Todd Agnew Pt 1
Singer/songwriter Todd Agnew
will tell you that he is just a guy who keeps walking through the doors
that God opens for him and often downplays his own role in success that
has come to him since the 2003 release of Grace Like Rain. He refers
to the success of the debut album as an accident. He will also tell you
that he never dreamed he would create a second CD Reflection of Something
and in his own words, “A Christmas album was not on the list of my career
to do things.” The first two albums enjoyed artistic and music chart success
and Do You See What I See is destined to become a perennial Christmas
In this the first part of
our conversation with Todd Agnew, The Phantom Tollbooth explores
the musician’s past musical endeavors and the unique way he delivers the
gospel message on Reflection of Something.
Agnew reflects upon his
comment that Grace Like Rain was an accident. “Obviously the album itself
wasn’t an accident, they don’t normally come together like that,” he said.
He intended to record an album but he never imagined it would enjoy the
type of success that it did.
“We went in and recorded
twelve worship songs that we were doing in our worship services. Really,
the intent was to sell it at youth camp and our little things that we did
at churches. That was really all the plan we had for it. I had no intention
to try and get into the industry side of things, on the radio or anything
like that. God just had a bigger plan for it than I did. That’s why I referred
to it as an accident. God just chose to do something bigger with it than
anything that I had planned for that record,” he said.
Even after Ardent Records
approached Agnew and said, ‘We want to sign you to a record deal and release
this album,’ he still dwelt in a somewhat naïve gratefulness. “(I
thought) God just chose to open the door a little bit. We are going to
be able to share this with a few more people and then we will go back to
doing what we did. I had no idea that God was really opening a door for
us to walk into the industry and to stay here for at least a little while,”
The magnitude of what he
was being presented with did not escape Agnew even if he did seem a little
shy about recognizing his own abilities. “It was definitely God doing something
much bigger than we had planned but even bigger than we were capable of.
The success that we have (enjoyed) has been mainly because of the hand
of the Lord on our lives,” said Agnew.
Prior to being signed by
Ardent Records this native of Dallas Texas was an independent artist plying
his craft at youth camps, senior adult breakfasts, coffee houses and clubs.
“I was really happy doing that and expected to keep doing that. I never
really expected to be on the tours, the radio or doing this kind of stuff,”
The approach to Grace Like
Rain was laid back as Agnew explains his thinking at the time, “These are
the twelve songs that we are singing right now. We are going to record
them so you (concert attendees) can take them home when we are done playing.
We were thinking that maybe a few hundred people or a thousand would have
The success of Grace Like
Rain was so unexpected that it prompted sophomore feelings of insecurity
and pressure within Agnew when 2005 rolled up and it became time to record
a second CD. “For the first time (we) were thinking, ‘Hey a lot of people
are going to listen to this. What do we do?” he said, laughing. “What do
we say? What do we need to give to them? It was actually a terrifying process.
The first one was easy and fun but the second one was just a lot of pressure.
Oddly enough the pressure came from me. My label, management and all the
other people were great. They kept saying, ‘Look just lighten up. Everybody
loved the recorded music that you did the first time, just do it again.”
Still, Agnew continued to
question himself. He recalled thinking, “What do I have to do to get them
again? What do I have to say that is so important? The answer to that was
nothing. I am just a normal guy like all the people out there listening.
I just really had to lock in and find what God had to give through this
project.” Agnew discovered as he took this journey that God wanted him
to relate his own life story. The record became a musical biography of
Todd Agnew’s life.
For Agnew, the realization
that a music career can disappear as quickly as it appeared liberated him
musically. He therefore adopted the attitude, “Let’ make the music that
I have always loved. Let’s go back and play an old Memphis blues tune.
Let’s go play an acoustic rock song. Let’s go and experiment in all these
musical forms that I have always loved.”
The record Reflection of
Something became deeply personal. “It was a reflection life wise and musically
of whom I have become,” said Agnew.
The blues tune “New Name”
acts as the vessel for Agnew opening up his life to the listener. “Adoption
is a huge part of my life and I don’t think I ever understood that while
I was growing up. I had to get some perspective and some distance to realize
that it’s not just that I was adopted but it’s that I am an Agnew. My adoption
is important because my family is who I am. That is a huge part of my life,”
Agnew speaks proudly of
his family, “My parents are amazing Christians and great teachers. I am
learning to reflect that in my own life. That is a big part of who I am
and who they raised me to be. For me, it was a story that started being
shared a lot.”
The story of his own adoption,
however, became a real life metaphor for sharing his faith. “It was a real
powerful and simple way to explain the gospel. As I looked at me as a little
baby there was no way that I could earn my way into a family. They don’t
have auditions or anything to get adopted. You get adopted because of who
the parents are. It is because of their character, the choices they make
and the love that they have. It is the same as my relationship with Christ.
I haven’t earned it by doing some great thing or winning some contest.
It is because of whom He is and He loved me that I was able to be a part
of that family. I really started using that story to explain the gospel,”
Agnew said about "New Name,"
“It has given us a real cool way to deal with that subject in environments
where you usually don’t talk about adoption.”
By Joe Montague, exclusive
Joe Montague is an internationally
published journalist / photographer. His ministry is dedicated to the memory
of his late son Kent David Montague who went to heaven at the age of 18.
All copyright and distribution rights remain the property of Joe Montague.