Redeeming the Days
“In the meantime I’ll keep a looser grip on the stuff I’ve piled in this sinking ship. And I’ll hold tight to Jesus, ‘cause He’s permanent, ‘cause He’s everlasting.” —from the song “Permanent”
In an industry where style typically triumphs over substance, singer/songwriter James Tealy’s music is a refreshing exception to the rule.
Not only are the songs from Redeeming the Days deeply personal and heartfelt, but Tealy has a knack for writing about deeper things with the panache of a pop music craftsman—a rare combination that not only attracted the attention of Universal Music and Grammy-winning producer Monroe Jones, but inevitably connects with listeners on all levels.
Back in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina hit Tealy’s hometown of New Orleans, his perspective on just about everything changed, especially concerning what’s really important in life—and what isn’t.
“It’s impossible to walk through something like that without it coloring my entire narrative,” Tealy says. “My wife and I had been living and working in New Orleans for 10 years when Katrina hit. We left the city a day before the storm with three days worth of clothes and our pet rabbit. Eight weeks later, we were allowed back into our zip code for one day between 7:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. to salvage whatever we could from our home. We lost some stuff but what we gained from the experience is immeasurable. The effects of those days show up in my conversations and writing in ways I don’t expect sometimes—and then I realize how deeply it’s affected my worldview.”
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Tealy tried to write but it was still too early to honestly process his emotions. Weeks later while doing some interviews for a Katrina Relief Project, the poignant, poetic lyrics to “Permanent” surfaced.
For “Blue Horizon,” Tealy teamed up with friend and producer Ben Shive to chronicle the story of the day he and his wife drove out of New Orleans in a Budget moving truck with what they had salvaged of their belongings. “The song is really about the pressure I felt as a husband to protect her, to be present for her in those moments while I was still processing my own grief and loss.”
While subject matter like this could make for a heavy album, Redeeming the Days is the perfect title. Tealy’s stalwart faith in God is apparent in each track, even when God’s not mentioned by name. “When I wrote a song, I’m trying to capture a moment or tell a story. If Jesus shows up in a song it’s because my followship of Jesus seems to color every story. Some songs I hear—and occasionally write— are like windows. They want to present some objective truth and have you, as a listener, stand separated from it and look in. Those songs are written to teach.
“But I think my songs are more like doors than windows. I want listeners to come in, sit down and join in the story. Instead of teaching people some truth that stays distant, I want to invite people into the story to experience what I’m experiencing as I try and figure out what it means to walk in the ways of Jesus."