Shaun Groves defies typical expectations and simple labels. He is an insightful songwriter, one who displays such incredible lyrical prowess that his musical peers nominated him for Songwriter of the Year solely on the strength of his 2001 debut. He’s also a solid on-stage performer as the lanky Texas native can hold his own whether standing solo before a college crowd or fronting his band at a youth event or festival. And to listen to Shaun Groves’ music showcases a complete and talented artist in full bloom, constantly reaching for excellence.
However, none of these positions—songwriter, performer, artist—totally grasp the significance of the man or what he hopes to convey to audiences everywhere.
More than a musician, Shaun Groves is a communicator, a man full of messages and ideas that he hopes to translate through a variety of media. A writer, teacher, preacher, father, husband… and yes, most definitely a songwriter, performer and musician, Groves encapsulates everything that one would hope an artist could be. His songs reflect the bare-bones honesty of a searching, passionate faith. Unafraid of the questions or of stepping on toes, Groves sets his sights as high as possible, aiming to pursue profound theological truths in the most accessible lyrical metaphors he can create.
His newest CD, White Flag, reflects how Shaun has been inspired by IKON, a college and young adult Bible study he began co-teaching last spring at his home church in Franklin, Tennessee. “When I started working towards a new CD, I went months writing songs that felt true but trite,” Shaun recalls. “They were good but not great. I couldn’t produce a single profound lyric or moving melody for almost a year. Then I began teaching at IKON along with my best friend/brother-in-law/road manager Brian Seay, and the studying, speaking and conversations made me think in ways I hadn’t before.”
IKON began in 2004 with a verse-by-verse study of Acts and the first church because Shaun and Brian quickly discovered that their 18-25 year old audience was disenfranchised with organized religion. From there, the group delved into Ecclesiastes, and by the fall the Bible study turned its attention to the Sermon on the Mount, beginning in Matthew 5.
“I became obsessed with the beatitudes, so simple and so profound, so counterintuitive,” Shaun recalls of teaching the first 12 verses in the chapter. “I became fascinated with the simplicity and relevance of their message. Jesus outlines the progression of a heart from depraved to committed to Christ, from being a believer to being a disciple. I understood what had hindered that progression in my life so far. The beatitudes triggered a change in me. They are the closest thing to a formula for following Jesus that I've ever discovered in the Bible. They are an excellent gauge for me of where I am in my relationship with Christ, and they remind me of what really matters: my heart.”
The songs on White Flag reflect Shaun’s response to the beatitudes, to how Christ’s teaching in those verses has changed his perspective on his world, church, family, community and, most importantly, his faith. Each song relates to a specific beatitude, and the album is sequenced in the same order as the Scriptures. From poor in spirit to persecution, these concepts find a home in Shaun’s poignant lyrics, with each song building upon and adding to the ideas expressed in the last.
The album’s title cut offers a deeper look into “Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth”: “Meek isn’t a word we use very often,” Groves explains. “When using ‘meek,’ Jesus is referring back to Psalm 37 where it says that the meek will inherit the land. The people aren’t angry, they’re not uptight or worried because they know God is in control of them. They’ve committed their way to God; they’re surrendered to God. A white flag is a metaphor for surrender. A surrendered heart transforms the way we see each other and life. Surrender goes beyond agreement or belief alone—it means giving up any notion of competence without God. Churches are filled with believers. The mission field, the food shelters, the AIDS clinics and the history of martyrdom are filled with surrendered disciples of Christ. This CD is about being a surrendering follower of Jesus and not just a believer in Him. How do we get from belief to discipleship? What does that path look like? It begins with giving up.”
The harder-rocking “Crave” takes the next step on the journey. “The song ‘Crave’ comes out of ‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.’ Before we surrender to Christ, before we become meek, we don’t have this hunger, and we don’t desire the things of God. Now that the Spirit is in us, we’re moved to be righteous. And so, the American dream, the house in the suburbs, the SUV in the garage… those things are just not going to fill us up. Crave is a defiant song, it’s an anthem. For me, it’s about getting in the face of the billboards and the magazines and the commercials and all the temptations and treasures of this world and shaking a fist and saying ‘You cannot give me what I really crave!’”
Musically, Shaun’s modern tastes—influenced of late by everything from Jimmy Eat World to Dashboard Confessional—appeal to any who might listen. Pop sensibilities marry driving rock guitars and sensitive songwriting to produce songs full of catchy hooks and mesmerizing spirit, an instant radio-friendly album that offers substance with its splash. Perhaps most impressively, White Flag also showcases Shaun’s debut effort as a producer.
“Producing is sort of like eating Tex-Mex. It’s great—one of the best feelings on earth maybe. But if you get too much of it at one sitting, you’ll be miserable afterwards and swear you’ll never do that again. But inside you know you’ll be back for more when the empty comes back. I’m so full of producing that I never want to see a studio again in my life. I’m asking my wife to remind me of how stressed I’ve been, how preoccupied and sleepless and manic. In the end it worked out. I used my band and I chose the songs and the studio and the parts. This record is all me, for better or worse.”
A progressive pop-rock sonic masterpiece married to perceptive lyrical depth, White Flag is the defining moment of Shaun’s career to date. But more importantly, it’s an album of music that has the potential to impact listeners in a profound and life-changing way.
“We all find ourselves somewhere between poverty of spirit and persecution, and I hope this record helps us determine where we are and where we should be and inspires us to get there. I hope people who hear this record, myself included, are encouraged to admit their wickedness, mourn it and roll it onto Christ. Then I pray we’ll hunger for righteousness, and I hope we feed that hunger and not our competing appetites for the junk in this world. I hope we show mercy by feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and aiding the poor and oppressed people across the street and around the world. I hope we love nothing more than God and obeying Him, not success, practicality, fame, fortune, comfort or approval. I hope we love our enemies, pray for them, ask that they be forgiven, feed them, clothe them and never harm them. I hope doing all this, being a disciple of Christ, makes us aliens in this world who are willing to be misunderstood and despised, hunted down and harmed for righteousness’ sake. I hope we follow Jesus and nothing else.”
Source: Rocketown Records