Little Rock musician enjoys opportunity to play ‘at home’
Jason Truby, onetime guitarist for the award-winning rock band Payable On Death (known as P.O.D.), will weave performances of his guitar and vocal songs into Park Hill Presbyterian Church’s 11 a.m. Sunday worship service.
The 44-year-old Little Rock native, who wrote the songs “Sleeping Awake” for the Matrix Reloaded soundtrack and “Truly Amazing” for an album inspired by the Mel Gibson-directed 2004 movie Passion of the Christ, sees playing at Sunday’s service in North Little Rock as an opportunity to introduce parishioners to tracks from his 2016 album Hymns: Guitar Arrangements for Peace and Healing, and to play music “back at home.”
Carol Clark, pastor at Park Hill, invited Truby to be part of the service after a congregant who takes guitar lessons from the musician told her about Truby’s music.
The selections Truby will play from his album correspond well with the church’s current theme, “Ancient Words,” with a focus on the word “healing.” A time for prayer and anointing will take place while Truby is playing.
Clark’s hope, she said, is that the service provides space for people to connect with God, allows for a spiritual form of healing and an opportunity to “rest in beautiful music.”
Hymns is Truby’s fifth instrumental album, a work of finger-style guitar tracks including “Amazing Grace,” “Be Thou My Vision” — the oldest hymn on the album, which dates to sixth-century Ireland — and other classics.
“[With] every album, I hope I have a central thread that makes me who I am,” Truby said.
The thread that runs through Truby’s work has seen a clear path but has also come with a few snags over the years, one of which was his identity and vision as a musician.
“[In P.O.D.] we made it pretty clear that we were a band creating music artistically and we happened to be believers, and that’s going to come out in our art form, one way or the other. … [Sometimes] you feel like you wrote this for one people group only, and in my career, I’ve never [done that].”
For Truby, his time in P.O.D. had highs and lows, he said, and there were different sides to the experience.
“[When] the public puts your identity in what you create, I think that’s really dangerous,” Truby said. “But what is neat is that, ‘Hey, this is bigger than anybody,’ in that we’re harnessing [music] and encouraging people.”
And although P.O.D. is commonly referred to as Christian rock or Christian metal , Truby said he considers the term “Christian music” to be a misnomer.
“You have all these genres of music … and they’re all categorized, and here’s hip-hop, and here’s rock, and here’s jazz, and then you have Gospel — and then you have P.O.D. right next to Amy Grant right next to Jars of Clay,” said Truby, who said his music is intended for everyone.
Despite accolades and the band’s widespread success — P.O.D.’s 2001 album Satellite went triple platinum — the constant traveling that had become “unhealthy” and Truby’s growing family were what drew him to leave the band and return to Little Rock at the end of 2006.
Since then, Truby has been working from his home studio, writing and recording music and helping other artists. It’s where he spends time with his wife, Audra, and four children, all of whom Truby said were brought by the Lord through adoption. It’s also where he teaches music to about 50 students between the ages of 6 and 65.
Music, Truby has found, can create a segue to discussions about faith with his students — religious or not.
The majority of students who come to Truby to learn guitar, music theory, songwriting, bass, piano or percussion are between the ages of 12 and 25, he said, and “if you sing about [faith], like I do, then you’re going to have people come up who are questioning it, and you’re going to have conversations if you’re open and honest about it.”
Truby said he has found that mentorship also happens through instruction. A question about the origin of a minor chord, for example,
can lead to a question about the origin of an element of faith or of an idea, or an issue a student raises for discussion.
“What I think is really neat about music is that it’s a scalpel into the places that the truth wants to get to. And music is a metaphor [for that] … and in some cases they say, ‘I don’t believe in God, I don’t want to talk about it,’ and I’ll say, ‘That’s OK, I accept you right where
you are.’ And they stay, and they keep coming back. … And I’m not trying to see how eloquently I can word something to convert them. Or have them like me. I gave up on that a long time ago.”
In addition to teaching, Truby has also been at work on several projects, including Brothers and Friends, an album created by friend and fellow musician Phil Keaggy after the death of their friend Tom Shinness, also a musician, in February. Proceeds from the album benefited Shinness’ three daughters, who he had been
raising by himself.
One of the tracks, “Beautiful Collapse,” is a song Truby wrote and recorded in 2006, and on which Shinness had later added his cello and zither as backup. Truby said Shinness’ daughter Jasmine heard the song for the first time after her father’s death, loved it, and chose to sing vocals on the track for the benefit album.
Later in the year, Truby plans to release an instrumental guitar Christmas album. He has also been ready, he said, to create a vocal album that’s “more edgy,”
and that will be a throwback to some of his earlier music. Still untitled, the vocal album will be released next summer.
As for Hymns, Truby said the album was intended for people who might be suffering physically or emotionally, or have lost a loved one, “but it’s turned out to be this broad stroke because it takes a lot of people back to their childhood.”
Clark said hymns have a powerful ability to evoke memory and emotion that transcends lyrics and faith.
“The hymns that we grew
up singing beside Mama and Daddy, or aunt or uncle, in a congregation gets so deeply into our brains and minds,” Clark said, “because suddenly we’re transported back to when Daddy was teaching us to turn pages in a hymnal. … There are some [hymns] that when we begin to sing
them, people begin to cry.”
“I have been with people in nursing homes later in their lives who can’t talk to you … but you put them in a chapel and you start singing ‘Jesus Loves Me’ and they start singing,” Clark said. “It’s buried so deeply within us.”
Jason Truby, a former member of the rock band Payable On Death who teaches music from his Little Rock home, will play instrumental guitar hymns and vocal songs during the Sunday worship service at Park Hill Presbyterian Church in North Little Rock.