|Nashville-based musician PJ Anderson, a parishioner at the Church of the Assumption, recently released a new album. He regularly performs at Catholic youth events in Nashville and around the country.|
One wonders what PJ Anderson’s first guitar teacher, Sister Charita, would think of her young student today.
A parishioner at the Church of the Assumption, Anderson travels the country sharing his faith and songs with youth at concerts, conferences and retreats. He has appeared at the National Catholic Youth Conference and headlined the Youth Rally and Mass for Life in Washington, D.C., for an audience of 30,000. He has also led worship at Catholic Heart Work Camp (CHWC) for the past six summers.
None of this is hard work for Anderson. “I’m kind of like the uncle that comes in and riles up the kids and then goes home,” laughed Anderson. “I get to do all the fun stuff, and there’s no paperwork involved! I get to come in and play music, which I love.”
When he’s not on the road, he spends his time writing and recording his own worship songs. “Mercy, Mercy,” Anderson’s recently released fifth studio album, debuted at number seven on the iTunes Christian/Gospel chart.
Although a cradle Catholic and a student of Catholic education from kindergarten through college at John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio, Anderson’s music has enjoyed more general appeal. “I write songs that are adoration, worship songs, and also songs that are a little bit rock, with those same themes of Christianity and God,” he explained. “My songs kinda cross denominations. Any Christian could worship with these songs.”
In 2012, Anderson’s family moved to Nashville from Chicago, where he had been a youth minister for six years. He and his wife Rachel had just had their first child – he is the father of three now – and they found themselves at a crossroads. “When we had our first baby some doors closed in youth ministry and God opened up a lot of doors here in Nashville,” said Anderson.
Fortunately, it’s been a positive move, particularly in terms of Anderson’s developing musical career. “It’s been a blessing for us to be here, with the opportunities to write and build relationships with other musicians, and the proximity to so many churches,” Anderson said. “It’s just a really peaceful life for us here in Nashville.”
A few years ago, the message Anderson wanted to convey to his audiences began to gel. He had composed a song called “Grace is Hope,” inspired by a retreat he had attended where three girls gave witness talks about their attempted suicides.
“It broke my heart,” recalled Anderson. “So I wrote this song, with those three girls in mind. Luckily, their experiences during that time led them to the Lord. Now that’s kind of my mission – to bring about God’s love and that feeling of hope. I want people to come away feeling loved, and feeling that there is hope in the Lord.”
That mission continues with his latest offering, which Anderson is convinced had some direction from God. “A thought popped into my head and woke me up in the middle of the night,” Anderson said. “It was that ‘hatred is a burden I no longer want to carry.’ I wrote that down in my phone, and then after that wrote the song ‘Mercy Mercy.’”
That song was written in January of 2015; in March 2015 Pope Francis declared it the Year of Mercy. “I just think it’s a really beautiful thing the way God works, in big ways, and personally,” said Anderson. “That was a big moment of encouragement for me, just knowing that I was on the right path. We all need hope, and we all need mercy. God provides that for us.”
Anderson’s music can be downloaded from all digital outlets, including iTunes, Amazon and Google Play. Physical CDs can be ordered through pjandersonmusic.com, where Anderson also posts his touring schedule.