Donald James” Don” Moen is an American song writer, singer and producer of Christian worship music. The musician was recently in the country for a concert. Lilys Njeru caught up with the legend
You are a worship leader, song writer, a producer and a family man. How would you describe yourself?
I will start by saying that I am a husband of one wife. Some rumours were being spread on the internet that I had divorced Laura Lee Moen, my wife of 44 years. Others said that I was dead. I’m alive and happily married.
I want to be remembered as a great husband, father to my five children and great grandfather to my two grand kids so that’s how I would describe myself. Being a song writer is low on the priority list but then I also want to be remembered as a good steward of what God has given me.
In your maiden visit to Kenya in 2015, you mentioned that you were not set out to do music, that your parents forced you to take piano lessons. What were your childhood ambitions?
Would you believe that as a child all I wanted was to hunt and fish? When I graduated from high school, I wanted to fly a fighter jet but I wear glasses and those days I couldn’t get into flight schools.
I had a backup plan though, to work in the forest service as a forest ranger. Music was never in the picture.
However, I was talented and won many awards as a violinist.
I ended up getting a full scholarship to play orchestra and in that process I got my hands on other instruments such guitar and I ended up joining a Christian group of musicians called Living sounds. That’s how I launched into what has become my occupation.
How do you juggle between ministry and your role as a family man?
I have priorities; God, family and ministry in that order. Some people concentrate much on their ministries and occupations that they hardly have time for their families. Tell, what’s the success in that?
Your first album, 'Give Thanks' was released in 1987 and thirty years later, you are still an icon in the gospel industry. What has enabled you to remain relevant in all these years?
As a song writer, I enjoy excellence in music. I live in Nashville, Tennessee whereby some people’s occupation is to write songs every day. I don’t intend to do that. I try to write songs that will touch people beyond their intellect and emotions.
I have also managed to surround myself with good musicians and producers who are quick to tell me when something is not good. Being grounded and rooted with a great family, church and support system has played a key to the longevity.
'God will Make a Way' is an anthem in many churches and a song that most listen to when in hopeless situations. What is the inspiration behind the song?
I got a mid-night call that we all dread saying that my sister in law and her husband had just lost a son through a grisly accident and their three children had been seriously injured.
As I was aboard a plane going to comfort them I kept wondering what to say and I prayed that God fills my heart with words of encouragement.
Through that prayer, the song came to live. I’m amazed that the song has gone ahead of me to so many countries that I have never been to.
Over the years, your collections of praise and worship songs have received many awards and accolades. Have you ever thought of writing songs in another genre, say Christian love songs?
I have written many Christian love songs and other genres that I sing to my wife Laura and my grandchildren but I had never thought of realising to the world an official love song.
That’s a good idea. However, I don’t know if I would manage to get through just one song without crying each time I think of Laura’s unconditional love and tremendous support throughout these years.
What sort of changes do you wish to see in the gospel industry?
I don’t know much about the gospel music industry in Kenya but in the US A, it is completely different than it was 20 years ago.
The distribution system is different and the whole music industry has been turned upside down. In a good way, it is forcing people to write better songs.
My heart’s desire is that Christian song writers would write songs that revere God and attract people to their maker.
Let God be represented in the lyrics and analyse what you are writing about. It’s not all about good beats and good groove. Leading a life that is rooted in God is essential.
I would challenge music writers and producers to go deeper and release songs that make it worthwhile when listening to-songs that touch the spirit.
Should we expect something from you in a near future?
Definitely. I’m working on a new project “Songs and Blessings From a Father’s Heart”. From my interactions with people, I came to learn that there many parents who put their kids to bed when listening to Don Moen songs. This new project will be a blessing.
Can you dance?
Honestly, I’m a horrible dancer. I grew up in a society that believed that when people dance, they do bad things and when they do bad things, they are doomed for hell. If you’d asked about my children, they are great dancers.