“James Gardin is a Christian, a creative, and someone trying to learn how to live life better each day.”
James Gardin believes that music allows him to find confidence. “Before I did music, I was really really shy, scared in front of crowds. Once I was able to create kind of a new character as a rapper, it gave me a voice and allowed me to tell my own story.”
He said that hip-hop allows him to travel to different worlds and experience a variety of perspectives. Gardin started rapping in high school when battle rapping got popular.
“A lot of my friends were battling and that’s how I cut my teeth and got into rapping.”
Gardin made friends with some people who recorded songs in one of their basements. “We started making songs and I think that’s when we started realizing that we can’t just have a song with verse, verse, verse, and we really started paying attention to having choruses and composing records together.”
Growing up in church, Gardin said that he has always believed in Jesus. “Not until my late twenties did I really have a moment where I realized I actually needed to surrender.” He said that he got to a point where he was tired of doing things “my way.”
“I went to a gospel choir concert and while I was there I felt the Spirit and they were asking if anyone wanted to really give their life and surrender all areas, so I went up there and did that that day.”
Last month, James Gardin released an EP called Until It All Makes Sense. “None of us actually have it all together and we’re all trying to figure it out.” He wants to dispel the idea of the need to be perfect. “A lot of people will try to hide their flaws instead of dealing with them… if we bring them to light and give them to the Lord, he can work through them.”
Gardin wanted a conceptual album cover that would go with the message of the project. The cover shows a photo of an open door in a dilapidated, dirty room. “That’s how the door looks like when we’re walking out of the trouble we’re in and going into Christ. Sometimes that door doesn’t look like a glowing, celestial, golden gate.”
Some questions Gardin often asks himself are, “Am I in the right calling? Why am I not where I think I should be?” Looking at his failures and lack of achievement inspired him to write about what he did.
“Writing is a great way for me to go through the issues… and really flesh them out and get to the root of them.”
Until It All Makes Sense begins with “All Good.” The first thing he says is “I ain’t stoppin’ ‘til we all good.” Some listeners may thing that he is being arrogant in this song, but he says that when listened to in the context of the EP, “I kind of want to encourage people to get away from self-effort because I think we need to be ambitious and have goals, but when we think it’s all about our agenda, its gonna fall apart.”
Gardin says that we can’t change God’s plan for us but should adjust our plans to fall in line with His.
“Be driven and be hungry, but when it’s too much circled around what you want, its gonna fall and crumble.”
“Next To Me” follows “All Good” and is about rejecting the opportunity for dating and marital relationships when pursuing your goals is your greatest priority. Gardin said that he has done this many times, and now has been seeing many of these women get married and be happy with another partner.
“It’s hard to say that what was for me was taken away, but it made me think about, ‘Would that make me more happy than chasing something that I want, that I need, instead of finding that mate that God has for me?’”
For much of his adult life, Gardin said he has had issues with alcohol. “When people usually go to drink, they drink to get drunk. I think historically alcoholism does run in my family. I tell people my issue is that I enjoy the taste of alcohol.”
In “Shot With You,” He talks about how he has difficulties limiting himself and has used alcohol to cope with difficulties. “I want the living water to be what I drink when I’m stressed out. That song is like me crying out to [God], like ‘You know what? I’m done trying what I’ve been doing cause I’m not working and I’m ready to take a shot with You.’”
“Let Me Down” comes next and is where Gardin shares the realization that God has never let him down. The song shares the idea of being grateful to God for always being there for us, “and even when we’re at our worst, Him trying to show us that He still has great plans for us and sees the best in us.”
Until It All Makes Sense concludes with “Victorious.” Gardin wanted to take a chance to celebrate that he is still here. “If God is with us, then who can be against us? It’s really claiming it at that point.”
“When you realize [that God is] the anchor that’s been holding you down and that has your back and is with you through it all, victory is the only thing that you can have.”
James Gardin is signed to Illect Recordings, a record label with a variety of artists, mostly based in Lansing, Michigan, which is where Gardin lives. He started working with them doing PR for some of the other artists’ albums. Getting to know the artists and the label owner, it was a very organic process when he was eventually brought on as a signed artist.
Outside of music, Gardin loves to read and work with youth, teaching Sunday School at his church. He enjoys reading about self-help and marketing.
“I hope my record somehow does encourage more artists to be more vulnerable.”