As an award-winning journalist and author, Deborah Evans Price has interviewed just about every major recording artist in the business. However, her latest project, the book "Country Faith," offers her a chance to stray from the normal questions she might ask, as she talks with 56 performers about their faith -- and their favorite Bible verses.
"We have the chance to talk to artists about their music all the time," Price told Billboard. "While they are passionate about what they are recording and writing, there's something special to me about talking to someone about their faith and their relationship with God. Of all the projects I've been blessed to work on over the years, this is definitely my favorite."
Price allowed that many artists within the format have a similar upbringing, so many had their favorite verses in common. "Most artists grew up singing in church and going to Bible School, so there was some overlap when it came to favorite verses," she said. "Kristy Lee Cook and Josh Turner both chose John 3:16, which is a well-known and well-loved verse. Romans 8:28 was one that Barbara Mandrell chose that some others mentioned. There were some recurring favorites, and then there were some that I wasn't that familiar with."
In some cases, family played a part in the artists' selections. "One of my favorites was Darius Rucker, who mentioned Proverbs 17:22 – 'A Cheerful Heart Is Good Medicine, But A Crushed Spirit Dries Up The Bones.' He talked about his mom raising him in South Carolina and how that was one of her favorite scriptures, and it's one of his."
The book also offers insights into how some of the artists put their faith into works. "I love what (Oak Ridge Boys member) Duane Allen said. He talks about his charity work, and how he's not doing it for applause. He does it because of the teachings in Matthew. He talks about trying to live his life by the scripture in his charity work, his family, and in the group. He's really something special."
For some artists, the verses were ones they have lived first-hand, such as Jimmy Wayne. "He has been homeless, was shuttled in and out of foster homes, and had such a rough and horrible childhood," said Price. "He has turned out to be so wonderful and positive. His favorite verse was James 1:27, which talks about taking care of widows and orphans. The coolest thing was on the day we did the interview for the book, he asked me if I wanted to go to Monroe Harding Childrens' Home in Nashville, and he was going to be passing out guitars to the boys before Christmas. I got to see him living out that verse, which he does every day with the things he does for people."
One notable inclusion in the book is Florida Georgia Line. "Last year, when I interviewed them, they were just getting started," she says. "Nobody really knew who they were. My publisher asked me ‘Now, who are these people?' I said, ‘Trust me, these boys are going to be huge.' Brian's favorite verse was Jeremiah 29:11 where God says ‘I know the plans that I have for you, plans to prosper you, not to harm you, but to give you hope and a future." In her eyes, that turned out to be very prophetic. "I don't think he had no idea how much God was going to prosper them in the past year."
The book also includes a companion CD, titled "Country Faith: 15 Songs of Faith From Today's Leading Country Music Stars," which Price co-executive produced along with Tim Marshall, Bob DeMoss and Danny McGuffey. The collection reached No. 26 on Billboard's Christian Albums chart and has sold 5,000 copies to date, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
"We've got Carrie, Brad, and a brand new song that Jimmy Wayne did for this project called 'Shine,' so I'm excited about the musical component as well as the book."
Price said that the artists were all very receptive toward the project, though she admits that Underwood had her concerns ... sort of. "The first time I talked to her about the book, she said 'Oh, boy, this is great. But, it will be so hard to do – to pick one scripture. I kinda like the whole book.' I thought that was so cute."