Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. ----Psalm 51:12
There's something so incredibly special about the moment you first believe; when Jesus comes into your heart and your life is forever changed. That moment when salvation soaks into your soul and the joy is nearly unspeakable. It's been nearly two decades since Brandon Heath experienced that joy as a teenager, and he recaptures it powerfully in his album No Turning Back.
"2015 is the 20th anniversary of that experience and that decision," says Heath. "I was thinking about the joy of my salvation and how I could really write a record about that. That's where I started shifting all of my creative energy, writing songs about who I was then and what made me ultimately decide to let Jesus into my life. No Turning Back is retelling the story. I wanted to capture the moment that I met the Lord---the rush of feeling and believing that my life was going to be different."
The young Nashville native is an established storyteller with a lengthy list of achievements. He earned the Gospel Music Association's Dove Award in 2008 for Best New Artist and fulfilled that early promise by garnering numerous other accolades including two consecutive Doves for Male Vocalist (2009 and 2010), Song of the Year and Pop/Contemporary Song of the Year for "Give Me Your Eyes" (2009). Heath has received five Grammy nomincations, won an Emmy Award, and most recently won BMI's songwriter of the year for 2014. Three previous albums have landed in the top ten, and he's scored four No. 1 hit singles---"Give Me Your Eyes," "Wait and See," "I'm Not Who I Was," and "Your Love." In 2013, he released Christmas is Here, which became an instant holiday classic, that went on to win a Dove Award for Christmas album of the year.
The reason for Heath's success is easy to understand. It starts with a compelling voice that has a warm, rich tone and Heath has a gift for penning songs from a deep well of personal experience, yet they are universal in their appeal. His honesty and transparency resonates with believers of all ages, genders and cultures. On No Turning Back Heath showcases his songwriting, celebrating the decision that changed his life.
"I heard the gospel for the first time at Young Life's Malibu Club in Canada," Heath says. "Every night they share a little more of the Gospel, and by the end of the week, I told my Young Life leader that I thought that I wanted to have a more active and intimate relationship with Jesus. So that's where I made that decision." The title track commemorates that powerful moment in Heath's life. Featuring the duo All Sons & Daughters, "No Turning Back" is already soaring up the charts. "Fans of Christian music love anthems that make a statement of faith," Heath says, noting the inspiration for the song came when he was talking to All Sons & Daughters' Leslie Jordan and David Leonard about the camp where he was saved.
"You stand in front of everybody and tell them that you've become a believer. I was thinking about that moment and David said, 'Oh man, that reminds me of that old hymn, "I Have Decided To Follow Jesus."' I wasn't familiar with it, but they played it for me. And I said, 'Let's re-do that song and kind of contemporize it a little bit.' So we made a new version of it."
"No Turning Back" gives listeners their first taste of Heath's sixth album, a record that not only celebrates the anniversary of his salvation, but also reflects his new status as a married man with the light-hearted love song "Girl of My Dreams," which he wrote for his new wife Siebe.
The bulk of the album was produced by Ed Cash, which in a way felt full circle for Heath. "I started talking to Ed about doing this record and reminiscing about when I met him when he was the camp musician at a Young Life camp that year I became a Christian," Heath recalls. "The sound of his voice and his music has always been a soundtrack for when I first believed, and I really wanted to capture the emotion of that time." "S.O.S." is a poignant ballad, written by Cash, that captures the teenage angst and confusion Heath felt before his conversion. "I have never recorded a song on one of my records - aside from a Christmas record - that I didn't write," Heath relates. "But Ed wrote that song for high school kids. He wrote it to sing at camp and I thought it captured where I was at the time, as a teenager. So I thought, 'This has to go on the record!' Ed is really close to that song and he tried to record it a few other times and it just wasn't panning out. So I just put my vocal on it and owned it. And Ed loved it!" The song reflects how Heath and many teens feel. "You start to really see the brokenness of the world, and you're not as protected as you were as a kid," Heath confesses. "All of a sudden you feel alone in a turbulent world and you're trying to figure everything out as best you can. So many teenagers are desperately looking for something. Some of us along the way find God and realize that He's made us and He understands what we need."
Heath also serves up the beautiful worship song, "Behold Our God" written with Matt Maher, and the thought-provoking "Everything Must Go," which calls for a return to a simpler life. Throughout No Turning Back, Heath makes bold declarations about faith in such songs as the opening track "One Way to Heaven." "I wrote that one with Ross Copperman and Lee Thomas Miller," he says. "It's really the fundamentals: there's only one way to heaven, and that's through Jesus," Heath states matter-of-factly. "We wrote that song in an afternoon and we did a demo. I think that it's cool to just start with the fundamentals. If you've ever believed that you earn your way to heaven by good deeds and works, you're wrong. All these myths about stairways and highways are wrong. There's no other way to heaven than Jesus. So just putting it plainly is cool."
Another highlight of No Turning Back is "When I was Young," a song that captures the childlike faith we all try to hold onto over the years. "It's important to preserve that innocence and whimsy that you had as a kid. God loves that," Heath says with a smile. "At the very end, I wanted it to say, 'Each night I'd say my prayers and He was there. I slept so well.' I think ultimately that's a great lesson because I don't sleep well sometimes because the evil one comes to visit me in my sleep and he tells me lies and I get really anxious. I think that it's important to preserve our innocence."
In a life filled with awards and accomplishment, love and marriage, and so many other blessings, recording No Turning Back took Brandon Heath back to his greatest turning point of all---the start of his personal relationship with Jesus. And he's hoping these songs will take others back to that joy, as well. "I hope that they remember that moment when Jesus came into their life," he says. "And that they remember that they're on a journey and see how faithful God has been to them since that day. I hope people can re-live that and the same thing happens to them. I hope their joy is restored and that they remember their salvation and just see how present God is in our lives. When He says we are a new creation, He means it. The old is gone. The new has come and there's no turning back."