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Entertainment Scoop ~ Interview with Music Artist Duo, Cliff & Antoinette Murray

Meet the Murrays! They are quite the amazing couple with a beautiful and inspiring story that mirrors the purpose of TBAP. They’ve been through so much individually and as a couple, and have come out together stronger with a testimony which displays the awesome goodness of God, the wonder of marriage, and the beauty of church community done right. Cliff and Antoinette released their album, self-titled, April 20th, this year (read the TBAP review here), and stopped by on TBAP to tell their amazing story—a story that could move anyone to tears, touching on love, redemption, healing, marriage, church, and family! Take a look!

Miranda ~ Hello! Delighted to have you visit TBAP today. Please tell us a bit about yourselves. Also, how did you become Christians? Tell us your story!

Cliff: Greetings in Jesus’ mighty name. Thank you for reaching out and for your kind review of our album! I’m from Corona, CA, but was born in Ohio. A pastor’s kid, I grew up in church and my earliest memories include felt board bible stories and church pot lucks. Somewhere along the way, I drifted from God through my teenage years. And by the time I got to college, though I didn’t know it, I was plagued with wrong mindsets; strongholds. The enemy of our souls prowls like a lion seeking to devour us as Scripture says. I truly became born again a few years ago when the Lord, by His Spirit, grabbed me and pulled me out of the darkness that had crept into my heart and poisoned my life and marriage. Unrepentant sin and unresolved hurt, no matter how far back in your life it goes, and no matter how far down you may think you’ve hidden it in your heart, never goes away, and even has a crippling effect over time. Jesus basically told me, “Enough is enough, no more going through the motions of church and aimlessly moving through this life bound up by strongholds! I have work for you to do!!! Let’s go!!!”

There is, of course, much more to the story, but that’s the short version. I have known Jesus my entire life. Three years ago, He pulled me out of the darkness, and into His fellowship and into His reality. He filled me with a fresh infilling of the Spirit, and began pulling down the high places and strongholds in my life and my heart. Gave me Kingdom perspective. Showed me that nothing I could ever do would save me or bring me back in good standing with God, but that Jesus did it all already on the cross. I just needed to yield my heart and mind to Him. See, that’s how the enemy works. He uses self-doubt, condemnation, and the subtle twisting of God’s truth to get us to relinquish our Jesus-given, Jesus-won power and authority to overcome, and then sits back to watch us writhe in our confusion and pain. The devil only has the power over us that we yield to him. In the throes of life, it can be easy to forget that if we resist the devil in the power and authority of Jesus Christ, the devil will flee!

Antoinette: Hello! Thank you so much for having us! I grew up surrounded by music and church! My dad was a pastor and my mom a worship leader. We moved a lot. But, we were in southern California most of my childhood. I had an encounter with God through the Holy Spirit when I was very young, around 6 years old. I was baptized when I was 9. I remember coming up from the water and being filled with so much joy. I asked my parents if I could do it again! They said, “No need.” There were things in my life and family that got shaken, and it gave way to confusion and a time where I was a bit lost. The Lord was very faithful to me during that time and really led me towards peace and away from chaos.

Miranda ~ When/how did the two of you meet, when did music become a part of you and, what led to the two of you deciding to go professional together instead of individually?

Cliff: We met in college through a mutual friend. And for me, it was love at first sight. Actually, the first time I met Antoinette, something stirred deep in my spirit as though my soul had found something it was missing, or rather was created to be with. It was like, in meeting her, my spirit said, “Oh! It’s you!” She was the one precious thing I didn’t even know my heart was yearning for, until the moment we met. Our relationship would later begin to grow during a season we both committed to do a musical at the school—during rehearsals, in the stairwells, talking and singing, and just getting to know each other.

As far as music, we both grew up playing and singing in church. And when we met, we were both writing and performing. Actually, we quickly discovered that writing music together was not very easy and was often a no go…that’s a different story! The beautiful thing now is that this EP we just released is really the first time she and I have written and collaborated together musically on original stuff in a significant way. It’s our testimony of the power of God’s redemptive love and reality in our marriage. As far as deciding to do this whole thing together, we were encouraged by many people at New Hope Oahu, where we consider our home church—that there was an anointing on each of us, but it was stronger when we moved and ministered together. It became clear that it was what the Lord had assigned for us to do all along; minister to Him and for Him, together. It took a number of tough years, and some major prayer, breakthrough, and deliverance for me to finally “get it.” For so many years, I was just kind of coasting through life, secretly crippled by shame and self-hate, just waiting for something to happen. You can’t hate yourself and love your family well! That’s why we gotta see ourselves the way God sees us! He is stoked about us! So many people relate to God as though He is an easily disappointed Dad. If that were true, then Jesus died for nothing!!! The wrath of God was satisfied in the death of the spotless Lamb, and we can come to the Father in Jesus name no matter what we have done or thought, and our Heavenly Father is ready to forgive and build up His kids! We just gotta let Him!

