We recently met up with Blake NeeSmith, lead singer from the band, Finding Favour. Blake is just a normal guy — a Georgia boy living in Nashville. But there’s nothing normal about Blake’s enormous musical talent and ever-growing love for God. From Finding Favour’s beginnings as youth group worship leaders, the band is now touring with Building 429 and Hawk Nelson. They signed on with TobyMac’s label about a year and a half ago.
In our conversation with Blake, we learned some killer tips from a great worship leader, got a bit teary-eyed when he told us about his grandpa, and became stoked with excitement over who God is and what he can do if we’ll only let him. Listen to Blake. I think you’ll enjoy hearing from him.
It’s not every day that a church’s worship team meets up with a big-name label and signs on, starts touring, and reaches a wider audience. How did it happen to Finding Favour?
Finding Favour started in 2005. We were just guys leading worship in our youth group. We basically found out that we had a passion to do it, and believed that God had given us a gift. Eventually we just started writing songs together and playing locally.
It came to the point where we hanging out in the studio in Nashville, and this guy walked in. He looked really familiar. He walked over to me and he said, “Hi, my name’s Toby Mac.”
And I was like, “Hey, buddy. How are you?”
We just started having a conversation. He had heard one of the songs that we were writing, and right there, at that moment he said, “I want to work with you guys. I want to be a part of what you’re doing.”
He went on to sign us on to his record label, and the rest is history.
That’s a pretty major transition! How have things changed now that you’re touring and producing records?
For me, it’s been exciting to have a team by my side. A team is important, whether you work at a church or at McDonalds — just to have a team that supports each other. That’s huge.
Your song “Slip on by” is particularly powerful. In that song, you talk about a conversation with your grandfather. How did that song come about?
I wrote “Slip on By” after a fishing trip with my grandfather. We’re always going back down to Georgia and hanging out with some of our family members. I don’t get to see Grandpa that much, but when I do, we love to go fishing together.
He’s usually out there telling me some corny jokes and stuff. We’re just laughing and having a good time one day, but I could really tell that something was messing with him. He had big grandpa tears in his eyes, and he looked at me and he said, “I remember when you were just a little boy. I’m just looking back and realizing how fast time flies by.”
I looked at him, and I was like, “It’s alright, Grandpa. Let’s just fish. Let’s just hang out.”
And he was like, “No, you don’t understand. I wish I could do things differently.”
I said, “What are you talking about?”
And he told me, “I lost my wife, when she was only 53. I lost my son at a young age. Today, more than anything…I wish more than anything that I could just hold my wife. I wish I had told my son how much I really love him. But the truth is, I can’t do anything about that right now. The only thing I can tell you is to love your family, love your friends. Tell them about Jesus Christ, because we’re not promised tomorrow. This gift that God has given us is right now — this moment. You have to live in every moment, and soak up every moment.”
I walked away that day thinking, “Man, that is a song. I need to write that.” And another cool aspect of “Slip on by” is that it was playing on Christian radio, and a country artist heard it, Austin Webb. He released it to country music as one of his first singles, and it’s on the charts in country music now, touching people on a different platform. It’s really cool.
Tell me about when you write a new song. Where does your influence come from? What’s the inspiration?
I come from a pretty emotional family. When we hurt, we hurt. When we cry, we cry. When we’re happy, we’re very happy. So, what speaks to me a lot of times are emotions. I want to feel every song that I write. That way, it truly means something. I want to feel it. I want it to be more than just lyrics. A lot of the songs I write come from real places and real situations.
We got a song on the EP called “I am.” I started writing that during a church service one day. Here’s how it happened. My pastor is a big crybaby. He cries at birthday parties and stuff. He cries when people blow out the candles — one of those guys. But that morning in church, you could tell something was really hitting him when he preached. You could really sense the pain.
Here was this “man of god” — supposedly untouched and immovable in his congregation. But he looked us right in the eyes, and said, “Sometimes, I feel like God is a million miles away from me. Sometimes I feel like nobody cares and nobody understands, not even the ones closest to me.” But then he looked up, smiled, and said, “But I believe God’s words are true. His word tells me that he’ll never leave me or forsake me. He is everything that I ever need.”
The lyrics to the song came to me at that moment. That’s how the song came to life
As a worship leader, how do you welcome people to worship? I realize that it can be challenging to coax the sleepy, the cynical, or the apathetic into a heartfelt state of worship. What do you do when you lead worship?
Honestly, it’s always been an invitation. When it comes to being a “worship leader,” if anyone is going to worship, it’s got to be me. Worship is so much more than just playing songs. But I’ve often found myself just standing on the platform, not having a clue what I was going to say or do!
My prayer is always “God, if you want me to do this, then this is not going to work. This has to be you — you using me, singing through me, and speaking through me.”
From there it’s just straight up invitation. I don’t say, “Stand to your feet and let’s worship!” Instead, I say, “As we stand to our feet, let’s lift up the name of Jesus Christ.” My goal is to simply invite people to come in gratitude to the one who is allowing us to worship him.