The news that Jonathan Cain, while on a break from touring with rock superstars Journey, had recorded a solo album has raised huge interest among rock buffs while believers have been intrigued with its title, ‘What God Wants To Hear’. As it turns out, the album might be considered the long-awaited fulfilment of a prophecy hinted at in “Don’t Stop Believin'”, the anthemic Journey number he helped pen and which in 2009 became the top selling track in iTunes’ history among songs not released in the 21st century.
Cain’s solo album, releasing 21st October on US-based Identity Records, is the first in which he celebrates and explores the faith he knew as a young boy and which dogged him at a distance even during his lost years as a rock and roll star. As such, “there is a heavy responsibility that comes with it when you are dealing with the Lord,” he says. “I just can’t be off the cuff or cute or clever. No, it has to be based on what the Word says, so there is a little bit more of a structure to it, and definitely a bit more discipline lyrically.”
‘What God Wants To Hear’ features 13 songs Cain wrote in the course of about a year, following his April 2015 marriage to well-known television preacher Paula White. They met on a Southwest Airlines flight when Cain was traveling with Journey – an encounter he says was a key element in his rediscovery of God’s love.
Raised in a Roman Catholic home in Chicago, Cain was “very spiritual” as a boy: “I had a deep love for Jesus Christ; I wanted to be a priest when I was young.” That faith was rocked, though, as a third grader at Our Lady Of The Angels School when 92 fellow students and three nuns died in a terrible fire.
He never shook his spiritual roots entirely, however. Later when Cain wondered whether he should give up on his dream of making it in the music business, his father – “a deeply spiritual man; he taught me how to pray, he gave me my first breakthrough with Jesus Christ, he gave me the word of the Lord” – told him on the phone to hang on. “Don’t stop believing,” he urged his son.
When Cain subsequently was invited to join Journey, that admonition came back to him as the band wrote for its 1981 album, ‘Escape’. Bandmates helped flesh out the melody and chorus Cain brought, and the result would in due course become part of rock and roll history: “Don’t Stop Believin'”. He also helped craft other Journey classics “Who’s Crying Now”, “Faithfully” and “Open Arms”.
‘What God Wants to Hear’ began after Cain was asked to lead praise and worship for a women’s conference White was leading last year. “I learned eight songs and I came back and I said, ‘You know what, some of these songs are pretty light: it doesn’t seem like they are really talking to God, they sound like they are talking to some girl, but there’s no God in the song, there is no Bible in the song,’ and I am like, ‘Is this some kind of new thing?'”
Frustrated, he sat down to write his own music, the first song becoming the title track of the new album. “It was my prayer to the Lord, that I might be worthy to minister his word to other people,” Cain recalls. “I was asking permission in that song to go forward, and when I finished there came this big outflow.”
Cain discovered the Bible in a new way during this time. “Things jump out at me that probably the average guy that has had his face in the Bible all these years is already bored with, but I am not bored with it; it is fascinating,” he says. “I won’t write something unless it is scripturally correct; I always check in with my Bible expert, my wife. She has been around all this praise stuff for a lot of years and she would give me her okay and I would go forward.”
Instead of beginning with a melody, as he usually would, the new songs “all came from the word that God would download,” he says. “He would get me on an idea and I would go deep into the Bible and then I would find things that were new to me.”
Cain wants to “minister the word to people in a different way. I am not really trying to write praise and worship per se; I want them to take the word and run with it and maybe I can get them into scripture, and back into the Bible, and they can find things I have written that will minister to their lives and will help them. That is really it: I want to bring people back to the word, I want to make the music a companion to get them back to God.”