Antoinette: I met Cliff at our University. At the time, I was writing music and playing any place that I could. I was always looking for more musicians to play along with me! I led worship for one of the chapels at our university. Cliff was playing guitar! I thought, “Dang! He’s cute and he plays the guitar!” We exchanged numbers, but then completely forgot about each other for an entire year! We reconnected when a mutual friend directed a musical that we were both cast in.  I thought he was even cuter and couldn’t help but try to get his attention. It worked! Eleven years and two babies later, I definitely got his attention! I think I’m doing a good job of keeping it as well. 🙂

My Mom is an extremely gifted musician. She showed me the ropes on the piano and threw me into situations where I would need to sing. I would say, music became a part of me when playing the piano, and singing became a practice. Something about the two combined for me makes me feel like I’m really alive. It’s an experience and an expression. It’s a really powerful thing in my life. I worked professionally in the session world on and off from my childhood, and into our marriage. Cliff and I have led worship together since we were dating. We even did an alternative rock project. Songwriting was very personal for Cliff and I, so coming together and writing proved to be a challenge for most of our relationship. We bumped heads and it was painful instead of joyful. That is what is so amazing about all that has transpired in the last year. There has been so much healing between Cliff and I through this whole thing. We both needed deep healing and the unexpected side effect of actually successfully writing together is delightful.

Miranda ~ Your music is laced with urban and classic styles, as well as a bit of semi-accapella. What inspires your style of music and, what do you hope to achieve with it?

Cliff: I grew up in church, but the first music I learned how to play after learning chords and simple worship songs, was classic rock of the 60’s and 70’s. I love soulful vocals, big guitar tones, melodic bass lines, and grooving drums. That music had its roots in African-American music. Ever since I can remember, I’ve been deeply moved by African-American music, especially gospel and blues. It’s music that comes from the soul. An example of a current group that wrecks me in this genre is a group called Soul Seekers. I mean, come on!!! Music that comes from the soul and not just from the brain is intoxicating and has influenced the way I perform today. Church choirs and contemporary worship music have all been a big part of my musical development as well. A huge shout out to Bethel Music Collective. What an incredible impact they are having right now. There is major revival going on. God is moving. Time to turn off the news and tune into the kingdom!

When we started this project together, we both had the strong desire to have a piece of New Hope Oahu in the album, so we were blessed to have Scotty Mearig produce the album and co-write with us; you can hear his influences in the arrangements as well.

As far as our hopes for this album, we want to see hearts turned back to Jesus. We want to see strongholds broken in Jesus’ name. We want to steward the words and music He put in our hearts, and for that message to be heard around the world!

Antoinette: I love this question!!! When I was quite young, I loved Whitney Houston and I also loved Lauren Hill. I have always really enjoyed singer-songwriter music, folk music, and R&B.  When I went to college and majored in music, I was drawn to more pure-sounding music, but also gravitated toward alternative. I love expression and creativity in music. Music has a way of changing our mindset. We can be in one place emotionally, and then be immediately transported to another place through a song. My hope with the music we write is to redeem it back to its purpose. I am one that believes that music that comes from God’s people is not subpar. We have access to heavenly things and we pray that God’s will is done here on earth as it is in heaven. I think setting our minds on the things of God and creating music from that place is a powerful life-changing tool. I hope people will be ushered into God’s presence and His will, and hear His voice through the music we create. I hope He’s worshiped and filled with joy when He hears our music.

Miranda ~ You’ve spoken of a time when God healed the two of you personally, and also, your marriage. Elaborate more on this. What do you hope other couples will take away from your story?

