Getting to the heart of the matter – the individual as representative of the whole and yet with a unique story to tell.
Master storytellers are Nelson’s major influencers. For instance, Bruce Springsteen, John Mellencamp, Lucinda Williams, Roger Waters, Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave, Lou Reed, and Dylan all display the individual’s point of view within a visible cultural scheme. Johnny Cash, especially, strikes him as being willing to plumb the darkest depths of his soul and find there the love and mercy of Jesus, and to throw it out there: a message that speaks connects.
These storytellers are all masters at showing the need for justice. Specifically, the tension between our instinctive demand for justice for our oppressor and a cry for personal mercy; whether the hero of the song receives justice, mercy or neither.
Musically, he enjoys the emotion of the electric bluesy rhythms of Pete Townshend (with the Who and on his own) and more recently A3’s mixture of roots and electronic music.
About being a Christian and a song writer: the Christian has a point of view but is handicapped by what others see as What a Christian Is – and he’s too easily pigeonholed: everyone knows what he’s going to say because they think they “know” him. Nelson wants to be an artist who’s a Christian – to tell the stories from a Christian point of view, engaging in neither the predictably didactic nor the predictable happy ending.
He feels a need to not so much preach as to display the gospel/Christianity at work through story—neither religious nor irreligious, but a third way that connects with the transcendent without being removed from the messiness of the struggle. He gives the overall impression of a traveler with sometimes crushing doubts, who fails frequently and tries to repent as regularly, with his hope not in pulling himself up but rather in relying on God for mercy and for justice. Candid that the sinner in his songs reflects his own struggles, he’s honest that his faith and his work in a 12-step program off and on for 20 years has given him both tools and insight. Though he studies both the bible and the 12 steps, he’s found it takes serious discipline to go from knowing to living; to humbly accept who he is; what he’s called to do; what he’s called not to do. Mostly, he’s confident that life isn’t an endless downhill slide.
He claims to be willing to expose whatever in himself will help people who are similarly stressed with life. For him, the tension in the fear of losing or not getting something ostensibly critical displays--on a moment-to-moment basis—exactly where his faith resides. And it’s usually in the wrong places. Trusting that he is not alone, his theory is that exposing his fears and sin is part of the process of healing, and there is the promise that it helps others to let go of their dreck.
“So in the name of community, I’m willing to show whatever it takes – whatever I’m called to do.”