Jonathan McReynolds Talks Faith and Music

The Chicago-bred singer also reveals his bond with India Arie.

Posted: 03/29/2014 10:00 AM EDT
Jonathan McReynolds

For many artists, spirituality takes a back seat to record sales, but for Jonathan McReynolds faith and music are one-in-the-same.

The Chicago-born musician was playing the piano at the age of eight and by the time he was eighteen had picked up the guitar as well. Now at 24, Jonathan has established himself as one of the most versatile Gospel singers out and at this year's BET Celebration of Gospel, he showed the world that the message in his music can move the people.

In an exclusive interview with BET.com, Jonathan spoke about why he refuses to compromise his beliefs, his new album which he's in the process of recording and how growing up in different environments helped shape the man and musician he is today.

Has religion ever stopped you from writing a song you wanted to write?
I make very few songs that aren't Jesus-centered, and those ones are more just love songs based on my own relationships or feelings at that time, but it's never really a conflict because this is how I chose to represent myself. This is actually what I chose to represent and I don't regret that ever. It's the greatest subject you can talk about.

In general how do you feel about R&B right now?
I think that musically it's kind of gone to making money, not being as creative as you can possibly be. But I believe there are some people out there somewhere that are still looking to make just straight up good music, they're just maybe not as big as some of the well-known names. I'm just excited about music in general, you still have people that are making good music and as long as you listen to them it's hard to be discouraged.

What has been the most memorable moment for you so far in terms of recognition?
Just recently at the BET Celebration of Gospel I got a chance to do a duet with India Arie and we talked before and after the show of course and the fact that she was a fan of my music and is somebody that I consider one of my primary influences, I just thought it was incredible that she had heard of me. She was tweeting about my music and tweeting about my lyrics and she was maybe as much a fan of me as I was of hers that was really cool.

You grew up in a few different neighborhoods on the south side of Chicago, how has that contributed to who you are as a man and a musician?
I grew up part time in the hood of 79th street, part time in church, part time in the nicer neighborhood -- that was less segregated, a lot more integrated. So the chance to see so many different sides of life at an early age linked directly into how my music comes off. I'm built up with so many different cultures, ideas and outlooks on life and gave me a chance to see things from both sides, see what we struggle with, see what we need, what we think of God as, what we ask of God. All of that goes into the lyrics that I've written and I wouldn't trade my childhood for anything.

What can fans be on the look out for in the near future from Jonathan McReynolds?
106th & Park of course! Also the Celebration of Gospel is coming up April 6th and actually workin' on a new album. It's mostly written. We're gonna start recording very soon, so expect some new music in the next few months from me. Just a lot of great things not for profit going on. I have a not for profit organization that gives out scholarships to college students.

You once said, "I wanna be saved but I wanna be cool too." Do you still feel that way?
When I wrote that I was in college and "Cool" has its own meaning. There's some things you feel like you should be doing or you wanna do just to be with the "in" crowd. When you get out of college it's not so much being cool but there's definitely still a part of you that wants to. You see how much fun people seem to be having, you see what people do without any regard for morals or standards and sometimes you just wonder "What if I step out and do all that stuff?" But it's the holy spirit, it's my conscience, it's my integrity. I believe that I'm living a wiser life and I just have to know that my hope is in Jesus Christ.

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