Cliff: When Antoinette and I met, I knew instantly that she was going to be my wife. I know it sounds crazy, but it’s true. The problem at that time, though, was that my heart had been wrapped up in some major failures just prior to meeting her. The result of that was shame and guilt that I mistakenly thought I could push way down inside and never have to deal with again. That speaks to the state of my relationship with Jesus and the dire spiritual state my heart was in at the time. In the midst of that, I could see our future together, and I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was to marry this beautiful girl. I don’t want to spend too much time thinking about how different things should have gone because, we can’t turn back time. I will say this: what I hope and pray for my kids is that when they are standing in front of the person they are going to marry one day, they are plugged into a Holy Spirit-filled/led community of faith that they love and trust to guide them through the process. I think so many couples, and we inclusive at the time, underestimate the lasting impact that unrepentant and unresolved sexual sin will undoubtedly have on a brand new marriage. That’s where I failed my wife, and that’s why there were some very dark and hopeless years early in our marriage. When I was going through public school, there was an outrageous level of sexuality already happening among students in the form of pornographic material, elicit movies, music industry, etc. It blows my mind that somehow it all has gotten so much worse. My heart breaks for kids right now. Exposure to these things begins so young now, and these little kids have access to stuff from such a young age, and then are left to just deal with the trauma of being exposed to it all so young. It’s everywhere. Netflix, YouTube, internet, prime time tv shows, popular music. The list goes on and on. Thankfully, all hope is NOT lost in this area. And if anyone reading this finds themselves in a similar situation, then know that God is ready and waiting for you to simply surrender. He can and will restore your heart and your mind. If your Community of faith leaves you feeling riddled with guilt and causes you to spend a lot of time thinking about how sinful you are, then get out of there and search out the presence of God somewhere else.

When we get baptized and come into faith in Jesus, the Bible says that our old man has been buried with Christ. It’s dead. We are now risen with Christ and are no longer slaves to sin. The power of God’s love through His Spirit literally gives us power to overcome sin and temptation. The devil wants you to believe that you will always sin until you die. Be careful to read the chapters before and after any given passage because context is king as my father always said. The reason this is all so important is that, this was the cycle I was stuck in for so long. Rife with guilt, feeling powerless to change, and believing that God was disappointed and bummed about me, I was just dead in sin, hopeless, and powerless to change and get back into “Good standing” with God. There is a theology out there that reinforces this cycle of self-hate, and it was a theology I was steeped in during those college years. Paul reminds us to be careful of doctrine that becomes to us a “license to immorality.” If we believe that we are not changed after we receive Jesus in that we are doomed to go on sinning because we are still trapped in our flesh, then what did Jesus die for exactly? If we can’t overcome sin once we are “born again”, then we stay trapped in a cycle of sin, unable to break out. This spiritual “naval-gazing” becomes to us a license to immorality in that, before we are tempted, we have already conceded in our minds that we will always struggle with sin until we make it to heaven. I am utterly convinced now that this is a lie from Satan. The whole reason Jesus died and conquered death was that God’s wrath would be satisfied forever. God’s righteous judgment was satisfied in Jesus’ death, allowing God’s perfect mercy in grace to wash over us. God is stoked about us! He loves us!!! And when Jesus ascended, God’s Spirit was sent as our Helper and Teacher! This reality came crashing into my life one evening when the Holy Spirit overcame the enemy in my life and literally pulled me down on to my knees as I confessed everything from my past that I had kept hidden from Antoinette. Her reaction was to draw close to me in love and support me: the opposite of what I feared would happen, and thus had been crippled by that fear for so long. It’s absurd how long I waited to tell her things she should have known and processed prior to getting married. The following years at New Hope Oahu were a season of restoration, frustration, hurts, healings, deliverance, and step by step rebuilding of a marriage. We are still in process today. Each day is an opportunity to draw near to Jesus and watch Him minister to my family. I hope that anyone reading this will come away encouraged or challenged in their faith, and be inspired to press into Jesus in every area of their life. He died for all of us, not just our mind or our heart; every part of us. Mind, soul, body, spirit. In a culture and society that values being “open” to anything, my prayer for everyone is that they only be open to the Holy Spirit in the name of Jesus Christ. Our Father has said He would give us more if we just ask Him! Ask! Allow God’s Spirit to move and function in our lives to do the work of sanctification and restoration that He desires to do.

Antoinette: Cliff’s answer is great! For me, I can see when I look back that old things fought to win in our lives the way they had in the past. Thank you, Jesus. They lost. We are still on a healing journey. And we are actually healing and changing. It’s quite astounding.

Miranda ~ When you decided to go professional, what events orchestrated your meeting with GM, Lance Brown, of DREAM Records?

