Charles Billingsley Biography
Charles first gained national prominence while front and center with Christian music's top vocal band, NewSong. During his two-year tenure as a lead vocalist with the group, their 1994 "People Get Ready" album was nominated for a Gospel Music Association Dove Award for Pop/Contemporary Album of the Year. The album also garnered four number one singles. Charles' lead vocals were heard on such songs as "Where No Man Has Gone Before" and the re-recording of NewSong's classic, "Arise, My Love."
Charles left NewSong in 1996 to return to the full-time solo work that was his original calling. "I just love the experience of church," he says with unabashed enthusiasm. "The Church has been so loyal to me. My relationships with pastors, music ministers and youth pastors are very important to me, and so I am very dedicated to the Church."
Produced by highly-respected industry veterans Don Koch (4HIM) and Cherly Rogers (Babbie Mason, Gaither Vocal Band), "Between The Now And Then" is the perfect showcase for the memorable vocal performances that Charles' audiences have come to expect. From the rollicking "Trust In Me" and the uptempo fun of "Some Things Will Never Change," to the contemporary worship anthem "Within The Veil" and the compelling ballad "One Drop Of Blood," it's clear that Charles has also succeeded in creating a project that meets his criteria for being musically and spiritually sound.
"I have to perform songs that leave absolutely no question about my faith," Charles explains. "If I'm going to live the life that I call people to live, then I think my music has to be pretty blatant about representing that. A good record should define the artist's message and the heart, and I think 'Between The Now And Then' does that for me. I want this project to encourage people to walk deeper in their faith and to put their trust in the Lord.""
A highlight of the record and very personal song for Charles is the poignant "Golden Streets." "I wrote this song when my dear friend Maggie McNeil died last year, " relates Charles. "She was 79 years-old and she was just awesome. She helped support my ministry for many years and even funded the first record I ever made. I was so blessed when her family asked me to sing at her funeral, but I didn't know what to sing. So, I ended up writing the lyrics to 'Golden Streets.' The next year, after a tragic time in my life when I lost both my grandfather and my unborn child in the same week, I was inspired to finish the song for the album."
Imagining his loved ones enjoying Heaven in all its splendor was not difficult for Charles, and writing the song also provided comfort in the face of sorrow.
Now I'm walking golden streets
I'm splashing in the crystal sea
I've watched a lion kiss the lamb
And I've been held by His nail scarred hands*
"I picture Heaven as being a really fun place to be amidst the praise," says Charles. "In writing 'Golden Streets,' I took the perspective of my friends and family in Heaven, and I think they're up there having a real great time! I lost about eight loved ones in '98, and I really feel like the Lord gave me this song for that reason."
As a child, Charles fully expected to become a preacher, and it was not until college that his plans began to change. During his freshman year as a religion major at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, Charles was asked to sing at a local Church service. Word began to spread after that performance and he started accepting as many as four invitations a week to perform. After graduation, Charles began to wholeheartedly follow his calling, performing well over 200 concerts within his first year as a solo artist.
Over the course of his solo career Charles has recorded five independent albums to accommodate the growing demand for his music. In early 1998, Charles was convinced that the time was right to forge a partnership with a label which shared his vision for ministry, and he signed a recording contract with Portland, Oregon based Pamplin Music. Soon thereafter he began work on what would become "Between The Now and Then."
Charles views his role as a "musical missionary" to be directly related to his upbringing. The son of a minister, the Billingsley family moved often, exposing young Charles to numerous churches and to pastors possessing an array of skills for communicating the gospel. Through years of carefully observing these men and women, Charles learned how to evaluate his audiences in order to strike the perfect balance between ministry and entertainment during his concerts. "Because most of my audiences represent a diversity of age groups, I have to be sensitive to everyone's musical tastes," he explains. "I want everyone to feel comfortable, but I want to challenge them too. I might see someone really jammin' to a pop grove they would normally enjoy, but they're into it because a few minutes earlier I sang a big ballad they really appreciated. To really impact people, I have to reach them where they are, and that included their music preferences. I am called to preach, and music is the tool I use to do so."
"In my concerts I try to get across the message that worship is not just a song, it's my lifestyle," Charles concludes. "If we wear the name of Jesus, our faith should be our life. I'm not always successful, but I want my faith to play a role in my life whether I'm on stage or on the racquetball court."
Although Charles has already gained a large, loyal audience, "Between The Now and Then" stands poised to introduce his voice - and heart - to countless new listeners around the world. The uncertainty of the future may be daunting for some, but blessed with a signature voice and a passion for his calling, Charles Billingsley will certainly be one to watch - and listen to - as the next century of Christian music unfolds.