Entertainment — June 13, 2022 at 7:34 am

Texas Soul Singer Wrestles with ‘the Old Man’ and Finds God’s Grace in First Album


“Because of the faith we put in Jesus, we get to write a different story.”

Micah Edwards – Jean Leon (Live)

Christianity Today: Micah Edwards does not want to become like his father.

At 27, the retro soul singer from Houston has reached the age when many men slip into a resemblance. It just happens. The timbre in their voices, the way they couch a phrase, or how they respond to a situation seems, suddenly, exactly like their fathers’.

And it doesn’t feel like a choice, but the manifestation of inherited traits. The re-expression of psychic wounds. Repeated family patterns, emerging as unshakable identity. Is this who I am?

The King James Bible has a term for the self you recognize and don’t want to be: “the old man,” a colloquial phrase for “father” and a synonym for the sin a Christian has to struggle to put off. Edwards knows the feeling.

He is a father himself now. His baby was born just a few weeks ago. He picks up his son, Benjamin David, while he talks on the phone.

“I just believed this lie from the Enemy, You’re going to be just like him,” Edwards told CT. “But because of the faith we put in Jesus, we get to write a different story. The Lord brought me out of chains, believing I was doomed to repeat what I saw.”

That’s what his album, Jean Leon, is about: the choices Edwards’s father made, what that did to the family, and how, by faith, he will be different from him. The title comes from the combination of his parents’ middle names. Years in the making and long teased online—while his previous single “Moments” racked up seven million streams—the album releases Friday, June 10.

“There was a moment in time I believed,” Edwards sings on the title track, “I could never escape your reality / But that was yesterday, now I don’t feel the same.”

In the music video he made for NPR Music’s 2022 Tiny Desk competition, Edwards sits on a stool in front of a mic in a garage crowded with barbecue sauce, hunting trophies, and a Ms. Pac-Man machine. He taps the heel of his brown cowboy boot as the bass player behind him lays down a thick groove and a horn section swings into action.

“Oh, baby!,” he sings. “Brokenness is all I’ve ever known—ever known. / But I know the good Lord has far more for me / And I’m not gonna take the gravity / That’s weighing you down.”

Edwards’s parents got divorced two years ago, ending a marriage roiled by his father’s infidelity, narcissism, and abuse. The five kids in the family are still reeling, but also relieved. The cycle of their parents’ bad choices has finally been broken. Now they can move forward.

For Edwards, that means not becoming like his father. When he talks about it, he talks about choices and discipline, about gritting his teeth and being a man.

When he sings about it, though, he sings about a life transformed by love. He sounds like no one so much as Augustine, an anxious heart that has found rest.

“I will be a better father than my own,” he says toward the end of the album, “Not ’cause of me but by grace and grace alone.”

Edwards’s lead guitarist, Ryan Stueckemann, says this deeply religious album wasn’t what he expected when he started playing with Edwards, but he’s also not surprised this is where they ended up.

“From the jump I knew Micah just really loves Jesus,” he said. “The first time we practiced he asked if we could pray, so this is like the most Christian non-Christian band there could be.”

Stueckemann works full time as the music minister at a Methodist church. Three other members of the band are in worship ministry as well, not to mention Edwards, who sings on Sundays at the nondenominational Sandbox Church.

They didn’t come together to perform Christian music, though. They started with a shared bond over Great American Songbook standards like Nat King Cole. They moved into ’60s soul music and old-school country covers, which allowed them to start performing at weddings and corporate events around Houston. They called themselves the Honky-Tonk Revivalists.

Those gigs stopped with the pandemic. But when the band could finally get back together to practice, Stueckemann recalls, Edwards had imagined a new sound. He had an idea about how he could bring soul and country together.

“We sounded like the Commodores, and then he was like, ‘I want to add some Cody Johnson,’” Stueckemann said. “‘I said, ‘Dude. I don’t even know how those things go together.’

“And someone in the band said, ‘What does that even mean?’

“And Micah goes, ‘Think about yourself riding a horse.’”

They laugh about it now, but it worked. They had a new sound, “Texas Soul,” which was like a throwback to Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, and the vibe of Motown, embellished with country tones. It shares musical DNA with Leon Bridges and Charley Crockett, but what really holds it together, according to Stueckemann, is Edwards’s voice, which is raspy but also pure and joyful.

“Texas Soul” wasn’t like praise and worship or contemporary Christian music, but it did have a spiritual depth, Stueckemann said. It could carry pain and convey hope—just what they needed for an album telling the story of a broken family, the wreckage of sin, and a man trying to be a new kind of man.

