Jasmine Murray is making a name for herself in the music business and that name is Fearless.
It suits her in more ways than one, but is also not without a note of irony, as the back-story of the song she co-wrote poignantly indicates.
“Fearless” is the title of the 26-year-old Columbus native’s debut single and the title of her first album, which will be released in June.
The song has been a hit among Contemporary Christian music listeners, spending 21 weeks on Billboard’s Hot Christian Songs list, peaking at No. 12 on the list last May.
Largely on the strength of that song, along with another single, “For God So Loved” — which peaked at No. 27 on the Billboard list in January — the former “American Idol” contestant and Miss Mississippi is nominated in two categories for the K-Love Fan Awards, which will be broadcast from Nashville on Trinity Broadcasting Network at 7 p.m. May 27. K-Love is a contemporary Christian music radio programming service broadcast on more than 440 FM radio stations throughout the United States.
Winners are chosen by fan vote, which is available now by visiting klovefanawards.com/vote. Murray is nominated in the “Female Artist of the Year” and “Breakout Single” categories, the latter for her single “Fearless.”
“I was very surprised,” said Murray, who was home visiting with family this week after completing another tour. “Just looking at the other people who were nominated, I’m thinking, ‘Oh, my gosh. I can’t believe this.'”
No matter the genre, making it in the ultra-competitive world of the Nashville music scene is no place for the timid. A certain amount of fearlessness, along with persistence, is often what separates the “bes” from the “wannabes.”
No one familiar with Murray’s story doubts her supply of either of those qualities.
In 2009, at the age of 16, Murray competed in the eighth season of “American Idol,” a high-pressure, high-stakes singing competition that simply overwhelms the majority of those who audition.
Murray? She was, well, fearless.
“There I am in Los Angeles, recording for the first time and on this live show every week with millions of people watching,” she recalled. “I’m thinking, ‘I love this.’ That’s the moment when I really realized this is exactly what I want to do.”
Murray finished 12th in the competition.
As for tenacity, that quality emerged during Murray’s bid for Miss Mississippi, a title she won in 2014, on her third try.
“My first year, I was first runner-up and won talent,” she said. “I was like, ‘I’m good.’ The second year, I made the top 10, but it was kind of hard. I wanted to win. Everybody wants to win.”
Instead of moving on, Murray returned in 2014 to try yet again.
“I don’t know,” she said. “I just wanted it. I felt like the Lord was saying, ‘Be patient. It wasn’t your time yet.’ Whether I won or not, I would have been OK. Sometimes, you don’t get what you want, you may not get the job you want, whatever it is. But sometimes that means you just have to work a little bit harder and come back and try again. The Lord blessed me to win that year. Now, I look back at that and it gives me strength for what I’m doing now.”
During her reign as Miss Mississippi, Murray attended classes at Mississippi State. She also sang with the Worship Team at Pinelake Church, which set her on a new path in her musical journey.
“I had always known I wanted to be a singer since I was a little girl,” she said, “but when I was singing at Pinelake, it was such an amazing experience. I really felt the Lord’s presence. It was like, “Why would I want to do anything else?”
Murray signed her recording contract with Fair Trade in November 2015 and moved to Nashville to begin her professional career in January 2016.
“From the get-go, the people at Fair Trade just really believed in me,” she said. “We immediately dove into writing and trying to figure out what my sound was going to be, what I wanted to say and talk about in my music.”
Later that summer, Murray co-wrote the lyrics of her debut single “Fearless” with Tony Wood, with Jeff Pardo writing the music and producing the track.
The irony is that Murray was feeling anything but “fearless” the day she arrived at the studio to begin writing the lyrics.
“I was walking kind of a difficult time in my life,” Murray said. “I was struggling with anxiety. I really didn’t understand it. I didn’t know what was going on. This particular day, the day we wrote ‘Fearless,’ I had a panic attack in my car right before I walked into the studio.
“I kind of got myself together, went into the session and Jeff had the track ready. He said, ‘What do you want to write about?'”
“I said, ‘You know, I kind of want to write about fear. It’s something I’ve been struggling with.’ I didn’t really want to go all the way into it with them. I wasn’t ready to go there yet. But, oh my gosh, I just started bawling, completely lost it. I was like, ‘I just had this panic attack in my car. This is what I’m going through.'”
“They both started praying over me and lifting me up in scripture. They said, ‘This is a safe place. We care about you and want you to be OK.’
“It was at that moment, I realized how awesome it is to be vulnerable. The Lord can take something extremely difficult and make something beautiful out of it.
“We wrote ‘Fearless’ that day. It was a declaration. It still is. Every time I get on stage and sing it for people, it’s a declaration. I know that fear is not from The Lord. So, the song is my message to people to give them hope.”
Murray’s life has been something of a whirlwind since “Fearless” began making its way onto the Billboard charts.
Later in 2017, she opened for Mandisa and Danny Gokey (coincidentally, Gokey finished third on “American Idol” in the same season Murray competed) on a two-month, 32-city tour. Both Gokey and Mandisa are also nominees for next weekend’s K-Love Fan Awards.
Murray has also toured with other stars. She just finished a tour with 7eventh Time Down, LoveCollide and Jamison Strain, all established Contemporary Christian acts.
“To be on the road and learn from people like this is really special for me,” she said.
Just ahead, there is the K-Love Fan Awards and, of course, the release of her first album,
“I’m super excited about that,” she said. “We have some things planned for the summer, promotional things and, hopefully a tour.”
Although pleased with how her career has progressed so far, Murray said she understands success comes with no guarantees, especially in the music business.
“Whether I get another tour or earn the amount of money I want to earn, that’s not even what it’s all about,” she said.
“At the end of the day, it’s about serving the Lord.”
Fearlessly, no doubt.
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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