Cliff: Our vision was to bring a piece of New Hope Oahu with us when we left the island to move to California. Actually, Antoinette was the first one to push for us to get a worship project recorded in order to take with us the triumph and testimony of our time at New Hope. The Lord desires for us to be partnered with Him as a team, writing and singing His words wherever we go. Her vision became our vision, and we worked quickly to pull together all the ideas God had given us to get them recorded in the studio. With the help of our producer, Scotty Mearig, this vision became a reality. Along the way, Dave Hanley, president of Dream Label Group, who our church has done a number of incredible worship albums with, heard about what we were working on through our producer, Scotty Mearig. As we neared the end of production on the album, Dave approached us about working with DREAM to release our EP. It was beautiful. We spoke over the phone with Dave and everyone quickly realized that we were on the same page and in unity of spirit about moving forward. This was the point in the journey where we were introduced to Lance Brown, and here we find ourselves, months after our official release. It’s been such a move of God. A core foundation of our vision has been the mandate from God for us to take these songs into places where people are forgotten about: orphans, widows, people in prison, etc. We are already seeing these tracks going into those situations and we are just beginning! There’s a hunger for Jesus, for truth, and for the power of the work of the cross and we are so excited to be a part of what God is already doing all over the world. He is in the redeeming business and there’s much work to do!

Antoinette: Cliff’s answer!

Miranda ~ What are the principles that guide your songwriting process, and also, your choice of lyrics? When do you know you’ve finished a song?

Cliff: For me, the songwriting process nearly always begins with something I hear in my mind first. For instance, I’ll be listening to a teacher minister the gospel, and the presence of the Lord is heavy and I’m having personal revelation, or breakthrough, and then bam! There’s a melody right there in my mind, often accompanied by some words or a theme. From time to time, an entire song will just come pouring out; but a lot of the times, it’s a taste of the heart of God in that moment, followed by days or weeks of coming back to that thought or idea, and just working with the Holy Spirit to bring the rest of the song into being. I have a theory that the closer I get to Jesus, the more I press into Him, the easier these songs will come together. That’s because I really feel that it’s important for these songs now to be totally inspired by the Spirit of the Lord. I spent too many years writing music in a state of depression and darkness, and many haunting melodies and songs came out of that. I only want to write the songs on His Heart now!

As far as finishing a song goes, that is really a discipline I am exploring now. I think I’m leaning these days on the side of, “simpler is better,” especially when I want people to really connect with a song’s message. It’s about facilitating worship, not drawing too much attention to myself or to clever songwriting…I mean, there is definitely a time and place for a well-placed guitar solo, or vocal melisma, or powerful musical break; all of that can inspire and invite people to passionately let go before the Lord in worship, which is so important. I guess I am saying that I’m at a place where songwriting and process is very much there, but takes a backseat to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Antoinette: Songwriting is an interesting thing. For me the different elements come in different ways. Sometimes a piano progression takes life, sometimes a melody sings in my head as a starting point, and sometimes I have to create something from nothing. When it comes to writing worship, devotions and bathing in the Word of God is the only place for me. The Word of God is alive, and reading it and soaking it in helps clarify my mind so ideas and thoughts can take shape. It’s so interesting that you would ask how we know a song is finished. That’s tough to know. For me, it’s a feeling of satisfaction. That doesn’t always happen. As a matter of fact, it happens less often than I would like! Timelines and deadlines can really influence when a song is done! 😉 But the beauty of live performance and collaboration is that, it makes it possible for evolution and new perspectives on a song.

Miranda ~ Considering the work and pressure that come with being artists in the music industry, what rules have the two of you laid down to stay grounded?

Cliff: Rules for us are simple. Our job is to faithfully tell the story of Jesus. Our individual relationships with the Father through His Spirit are of paramount importance. That sets the stage for everything else in our lives: our marriage, our kids, our future.

Antoinette: The only reason we are where we are is because of God. I think we’ve tasted both the goodness of God and the bitterness of the world. We have tools (devotions, community, etc.) that keep us tied to reality. But also, we have a heart for the forgotten. I think this whole thing is so that the forgotten will be remembered and cared for. We’ve felt a shaky marriage, and it’s just not worth it to us to sacrifice our family and our marriage for whatever the world would have for us. The degree of success is completely in the hands of God. I’m excited to see what He has planned. Also, there really is a beauty in having a peaceful, sweet family. Many think kids and family are a chain, but man, I’m experiencing sweetness and beauty. Family is so worth whatever it costs.

