A Northern Ireland singer-songwriter’s rocking style of Christian music is proving a big hit in the USA.
Lisburn man Aaron Graham’s songs have struck a chord with listeners Stateside, so much so that he was recently signed to Raven Faith Records – an independent label based in America’s Midwest.
Currently working as a chef, the 47-year-old married father-of-two will release his new album later this year, and is hoping to make music his full-time career.
Reflecting on how he came to land a record deal, Aaron said “the journey has been amazing”.
“In 2017 I released an album called Not About Us. It gained airplay on radio in the USA, Canada, South Africa, Nigeria, the UK and Ireland, as well as a music video being broadcast on TV across the US and other parts of the world.
“In September 2018 I lost my father to Alzheimer’s. During his illness I wrote a song called So Near So Far and after speaking to my producer we decided to record the song and others.
“Earlier this year I signed with Raven Faith Records in the US as my music is popular there, more so than in my home land, and they will be releasing the album, Guiding Light, later in the year.”
A talented musician, Aaron plays “guitar mainly”, but can also play keyboards and drums. But he says his “strongest instrument” is his voice.
Having started singing at the age of 10, it took him another decade before he wrote his first song.
“I started singing in church as a solo singer. My dad, Kirk, was pastor of the Apostolic Church in Lisburn and he would speak and I would sing. Everywhere he went to speak I would go with him and sing. It was great, I loved it.
“It has always been in my blood the singing, and it is amazing what has happened lately.
“I think I wrote my first song in my early 20s but then developed in my 30s. The process at the start was difficult, but as the years have moved on it’s become much easier. For my new album each song took about 10 minutes to write, when starting out it was more like an hour.”
Aaron now leads worship in his church – Hope International Christian Fellowship in Belfast – and says he and his family are “heavily involved with church life.”
He believes his music, which he describes as “rock and a little pop”, is not as popular in Northern Ireland because it’s not a style most people here associate with Christian music.
“Christian music is big, especially in the US,” he said. “I think my music is more popular overseas because of my style and genre of music. Here Christian music is associated with country or southern gospel, but that’s not who I am. My style is more rock than country and I have to be true to who I am.”
Aaron says reviewers have compared his voice to that of REM frontman Michael Stipe.
He lists his Christian music inspirations as US performer Chris Tomlin and bands Petra and Stryper, while citing Def Leppard and Coldplay among his likes in terms of secular music.
When he’s not busy with family life, working as meals on wheels coordinator at East Belfast Mission or making music, Aaron finds time to run his own Christian rock show on Cornerstone Christian Radio, which also broadcasts through radio stations in California and Missouri.
Explaining how he came to be signed by Raven Faith Records, he said: “I had heard of them before signing. As well as singing and recording I also host a Christian rock radio show and met an artist from the label months previously. So I sent a link with my music to the label and we had a video call and a few days after signed up, something just felt right about it.
“It is for one year initially, but I’ll have the option to renew it at the end of the year. I want to see how I get on, but I’m fairly confident I will sign again. They have been really good to me already.”
While the release date for the new album hasn’t yet been finalised, Aaron said it should be within the next few months.
“The new album, Guiding Light, has been produced by Felipe Gonzalez, who is a missionary pastor in Brazil,” he said. “He contacted me when my father passed away in September and suggested we record a song I had written for my father. We then decided to record an album.
“This album is very different to the last. My hope is that it will encourage people in the struggles we all face and share the gospel of Jesus Christ. And what happens after the release, well I leave in God’s hands.”
Aaron has a gig lined up in Stoke on March 24, but says he has hopes of a possible tour after Guiding Light is released.
“I have already had invitations to go to the US to do shows, but it’s just talk at the minute so we’ll see what happens,” he continued.
“I really don’t know what the future holds. I have never been in this situation before where I have been signed to a record label. It’s all new to me, but it’s where my heart is. I’m still writing songs, still plugging away at the music to get better and better, but I really don’t know what the future holds.”
Asked if he as any ambition to make music his full time career, he added: “Absolutely. Personally I never thought any of this would happen. My music has been played on radio across the globe and featured on TV; that in itself is amazing, but my heart is to work full time in this business. I love doing this more than ever so hopefully some day soon I will leave the cooking behind.”
• For more information about Aaron Graham and his music log on to www.aaronvgraham.com