Interview: Jonathan Cain

Aug 11 2021

Jonathan Cain is many different things to many different people. He's a Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inductee, he was a member of the band Journey where he wrote Don't Stop Believin', the best-selling rock song in iTunes history. But he's also a Christian solo artist and a worship leader at his local church. Louder Than The Music was delighted to spend some time talking to Jonathan, and in this exclusive interview we find out the story behind his brand new single 'Oh Lord Lead Us', his plans for a new album, his advice for upcoming artists, what songs he likes to use in church worship - and of course, we couldn't resist asking him about THAT song!

Hi Jonathan, tell us about your latest single 'Oh Lord Lead Us' and what the inspiration behind it was?

I was leading worship at our church on New Year’s Eve and was looking for a song that connected the New Year Season to the Holy Spirit. Since I could not find what I was looking for, I decided to write a song that would lead our congregation.

When I looked in scripture for direction, I found in Psalm 105:4-11 - “Look to the Lord for strength. Seek His face always.” I thought, Yes, Lord lead us…into every new season, every new year. The rest of the song flowed and I finished it in a few hours.

After coming through the pandemic I’m seeing Isaiah 40: 30 would be appropriate opening idea. “Even young men get weary, stumble and fall. But those who hope in the Lord, soar like eagles rise above it all.” Indeed, I thought how we-all stumbled through the days of lock down and quarantine last year as our freedoms were diminished.

Musically, I wanted a gospel vocal opening into a piano driven chord change that would be my signature sound. Lyrically, I wanted to stress that we can choose to lose our old selves and become new creations with God every day and every New Year.

When I performed it on New Year’s, it resonated with the congregation and was met with approval, so I decided to book a recording session at my studio in Nashville at Addiction Sound and offer it up to the Lord as my “first fruit offering.”

So far it has over 30k streams on Spotify and has proven to be my highest received worship song.

All praise and glory be to God.

I understand that track is taken from your upcoming new solo album - can you let us into any secrets about what people can expect from the album?

It will be more “worship sound” and less “pop sound.” Simple, poignant melodies with strong lyrics that reflect some overlooked scriptures and deep praise.

It's been a tough time for musicians and artists during the pandemic, how has that affected you personally and the way you've approached recording this album?

As a song writer, I believe it is our job to observe people and what they are going through. Last year was unprecedented in uncertainty, fear and anxiety, and what we all had to face as nations around the world. I want to make music that might wash away their fears and anxiety; To turn to the Lord for strength and leadership as we “reset” spiritually in the coming years.

As someone who leads worship regularly in a church setting, what are some of your go-to songs currently to engage people in worship?

Songs I choose to perform this season are:
“Great Things”
“Build My Life”
“My Heart Is Yours”
“Way Maker”
“Yes I Will”

Forgive me for asking something that I'm sure everyone asks you! But we can't miss an opportunity to ask you about the incredible success of the song 'Don't Stop Believin' that you co-wrote. What do you think it is about that song that really captures people's imagination, and did you ever expect it to be so successful when it was first written?

We knew we had something special the first time we heard it mixed back in 1981. The odd thing was it never did that well on the charts. Over the years though, with the shows Rock Of Ages, Glee and the Soprano’s, momentum for the song grew and grew. I think in the last 40 years there are still a lot of “small town girls” and “city boys” wanting to get on the “midnight train going anywhere.”

The song gives people “permission to dream”; they are not limited to where they think they are and can make a new life if they choose.

My mother and father came from broken families and started a new life and had a family they could surround in love and possibility.

FYI, it was my who father gave me the idea of Don’t Stop Believin’ on a phone call back in the 70’s when I asked him if I should give up on my musical dream in LA as a singer songwriter and come back to Chicago. He told me my greatest blessings were around the corner, “Don’t Stop Believin’ John. “Stay the course.” He was my vision keeper and musical mentor. He is gone now and I will always be grateful for my father, Leonard.

Jonathan Cain
What advice would you give to any songwriters or artists just starting out?

Be unique, have your own identity and point of view. Know your strengths and get help in your weaknesses. Find a few writers who you admire and study how they craft their songs. Don’t leave a lot of unfinished songs lying around. Write with urgency but wait till you totally know and understand what you are writing about. Use social media to give people a reason to like your music. Be transparent and bold!

What message would you like people to take from your music?

Live and love in your life to the fullest degree! Leave it all on the field. Relationships matter in life and in your faith. You can’t love God without loving others. I am blessed and grateful to have grown up in this country and it shows in my music and lyrics.

You've worked with some of the biggest names in the music business, but if you could work with any songwriter that you've never written with before, who would it be and why?

I think Ed Sheeran and I could write some amazing songs together. I admire his unique, romantic style and R+B soulfulness!

When you look back on an incredible career, what are your proudest moments?

When the Escape album went number 1 in 1982! 4 top 40 singles and recently a Diamond Award for 10 million sales!
Same goes for the Greatest Hits which all received the coveted Diamond Award.
Getting voted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and getting the most votes of any band in our class that year!
Receiving the RIAA Award for over 5 million downloads of “Don’t Stop Believin’”!
Receiving the Spotify award for 1 billion spins of “Don’t Stop Believin’”

Building a world class studio in Nashville, Addiction Sound, where I make music for the Lord and where stars like Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban, John Oates and Kelly Clarkson choose to record!

When can people see you performing live next?

We will be performing in Atlantic City, NYC and Hershey Penn Aug 20-23, and playing in Vegas December 6 -18 at Virgin Vegas and Caesar’s Palace.

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