CATHOLIC REGISTER PHOTO | ALLISON HUNWICKS
Chris Bray uses his musical talents to glorify God.
Chris Bray is steadfast and earnest on record, steadfast and earnest on stage, steadfast and earnest throughout a simple phone call.
He recently released his third professional studio album, Beloved Child of God. Infectious melodies coupled with Bray's sweet voice and boyish good looks are the icing on top of song writing that is both a serious exploration and exuberant proclamation of faith.
With a quick laugh and easy manner at home with his three daughters, the (almost) 28-year-old Bray talks about his musical journey, which began in St. Mary's Parish in Hesson, Ont., northwest of Hamilton.
"God nurtured the gift that he planted. I never had any training vocally, and I never really wanted to sing," he laughs. "I wanted to be an electric guitar rock star - playing in a band and just rocking out, . . . but I guess God had a different plan."
Thankfully, Bray heeded that calling. It has since rewarded him with a number of Gospel Music Association Covenant Awards, number one hits on the CANCON Christian radio chart, and opportunities to perform for thousands at large scale events such as World Youth Day and the most recent March for Life in Ottawa.
Music had always been nurtured during his Catholic upbringing and at his parish. But Bray didn't set out to become the musician he is today.
"I didn't set out to be a Catholic praise and worship artist; I didn't have that in mind at all," says Bray.
A brief dalliance with the world of secular music quickly changed his mind. "I figured out early on, because I had tried secular music for a while and it was awful," laughs Bray. "I knew I wasn't in the right place and that God had some other thing for me."
"I made my mind up pretty quickly that if I was going to pursue professional music in some capacity, then it needed to be expressing worship somehow and that what I needed to be doing was glorifying God and it just feels that that's where I'm supposed to be."
Finding where he's supposed to be has resulted in the new album reflecting Bray's signature gift of marrying worship with enjoyable, accessible music, while also embracing the often challenging spirit of the New Evangelization with the Catholic Church. It can be found digitally on iTunes, and was released for purchase in Canadian faith stores June 18.
"When I was writing the album (Beloved Child of God), there was this one song, and it's called 'Seek the Things Above.' There's a line in the song, and it says 'If you have been raised with Christ, seek the things above' . . . and then it says 'Don't let temptation forfeit your salvation,'" says Bray.
Worried that Christian radio might not play the song because of lyrics that were so decidedly Catholic in theology, Bray toyed with the idea of adjusting his writing so that it would be inspiring and accessible to all Christians.
"At the end of the day, we really felt that this was an opportunity to put something out there and be firm in our faith, and say this is what we believe, and evangelize through music," said Bray. He notes that despite his initial hesitation, the song has had a positive reception.
"I've had a great response to that song too from our Protestant brothers and sisters," he said. "It's been a unique opportunity to witness and to be a bit bolder in my faith."
With upcoming tour dates scheduled across the U.S. and Canada, it's easy to think about how the pressures of fame and success might challenge the faith and values of the young artist.
"I think 99 per cent of artists struggle with that, and I think that the accountability is huge," said Bray.
"I remember someone telling me, when I had my first professional record done, 'Always be accountable to your home church.' Always have people who are holding you accountable and that you are always staying faithful in your faith and you're continuing to refine your craft, . . . keeping you at ground level, so that it's not just about you and your ego trying to drive everything."
Bray has established a supportive network. His Flickr account is full of pictures of his smiling, happy family and his Facebook page and website are littered with positive messages of encouragement, as well as stories of how he has inspired and motivated listeners through praise and worship.
"It doesn't matter if my songs never play on the radio," he said. "If I'm able to minister to people and provide for my family, that's success."
Along with promoting the album and his full-time role as husband and father, Bray also uses his music to work with the Compassion Canada charitable organization, which raises awareness of children around the world who are in need.
"Compassion felt like a really natural fit into the ministry," Bray said. "We're celebrating our faith and we're singing about God, but let's actually live our faith and let's practise what we preach."
With the title single of Beloved Child of God already topping Christian radio charts in Canada, it seems certain that Bray's musical ministry will continue to inspire. It was featured on EWTN's international television broadcast and was performed for more than 20,000 people at the May 9 March for Life on Parliament Hill.
Surely, this sort of outreach will ensure that Bray can continue his message of praise and worship to listeners hungry for enjoyable Catholic music.
"I just have a heart for meeting people and worshiping with people, and I know that God has put that passion inside of me."
Visit www.chrisbraymusic.com for more information on upcoming tour dates or on how to purchase Beloved Child of God.