We have become a culture of memory makers. Everyone’s taking pictures of…well…everything.
We’re amassing a dynamic living history, assigning meaning to every moment. And while it can be a beautiful thing to retain those images of life, we run the risk of losing the impact of those points in time that are truly unforgettable and life-changing. Soon, even the greatest moments become another tweet, Facebook post, or Instagram upload. Shonlock is out to change that. And he’s doing so in the language he knows best—music.His new album, A Night to Remember, is a sonic stroll through the journey that changed his heart and life forever. From the pinnacle of mainstream music, working with artists like Aaliyah and Arrested Development, to an altar, Shonlock has painted the world a richer shade of love with his gift of music and faith.
And it all hinged on one moment—one perfect moment on a night that will remain imprinted in the memory of his heart forever. “It was something I will never forget,” Shonlock recalls. The unforgettable night began years prior. While garnering the respect and attention of the music industry for his choreography, dancing, and back-up skills, he got a call to work with Grammy-nominated revolutionaries Grits.
“That was the first time I’d experienced what Christ could look like in the culture of hip-hop. Church had never looked like that to me,” he shares. “I was on tour and had a conversation with Verbs, who shared the Gospel. It was like a weight was being lifted off of me. God was speaking through him. I know lots of people have lots of different experiences, but this was mine, and it will be tattooed on my heart forever. That is the heart of the album title and title track, A Night to Remember.”
From the first contagious beats to the last vibrations of a perfectly placed note, the record is not only Shonlock’s own journey to grace; it’s everyone’s journey. “We all start somewhere. But we all eventually get to a point of saying, ‘Okay, God. I’m tired. I can’t do it on my own.’ That is the heartbeat of the album…showing that we all go through the same highs and lows.”
That sentiment laid the groundwork for the follow up to Shonlock’s #1 CHR smash hit, “Something In Your Eyes,” with “We Walk on Water.” “I wrote this song for a friend who was going through a hard time,” Shonlock shares. “I wanted to remind him that he wasn’t alone. God had not forgotten him. Everyone has tear ducts. Rich, poor, high, low. We all experience pain. Most people start their journey full of fight and strength, but seem to lose hope and steam as time goes on. I want to encourage them by letting them know that the shore is closer then they think. The key is to keep our eyes on God, knowing He’ll be with us.”
And from that point forward, the album holds you captive with each song wrapped around a story that has been lingering somewhere in the heart of the listener. With the collaboration between Shonlock and his production partners, Joshua Crosby (Owl City, Matt Kearney) and Solomon Olds (TobyMac, Family Force 5), he manages to lyrically tease out the truth about how all of us feel at unforgettable moments in our lives. But that’s where Shonlock takes a different turn. Other artists may point to the frailty of the human condition; far fewer then wrap that truth around hope, that somehow, in a three minute span of time, becomes tangible.
We all have a prodigal son story hidden in a corner of our memory. As a gifted-storyteller, Shonlock’s lyrics resonate with the listener as he talks to that prodigal on the song “Heartbreak.” “It speaks to the conflicts that stem from not only making the wrong choices in life but also facing the hurt they have caused loved ones and the Creator,” he shares. “Experiencing this, I could relate to being tired of running. I was thankful that He took me back like I never left.”
Over the years, Shonlock has been keenly aware of the incredible impact men like Verbs have had upon him. As a result, he’s chosen to speak into the lives of others in the same manner. He challenges the listener to do the same through the message in the track “Don’t Play,” which is an exhortation to share life-giving faith and hope with others. And with Shonlock, “When it comes to kingdom business like this, it’s not a game to me. I don’t play.”
As a mentor and discipleship leader of young men in his church, Shonlock also understands how important it is to lead by example. No doubt, the fact that he is the father of two little boys plays a part in his desire to reach these young men by being a middle ground between them and others in their lives. Shonlock explains, “A lot of them didn’t have fathers who could talk to them about the things they were dealing with. My goal is to help them avoid the pitfalls through scripture and life lessons. “As he pours out his life experiences and transformations into the young men he mentors, he does the same with the rest of the world through songs like “My Choice Is You.”
“This was written from the aspect of watching a child or loved one go through a hard period in life,” Shonlock explains. “It reassures them that no matter how hard it gets, someone is always there. It’s also a declaration to the world that God is my choice, and I will never forget what He has done in my life.”
Of course, when one of God’s up-close-and-personal examples of a life that is sold out for Christ, TobyMac comes into play, it’s unlikely that it will slip from memory. Before Shonlock made the transition to music as ministry, he worked with mentor and friend Toby in Diverse City. He toured with him for twelve years, learned from him, and is now fulfilling the Life and calling God has for him—one totally wrecked by the grace and love of God.
“I was singing and doing choreography, trying to master those gifts and talents,” he says. “Toby helped nurture those gifts. He demonstrated that one night, one encounter, one salvation experience can change your life. And you only have one life to show that change.” “Transformed” is the sound track to this theme, and features TobyMac.
“Transformed” paints the picture of the metamorphoses that takes place when you allow the spirit of the Lord to come into your heart,” says Shonlock. “Second Corinthians 5:17 says that once we come into Christ we are changed, we are new creatures. The transformation can't be taken lightly. We have to fight daily to maintain that change.”
The heart of the album is remembering that transformation. It is a reflection of the day that forever changed Shonlock’s life.
“It describes the night that a lot of us took that leap of faith into the unknown,” he says. “That intense moment of your heart racing with anxiety when you opened yourself to the greatest love there ever was, surrendering it all to God, who changed your life forever.” Through this album, Shonlock has committed to keeping the memory of the indescribable miracle of salvation alive. And as he transparently turns his heart inside out for the world to see, he draws us all closer to our own memories of the moment our lives changed, to accept it as more than a passing emotion or event. And for those who haven’t yet experienced such a personal revelation, he’s opening a door, clearing a path, and setting the scene for all to experience their own Night to Remember.