The story is Edwards’s, but it might also be every Christian’s, coming of age.

“My parents are awesome,” Stueckemann said. “But I’ve had heroes fall. You get into your late 20s, and there are just parts of your life that are going to fall apart. Parts you thought were no-doubters.”

Stueckemann grew up playing worship music for Harvest Bible Chapel. The Chicagoland megachurch was plunged into scandal in 2018 when independent journalist Julie Roys reported allegations of misused funds and claims that pastor James MacDonald bullied, belittled, and deceived church staff. MacDonald was fired from the church in 2019.

“There are things I’ve lost in the last five years that I never thought we’d have to deal with,” Stueckemann said. “I hope this album offers a different path to talking about what the Lord does in suffering, in the middle of unplanned disasters.”

Going down a different path than “the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts” (Eph. 4:22, KJV) can be hard work, though. It’s not easy to figure out how to break patterns and reject inheritances.

Madeline Edwards, Micah’s older sister, a professional singer going on tour this summer with Chris Stapleton, said it took faith. She’s seen healing happen through her and her brother’s commitment to their respective churches.

“When you go through the kind of s– we did, there’s no way to go back to normal,” she said. “The only things that really helped were therapy and prayer and digging into the Lord. Our church communities really lifted us up—they just lifted us up in prayer.”

It wasn’t like that when the Edwardses were kids, though they were always in church. Church—like music and school and sports—was about performance. About being good enough to hold the attention and win the approval of their father, Madeline says.

It was only later, when she was leading worship in an Acts 29 church plant and he was plugging in in a Reformed University Fellowship campus ministry, that the two eldest Edwards kids understood Christianity could be a response to God’s gift of grace.

For Micah, that story also involves meeting his wife, Chelsea, who showed up at the campus ministry one day and changed everything for him.

“It wasn’t long before love songs / made more sense to me,” he sings in “The Girl from the Valley.”

When Madeline Edward sees Micah with his wife and now his son, she thinks of all the years he spent agonized by the thought he might become like his father. He was so worried about the inevitability of it, but he underestimated what love would do to him.

“When you love someone,” Madeline said, “you don’t have to constantly think, How do I not cheat on this person? You want to give yourself to them. How do I serve this person? You don’t have to work so hard not to do the right thing. It’s like with God, it’s an overflow of love.”

The album follows that journey in Edwards’s life as he discovers love, learns to receive grace, starts to offer forgiveness to his parents, keeps fighting with fear, and learns to rely fully on Jesus.

The album ends with an original rendition of “In Christ Alone.”

As Micah Edwards has built a fanbase on social media, the message has resonated.

“Just found your music,” someone wrote in a recent comment on Edwards’s Instagram. “It spoke to my soul like nothing else in the longest time. Gonna be huge, Grammy material and stuff, hope so. … Stay firm in Jesus. He comes first, everything else after him.”

Joe Rodriguez, an elder at Edwards’s church, thinks it connects to people because so many are trying to deal with things from their past and from previous generations. They’re trying to do things differently, take on responsibilities that were shirked by others, and change things for themselves and their children.

Edwards, he said, leans on God.

“I always tell him he’s like an usher,” Rodriguez said. “Not like Usher the singer. Like an usher in church. He’s using his gifts to bring us to the Spirit. He brings us in, where everyone can have access to God.”

As Edwards waits in his home in Houston, though, and anticipates the release of his album, he can still feel the fear. He can still imagine that he might fall into the patterns he saw modeled for him. He’s guarding himself.

“I know that the Enemy is coming with lies and temptations,” he says. “I know that the Enemy is coming to take it all away, and I know what that looks like. I know what it looks like for a man to choose himself and for those choices to destroy a family.”

But when he looks at his newborn, he feels something else. He thinks, Isn’t it all a gift? The baby. His wife. The music. The chance to learn from the bad past and not just repeat patterns. The opportunity to be a different kind of man.

The grace of it all is overwhelming.

“You caught me in a very thankful space,” he told CT.

Then the new father—who is not the old father—kisses his son. He kisses him and kisses him all over his face, love overflowing.


  • Daniel Silliman

    Daniel Silliman is a journalist and a historian. He is the news editor for Christianity Today, the author of a history of bestselling evangelical fiction, and teaches humanities at Milligan University. Daniel spent several years as a crime reporter outside Atlanta before pursuing higher education in Germany, earning a MA from Tübingen University and a doctoral degree from Heidelberg University. He was a Teaching Fellow at the University of Notre Dame from 2016-2017 and a Lilly Postdoctoral Fellow at Valparaiso University from 2017-19. He has reported and edited news coverage for CT since 2019.

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