History in Your Words - Dave Barnes

Dave Barnes is a singer-songwriter, comedian and humanitarian. He has been nominated for a Grammy and a Country Music Association (CMA) Award, has released two EPs, six albums and has had songs covered by various artists such as Blake Shelton and Bebo Norman. Dave also is a Young Life alumnus who has performed at camps and toured with other Young Life alumni such as Brandon Heath and Matt Wertz. Christy Koontz, with Young Life Alumni and Friends, recently had a chance to catch up with Dave …

Tell me about your Young Life story. 

Well, it actually goes back to my mom and dad. They were friends with Steve Chesney (regional director for Young Life in Tennessee), who’s like the “Mount Rushmore” of Young Life. I was at Windy Gap recently and my mom was laughing, remembering taking me there when I was little with the Chesney’s son. Then during my junior year I moved to Knoxville and ran into Steve, who was running Young Life at my new high school, and we reconnected with him then. It’s fun to see how God can tangle stories together! That was when I started getting involved with Young Life. I went to Windy Gap both junior and senior year, and then, while in college, did a month of summer staff at Windy Gap. It was so fun!

What have you taken away from your experience with Young Life? 

The thing that I’m most affected by [within the ministry of Young Life] is the commitment of the leaders to their high school friends -- it is so inspiring! It’s the idea that these kids are really being pursued by their leaders. Seeing what my friends, who are leaders, are willing to give up to be a part of those kids’ lives is so inspiring and has always affected me. 
The other thing that I find amazing is the brilliance of the camps. Having been to Windy Gap so many times, it hit me that it is rare to go to a camp of any kind and find it in better condition than it was before. I’m just amazed at the priority [Young Life] puts on making sure that their camps are always at their best. It’s the attention to detail and realizing that even the smallest things can be bridges to the Gospel.

Has your involvement with Young Life impacted your music?

Young Life launched my career. I think that Young Life has always celebrated musicians and song writers. I always tell people that when you are a camp musician, it’s like touring in reverse; you stay in the same place and kids come to you. It happens to be one of the most amazing ministries around, so it’s a beautiful combination of me getting to do what God has called me to do, in a place where people are seeing God for the first time and/or being encouraged by seeing Him in whatever time of their lives. 

How did you feel when you found out that “God Gave Me You” had been nominated for a Grammy award? 

Before I was singing, I was writing songs for others to sing. The coolest thing for me is that it was a circle back to where I began when Blake Shelton covered my song. The Grammy was just the cherry on top! It was just nominated for a CMA – where country music all comes together and votes for best song and artist – and was nominated for the best song of the year. It’s been a crazy ride. I think being a believer makes it sweeter, because it’s one more chance to thank God, because you know it’s not something you could originate. I’m once again so thankful for God’s kindness and providence with His plan for my life.