Gospel recording artist Travis Greene doesnít just believe in life after death.
He experienced it, he says.
At 4 years old, Greene fell four stories from a building window in Germany. Doctors pronounced him dead. Greene remembers seeing Jesus, he says.
"He asked if I wanted to go with him or go back with my mom," Greene says. "Then I was brought back. It was an incredibly life-shaking experience, even at such a young age. Of course, I told my parents right away and since then Iíve been blessed to travel the world telling people Jesus is real."
Thirty years, three albums and two Grammy Award nominations later, Greene continues to share his story using music to, as he words it, Ďengage the culture.í
His latest album Crossover: Live from Music City debuted at No. 1 on Billboardís gospel charts in August 2017, despite a controversial decision by Greene to perform at President Trumpís inauguration earlier in the year.
Greene begins the second leg of his domestic Crossover tour this month.
He will perform May 19 at the David A. Straz Center for the Performing Arts. The show begins at 8 p.m. at Ferguson Hall. Tickets cost $18.50 to $29.50 and are available at strazcenter.org.
I spoke to Greene about miracles, music and performing for President Trump.
How does Crossover compare to your earlier albums?
My writing approach pretty much is what it is but we worked really hard on the production on this one to get it to the mainstream sound level. So, you hear sounds similar to Justin Beiber and Chris Brown. You have those beats combined with worship.
In 2016, you started Forward City Church in Columbia, S.C. How do you balance being a pastor with being a musician and a family man?
Itís a lot. Iím not going to pretend like itís not. Itís very demanding. Wherever Iím at, I try to give 100 percent. If Iím on the road, I give it 100 percent. If Iím at home with my wife and sons Iím going to give it 100 percent. The same with church.
What is different about sharing the Gospel as a pastor versus as a performer?
The goal is similar with both, to inspire and help people live better lives, to get people to think bigger and try harder. Itís different because on the road those are people you see once maybe twice a year, where at church these are people you see every week. Itís like the difference between being a cousin or being a parent.
Your church is growing well at a time when many people are leaving the Christian church. How are you able to keep the momentum?
I think people are more receptive when the message is delivered with love. We donít hide from controversial issues. We talk about race, gender and even politics. We approach real life issues but we do it with love. As a pastor, Iím not trying to get you on my side, Iím trying to get you on Godís side, which is the side of love and grace.
Speaking of politics. You have said you donít regret performing at the Presidentís inauguration. Why, despite the initial backlash, do you consider the experience positive?
Because of my motive in going. I didnít go for any other reason than I felt led by God to do it. It wasnít about me or what I think. It was about the call to take the light of Christ everywhere. Because of that I think God protected me through it and it hasnít affected me negatively at all, in terms or record sales or anything like that.
Do you think Gospel is becoming more accepted mainstream?
There have been some really cool opportunities for Gospel artists or as I like to call us believers. I call it engaging the culture. Culture is all around us, the clothes we wear, the food we eat, the music we listen to and there are three ways you can respond to the culture. You can complain about it, conform to it or confront it. As believers we need to move upstream and use our voice to create change.
What is your favorite song to perform on tour?
I like the opener. Itís a song called See The Light. The show starts with big sound and bright lights. I love the energy I feel in the moment.
This tour is a full-on production. We donít want people to walk away saying, ĎThat was a good gospel concert.í We want people to walk away saying ĎWow, that was really good concert.í We want people to know you donít have to leave the gospel genre to feel the impact of a great show.
Contact Sarah Whitman at [email protected]