Chris Howland has been in the music scene as a music producer, singer, and songwriter for over a decade. His story of salvation is one that is quite striking, and his honesty about his walk in the industry is inspiring. Chris has collaborated with artists like Dream Records’ Joel Vaughn, and also, Spencer Kane. He also has a new single out, Way Up. Chris took the time to discuss his personal journey with us today. Take a look below!
Miranda ~ Hello Chris! Delighted to have you visit TBAP today! Please tell us a bit about yourself.
Chris: Hey! So I’ll attempt to describe myself in a super brief way: I’m a Christian music producer from New Jersey. I’ve been married to my dear wife, Dani, for just over 2 years. She and I attend a lovely church down by the Jersey Shore called Grace Bible Church. God has been exceedingly good to me in providing me with a great wife, a great church, and the ability to make music as a bonus on top!
Miranda ~ Is there a special story on how you became a Christian? Please tell us!
Chris: This is a wild story. My Christian walk began in a cheap, drug- and alcohol-filled motel room at the Jersey Shore during prom weekend! Let me explain.
I had been raised in a Christian home and made a profession of faith at 5. But during my teen years, I didn’t show any evidence that I was actually a Christian. I pursued sin with very little restraint, all the while maintaining some vague acknowledgement that God was real, even though my sinful behavior did not reflect what I claimed to believe.
But in the depths of my sin, God suddenly made Himself very real to me during this one weekend. I went down to the Jersey Shore with a bunch of friends to do what teenagers do during prom weekend: party. We checked into a cheap motel and just went nuts drinking and smoking weed. I woke up the next day with a gross hangover and decided to take a walk to the store by myself. During this walk, God very simply began to gently confront me with the reality of who He was. My conscience was suddenly being stirred and awakened, and by the time I got back to the motel room, I felt compelled to hide myself away in the bathroom to pray.
Some very distinct things happened in that prayer. I felt sorrow for my sin, gratitude for His mercy, and love for God. I remember just saying the words, “I’m sorry,” “Thank You,” and, “I love You,” over and over again. As I prayed these simple prayers, I suddenly felt the overwhelming sense that God actually loved me. The thought of God actually loving me brought me to tears of joy like I had never known before. I stepped out of that bathroom as a different person. God had met with me, and life was never the same from that moment on. I came home from that prom weekend with a strong appetite to read my Bible and learn about God. He called me out of a dark place and began to really change my heart. In Mark 2:17, Jesus says, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Miranda ~ You’ve been fascinated with music since you were little. What led you to choose the Christian industry over the mainstream?
Chris: Well, I’ve always loved making and listening to electronic music, and after I got saved, it became clear to me that there really wasn’t a lot of Christian electronic music out there. So I really just wanted to make music in the kind of genres that I (and people like me) enjoyed, but with words that were edifying and coming from a Christian world-view.
Miranda ~ Your song, I Got You, what inspired the music and the lyrics?
Chris: I Got You happened in collaboration with Spencer Kane after many emails were exchanged! I had heard his voice and really loved it, so I reached out to see if he’d be interested in working on something. I sent him a few different instrumentals and songs that I had written, but nothing really stuck. So I had this one other instrumental idea that I was working on which didn’t have any lyrics yet, so I sent it over to him and we decided that he’d just start writing to that one from scratch. Some weeks passed by, and I almost thought the song wasn’t going to happen. But then he texted me with a rough voice demo of him singing some lyrics and it was like, “Ok, dude. This is awesome and totally worth the wait; let’s record this!” So we booked some studio time with an amazing engineer in Nashville named David Thulin. And several weeks later, the song was mixed and released.
Miranda ~ Songwriting that tells one’s story requires a degree of vulnerability. With this in mind, when do you know you’re ready to tell your story and write it into a song?
Chris: I think the fact that I’m a producer really influences the way I approach songwriting. I’ll usually start with creating the music first, and then I’ll just sit with the music and think, “What kind of lyrical theme would suit this music?” For me, the music occurs first, and then I just spend time singing and brainstorming on what kind of ideas this piece of music brings out of me. And honestly, a lot of the times I just send song ideas to vocalists and let them run with it for the lyrics! So the singer will be the storyteller, while I just give them the musical backdrop to articulate their own ideas.
