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Husband. . . Father. . . Military Man . . .Music Minister. . . Recording Artist. . . Those words immediately evoke images of strength, character and integrity -- and they paint a perfect picture of Phil Stacey. One of the Top 5 finalists on season six of American Idol, Stacey's powerful voice caught the attention of more than 30 million television viewers each week, and it's that musical gift combined with his passionate heart for God that fuels every moment of his Reunion Records debut Into the Light.
Stacey has the rare ability to truly inhabit a song, delivering the lyric with an intensity that brings the message to life, and he does just that throughout each track on Into the Light. A "singer's singer," Stacey knew from an early age he wanted to use his voice in ministry. "I've always wanted to sing Christian music and I almost signed with a label when I graduated from college, but God had a plan for me, and God is anything but predictable," Stacey says. "There were times along the journey when I was wondering where in the world God was taking me. Now I see why he took me through all the turns and I'm so grateful that he did."
For Stacey, ministry is a family tradition. "Both of my grandfathers were pastors and my father is a pastor; not only were they pastors, they were incredible Christians, great examples of integrity," Stacey says. "They weren't religious people, they were relationship people. They had a great relationship with Jesus. I saw that and I wanted that in my life. I got saved when I was very young."
A native of Harlan, Kentucky, Stacey grew up watching his father as he pastored churches in Kentucky, Ohio and Kansas. In addition to a love for God, Stacey's dad also instilled a passion for music. "Phil's father played trumpet and keyboards professionally before leaving secular music behind for a life in ministry. Music was always an integral part of the Stacey home."
Phil grew up singing in church and later attended Lee University in Cleveland, TN where he became part of the highly acclaimed Lee Singers. "The Lee Singers were famous to me," says Stacey, who remembers how he felt when he first found out he'd made the cut. "I was shocked. I thought, 'I'd better register for classes!' I took out loans and went to college basically to be in the choir."
He also earned a spot in Second Edition, Lee's even more exclusive touring group. In addition to performing, Stacey fed his musical appetite by taking a job at a local recording studio where he learned the more technical side of the business by producing independent projects. During college, he also began soaking up a wide variety of music beyond the country and gospel that he'd grown up listening to with his family. After college, he and his wife, Kendra, moved to Denver where he took a job as a music minister.
Like all Americans, Stacey was deeply shaken by the events of September 11, 2001 and he opted to join the Navy to serve his country. "I enlisted in the military, and they ended up putting me in a band," says Stacey of being tapped to be the lead vocalist of the Navy Band Southeast. "It was an incredible experience and I carry that with me everywhere I go. I've met some amazing people and walked through unforgettable experiences including singing at memorial services for some of our fallen heroes. I'm incredibly honored to have served in the Navy."
For Stacey, all his musical experience coalesced into his star-making turn on American Idol, but more than serving as a launch pad for his artistic ambitions, the competition also sharpened his faith and deepened his relationship with God. "It was one of the highlights in my life. I was incredibly shocked that out of 103,000 contestants I got that far," he humbly admits, "but more than anything it taught me how desperate I still am--how desperately in need of God's mercy and grace I still am. After so many years of being actively involved in ministry, the American Idol experience taught me that I don't have it together, that I am utterly dependent every single day on the grace and mercy of Christ."
In recording his Reunion Records debut, Stacey leaned into his faith. "I didn't feel any pressure at all with this record," he says. "I really just wanted to get these messages that God has put on my heart and communicate them with people. It's not about me, it's about what is being done through me."
A gifted songwriter as well as a powerhouse vocalist, Stacey penned five of the songs on Into the Light and worked with veteran producer Brown Bannister (Steven Curtis Chapman, MercyMe) to find additional songs that conveyed his heart and echoed his musical sensibilities. "If you put all of my musical history in a blender, this is what comes out," Stacey says with a smile, citing such diverse influences as Michael English, Bloodgood and Steven Curtis Chapman along with some country sounds that reflect his Kentucky roots. "I've never been able to watch myself on American Idol. I don't like hearing myself, but I can't stop listening to this record. It ministers to me. It means something to me and therefore, I think it will mean something to other people."
The strong, soulful voice that caught the attention of America Idol viewers infuses every song on Into the Light with an extra measure of warmth and conviction. With "You're Not Shaken" Stacey offers a passionate message of faith in an unshakable God during times of trouble and doubt. On "It's Gotta Be Love" Stacey delivers a soaring, heartfelt performance that underscores the message of hope in the lyric. "Old Glory" is a fitting tribute to the red, white and blue, penned by Stacey himself. "Sanctuary" is a vibrant pop anthem that showcases Stacey's versatility as a vocalist while "Hard to Get" is Stacey's emotional take on a Rich Mullins gem.
Stacey hopes the record will be encouraging to people, especially in these difficult times. "Overall, the theme of the record would be Psalm 46, which says 'The Lord is our refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble.' I think that's an important message for us," he says. "We need to understand that we do have a destination. My destination is heaven and everything that happens until that point is just the journey in getting there. In this life, we're going to have mountains and valleys and right now is a time when a lot of people are experiencing those valleys. I just want to reach out to them and tell them, 'Take courage and know that God is still on the throne no matter what your situation is. He's not shaken by it, He's completely in control.'"
With the voice of an angel and the heart of a servant, Phil Stacey has a clear vision for where God has placed him in this season. "To me, what I feel is a sense of urgency to be of service to the church," he says. "I think that as a recording artist and as a member of the body of Christ, there's nothing that I could do that's more powerful and more awesome than just being a part of what the local church is already doing to reach their community for Jesus Christ and I keep that in my vision. I feel like that's what I want to do. I want to serve the local church and be a part of what they are doing. Whatever comes along with that, I praise God for it, but I don't feel any particular pressure to release the greatest musical project in history, I just want to do what God has put me on this earth to do."