Nate Stewart is a senior Music and Ministry major at Point Loma Nazarene University. In a world where music is a part of our everyday lives, Stewart hopes to use his musical talent of singing and songwriting to draw people towards God. I had the opportunity to sit down with Stewart where he shared his inspiration, hopes and vision for his music and what he hopes to accomplish as a Christian and musician.
How long have you been singing and songwriting for? How did it all start?
“I grew up in church and I’ve noticed that a lot of musicians and singers also have grown up in church. The thing about church is that there is always music, and so I grew up around that. I remember going up on stage and wanting to mess around with things like kids do, play George of the Jungle on the drums, things like that. My family and I moved to California when I was twelve and that’s when I started writing my own music. I began playing music in youth group at thirteen and recording my own songs at the age of fifteen. They weren’t very good, pretty cringe-worthy. But one big motivating point was in my junior year of high school when my teacher, Mr. Pope, came up to me after I had played at my school’s open-mic night and said, ‘You need to keep doing this.’ So I kept going with it. ”
How did you decide this is what you wanted to do for a life career?
“To relate it to God-- I believe in God, I’m a Christian and I follow Jesus and I have always been passionate about music but I think the focus has changed, especially this last summer where I started to realize the opportunity that music has to really impact the world in a positive way. If I believe that what I believe is the truth, then I have the opportunity to present it to other as, ‘hey this is what I believe is the truth, this is what I hold onto, this is what I put my hope in and where I get my peace from.’ Not music, but God. And I think that keeping focused on that and keeping focused on who I am in God helps me not put so much of myself and my trust in music alone. But I think that music is a great platform to spread and idea or message.”
When you picture yourself playing in front of all those people, would you play specifically only Christian music or more generally music that gives a positive message?
“I don’t want to specifically say ‘Christian music’ or ‘Non-Christian music.’ I just know what I believe in and what is such a huge part of my life, that God relates to every aspect. So I would hope that naturally the overflow of that when I write anything, when I create anything, it would show how God has related to my life and to the people’s lives I have seen and how real it is. I would create my music from a heart that is after God and His purpose. I understand the importance of writing worship music for the church but if I’m trying to reach outside the church, I believe it’s important to relate God to real life because people that don’t relate to God can relate to that.”
Have you had the chance to play in front of an audience like that, that isn’t necessarily Christian?
“Yeah, I used to be in a band when I was 17-18 and we used to play in front of people that were not Christian. The only issue was that I don’t think I was convicted enough then or knew enough about what I believed in to be able to stand up on that stage and confidently speak what I believe and I think it was because I hadn’t searched God out enough despite being in church my entire life and being the son of a pastor. I feel like now I’m getting to that point where I could really just stand up in front of people and say, ‘This is what I believe and I’ve seen the evidence of it and I trust God.’ Because there’s no rock-star mentality, it takes the pressure off. I can just focus on putting care and passion into the music wondering how I can benefit the crowd rather than wondering how the crowd can benefit me.
What opportunities have you had to play with that confidence?
“I’ve been leading worship in churches and various camps and youth conferences. I also did some traveling with music this summer with Point Loma Nazarene youth camps as well as my own church’s youth camp. As for secular audiences, I haven’t had many opportunities yet, but there are some possible opportunities coming up in the Los Angeles, Orange County area. I recently went up on a retreat leading worship and I met a few people, some who do house shows in Orange County including a woman who does PR for bands and she knows of some bands who need, or will need, openers in LA venues. These are bands whose audience and demographic is primarily college age young adults and high school teens which, to me, is a demographic I’d like to reach because that’s where my heart is.”
Anything outside the states you feel your heart being drawn towards?
“That’s a whole other thing. That’s a hope for the future. Maybe possibly somewhere in Europe like England, just because I feel like that culture is very forward thinking. There’s a lot of smart people nowadays because so many people are educated so when you talk to them about God, they need proof in a sense. They need some sort of practical side. And I want to be able to hear what they are saying and still show them the God I believe in through music on a real and practical level. Recently I’ve been reading work by C.S. Lewis and he used to be an atheist, but I love how he practically breaks things down and talks about humanity in general and just our natural inclinations and how it relates to God. Typical Christian music addresses three things: How great God is, the things He’s done, how it relates to us and real life. That third piece is what I want to focus on in my music and really is what ties everything together. I believe that third part is most relatable to people who don’t believe in God.”
What projects are you currently working on to reach your music and ministry goals?
“I’m currently working on an EP which will be an album consisting of four of five songs inspired by various encounters with God and testimonies from people I’ve encountered. I’ve also recently released a single called “Caverns.” Some songs on the EP will be Lost, Don’t Lose Heart, Catch Me When I Fall and Know Your Heart. I’m also working towards playing at ‘Musoffee’ in December which is an event that a ton of people on Point Loma campus attend where various artists can come together and play music. The free coffee is also a bonus.”
How has music changed you and how do you hope for it to change others?
“Where my gifts and passions collide is in songwriting. If that wasn’t the case I’d feel like something was wrong in my life. When I tried to find fulfillment in in my music alone, I got burnt out and even gave it up for a while, but eventually, looking at music through faith, I realized it was something I had to do. It was, and is, a cause greater than myself. I think music has helped me become who I am supposed to be. As for my hope in how it will move others—music is the language that transcends all languages. It’s something that people are drawn into. This one time I was leading worship and a deaf girl came up to me and said, ‘I like your music.’ I did not understand how my music could touch someone who couldn’t even hear it. But the thing is, she could feel it. Over 60 percent of the human body is made up of water so when music is played, it moves sound waves towards you and through you. People, even those who can’t hear are literally moved by music and often why it makes us so emotional. I hope that my music will move people towards God."
What is your overall vision and goal for your music ministry?
"I want to make music that spreads truth and hope, something that people can grasp onto. People want to find satisfaction in the world and I believe the answer is God. I still get lost in my music but the purpose driving it has changed from myself to people. At the end of my life, I want to be able to say that I loved people the best I could through the talents I was given."