Miranda ~ At a time when there’s the tendency to want to be like or compete with mainstream, how do you stay grounded and continue to preach God’s Word through your music?

Cliff:  I think for us, mainstream production is merely an inroad to bring the Gospel of Jesus to more people. The content will never change, but the delivery of that content is not as important to me. If a “radio-friendly” production of a song means that it touches more lives, then I’m all for it. Of course, we each have our musical backgrounds and flavors that inspire us, but these days it really comes down to where God is moving and what our job today is to get this message to the hurting, the sick, the oppressed, and the ones feeling abandoned.

Antoinette: These questions are awesome!!!! Staying grounded is connected to our fellowship with the living God.  If we can know Him, walk with Him, listen to Him, do the things He says to do, then we will stay grounded. If we lose sight of Him, we’ll lose our way. The temptation may come, but my prayer is that our passionate love for God and, His grace and love for us, will keep this whole thing on track as He’s decided it will be.

Miranda ~ What are the two of you most grateful for individually and as a couple, right now and generally?

Cliff: I’m so thankful that Jesus loves me, that He advocates for me, that the old man is totally dead, and that my wife is still here, and we are entering into this new season of restoration and adventure together. And our kids are just beautiful. They are grace every day I wake up to them. God is so, so good.

Antoinette: Personally, I am so thankful that it’s all TRUE! God’s been telling us the truth. We don’t have to worry about tomorrow and what we will wear and what we will eat and drink. I’m grateful that I can rest in Jesus. Together, we are thankful to not be alone trying to figure out how to maneuver the next moves. He’s with us and totally speaking to us! It’s awesome. We are so amazingly thankful for our amazing children. They are gifts and joys to our lives. We are thankful to have them.

Miranda ~ What advice would you offer to a couple looking to go into the music industry to sing for God?

Cliff: We Need the Holy Spirit. Before starting anything today, stop and run to Jesus. He only did what the Father gave for Him to do, and He did it all by the power and authority of the Holy Spirit. If Jesus needed the Spirit of God on the earth, how much more we. God has work for each of us to do in His kingdom. And through His Spirit, He will guide us each into that destiny, and into the will of God in Christ Jesus.

Antoinette: My advice would be to cultivate a relationship with God individually and as a team. Spend time with Him, and listen to how He speaks and watch where He moves. Don’t forsake serious date nights and date weekends. Stay in love with each other. Also, have a team of people that will pray for you, love you, and propel you toward your destiny in our God here on earth, and then forever in heaven.

This or That

Coffee or Tea? Cliff: Coffee!!! Antoinette: BOTH! French press with whole milk or chai tea!

Gym or Outdoor? Cliff: outside, every time. Antoinette: Gym, when you just gotta get it in! But, prefer outdoor…

Running or walking? Cliff: Running. Antoinette: Running!

Juice or smoothie? Cliff: Juice, then smoothie! 🙂 Antoinette: Juice!

Salad or fruit? Cliff: Salad with tons of fresh fruit! Antoinette: Fruit!

Movies or Books? Cliff: Movies. Antoinette: Books

Vanilla or Chocolate? Cliff: Vanilla. Antoinette: Chocolate (most of the time)

Summer or Spring? Antoinette: Spring. Cliff: Agreed. Spring.

Rain or Snow? Antoinette: Heavy rain. Cliff: SNOW!!! 🙂

Blazer or Leather Jacket? Cliff: T-shirt, jeans, flip-flops. Antoinette: Neither!

About the Murrays

Cliff and Antoinette Murray currently reside with their kids in San Diego, California. Cliff is a military musician and Antoinette is a singer, songwriter, director, and private music instructor with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music from California Baptist University. Having both been raised in music ministry from a young age, Cliff and Antoinette have continued in that calling together, leading churches from southern California to the Northwest, to the island of Oahu.

In 2017, while serving with Frontlines worship ministry at New Hope Oahu, they experienced breakthrough and healing in their hearts and marriage by the power of the Holy Spirit that continues to transform and realign their faith, marriage, and vision for the future.

With the help of producer and co-writer, Scotty Mearig, and the team at DREAM worship, Cliff and Antoinette released their debut album, a testimony of God’s grace and power in their lives. The desire of their hearts is to see these songs of praise, victory, hope, and forgiveness facilitate life-changing connection with the living God.