Thunder Boltz Over Louisville

A Personal Interview with Ray Boltz

By Paul Turner

While April 11th meant "Thunder Over Louisville" and a remarkable display of fireworks with audio accompaniment to most people in the area, New Covenant Productions and station WJIE displayed some of their own fireworks at Evangel Temple through the sights and sounds of Ray Boltz and True Heart.

True Heart, a duo comprised of the very capable talents of Trina Gaither, Danny Gaither's daughter, and Greg Gilpin, not only opened the evening with a smooth and very entertaining set of their own numbers, they also worked well to enhance Ray's set with their stage presence and their voices.

Ray, who is well established with his inspirational hits such as Watch the Lamb, Shepherd Boy, Thank You and Another Child to Hold among others, made them come alive throughout the evening to a large, appreciative audience who were obviously pleased with their choice of "fireworks."

Before the show, I was fortunate to be able to talk with Ray about himself, his music, and his ministry.

LMN: Besides your newfound association with Word Records as your new label and a new tape out in June (plus a new beard) what do you see as the future for Ray Boltz' music and ministry?

RB: Probably a lot of the same things. We have a tour that's going to start in August with new material. We're also looking to have more people on stage _ we're not exactly sure yet. I'm also checking out new stage lighting.

Also, I just made a new video for the last album. I went out to San Antonio to a real cowboy ranch to shoot it. It is based on a song about a guy who lives out there. It's for a half hour TV program for Radio Bible Class Day of Discovery. The project used three tunes of mine as well as others.

We're trying to break out of the "Christian Concert Only" circle. There are so many people who come to concerts and we draw the whole family, but a lot of times they're never 'reached," They don't listen to Christian radio or TV and yet if they have a chance to hear it - and there's always a chance they'll hear it on regular TV - so we're going to get to them through the TV and radio and papers like Louisville Music News - to reach outside that circle of Contemporary Christian Music listeners.

Carmen and some others do that well. We want to head in that direction of reaching a new audience through other forms of media.

LMN: As a songwriter, and obviously a successful one, do you have any secrets about where your ideas come from _ do you stand in a certain part of the shower for inspiration, for instance?

RB: (Laughs) No, I'm just in a constant songwriting frame of mind. If I have lyrical idea, I want to communicate, I work on it all the time _ on the road or wherever I am.

LMN: I know that "Thank You" is especially meaningful to many. How did that concept come about?

RB: "Thank You" was inspired by a lady (he laughs and gestures to the True Heart members). I tell this story every night on stage and they're 'Oh, no, here he goes again!'

A lady asked me to write a song for Pastor Appreciation Day in my home church in Indiana and I told her I would do it _ and then didn't come up with anything.

I had eight weeks to do it and it was the last night and I still didn't have anything for her. I was trying hard to make things work but I couldn't.

The seed of the song had been in my heart, but the Lord really gave it to be that night, though. I wrote it because we don't go to a big church and my pastor's not famous or anything and yet I know how important he is to my life.

LMN: How did he receive the song when you first played it? Was he in awe or what!?

RB: Yeah. He was definitely moved. And the reason was moved was because it was his heart. That's exactly what he longs for _ eternal reward. His greatest hope isn't money or fame _ it's when he can help someone else then walk with the Lord.

LMN: Do you have a message for Louisville as you pass through?

RB: Thirteen years before I made my first album, I was singing in coffee houses, prisons, youth groups and nursing homes, playing in front of two people or one hundred people and back then I never knew I'd do this as a career. And the reason I did it then was to paint pictures of Jesus in a different way.

After receiving Jesus in a Christian coffee house my life was changed and I wanted to share this new faith. I was willing to use my music just in my local church.

I found that I could captivate and motivate people through my songs. I could paint pictures lyrically and because I wasn't real strong keyboard player or guitarist, I used the lyrics to hold their attention and I learned to communicate to reach people. So that is what I spent my time developing.

Many things have changed with me over the years, but my goal is still the same. I still paint these images of the Lord so that people would see Him in a different light.

And that's our goal in the concerts, too. We want to entertain and have a good time, but when they walk out, I want them walkin' out saying 'We saw Jesus. We didn't see Ray Boltz and True Heart _ we saw Jesus through the songs.'

That's our goal and hopefully we'll get to come back with more new songs and do that _ and encourage people and give them strength to keep going.

Ray Boltz' lastest Diadem releases, including Another Child to Hold and his newest, The Very Best of Ray Boltz, are available at Wellspring Christian Bookstore, Berean Bookstore and other record and book stores across town. His first album for Word Records will be released next June.