I see life as such a bigger picture, and I just want to help people and point them to Jesus.

I also want to encourage people to call and request the single, “Never No Never.” I’m so excited about the message of the song and what it means to me. I love the fact that it came straight from the Word of God –“I’ve never seen the righteous forsaken or His seed begging bread.” Tony Wood brought that idea to the table, and we just totally fell in love with the idea. Call and request the single, please.

Please tell people about the album. It’s on iTunes or it’s at Family Christian and Lifeway.  I feel like there is something for everyone on this album. I really do. It has a good variety. It doesn’t matter what age you are, I feel like it can reach people. 

Thanks again to Joseph for taking time to talk to me! Thank you for being so candid and honest in your conversation. If you haven't had the chance to get the album, get it today!! It really will knock your socks off at hearing Joseph as a soloist and all the incredible songs! Look for my review of it next week! 


  1. Ordered my copy today!! Thank you Lauren for sharing this interview with your readers and letting us get a glimpse of this fine young man's heart. Also, thank you for keeping us SG junkies in the loop.

  2. I am an older listener and I love the progressive sounds of new southern Gospel such as Brian Free. I love Joseph`s new CD and have been downloading it. I don`t understand Joseph taking a shot at Southern Gospel declining when even the grammys say its looking up. Maybe it would be better to lift up all forms of "Gospel" music. It may even help sales.

  3. I don't think Joseph was taking a shot. I think he was acknowledging a reality. Most of the SG groups that get recognition and attention have a progressive element.

    Lauren, I'm really liking your work here. You have quickly becoming a must read for SG fans. I've actually written Enlighten and asked them to add you to their "News and Views" page. You've got something great going and more people need to see it.

  4. I don't think Joseph was trying to take a shot at Southern Gospel either. I think a lot of artists would say the same, worried that the genre is declining. In talking to him, Joseph's heart is in wanting to see the music succeed and help it gain more fans and reach more people.

    Thanks so much JSR for your kind comments!!! You don't know how much it means!!

  5. Thanks Shem! I really enjoyed getting to talk to him!

  6. I loved reading this interview! He definitely just seems real and transparent, which is something I think some times you don't get with artists. Like he said, a lot of times he was more concerned with how he looked or how he appeared to others. I can see how that can be when you're always one stage. I'm so glad that he understands what it's all about!


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