Jonathan McReynolds: Ushering in New Gospel Sound

Sunday, 06 May 2012 18:38 Written by  Cicely V. Teal

The lyrics simply say, ...Lord I'm split in two/Part of me loves the world and the other loves you so/.../what do I do/I wanna be saved but I gotta stay cool too/.../And no I'm not a fool/I know eventually I'm gonna have to choose and/.../really I don't wanna lose/.../my ticket into heaven and a chance to be used by You... These raw lyrics that seemingly tap into the spiritual toil many people face come from a young man who is heaven bent, literally, on making transparent music while representing Christ.

Jonathan McReynolds, 21, has a sound unlike any of his peers. The South side Chicago-native has woven a sound that is equal parts Neo Soul, Jazz, R&B, Alternative and of course Gospel. Jonathan was aware of his passion for music at an early age but had no desire to sing. In church, he went from playing the drums to the organ and his musical inclination continued through high school when he realized he actually had the gift to sing.

Jonathan’s place in the music industry seems to define divine alignment. After singing with a group, Mind Over Matter, he worked on his own personal project which ended up in the hands of a radio personality and it has been uphill from there. (GMO): What was it like for you growing up?

Jonathan McReynolds: I grew up on the South side of Chicago with my mother in a very church oriented, positive household. [I] had a close, religious and musical family. I grew up a little spoiled and a little old school...yea...I admit it. I remember so much of my childhood being in a car listening to Larnelle Harris, Commissioned, Hillsongs, Jim Croce and Michael Jackson.

GMO: Did you grow up in the church?

Jonathan: We never lived more than a mile away from my home church and I was one of those kids in there at least three days a week.

GMO: You were extremely active during your time at Whitney Young High School. Did you know you wanted to sing gospel music? What brought you to your ministry?

Jonathan: Honestly, I ran from music and singing for much of my life. My mother will tell you. I vehemently refused any offer to sing any and every solo. I was fine on the organ. I didn't get any confidence as a singer until I was about a junior in high school, and I am sure I wasn't thinking about whether it was gospel or not. My first songs were definitely about girlfriends and crushes and whatnot. It wasn't until college that God began revealing to me how DIFFERENT I was from a lot of the other kids. Not that I didn't participate in some of the same stuff, but there was a conviction in my heart, a pull on me. God began giving me a different song.

GMO: If I had to describe your voice I would say it’s like milk – very smooth. Your sound is reminiscent of Musiq, John Legend, and Brian McKnight. You could easily sing secular music not only with your voice, but your overall sound. During the course of your musical journey, have people tried to convince you to sing secular music or have you ever thought about it? What has kept you focused on singing for and about God?

Jonathan: Wow, thank you. Those have all been huge favorites of mine at different points in life. In college, I had many platforms to sing secular music and many people in that community urged me to do something big, assuming that doing Christian music automatically would limit my "success," but somehow God programmed in me that this was what I was supposed to do with my music.

GMO: What has been the toughest part for you in building your ministry? How did you overcome them?

Jonathan: music is different. People tend to like and yet distrust "different." My stuff doesn't necessarily evoke the same response as other gospel music, and that was discouraging at times. The industry doesn't always know how to label it, promote it, and therefore take a risk on it. There is no "system" set up for my music yet. How do I get over it? Romans 8:28: "...all things work for the good of those who love him and who have been called according to his purpose."

GMO: How did a buzz begin to grow about Jonathan McReynolds?

Jonathan: God is so good, I don't even have a great explanation for that. A chain of "freak accidents" that allowed the "right" people to listen to my music. Haters are loud but it's a blessing when your supporters are louder. They reposted my videos, tweeted about my music, brought me to their churches, and played it on the radio. I am so thankful for people like you and in awe of how God did this. There were no marketing plans and mass campaigns just the power of word of mouth.

GMO: Your music is very transparent. Did you go into your ministry with that in mind or did it evolve into that?

Jonathan: Any of my friends will tell you I can be too blunt sometimes, but its amazing how God brought that out in my music. It was more natural for me to pray and write in regular, unpolished English than Christian-ese. I know that some people will say some of it is controversial, but I really just wrote about what I was going through and what so many of us go through. It is meant to be relatable and genuine...and clear. I always loved music that just simply told the story and that's what "life music" is all about. I didn't go into this with a "style." God REALLY put this in me.

GMO: I recently had the pleasure of hearing you at the release concert for James Fortune’s Identity album at Fellowship here in Chicago. I loved that you took familiar songs and put a twist on them. Have you been able to connect with younger people and lead them to Christ arranging your music that way?

Jonathan: I think so. People can always connect to things familiar to them. It's a tough line to tow however, because sometimes we over do it and flipping the lyrics to something Christian doesn't take away from it's negative, secular appeal. It can be used to get your point across sometimes, but I will never let it be the focal point of my set.

GMO: What can people look forward to from you?

Jonathan: I am so excited because the single for my FULL album (no more EPs) will be coming out very soon and the album soon after. It's a "untested" style of Christian music and it eases everyone's nerves when you can see that people are actually enjoying it. Check out my site

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Scroll down to see video of Jonathan singing "I Love You."

Cicely V. Teal

Cicely V. Teal

Cicely V. Teal graduated from Northeastern Illinois University with a B.A. in Communication and Depaul Univeristy with a M.A in Journalism. She contributed to and maintained a column at N’Digo Magapaper, and wrote for Urban Influence Magazine, Breaking Tweets, The DePaulia and The Independent. She also worked on documentary projects at WTTW channel 11, children’s television programming at WCIU-TV and African American programming at Central City Productions.

She is a blogger and studies web analytics, social networking strategies and integrated marketing at the University of Chicago.

She can be contacted at

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