For popular singer and songwriter Dave Barnes, “it all started in college.”
The writer of “God Gave Me You” delivered a warm and humorous testimony at Belmont CRU’s Career and Calling Convocation Wednesday night.
Barnes opened with a dry remark to the host’s question about how he was feeling.
“I feel great. And I smell good.”
After a few opening comments, Barnes launched into the story of his calling.
He first discovered his love for music while playing the drums at the Knoxville church where his father was pastor. During his senior year of high school, Barnes received a full ride to MTSU, as he put it, “by God’s crazy providence.”
Barnes said he is glad he went to MTSU for music because there were less music majors there for him to compete with there.
During his freshman year, Barnes and 11 other students started a CRU chapter at MTSU. Barnes said that by the time he graduated, the chapter had around 500 members as opposed to the original 12.
It was also during his freshman year that Barnes learned how to play the guitar.
“I had no interest in the guitar until I learned to play it,” Barnes said. After learning to properly play the instrument, Barnes said he realized that he wanted to write and play songs.
After several successful years in the music industry, Barnes reached what he felt was the “half-life” of his career and wasn’t sure where he wanted his career to go, so he prayed to God for encouragement for a year.
Barnes said he became inspired to try writing Christian music, a genre in which Barnes had never attempted before. After more prayer, Barnes wrote the song “God Gave Me You,” recorded it, and sent it off to a number of Christian radio stations.
Popular country singer Blake Shelton contacted Barnes for permission to cover the song after its initial success.
The song became a hit on country radio stations, and was later nominated for Best Country Song at the 54th Grammy Awards.
Barnes said that he could not believe how successful the song became, thanks to what he said was a simple prayer for encouragement.
“I was blown away that God not only answers prayers, but simple prayers as well. He doesn’t need any rhetoric,” he said.
It is huge to him when fans tell him how his music has affected them, said Barnes. One couple even emailed Barnes and told him that “God Gave Me You” helped save their faltering marriage.
In regard to his calling, Barnes said his faith has played an important part in how his career has played out.
“I never felt like I chose to do any of this, but that God has opened doors,” he said. “Thankfully, I feel like I’ve always had to rely on God opening the next door. It just goes like that.”
Barnes attributes his decision to sign with an independent label to his music professors from MTSU, because they hammered into him the idea of being careful who you deal with in the music industry.
“When I was first looking for a label, I was self-motivated enough to say, ‘I’m gonna do this, I’m gonna be independent.’ ” Barnes also told any potential songwriters to keep all of their ideas and to listen to the advice of friends about their music.
Barnes rounded off the evening by playing a song from his new album, Golden Days, which debuts Jan. 28.
“My prayer for this year is to give God the space to do what he needs to do.”