An Exclusive Interview for Keystone by Don Gillespie

Randy Stonehill is just a great guy. I've travelled with him quite extensively here in Australia and on a mission trip in Thailand. I've always felt he never quite got the recognition he deserved. His concerts in Australia were always a sell out and his humour is still talked about.


Tell me something about you and Sarah - how did you meet?

Well, actually I have known Sarah for about five years. She was a mutual friend of Larry and myself, and it was really funny was like God was preparing me for a time when my eyes would be unveiled and I would see that she was the right lady. I would take her out about once a year, just because we were acquaintances and every once in a while it would just fall together and I'd think, "Hey, 1 should take out Sarah." And I'd take her out, really only about once a year, and I'd always come away thinking, "Gee, she's a wonderful person and we have such a great time, but she's not really for me." Because I had my own blueprint - my own idea of the woman I should marry. Finally I came to that place spiritually in my life where God said, "Look: I know you better than you know yourself, so why don't you throw away your plans, your idea of what you think you need and want, and trust me to give you exactly what you need. I know your needs better than you do, and what we want isn't always what we need." So, right around that time, a friend of mine threw a surprise birthday party for me in March, 1975 and he happened to invite her. It was kind of strange to me, because he didn't invite a lot of my close friends, just some people from church that I was acquainted with, and they walked in and I thought to myself, "I'm not really in the mood to deal with this right now...with a bunch of people I only
half know." That's not really how you view being at a birthday party. And then she came in the door, and she was I guess the person I knew best; and when she came in, all of a sudden it was like ...our eyes met from across the room, music played, and all that romantic stuff. That's when God really started speaking to me concerning her, and I managed to steal myself a birthday kiss ...and from there I started dating her, and four months later we got married. It was wonderful!

The song that you wrote for Sarah - when did that come into being?

That came into being during our engagement time ...actually during the dating time ...and it was funny, f wrote it for her, but I really wrote it for every girl -wait, wait, let me clarify that! I wrote it for every girl in the sense that I wanted to make a statement about how people are worth so much in God's eyes, and how we give away our love too easily and settle for second best. We hurt ourselves, and we get used by people and we use people, and that's really because we're desperate and lonely and we don't understand what love is about. So in this song I wanted to say to everybody, as well as to Sarah, that God's love is what validates your life... makes you worth something ...makes your love worth something...and He has the right person for you, so don't give yourself away so easily. There's something better.

Randy, can you go back and tell us something about your early childhood?

Well, I grew up with musical parents ...not musical professionally, but they had a lot of talent ...and I grew up in kind of an agnostic home. My father is from a Jewish background, and my mother from a Catholic background, and both of them had disillusioning experiences in those churches. They came out raising my brother and myself with the idea that it didn't look like there was any God as far as they could see, but, if we wanted to explore it for ourselves at a point where we were old enough and curious enough, then they wouldn't have any objections. They both said they didn't want to place that burden on us at an early age...forcing us to go to church when we didn't understand what it was about. And of course they weren't involved in it anyway because they were pretty bitter about their own lives, and felt they hadn't received much from their religious experiences. They both were very loving people, and when they saw my music and my love for music developing they tried to encourage me in that, and I finally convinced my father at the age of ten to buy me a guitar. I used to walk around the house making these guitar noises with my mouth, and kind of pinching my nose to get the tone to come out just right. My dad wanted me to play trumpet, but I told him you couldn't play a trumpet and sing at the same time, so it really wouldn't work. I was just crazy about folk music ...even from the time I was four or five I was singing folk and calypso songs. I'd sit on the swings in the backyard and sing my lungs out. The neighbours would pay me five or ten cents to sing them songs, and ...l think I started realizing even way back then that music would be my life's work.

How did you first start getting involved professionally in your music?

It really solidified for me in my high school years. When you're at that age, you're really trying to figure out who you are, and trying to be accepted. I found that music came so easily to me, and people liked it so much, that I think (as I look back now) I must've said in my heart, "This is the way you can be accepted, and you love music and people love it when you do it, so you should be a musician." I started working through whatever channels were available then. I'd play at talent shows, coffee houses, youth recreation groups ...anywhere I could ...and I started earning pocket money that way. By the time I was about fifteen I was so totally involved in music that I really knew that was what I wanted to do. So at that point I knew I was just going to graduate from high school - even though I didn't even want to do that. I just wanted to run away and be a musician, singing on street corners. My father, who was a teacher, said "Oh, no-you're going to graduate from high school or I'll break your neck!" But I realized I was going to finish school and go wherever I had to go to do music full time. I remember my father and my high school principal warning me about it, saying, "Look, it's so competitive and so hard and there are so many musicians..." And I remember standing up to them and saying, "Look, there might be millions of people doing music, but none of them are me- none of them do exactly what I do, exactly the way I do it-and I don't care if I do this at Carnegie Hall or if I do it on street corners, that's what I'm going to do!" And I remember after I had said that, I listened to what I had said and thought, "Yeah, that really is how I feel." The next step was coming to Los Angeles and meeting Larry.

