Throughout musical history, there have been esteemed places for composers and songwriters, and there likewise have been stages in smoky bars to football stadiums for the singers who perform the work of these maestros.
There, however, is a special place for those talented individuals who can write and perform their own material. From Paul McCartney to Jason Mraz, from James Taylor to Jack Johnson, there is much to be said about the “singer-songwriter.”
While there are many who do possess the talent, there are a notable few who write their own material and perform it to commercial and critical acclaim, and fewer still in the Contemporary Christian musical arena.
While we all know and love the many great names of CCM, who include the greats like Don Moen, Michael W. Smith, Steven Curtis Chapman, and Israel Houghton, there are many rising stars who are earning either critical or commercial accolades for their own unique brand of music. Here are five notable male singer-songwriters who you may want to listen to:
Matthew West. Listen to his single, “Strong Enough.”
He has four number one singles to his name: His debut single, “More,” “You Are Everything,” and “The Motions” from his Something to Say release, and one Christmas single, “Give This Christmas Away,” with Amy Grant. In addition to this, he wrote songs for many of Contemporary Christian’s marquee names, including Casting Crowns, Mandisa, Mark Schultz, Sara Groves, Natalie Grant, Melissa Greene, and 33Miles, among others.
“Strong Enough” from The Story of Your Life was a number three hit in 2011. His new single, “Forgiveness,” is skyrocketing up the charts as we speak.
Jason Gray. Listen to his single, “Good to Be Alive.”
Gray released his major-label release in 2007, with All the Lovely Losers. His album Everything Sad is Coming Untrue featured “More Like Falling in Love,” Gray’s biggest hit prior to the release of A Way to See in the Dark, which birthed the Top 5 hit “Remind Me Who I Am.”
His new single, “Good to Be Alive,” is making pretty good progress up the Christian CHR charts. He has also written with or for artists like Andrew Peterson, Sara Groves, and Jason Ingram, and toured with artists like The Afters, Jeremy Camp, Matthew West, Sanctus Real, and Shawn McDonald.
Josh Wilson. Listen to his single, “Before the Morning.”
Josh released his first major-label album, Trying to Fit the Ocean in a Cup, under Sparrow Records, and the first single from that record, “Savior Please,” went to number seven in 2008. He followed that up with Life is Not a Snapshot in 2009, and the carrier single of that release, “Before the Morning,” went to number three.
His 2011 release, See You, saw its carrier single, “I Refuse,” also peak at number three. That puts Wilson in some pretty rare company; not too many Christian singer-songwriters score Top 10 hits from three consecutive major-label releases.
Jonny Diaz. Listen to his single, “More Beautiful You.”
The self-titled album that followed has birthed his latest hits, the worship-ready “The Beauty of the Cross” (it peaked at number 17) and the heart-tugging “Scars,” which is encouraging and healing, currently rising up the charts at number 41 in its debut week.
Peter Furler. Listen to his single, “Reach.”
In early 2011, Peter released On Fire, his solo debut, with the up-tempo “Reach” as the carrier single. “Reach” lived up to its name, entering the Christian Top 10 and establishing Furler as a success outside of Newsboys, which earned its own Top 10 hit with new singer Michael Tait, formerly of dcTalk, when “God’s Not Dead (Like A Lion)” reached the top three of the Billboard Christian charts as well.
“Matter of Faith,” the follow-up to “Reach,” was also a minor hit; the new single, “I’m Alive,” is another energetic number like “Reach,” and should restore Furler back into rock radio’s good graces.
Ganns Deen is a child of God, husband to Caths, and father to Nathan and Nicki. He is passionate about Christian music and tapping the power of the Internet to glorify God and spread the gospel. An award-winning songwriter in his own right, Ganns serves God full time in his capacity as online content supervisor for Victory Philippines. Follow him on Twitter (@ganns) or on his Christian music-themed blog, www.gannsdeen.com.