New Christian Music Cover
DON GILLESPIE INTERVIEWS
RANDY STONEHILL

New Christian Music - Volume 2 Number 2 (Late 1980)

New Christian Music Picture #1

Don: [Tell Us About "Song For Sarah"]

Randy: I wrote it for every girl in the sense that I wanted to make a statement about how people are worth so much in God's eyes, and how we give away our love too easily and settle for second best. We hurt ourselves, and we get used by people and we use people, and that's really because we're desperate and lonely and we don't understand what love is about. So in this song I wanted to say to everybody . . . that God's love is what validates your life . . . makes you worth something . . . makes your love worth something . . . and He has the right person for you, so don't give yourself away so easily. There's something better.

Randy, can you go back and tell us something about your early childhood?

Well, I grew up with musical parents . . . not musical professionally, but they had a lot of talent . . . and I grew up in kind of an agnostic home. My father is from a Jewish background, and my mother from a Catholic background, and both of them had disillusioning experiences in those churches. They came out raising my brother and myself with the idea that it didnít look like there was any God as far as they could see, but if we wanted to explore it for ourselves at a point where we were old enough and curious enough, then they wouldn't have any objections. They both said they didn't want to place that burden on us at an early age . . . forcing us to go to church when we didn't understand what it was about. And of course they weren't involved in it anyway because they were pretty bitter about their own lives, and felt they hadn't received much from their religious experiences. They both were very loving people, and when they saw my music developing they tried to encourage me in that, and I finally convinced my father at the age of ten to buy me a guitar. I used to walk around the house making these guitar noises with my mouth, and kind of pinching my nose to get the tone to come out just right. My dad wanted me to play trumpet, but I told him you couldn't play a trumpet and sing at the same time, so it really wouldn't work. I was just crazy about folk music . . . even from the time I was four or five I was signing folk and calypso songs. I'd sit on the swings in the back yard and sing my lungs out. The neighbours would pay me five or ten cents to sing them songs and . . . I think I started realizing even way back then that music would be my life's work.

How did you first start getting involved professionally in your music?

It really solidified for me in my high school years. When you're at that age, you're really trying to figure out who you are, and trying to be accepted. If found that music came so easily to me, and people like it so much, that I think (as I look back now) I must've said in my heart, "This is the way you can be accepted, and you love music and people love it when you do it, so you should be a musician." I started working through whatever channels were available then. I'd play at talent shows, coffee houses, youth recreation groups . . . anywhere I could . . . and I started earning pocket money that way. By the time I was about fifteen I was so totally involved in music that I really knew that was what I wanted to do. So at that point I knew I was just going to graduate from high school - even though I didn't even want to do that. I just wanted to run away and be a musician, singing on street corners. My father, who was a teacher, said "Oh, no - you're going to graduate from high school or I'll break your neck!" But I realized I was going to finish school and go to do music full time. I remember my father and my high school principal warning me about it, saying, "Look, it's so competitive and so hard and there are so many musicians . . . " And I remember standing up to them and saying, "Look, there might be millions of people doing music, but none of them are me - none of them do exactly what I do, exactly the way I do it - and I don't care if I do this at Carnegie Hall or if I do it on street corners, that's what I'm going to do!" And I remember after I had said that, I listened to what I had said and though, "Yeah, that really is how I feel." The next step was coming to Los Angeles and meeting Larry Norman.

You did a film with Billy Graham, Time To Run - how did that come about?

I had done some work on another film . . . kind of a cheesy, 'B' movie, science fiction film that a friend of mine was producing,. The secretary who was working on that film was a Christian and she got a job as secretary for Time To Run. When it came time to look into getting music for the film, the director was mentioning to her that this was the next step, and my name clicked into her head. She said, "Hey, I remember this kid who made up a song right on the spot in the production office during this other film. We were looking for certain kinds of songs and told him what we had in mind . . ." You see, back then on the first film I started joking around and made up a song in the office which came out surprisingly well, so everyone was impressed including myself. I guess she remembered me because of that experience, and she said, "He's a Christian, and I'll bet he would have some songs that would really communicate the way you want to . . ." So she called me, I sent in some music, and they picked the song I Love You.

You recently were with Debby Boone on Midnight Special, how did that one come about?

That was really a nice experience. I've known Debby for several years and we had been doing some songwork together, songwriting and sharing ideas. Because we do very different things musically, we though a combination of the two would bring an interesting result. When she came back from New York after recording a film soundtrack, I got her to play it for me. She was so cute. She was a little nervous about letting me hear it because she honestly wasnít sure about how good she was back then. Even before it was released, she wasn't that pleased with it, but I listened to it and said "Debby, this could be a hit." Apparently I was correct in that! About three weeks later her career just skyrocketed. She was doing a lot of television; she did The Johnny Carson Show, in fact, she did every show you could imagine, because the song was such a massive seller and had such a big impact. She came to me and said, "I'm doing a lot of TV and I always do 'You Light Up My Life', but I'd like to do some songs that show my versatility, my ability to do different kinds of things. I'd like to try something along the lines of Linda Ronstadt." I told her I'd be happy to write something for her that would fit the bill in that style and she smiled and said that'd be great if I would. So I wrote a song called 'Dangerous Heart'. When she got the invitation to do the Midnight Special, she called me and said, "I'd like to do your song on the show, but I'd like you to come and do it with me." She just wanted to work with her friends. She asked me, "Would you come and sing harmony, play the guitar . . . you know, be next to me, to support me?" So I said, "I'm honoured . . . absolutely! I'll be right over." So we went and did the show.

With all the work that you're involved in . . . it must be pretty hectic.

Yeah, it is. Sometimes I wish I was three people at once, so there was more time, but I realize what my priorities are . . . I just try to rest in the Lord and get as much done every day as I can. What I can't get done, I just leave till the next day, because basically we're here to serve the Lord and to enjoy our lives, and if you're so busy working your brains out that you don't have time for your marriage or you can't really enjoy your life, then I think you've missed the whole point. God desires a healthy balance in our lives.


Originally published in the Volume 2 Number 2 issue of New Christian Music magazine in the UK.
Special Thanks To D. Rex And David Di Sabatino for contributing this article.