You did a film with Billy Graham, Time To Run - how did that come about?

I had done some song work on another film ...kind of a cheesy, "B" movie, science fiction film that a friend of mine was producing. The secretary who was working on that film- was a Christian, and she got a job at World Wide Films as a productions secretary for Time To Run. When it came time to look into getting music for the film, the director was mentioning to her that this was the next step, and my name clicked into her head. She said, "Hey, I remember this kid who made up a song right on the spot in the production office during this other film. We were looking for certain kinds of songs and told him what we had in mind..." You see, back then on the first film I started joking around and made up a song in the office which came out surprisingly well, so everyone was impressed including myself. I guess she remembered me because of that experience, and she said, "He's a Christian, and I'll bet he would have some songs that would really communicate the way you want to..." So she called me, I sent in some music, and they picked the song 1 Love You.

You recently were with Debby Boone on Midnight Special, how did that one come about?

That was really a nice experience. I've known Debby for several years and we had been doing some song work together, songwriting and sharing ideas. Because we do very different things musically, we thought a combination of the two would bring an interesting result. When she came back from New York after recording a film soundtrack, I got her to play it for me. She was so cute. She was a little nervous about letting me hear it because she honestly wasn't sure about how good she was back then. Even before it was released, she wasn't that pleased with it, but I listened to it and said, "Debby, this could be a hit." Apparently I was correct in that! About three weeks later her career just skyrocketed. She was doing a lot of television; she did The Johnny Carson Show, in fact, she did every show you could imagine, because the song was such a massive seller and had such a big impact. She came to me and said, "I'm doing a lot of TV and I always do You Light Up My Life, but I'd like to do some songs that show my versatility, my ability to do different kinds of things. I'd like to try something along the lines of Linda Ronstadt." I told her I'd be happy to write something for her that would fit the bill in that style and she smiled and said that'd be great if I would. So I wrote a song called Dangerous Heart. When she got the invitation to clothe Midnight Special, she called me and said, "I'd like to do your song on the show, but I'd like you to come and do it with me." She just wanted to work with her friends. She asked me, "Would you come and sing harmony, play the know, be next to me, to support me?" So I said, "I'm honored ...absolutely! I'll be right over." So we went and did the show.

You're currently working on a new album - when will that be ready for release?

We're getting it ready for a probable fall release, either October or November, and it's going to be called The Sky Is Falling. It's a musical tribute to the end of the age, really, so I took that little line from 'Chicken Little' and decided to call the album that to symbolize that everything is falling apart and that Jesus is going to be returning soon. We're half done with it; I'm just doing my vocals now. I'm really excited about it, too. You know, with every project you do, you learn a little bit more about production and the dynamics involved in studio work. It's really an adventure for me to get in there. It's my little creative closet where I can feel free to do whatever I want.

With all the work that you're involved in, how often do you get to see Sarah and how much time do you spend together? It must be pretty hectic.

Yeah, it is. Sometimes I wish I was three people at once, so there was more time, but I realize what my priorities are. I didn't get married to Sarah to be away from her half of the time, so I just try to rest in the Lord and get as much done every day as I can. What I can't get done, I just leave till the next day, because basically we're hereto serve the Lord and to enjoy our lives, and if you're so busy working your brains out that you don't have time for your marriage or you can't really enjoy your life, then I think you've missed the whole point. God desires a healthy balance in our lives. Another thing is that we will have been married three years in August, and for all this time, ever since we got married, we both have felt strongly that until God told us differently, she should travel with me. If I'm going to be gone more than three or four days, I bring her along. I think that's the way it should be. She's great - we did this tour with the band, and she directed the light men for all the changes in the concert, she handled the finances, she helped me counsel people backstage it's not like just bringing your wife along because she's cute. She's a great help to me as well as a great comfort to me. She has really got her own ministry in conjunction with mine, and she does more than that. She's really sharp, she's a school teacher, and she's got a lot of musical talent of her own.