Miranda ~ How has your perspective changed since joining the industry—any particular mind-shifting experience? How has this experience affected you personally? How has it drawn you closer to God?
Chris: God has used this season to expose a lot of sin in me. I’ve seen myself grow anxious trying to deliver, perform, and be “good enough” at making music. I’ve seen myself desire validation from others. I’ve seen how many bad motives creep in to being an artist, even in the Christian world. It’s been very sobering to see a glimpse into my own wicked heart. I’ve noticed that it’s very easy to be distracted by music—how selfish ambitions like to hide themselves under the disguise of “I’m just making music for God”…I can attempt to fool people into thinking I’m doing music for purely noble reasons, but God knows my true motives, and if I do this for applause—for self-glorification—then music is essentially a waste of my time and a snare to me. The words of Jesus have been magnified to me when He asked, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” I try to apply that to myself in asking, “What does it profit me to succeed with music if my prayer life is being hindered by the amount of time I spend in the studio?” It’s just been eye-opening. The cares of this world can choke out the Word if we’re not careful. Woe to me if I love the musical gift, but neglect the very God who gave me the gift. Being in this industry has definitely forced me to examine myself more with regards to this.
Miranda ~ What has been your biggest struggle in your ministry and in the industry?
Chris: That’s really my main struggle, just making sure I don’t let myself lose focus and get carried away with trying to be “successful” in this industry. I have to try and habitually surrender my career to God. When my heart starts drifting off and being overly anxious about finishing up good music, I gotta just remember that it’s all in His hands, and that He wants my heart more than He wants my “results.”
Miranda ~ What do you have to say about the popular perception about the music industry in regards to money, hard work and fame?
Chris: I can only speak from my own limited experience, but what I can say is that, it’s been a massive amount of work, but not necessarily a massive amount of money…so anyone who is very invested in this line of work is likely doing it because they really love music, and believe that it has merit, which extends far beyond how much money or fame it can earn!
Miranda ~ Did your journey turn out the way you expected that it would?
Chris: Ten years ago, if you’d told me I’d STILL be making music, I don’t think I’d be surprised, because I love it enough to go ANOTHER ten years. So in that respect, my journey makes sense to me. But if you showed me all the other details of how it has unfolded, I think it would all definitely be way different than I expected a decade ago.
Miranda ~ What advice would you offer to a person who’s just starting out in the music industry?
Chris: I would say do NOT do this unless you are truly passionate about it. Be extremely patient. It’s going to take a long time. Don’t go alone. Get help and mentorship from someone who you respect. Get honest feedback from people who are better than you. And most importantly, I would echo Paul’s words in 1 Timothy 4:7, “Discipline yourself for the purpose of Godliness.” Develop a daily habit of prayer and reading the Bible. Music will demand a lot of your time and energy, but don’t let yourself get so busy that you fail to seek God. Jesus said, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
THIS OR THAT (THE FUN QUESTIONS!)
Coffee or Tea? Coffee, definitely.
Gym or Outdoor? Gym! I’m a gym rat 🙂
Boots or Sneakers? Sneakers
Walking or Running? Walking. I hate cardio. Haha!
Fruit or Cereal? Cereal, if I’m gonna be real about it.
Movies or Books? Movies based on books. Haha!
TV or Magazine? Neither!
Summer or Spring? Summer for life.
Rain or Snow? Rain, because Jersey winters are brutal.
Blazer or Leather jacket? Leather jacket. Because of the Fonz.
ABOUT CHRIS HOWLAND
Starting his young musical fascinations at age 10, Chris Howland released his first EP titled Listen Up. Finding inspiration in house, electro, and many other scenes, Chris has become a new artist to watch in the EDM world. His new song, Savior, which features Dream Records artist, Joel Vaughn, and his song, I Got You (feat. Spencer Kane), further prove the point that he is one to watch. His new single, Way Up, features up and coming artists, CASS and Sajan Nauriyal, and his upcoming release, I’ll Remember This, features Dream Records artist, Matthew Parker.
*This interview was exclusive to To Be A Person (TBAP).