Periodically, I want to present ordinary people who are following Jesus but choosing a path different from mine or yours. This past week I sat down with Hannah Kerr, Christian music artist. As a songwriter and performer, she co-wrote seven of the eleven songs on her most recent album, Overflow. She participated in one of the premiere tours of 2016-17, “The Very Next Thing Tour” with Casting Crowns and Matt Maher.
SC: Tell us about yourself.
HK: I’m 20 years old and a full-time college student. I go to Belmont University Monday through Thursday then travel to concerts or lead worship on the weekends. My first year of college was challenging when I missed so many classes. It’s still a crazy life, but I’m continuing to do both ministry and school because I truly believe the Lord has called me to do both in this season of life.
What I’m learning in school (I’m a theology major) enhances my songwriting and helps me minister to people I see at conferences. I’ve discovered school and ministry intersect in ways that are special and precious.
SC: Since this blog is about following Jesus, tell us what that looks like for you.
HK: For me, it’s spending time with Jesus and using His gifts to serve Him. I believe He gave me the gift of intelligence so I’m following Him by going to school. I feel He’s also gifted me in music and songwriting. Most importantly, though, I stay connected with Him. When life is busy it’s easy to give up reading the Bible and praying, but I could not do what I’m doing if I wasn’t spending time with Him.
SC: What does following Jesus look like on a daily basis?
HK: I like to spend time with the Lord on our porch, sitting there admiring creation and soaking in His presence. Many people think following Jesus is going to church or following a list of rules, but the truth is we follow a Person, Jesus, and not a bunch of rules. This should be a daily walk–not just going to church on Sundays. When we fill up with His Spirit and the word every day, by Sunday we should be overflowing rather than running on empty.
SC: How do you follow Jesus professionally?
HK: As a songwriter, I want to write songs that are real not fluff. I want to write about my walk with the Lord as it looks right now. Those songs are much more special. You come into the session and say, “This is where I actually am.” On days when I have nothing, I just like to read and worship instead.
As a worship leader, I should set an example of worship not be the object of worship. People come to a concert to be filled and encounter Jesus. That’s comforting to me because I don’t want to be a pop star and have fans. I’m a fan of Jesus and that’s where it should end. You could make it about you—that is a temptation.
SC: How do you deal with this temptation?
HK: It’s very humbling to be a new artist especially when you drive 12 hours and only 11 people show. Still, I remember to spend time with the Lord. When our human nature kicks in that’s when it happens. You start to think; I don’t need God. I have this platform. I have to remind myself that I would not have this platform without the Good News.
Staying grounded and having someone to keep me accountable is important. My brother, Michael, plays guitar in the band and travels with me. We’ll ask each other: “What did you read in the Word today?”
SC: How do you minister to people who come to you after a concert?
HK: One of hardest things of being an artist is people assume I have the answers to their problems—especially younger girls. I hear a lot of heavy stuff, but I have to be honest with them and say: “I don’t have the answer, but I really want you to talk to someone about this.” I redirect them to a pastor or someone who can help. I will pray for them right then and there by name. Young girls will break down in tears because someone cared enough to pray. That seems like a small thing, but I’ve found people want to be known. When I don’t know what to pray, the Holy Spirit gives me the words or brings scriptures to mind.
SC: How else do you view worship other than through music?
HK: What I realized in my song Undivided is that I want Him to be the anthem of my soul–not just my voice. I want my whole life to worship Him. As a student that’s by giving my gifts to Him. At home that looks like loving my parents by obeying them. Every act in our lives should be worship to Him. Music is a great way to worship and definitely is connection with God, but it is so much greater than that.
SC: How do you stay undivided?
HK: You have to know Jesus for Him to be the anchor of your soul. I don’t want to stand on stage lifting my hands as an image but worship Him in everything I am. Then people will be able to see that and offer everything they have.
When I read something moving or powerful in the Bible, I will stop and say: “Lord you are so awesome. You are my Father. You are my Friend.” Praising Him like that is just as much worship as writing a number one song. Sometimes it doesn’t come naturally. The list of names and numbers in the Bible may not be doin’ it for me, but worship becomes more natural as I spend more time with Him.
SC: What about tough times? How do you worship then?
HK: When I’m away from home for three weeks that’s when it’s hard. But when I sing, I’m going to sing myself into believing His Words are true. That helps or praying the Psalms. You don’t have to have an epiphany every day that shatters your world. If I’m not feelin’ it today, I’m going to praise Him anyway.
SC: What advice do you have for your peers in following Jesus?
HK: Just open the Bible and start reading. You will find things you never thought you would. I could have stayed in my comfort zone and had a good life; but when you follow Jesus, He takes you on these incredible adventures.
A lot of people ask how they can be a Christian artist. I say: “Bloom where you are planted. Serve faithfully in the small things and He will give you greater things to do. Find the gifts He has given you and use them for His glory. But when He calls you to do something–do it. Don’t be afraid.” We’re all afraid and unsure of where we are going, but “His word is a lamp to our feet” (Psalm 119:105).
SC: Where do you get inspiration for your songs?
HK: Every song on my album was inspired by a specific scripture or word. When I read the Bible, a word may pop out. I then pray through that word. I don’t ever want to write a song because it makes me feel good, but if God puts a specific verse on my heart I’m going to pursue it.
Lots of times I’ll play piano or guitar and start singing and record with my phone. I’ll then co-write with someone who has a melody that fits the idea. Sometimes I’ll have no ideas so we’ll just sit and read the Bible. The chorus for Undivided came in 15 minutes when, really, I was just worshiping.
SC: Share a funny road trip experience.
HK: When you are on a bus with twelve people you get to know them better that you want. We all have quirks we don’t realize until someone points them out. I won’t expose anyone, though!
On the second show of the tour the bus broke down. We were stranded in the middle of Pennsylvania and needed to arrive in Maryland by 7:00. We pulled up at 7:05, and I did the show with just my brother and no band. It turned out cool because people were ready to worship that night.
At another show, all my friends, family and label were in attendance. When I sang the first note the power went out of the whole building. I stood there like a deer in headlights and shouted, “Does anyone have some jokes?” You have to be ready for anything. The power eventually came back on, and we were able to do the concert.
SC: Who has influenced you most?
HK: Both my parents have influenced me. I watched my parents lead worship my whole life. They taught my brothers and me how to worship and do it well. Watching them lead worship together, watching my dad love my mom well, then watching them love the Lord together—it’s priceless.
If there’s anything my mom has ingrained in me it’s that we have to be prayer warriors. If you don’t ask, you will not receive. Knowing she is praying makes all the difference. Shout out to you Mom and Dad!
SC: What’s next for you?
HK: I have a Christmas album, Emmanuel, coming out in November with some original and some cover songs. I also have a new single that just came out called Warrior. It’s a pop re-mix my brother, Josh, re-wrote.
Want to know more about Hannah?
You can buy her music on iTunes, listen on any music streaming service or check her out on social media:
Hannahkerrmusic – Facebook
@_hannahkerr – Instagram
@Hannahkerr – Twitter