Sunday, May 5, 2024

TNS Interview - Jason Michael Carroll Comes Full Circle On New Gospel Album, Rest My Soul

Nestled within the vibrant tapestry of Nashville's music scene (and beyond in his home in the Carolinas), there's a name that reverberates with a unique resonance: Jason Michael Carroll. With a career spanning nearly two decades, Carroll has solidified his position as a formidable force in country music, weaving tales of love, loss, and redemption with the deftness of a seasoned storyteller. From the release of his debut album Waitin' in the Country in 2007, which garnered critical acclaim and shot him into the limelight, to subsequent chart-topping albums like Growing Up Is Getting Old and Numbers, Carroll has left an indelible mark on the genre. Hits like "Alyssa Lies" and "Livin' Our Love Song" have not only climbed the charts but also etched themselves into the hearts of listeners worldwide, earning him a dedicated fanbase that spans generations.

However, as we sit down to discuss his latest musical venture, Rest My Soul, it's evident that Carroll is embarking on a profoundly personal chapter of his career. Beyond the glitz and glamour of commercial success, he's delving into the depths of his own soul, guided by a newfound sense of purpose and passion. With this gospel album, released on April 25th, 2024, Carroll isn't merely chasing radio hits or industry accolades; he's seeking solace and spiritual fulfillment through the power of music. It's a departure from the conventional path, a journey back to his roots, and a testament to the transformative power of faith and family in his life.

Ken Morton Jr: At this point in the stage of your career, why a gospel album?

Jason Michael Carroll: Well, as you know, with a lot of the changes that I had to make coming up on -- I'm about to have 21 months sober, if the good Lord will, in a few days.

I grew up in a very strict Christian home. My dad found Jesus when I was seven years old. Turns out he was in a trailer parking loop. I remember church immediately. My dad quit drinking, cussing, smoking, all that stuff cold turkey. The only thing he couldn't quit was his temper, and we got to later deal with that with "Alyssa Lies."

But I remember church became an integral part of my upbringing right out the gate. We were there every Sunday, Sunday night, Wednesday night service, and every revival. I mean, we didn't miss a night of revival while we were there unless one of us was sick. Even then, that was an act of God for me to convince my parents I was too sick to go.

But I remember growing up listening to music. It's not the earliest memory I've got, but it was definitely one of those ones where I remember singing those hymns in the congregation and my sister getting carried out because she was acting up in the church service and bouncing behind my dad when he pointed to her, and then moves for her to come follow him as he walked out of the church. And when they came back in, she came back with her head down looking like a cartoon. It's kind of funny, but that was just the way I was raised.

My mom has been begging me to do a gospel record for years. And when my dad died unexpectedly eight years ago this year, it was one of those things where I did not want to regret not doing that for her and kind of getting back to my roots, which is what I started in, singing gospel specials on Sunday. I ran the sound for my dad's church at his second church, Temple Baptist Church in Oxford. I ran the sound. I ran the tapes and the CDs for all the people that were singing their specials. There were times when we were very bare bones, and I would have to run and push play on the cassette player, and then go sing my special and then run back and stop it.

So it was always something that was special to me. And even though I got away from it, when my dad felt the sin in the churches, as they call it, and he quit preaching, he reached out to a lot of pastors in the area for help and needing prayer and needing support, and every one of those pastors in our area turned their back on him. I did not quit going to church. That's how I was raised. I earned the moniker PK, Preacher's Kid, fairly early, but what people don't think about when they say that is what that family saw on the inside of being the preacher's kid and the preacher's family.

So, I got out of church. When Wendy and I had the kids, she was like, "You know what? I want to take the kids to church." I supported that. I thought it was a great thing. Every Sunday that I was home from the road, which is very rare, Wendy would get them ready, and I'd tell the boys how handsome they were and the girls how pretty they were. Then I'd go back to bed.

I remember one Sunday my daughter had come in. I could tell which one it was by the way that she walked with her clogs across the floor. Savannah tapped me on the shoulder and she said, "Daddy, why don't you go to church?" And I took a deep breath, and I said, "I'm getting up." Because I couldn't let my experience be her experience. I still believe that God has some things to do for her and for eventually me with this thing turning around.

