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Thom Shumate Bibliography: (click on each album cover to view tracks and Thom Shumate lyrics)
Thom Shumate Biography
Sitting in a cafe by the river on a gray December morning, Thom Shumate saw a friend was slipping away from God and deeper into sin. After four or five hours, there was nothing left to do but ask the tough question: Do you believe? Do you believe that Jesus came to give us victory?
Do you believe that Jesus died to set His children free? Do you believe there is no sin that holds us captive from within? For it doesn't really matter... 'til you believe.
The question implied in the title cut on Shumate's sophomore release on the new BrickLayer Communications label is by no means rhetorical to Shumate. The 44-year-old singer/songwriter/minister has seen the question, and its answer, played out time and again at Cottage Cove. "I think it's a great question because as I look back on our five-year journey with Cottage Cove, and even further back with the music, that question has surfaced in a variety of ways," says Shumate. "For the non-believer, it's 'Do you believe that Jesus is who He says He is?' For the believer, the question is, 'Do you believe God can do everything He claims He can do?' Until you believe that, you will live your life differently than you would if you only partially believe it."
Shumate says the brand of progressive folk rock on 'til you believe'... was influenced, in part by Shawn Colvin, and Sarah McLachlan. "It is still acoustic based, but it's a little more progressive. The lyrics are very up-front, and they are more poetic."
More times than not, those lyrics are ballads or story songs that stem from Shumate's real-life experiences, such as the meeting with the friend in the recordings title cut. "Part of my goal with writing songs is to take people on a journey," says Shumate, who wrote four of the eleven songs and co-wrote five others with Mark Chesshir. "I want listeners to go on a three-or four-minute journey and experience life from the character's perspective or to be so drawn into the circumstances that they feel what the song is about." "That's What I Would Do", for example, was written after Shumate watched people from all walks of life boarding the train for their daily commute. "It made me think about my old high school friends, what they were doing 25 years later, and how their lives could have been different had I known Jesus," says Shumate.
"Arms of Jesus" is the story of a young boy at Cottage Cove who had a father he did not know and a mother that was not around much, but he found love from a Sunday School teacher. She WAS the arms of Jesus to him," Shumate explains. 'As the story unfolds many years later, this woman in now elderly and dying and this young man shows up and holds her in his arms.
Now, he is the arms of Jesus to her. Every day we have the opportunity where we can he the arms of Jesus to someone. As Christians, we have no choice, we know what God expects of us."
In a case of real life imitating art, the Cottage Cove Children's Choir also makes an appearance on the album, performing back-ground vocals on a song titled, "Cottage in the Cove." The ministry, which Shumate began on little more than a shoestring just months before his first recording contract, is now flourishing. Almost fifty kids come to Cottage Cove each day, finding refuge from poverty, abuse, and homes broken by divorce, drugs, and alcohol.
If Shumate has his way, Cottage Cove will continue to flourish. BrickLayer Communications, the record company formed by Shumate and Chesshir, is actually a label designed to help fund the ministries of Cottage Cove. Already, it has won the favor of many leading Christian artists who lend background vocals to Shumate's new project. The first to sign on were Susan Ashton and Erin O'Donnell with whom Shumate had toured in the fall of 1997. "We were on our way to a bookstore appearance and a song came on the radio that Susan had done background vocals on," Shumate explains. "We started talking about that song, and I jokingly said, 'Susan, I'll give you a dollar if you'll be on my next record' and she turned around and said, I'll do it'. I laughed and she said, 'No, I'm serious'. And Erin said, 'I will too'. They wanted to be involved in what we're doing and that's very humbling."
But Ashton and O'Donnell aren't the only artists you'll hear until you believe... The album also features background vocals from Lisa Bevill, Aaron Benward, John Cox, Nicol Smith, and Jackson Finch, as well as some top-flight musicians.
When not at Cottage Cove, Shumate can often be found in the pulpit. "I share God's word every time I sing," he says, laughing. "It's hard to separate the two because some churches bring me in for a concert because they know that I'm going to preach. My message is freedom in Christ. It almost always centers on Galatians 2:20, 'I have been crucified with Christ," and what that really means."
It's that freedom from bondage that Shumate was trying to relate to his friend over coffee that gray December morning. "The bottom line is that I talked with him for about four or five hours and he finally came to the point where he said, 'I don't feel you have to interpret the Scriptures that way,"' Shumate says, recalling the meeting. 'At that point, the only thing I could really do for him was to go back to his conversion experience and say, 'Tell me about your salvation experience."' Because if you have truly received Christ, then the victory of Christ is available to you.
The song, 'til you believe... was really conceived from that conversation. The essence of its message is that we can be totally free in Christ, but if the enemy has deceived us into thinking we are bound, then we will act as if we are and we may as well not be free at all. So, the question in that song is, 'Do you really believe that Jesus died to set you free? Do you really believe that there truly is power in the blood of Christ?' If you truly believe that, then you have the answer. However, until you believe, then I have no answer for you.
For it doesn't really matter, 'til you believe...