At just 17-years-old, Jacob Lloyd is becoming well-known on the Christian music circuit and is about to release his second studio album 'See in Colour'. We caught up with him to find out more about his inspiration and his heart to see people come to know God through music.
CT: Hi Jacob, tell us a bit about your music.
JL: My music in style is quite acoustic. It could be described as acoustic pop similar to the styles of Jack Johnson and Jason Mraz, that kind of thing. Lyrically it's very heartfelt and I try to write everything with a meaning.
CT: What got you started in the first place?
JL: The reason I started playing guitar and writing songs was as a coping mechanism. I was bullied quite severely for being a Christian at my first high school. Iit started off as verbal and physical but led to going across social networking sites and things like that. I struggled quite a lot during that period, because you start to question whether you're wrong - when your faith is what's getting you into trouble, I guess you start to question whether that's the problem.
I also struggled with the idea that it was just me, and I needed an escape. I'd always been a Christian, and I know that the first person we should turn to is God, but if I'm honest with myself I think I tried to sort it out myself.
I look back now and I see how God was working. Even when I didn't ask, he was still there working for me, especially through music. I needed a way out, and there were some guitar lessons going on at school, so I started doing a few of them.
That sparked something musically in me, and my step-dad - who I call dad - taught me a few riffs and chords, and from that I wrote my first song within about a month. I wrote a song called 'I am me', which is almost me convincing myself that I wasn't the problem, that God was still there, that it was alright to be who I was, and I didn't have to change for anyone.
CT: Do those experiences from your childhood still influence your music now?
JL: Yes. My biological father left when I was seven and he was in an abusive relationship when he was around. He was a Christian and left for someone in the church which was really difficult for me as a young boy, not quite understanding everything, and still coming to grips with this idea of God and faith, so I wrote songs about that as well. I realised there were things I could say and write about that affected people.
I felt that there was a story and God was calling me to talk to people about it. Bullying affects almost everyone, and there's some crazy statistic like 50 per cent of marriages in the UK end in divorce, so these are issues that affect a lot of people.
CT: How does your faith come into it?
JL: The process of writing itself brings me closer to God. With everything being so busy and technologically-based nowadays, when I write it's the time that I'm most intimate in that relationship. So now I write about that relationship with Jesus that I have, and the way that it's got me through things.
I write about the way God has helped me in life, and how he continues to do that – because on a day to day basis there doesn't need to be a big, massive event to know God's there and for him to be working. A lot of what I write is about that continuous work and the relationship I have with Jesus.
CT: What keeps you going?
JL: I realised that if I'd seen someone my own age singing about the things I was struggling with and saying there's a light at the end of the tunnel during the difficult time in my own life, how much that would have helped me. So I thought that was something I could do: if I had a talent that I could use and a story I could tell, then it was something that God had provided me with and therefore I felt that it was almost a duty to do that.
I've progressed from there, and now my stories aren't really about those things. My heart really is for evangelism, and whatever I do musically is always alongside this goal of telling people about God. The story has developed not just to tell people about my experiences, but also just to tell people about Jesus. I do a lot of evangelistic Sunday Night Live events at Costa, and if I do go into this as a career that would be the aim: not to be a musician, but to be an evangelist who uses music as a way to reach people.
CT: You're keen to use social media for positive reasons, aren't you?
JL: My experience of social media has been really negative in the past, but as I started to record and write music and get out there more, I realised the extreme positives of social media as well. Although it can be used negatively, imagine if it was used entirely for positive reasons!
Social media is worldwide, it can reach so many people, and it's almost limitless in the number of people that it can reach and the number of lives it can touch. So I think it's a brilliant platform to tell people about God.
I use my Facebook page fairly regularly, and almost every day I put at least one Bible verse on there or a thought-provoking comment; something that's been on my mind or something I felt I wanted to share. I try to just keep people engaged, give them something to think about and to challenge them with – I know I need challenging on a daily basis.
CT: What's coming up next for you?
JL: I'm in college doing A-levels, alongside music, so at the moment I'm focussing on trying to get good grades in those. But in terms of music everything's really exciting, I'm about to release my new album 'See in Colour' and the launch for that is on 7 March. It's quite significant for me, because I was 14 when I last recorded an album which is quite young, so it's a big step for me now I'm at an age where it's a potentially viable career.
I'm also working on some workshops. I've done some song writing workshops in the past and I've worked with youth groups. Again it's about developing that evangelism. That for me is the big thing at the moment, especially over the two years before I leave college, it's really about developing myself as an evangelist as well as a musician.
With music I've progressed over the past few years, but evangelism is something that I want to develop and grow in experience and understanding in: how to best get the message of God across to people and how to best relay the good news. So the next two years are about becoming the best evangelist as well as musician that I can, and combining the two together in a package that can be used alongside each other.
CT: What's been your highlight so far?
JL: The biggest experience I ever had was when I played to around 6,000 people at the 02 Arena in Birmingham, in a multi-faith event. It was amazing! To be 15 and play that stage in front of that many people was just incredible, and it's an experience I'll never forget.
The best experience was playing Greenbelt this year. It was at 8 o'clock on the last night and I wasn't expecting a massive crowd, but a pretty decent crowd came. It was pitch black and there was just this spotlight and I literally couldn't see a thing but people were singing along, and during some of the slower songs there were lighters and phones in the air. It was one of those spine chilling moments and probably the best moment so far for me.
See in Colour is out on 28 February.