So that was the reason. We finished the record two years ago. I know I'm telling you a lot for one question, but we finished the record two years ago. It's been done for two years. I mean, the artwork I finished two years ago. Everything has been finished. And when I would go to my team and ask for help on it, I would say, "Hey, I've got this project that's finished, and it's really special to me. I'd like to put it out." And I'd get the "Well, let's come back to it" or "Let's come up with a budget for it." Unfortunately, with budgets, you've got to get shows to supplement the income that you're living off of, plus the money to build the budget for these things. So, it just never seemed to happen after two years. And I said, you know what? I don't want to regret this. My mom's birthday was the 25th of April, and she turned 70, and so I made that the release date for the gospel record.

KMJ: That's beautiful. Very meaningful. Your story is, I mean, it's kind of like a country song, pal. It's full of fun and redemption and salvation and the kind of timeliness topics that go all the way back to Jimmie Rodgers and all that kind of stuff. How does this kind of fit within the story of Jason Michael Carroll's music catalog?

JMC: Well, you know, I had a fear of singing in front of people growing up. I could sing. My parents always thought I could sing. My mom was always thinking I should do something with it. Until I actually decided to do something with it and then they wanted me to change my mind.

But I remember when I was in the Marine Corps, I sat beside my senior drill instructor. And yes, I sang in church a few times, but I sat beside my senior drill instructor in boot camp. And that night at lights out, I remember he called and said, "Carroll." And I'm thinking, "Okay, I'm in trouble now." "Sir, yes, sir." "Get ahead of my squad bay." "Yes, sir." I run up there in my skivvy. I stand there in front of the squad bay. "Carroll reporting, sir." He said, "You sat beside me in chapel today, Carroll." "Yes, sir." He said, "You sing like [0:06:20] [Indiscernible]. I said, "Thank you, sir." He said, "Sing my hymn." And the reason I knew the Marine Corps hymn at that point was because I was less than a man. I had not earned the title Marine yet. I was lower than the dirt.

The reason that I was able to sing that was because growing up the way I did in a Marine household, my dad was a Marine, and then he became a preacher, so double-whammy, I wound up when my dad would come home from work at night for a sports company. I remember these days, when my mom would have to get on us, I could tell we were in trouble when he would go up the hallway of our trailer, and then I'd hear him stomping back down the hallway of the trailer after he got home from work like 10:00 or 11:00. And if we gave my mom any trouble, we could expect that he would kick the door open and he would say, "Get up." And my brother and I knew that meant put our shorts on, put our tennis shoes on.

We lived in a trailer park in Zebulon, North Carolina. My dad would get in the family station wagon and turn the headlights on bright, and he would lean out the window and run us around the circle driveway of the trailer park, singing Marine Cadence at 10:00 or 11:00 at night until we wore ourselves out. And if we weren't loud enough, then we would do another lap. That's where I learned the Marine hymn growing up before I even thought about becoming a Marine. So doing that kind of thing really brought this whole thing to life. And then growing up and the fact that I sat beside my senior drill instructor in chapel, church service of all things, it just kept coming back around.

Here's the real kicker. I told you this project was done for two years, and I'm not blaming my managers or anybody like this, but God has got a reason. I'm not trying to get super spiritual, but I am in a program now that's helping me realize that I need help with getting through my day-to-day activities without picking up a drink or using and things like that.

So, what I've figured out is that God has a reason for everything He does and everything is in His timing. And even though I finished this record two years ago, I believe that He knew I was still doing my things. I was still living a life that was not reputable to what I'm trying to promote with this album and what the reason I recorded it would have been.

I think that He put that on hold for me to get my life together. I didn't see it coming. This wasn't my decision. When the family quit talking to me and when he left and all of that, for me, that was the beginning of my recovery was me first getting mad, thinking, how dare they leave me alone? This is not fair to me. And then realizing that my life needed to change. That was something that I would not have found on my own.

I do believe that this was all done intentionally. Again, I'm not blaming my managers for not jumping on this work that was done two years ago. If that sounds like that, I apologize. But I really do believe that it was in God's hands because He knew that His time had to happen.

KMJ: That's wild that the music came first and then the change in behavior came second.

JMC: Yeah, yeah. Well, you know, the crazy thing is and just like everything else, one thing I've learned in the program is we have atheists, we have agnostics. This is a definition that I learned. I heard agnostic growing up in church, but never really wrapped my head around what that word meant. Atheists obviously don't believe in God or a higher power.

Agnostic means that you believe in a higher power. You believe He's all powerful. You believe everything that the Bible or whatever spiritual reading that you're reading says about Him. But you're still doing the things that are contrary to what you say you believe, and that's agnostic. That was something that I definitely was, and I would not have categorized myself that way before I learned this in the program.

