Mark Schultz is a storyteller whose new album chronicles his life-long journey between love and fear and the value of choosing the former.
A sense of raw honesty and transparent hopefulness are the underpinnings of the songs on his new album, “Follow,” a project that found its roots years ago in Schultz’s childhood.
“You’ve gotta write what’s real to you,” Schultz told Faithwire, “because if it’s real to you, it’ll be real to the listener. … Whatever I’m going through in my life, or whatever I’m walking into or through, I’m just gonna take real life and I’m just gonna hand it back to people.”
The popular Christian singer-songwriter was adopted when he was just two weeks old. For many years, he worked to measure up, hoping to somehow meet the expectations he projected onto his parents and earn their admiration and affection.
In fact, his personal journey as a recording artist was, in part, fueled by the desire to make his parents proud, to show them his adoption was “worth it.”
Then he became a parent. He and his wife, Kate, have two sons and last year adopted their daughter from China.
“I held her for about 15 minutes and she wrapped her arms around my neck and fell asleep, and I was like, ‘OK, look, she doesn’t have to do anything and I love her just the way she is. She doesn’t have to ever prove anything to me,’” Schultz said. “That hit me like a ton of bricks. I’ve been living life like the adopted kid and now I get to see it from the father’s perspective.”
Reflecting on his childhood and looking forward to raising his daughter, Schultz said people can choose to journey down one of two paths. “You can follow the fear or you can follow the love,” he said.
Making that choice — the decision between fear and love — is a daily consideration, and one that has ramifications not only in the here and now, but in the hereafter, too.
“Am I trying to perform so that God thinks, ‘Oh, man. This guy can get into heaven,’ … or am I living out of God’s overflow, his love for me?” Schultz asked. “Am I doing things out of a passion, out of an extension of his love, or am I doing things out of an extension of fear that I’m not doing enough for God?”
He explained that those feelings are “the exact same,” whether it’s on an earthly or spiritual level.
Though his journey has been imperfect and his life filled with ups and downs, Schultz has striven to always choose to follow love. His path to becoming a Christian artist was itself the result of a willingness to simply follow.
“I came to Nashville, thinking, ‘I’ll probably do country music.’ I just wanted to be a songwriter,” Schultz recalled. “Then I got asked to be a youth director and I started writing these songs about kids in the youth group, what God was doing in their lives, and slowly but surely, I just realized I had backed right into Christian music. I didn’t even plan on it. I was just writing what I saw happen.”
Schultz said his time at that church, where often penned songs about God’s work in the students’ lives, taught him the power of music, how lyrics strung together to a melody can impact people in a way spoken word often fails to do.
That’s what he hopes his new album, “Follow,” does for listeners.
“What I try to do on this record is write something that’s real, not just a bunch of platitudes or just a bunch of sugary statements,” Schultz said. “You know, if you write what’s real, you take two people who have nothing in common, but they have that realness in common, and they feel like, ‘You know what, we have a shared experience here.’”
People, the well-known artist reflected, are alike “in more ways than we ever dreamed we were.” We just have to be willing to listen to one another’s stories, and follow.
Schultz’s new album debuted Aug. 17.