As the hooky and powerful song “Servant,” the new single from Jonas Woods upcoming album, builds to its highest peak with the Gospel choir wailing in the background, along with jangling guitars and throbbing drums, Jonas passionately, loudly and soulfully proclaims repeatedly, “I’m your servant!”
And with that proclamation it is obvious that this heralds the talented young artist’s mission.
For Jonas Woods the story begins really early for this Rhode Island native, who was classically trained on the violin at the age of five, receiving his first guitar at twelve and writing songs by a young age as well. In high school, he even got a taste of what life on the road would be like when he got to travel often as part of the reputable strings program at Whitinsville Christian School. “I was blessed in that my family was musical,” says Jonas, “as I was always around music and gravitated to it.”
Young Jonas was influenced by a wide range of artists—from his biggest musical inspiration James Taylor, to Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Cat Stevens, Steven Curtis Chapman, Newsboys, and Switchfoot, among many others.
While in college at Evangel University in Springfield, Missouri, Jonas Woods’ music ministry began to take shape. As he showed up in the town square to play more frequently, he noticed that his audience would be comprised of people that would move his heart—prostitutes, drug dealers, homeless men, women and children.
“Maybe I was selfishly playing music because these people enjoyed listening, but I realized later that God was instilling in my heart a real warmth for the lost and hurting,” recalls Jonas. “People started asking me deep spiritual questions while I was sitting there playing music for them, but I wasn’t prepared to properly answer them. I realized very quickly by praying before I performed that listening and being quiet was more valuable to them than offering answers. Through the process of listening, God began to shape and develop what is now my current ministry.”
Jonas played at other venues in the area and was a performer at one the concerts presented by the college. In the audience that night was a fellow college performer, Becky Armstrong, who was at the event with a date. Jonas and Becky were casual friends but he wanted to take the relationship further and decided to seize the moment. After his performance, Jonas approached Becky, handed her a flower and asked her out. The rest, as they say, is history and the two have been together ever since and were married in 2001.
Jonas and Becky performed together at times and that led to both of them becoming members of the band, Farewell June. The group became nationally recognized and started playing bigger venues and opening for such high-profile performers as Casting Crowns, Third Day, Jeremy Camp and FFH. However, in 2009 Farewell June disbanded harmoniously, as Jonas felt led to start expanding his music ministry in order to provide healing to a hurting world. Becky joined Jonas on the road and in time, the entourage included their two sons, Hunter (6) and Liam (2).
In 2012, there was a chance meeting with the award-winning producer and musician, Paul Colman (Paul Colman Trio, Newsboys). The pair connected musically and spiritually so they began writing songs and eventually started recording at Dark Horse Studios in Franklin, TN. It was a wonderful and growing experience for Jonas, as Paul brought together a new musical team that took Jonas’ music to the next level.
The two moved their partnership further and began collaborating on what would be Jonas’ new album, Tales Of The Bittersweet. Colman took on the executive producer role, and along with their third partner Jeremy Michael, who mixed and engineered the record, the three of them wrote several great songs for the project. One song in particular, “Not Falling Apart,” was penned by Jonas about a person going through cancer. “I simply wrote it about people going through that journey,” remembers Jonas. “Because I had no real personal connection to that battle, we decided to leave it off the album.” Or so they thought.
Only three months later, on a beautiful sunny day in Rhode Island, Becky went in for what was to be a regular doctor visit. Instead, she needed to be rushed to the hospital when it was discovered that she had a mass that was the size of a baseball tucked behind her ribcage. Becky and Jonas would receive devastating life-changing news that she was diagnosed with stage IV non-Hodgkin lymphoma cancer. “Becky was the strong one and I was the mess,” admits Jonas. “She just told me to keep my focus on Jesus and praise Him.”
Becky had to endure the strongest, most life depleting regimen of chemotherapy there is, but she and Jonas made it to the other side and she has just celebrated her one-year anniversary of being in remission.
While Jonas says that their journey through this extremely difficult battle with cancer isn’t the whole story of their ministry, it’s obviously a huge part of it. “It’s without a doubt, a massive part of who we are and what we do,” says Jonas.
While Becky was battling her illness, Jonas took a full year off from his music to take on the co-pilot role during her struggle. Today, he’s back on the road performing and it’s definitely a family affair with Becky, Hunter and Liam. Jonas’ music ministry is very important, but he makes it clear that his family is his first priority. “I get to do something really cool, but it will never outweigh my marriage and family,” says Jonas. “I want my fans to have that window, to see how important my family is. Plus, you can’t really change a diaper and feel like a rock star!”
While the single, “Servant,” is already out and embarking on its road up the charts, the album Tales Of The Bittersweet, will be released both digitally and physically this May. “Tales Of The Bittersweet, more than any other project I have ever done, is part of me,” said Jonas. “The title is what we went through, and there are many different themes here.”
Sonically and stylistically the album sways from glossy pop and rock to stripped down, bare bones ballads, like the song now dedicated to Becky, “Not Falling Apart.” There’s even a nod to his jazz influences from the 30’s and 40’s with the warehouse jazz feel of “Peace Like A River,” and that James Taylor influence on “Supposed To Be.”
As Jonas discusses the future, he has a down to earth “we’ll see what happens” approach, while being thankful to be doing what he loves. “I’m compelled by my desire to please the Creator, and to make a strong attempt to instill hope, express love and to make people smile. I have no desire to be something special, but to be used in any way that will accomplish the purpose that I’ve been created for.”