(Submitted)
Artist: Jonathan Nelson

What is your first musical memory? My first memory with music starts with my grandmother. (She) was a musician. A couple of uncles were musicians. Literally, pretty much since I've been alive, we've been doing music in church. My sister conducted the choir growing up. I played the piano, another brother played drums and another brother played bass. For some reason in the church, the preacher's kids are usually the musicians and the band and everything. My father's a preacher. He has pastored for 30 years.

Do you have a favorite hymn? A couple of my favorites (are) "How Great Thou Art," "It Is Well (With My Soul)" and "I Need Thee Every Hour." Those are some . . . I could sing at any given moment.

When did you decide you wanted to pursue music as a career? I decided I wanted to pursue music full time . . . between 2001 going into 2002. That was around the time frame when I lost my job, and I was really kind of seeking direction and answers. I was trying to figure out my purpose for life. That's when I really began to create great passion for writing. I knew then that this is what I'm supposed to be doing.

What were your influences growing up, besides your family? I'm well-rounded. I listen to everything (from) jazz to pop. One of my inspirations in the pop world is Phil Collins. He has good, clean music and is very passionate. One of the greatest influences in my life is a gospel producer named Donald Lawrence. He helped me get direction and to . . . get a flow going with my songwriting.

What inspires your songwriting? (I have) two main influences on my writing. One is life experiences. Whatever it is in life - your failures or things that you've forgotten - you pull from that. People relate to life experiences. The second thing for me is when I'm sitting in church and when I hear a preacher preach. Every time I hear the Word . . . it sparks my mind. It gives me the fuel. It gets the energy going.

You grew up in Baltimore. When did you relocate to York? I've been here for almost three years. I fellowship with a church in Baltimore. My family still lives there. We love the York school system. My son is in the Central York (School) District. I appreciate both (cities).

Have you been performing in the area? I had been working with a ministry until recently. It's called Shiloh Baptist Church. They have one church in two locations in York. They have one off of Cottage Avenue and then another off of Locust (Street). They had a Saturday night service and . . . I had been assisting with (that).

Are your children into music? I really believe that they are going to go in that direction. My son is 8, and he loves the drums. I have a (1-year-old daughter). She has an innate passion for it. When she wakes up she goes over to her piano.

Aretha Franklin presented you with a Stellar Gospel Music Award for Song of the Year in 2006. What was that like? I was in with the best of the best in gospel. I felt like I had already won just from the fact that I was nominated in that particular field. When they called my name, it was a breathtaking experience, but as for Aretha Franklin? She is the queen of soul. It was a life-changing moment for me and helped me see that this is what I'm supposed to be doing in life.

What's coming up for you in the future? We just released an album Feb. 5 . . . "Right Now Praise." Now, I'm going out on The Hope Nation Tour. It's sponsored by World Vision, which is a company that specifically focuses on impoverished youth in Africa. A portion of the proceeds . . . go directly toward field work and missionary work. They need . . . things that we really take for granted in our lives because we're so blessed in America.

- ERIN McCRACKEN, FLIPSIDE STAFF