if not for you

In the spring of 2005, Joey and I were still newlyweds (we had only been married for three years). I was still just writing songs for a living and Joey was a solo artist, at least she wanted to be. But unfortunately, the doors on music row weren't opening for her. And the few that did open, seemed to close again right away.

So, that April, we went in a small studio in Nashville and recorded an album of songs with Joey singing and me and our friend Bill McDermott behind the control board. 

She recorded beautiful ballads and touching story songs along with some fun uptempo tunes as well. She also made two music videos. This is one of them.  Filmed at and around our farm with friends and family later in the summer that year, Joey was still in her twenties, working full time at horse-vet clinic... 

That, of course, was just one side of Joey.  The one who always carried a knife in her back pocket and drove a truck with a dog in the back.  On that record, she also recorded a song about the loss of her brother Justin and the very first recording of "That's Important To Me".  

It would be three more long years before it would even occur to us (or anyone else) for Joey and me to team up and sing together as a duo and try out for a tv show. By then, the solo record Joey made, like her goal of making her mark in country music, was collecting dust on a shelf somewhere. 

At that time, we had high hopes for the record Joey made that spring. Both Joey and I did. We prayed that God would bless those songs, and that her dream of following in her hero Dolly’s footsteps would come true. But God had a different plan. Looking back years later, it was easy for Joey and me to see that God didn’t say no at the time ... instead, what He said was, “Not right now.”

And so, though we tried our best to make the album successful (I even took Joey on two radio tours around the country to try to get radio stations to play it), it wasn’t meant to be. Joey was beyond brokenhearted. And I was brokenhearted for her. 

The record in its original form (using her maiden name, and titled Strong Enough To Cry) has sat quietly on a shelf for the last 10 years, waiting for the right time to come along ... when maybe, somehow, someone would care. A time like now.

Though we sold a few of the original version of the album from our website and shows over the years, and you could’ve bought one at my wife and sister’s little café, Marcy Jo’s Mealhouse, if you were in the area, for the most part, the record has gone unheard. But thanks to the Gaither and Capital team, we've been blessed with the opportunity to dust those songs off and bring life to them again. Not just the songs, but also the stories and the life of the special woman that they they represent.

The original album, now titled "If Not For You" came out in stores a few days ago and is available everywhere I'm told: Walmart, Target, Cracker Barrel, etc...

and it's so beautiful...

I was given the chance to write the liner notes. So for 48 pages, I let the stories of the songs tell Joey's story...

From "Nothing To Remember", the very first song we ever wrote together...

To the title track "If Not For You" that Joey's good friend Sandy Lawrence wrote.  Joey and Sandy worked together at the horse-vet clinic at the time and both dreamed of making their mark in country music. In time, Joey would make hers, and so would Sandy.  Besides this song, Sandy also wrote "When I'm Gone" on our Hymns record...

Joey's mama and daddy make a guest appearance at the beginning of the album and there's even a 'hidden track' at the end filled with outtakes from the recording session - Joey and her parents laughing and playing together - enjoying a special moment in time that they had all been dreaming of their whole lives...

Joey was so young then... so full of life.  She, nor I, had any idea what was ahead of us. We were just young and in love, with a heart full of dreams and faith that they would lead us somewhere...

I'm so proud that this album is finally getting the chance to be heard... and I think the new title is perfect. Though I know that when Joey originally recorded "If Not For You" - and years later, when she wrote those words one of the sweet cards she gave me - they were originally her way of honoring me... the phrase “If Not For You” has come to mean something different to me now. Each time I hear her sing it now, I think about how different my world would be if Joey wasn’t in it. I’ve met and heard from many, many other people who feel the same way. Some are family and friends, and some are people who never met Joey, but have followed her journey and been inspired by her courage in difficult circumstances, her love for her family, and her faith in God through it all.

I almost can’t remember life before Joey, and can’t imagine having lived a life without her in it. Even now, though she’s no longer with us, she is very much still here. Her presence is that strong, and her impact on my life and this world is that special. 

If not for you, Joey ... my heart and my world would be empty. My girls wouldn’t have the mother they’ve had, and the joy that is our little Indiana wouldn’t exist. I would’ve never stood on a stage and sang the songs, or been part of the beautiful story that God has given us ... thank you. I love you, I love you, I love you.