KMJ: Fascinating. Any favorite songs, any tunes on there that are more meaningful than any others on there?

JMC: Oh, lots of them, man. Everything on here was picked intentionally. My grandmother loved the song "Old Rugged Cross," and I sang that at my aunt's funeral. My aunt is the same lady who ran away when I was a child, I think one or two.

I think I've told this story before where I grew up in a house where we prayed for this lady every day. She ran away from an abusive husband. What I didn't understand was she left her kids with him. She disappeared. My uncle, who served three tours in Vietnam, tracked her down to Birmingham, Alabama, which is why the song "Postmarked Birmingham" means so much to me. It still brings tears to my eyes if I hear it.

But then, 16 years later, we were at my grandmother's house for Christmas. The phone rings, and it's this lady calling and asking to speak to Frances. I knew my grandmommy's name was Frances. And I gave the phone and saw my grandma's face change when she was talking to her daughter she hadn't spoken to in 16 years, which is also why we recorded the song "Hurry Home," which meant the world to me when I heard that demo. So that's "Old Rugged Cross."

The song "Rest My Soul," which is the title track, really spoke to me in our church services, even with me out there doing the life that I had and living the life I was living. I was still drinking and using. I was making bad decisions. This song hit me in so many ways.

Everything on here has a reason why I recorded it. But then the song "Spirit of God," my father used to go to church with us. When we were working on our relationship after all the turmoil and stress that we've gone through with "Alyssa Lies" and why I wrote "Alyssa Lies" was based on my relationship with him. My dad and I, we were working on our relationship, and that was all because of Wendy. Wendy, in several ways, has saved my life. She said, "You know, your dad deserves to know his grandkids." I said, "Fine, but if he messes up, I'm taking him down."

And I meant it because my dad and I faced off since I was about 13. I was 21. I knocked him out when I was 21. I thought I killed him. That was it. We had worked together in the business as far as he wanted to be my manager, and then he used that opportunity to mess around my mom, which is basically what that all turned into. So we really didn't have a strong relationship.

When I gave him that opportunity with my kids, my dad turned out to be the best granddad you'll ever see. He took them to Chuck E. Cheese, for God's sake, and I hate that place. I tell you, man, I miss him. But "Spirit of God," I felt like we were really working our way through some things. I was starting to develop this relationship with my dad that I always wanted.

I remember one time when my dad was a preacher, and I felt like he put us on the back burner a lot for the church. I asked him, I said, "Hey, can you come out and throw the ball with me and John, my brother, in the yard?" My dad said, "No, so-and-so is dying in the hospital." This was another big fight we had. I looked at him and I yelled, "Just let him die." And I got hit for it. And I meant what I said. I was so angry that he was picking these other people over our family then. This was probably when I was 15 or 16. I felt like I just lost so much time with him.

When "Spirit of God" would come on in our church services, I vividly remember looking over and seeing my dad singing that song and especially the bridge part where it says, "You are welcome here. Purify, cleanse our tongues, lose our ears." That moment in that song takes me back to standing there beside my dad at church before he passed away.

There's so many things like that on this record. I'm grateful for the opportunity to do it and for my praise and worship team at Faith Baptist Church that actually did all the recording and working with me on this project. It was such a great experience, man. I definitely think there's probably going to be another one in the future. But I mean, as I tell people all the time, in the Bible it says Paul would not eat meat in the New Testament because the Old Testament laws have changed, and people believed that that was a sin to eat meat sacrificed to the idols according to Old Testament law. But in New Testament law, that would change. And Paul said, even though the laws have changed, I will not eat the meat if it causes a brother to stumble.

Which is why I've never recorded a gospel record before because I know that I'm playing in honky-tonks every weekend. I sing country music. I am a country boy. I grew up in the sticks. I'm going to write more country songs. I'm going to put out more country albums.

It was just an experience for me to try and get this out. I wanted to do it, one, to get the message out. Glorify God with what I'm doing, again, which I think was in his time that it came out when it did. But also, I didn't want to regret not doing it with everything with my dad. My mom is still here asking me for this record.


  1. Followed your music for years.god bless you and your family.

  2. Gods speed..your Dad always very respectful to me

  3. I am a Big J MC fan! Thank you for sharing the article and the gospel album, I love it! And your segments on Facebook are very uplifting.. God will continue to bless you.!!

  4. My husband and I we are big JMC fan! Thank you for the gospel album, I love it! God will continue to bless you!! 🤟