He may live in South Texas, but InPop Records singer/songwriter Jimmy Needham sings with the soul of Memphis. Turning each line with the experience of a veteran blues musician, Needham uses musical nuance to preach a very plain gospel.

Two years after releasing Speak, a record encouraging Christians to boldly spread the Word, the singer/songwriter releases Not Without Love, a provocative exploration of the motives behind evangelism.

On the eve of his second street date, Jimmy discusses love, grace and his role as a minister of both.

ChristianMusicPlanet:  From where do you draw inspiration musically?

Jimmy Needham:  I grew up listening to Motown and the oldies. Stevie Wonder, Sam Cooke, Otis Redding and Boyz II Men are some of my favorites—anything with soul.

CMP:  What is your musical background?

Jimmy:  I took six months of guitar lessons in sixth grade, and I played tuba in junior high. Does that count? [Laughs] I grew up singing, and I’ve always had a fascination with instruments. Beyond that, I was in musical theater.

CMP:  As I’ve been listening to the new record, I hear a recurring conversation of faith being worked out, moving beyond legalism to grace—especially on “Come Around,” “Forgiven and Loved” and “The Benediction.”

Jimmy:  I think you nailed it. This album is about the axiom that you can’t give what you don’t have. God began to show me the reason I wasn’t distributing His love properly was because I wasn’t receiving the love of God properly. I was motivated out of guilt rather than love.

I really struggle with this idea that I have to work hard to earn His affection. The reality is, the affections of God were won on the cross. Once I got that, it spilled over to the outward display of that in my life. Now, I’m not going to just try to use persuasive words and say all the right things, but I’m going to let love mark my evangelism.

CMP:  Do you feel it is the church’s responsibility to rectify the Gospel as a Gospel of love versus a Gospel of legalism?

Jimmy:  I’ve played a lot of shows and played for a lot of churches and, unfortunately, heard a lot of different gospels. I definitely feel like it is important for local churches to get that stuff straight because they are raising up and training my generation to go and be ministers of this Gospel.

CMP:  What is your role as a touring artist in spreading the Gospel or even spreading to the church the word about the true Gospel?

Jimmy:  Concerts are great, but if they’re only for entertainment then I have missed the purpose of why I am doing what I am doing. I think it is important to not just think I am a minister of the Gospel only in concerts, but it is also how I respond to the woman sitting next to me on the plane. Am I going to be the light of Christ to her, or am I going to just save it all for the people at the show? My hope is always to be Jimmy Needham, “Ambassador of Christ” whether I’m onstage or off.

CMP:  Thumbing through your liner notes I noticed a buddy of mine, Will Hunt, produced a majority of the tracks. How was it working with Will’s gang at Spaceway Studios in Texas?

Jimmy:  I’ve got the biggest grin on my face right now. You know Will. Some of the things he says I’m just like, “What are you talking about?” [Laughs] The best part about Will and that whole crew is everything they do, they do excellently. Whether he is working on a project like mine, which is for a label, or he’s working for some band in Dallas that is never going to “make it,” he puts forth the exact same amount of effort. Everything he does he does very, very well.