Phil Wickham is more than just a talented singer-songwriter. Both fans and critics are saying that the young musician possesses something real.
Despite all the praise, Wickham doesn't feel like his life has changed much from his days as a 12-year-old worship leader in church.
"Maybe I'm playing in front of more people and more people know my name but I don't feel like my role has really changed, honestly, from playing in front of 40 kids in the youth group to playing in front of 40 000 people at a festival," says Wickham.
The now 22-year-old Californian has gone from leading worship to signing with MercyMe label Simple Records and releasing his self-titled debut album to impressive reviews.
Maybe not a lot has changed in Wickham's eyes but it's that same kind of honesty that permeates his personal lyrics and is attracting such a response. Listeners can't help but be surprised that for his young age, Wickham's music has such poetic expression combined with rich, soulful melodies.
"It really just blesses my heart to see that these people see more than just me because that's my prayer when I write these songs," says Wickham.
While fans may be praising Wickham for his talent, the humble singer-songwriter says he hopes for a kind of transparency for himself as an artist when people listen to his music.
"I do try to write as honestly as I can, trying not to make it songs about Phil but make it songs directed to the Lord," he says adding that he hopes people can take his songs and make the music and the lyrics their own.
Ultimately, Wickham says his songs are about his relationship with God and to express that relationship, he strips away the layers and attempts to bare his soul by drawing from a place that frightens him.
"I like to dig down to the secret places of my heart and what I'm going through and kind of pull from that, about things that people don't necessarily know about me or won't ever know about me. It's stuff that only me and the Lord know and it's kind of scary actually to write from that place and pull from that place but I try to," he says.
Growing up in a Christian household to musical parents, it's not hard to see why Wickham ending up combining worship and music and making it his fulltime career.
"My mom's a great singer and my dad's a really great guitar player and I know for sure I would have never picked up guitar and never would have sang if that wasn't a part of my life," he says.
But it was his own path forging and his desire to build his own faith along with a move from Orange County to San Diego that made his life as a Christian musician inevitable.
It was as a lonely, junior high student that Wickham picked up the guitar and began to write songs. It was also around that time that he decided to dig deeper to create a more meaningful and personal relationship with Jesus.
Wickham's musical talents garnered an invitation from his youth pastor to lead worship.
And so began his journey as a musician. The rest, as they say, is history.
After writing several songs, Wickham recorded an independent album and his playing and songwriting skills eventually attracted the attention of record labels. Now a signed artist, Wickham is in the midst of touring across the U.S. and enjoying the benefits of working with producer Pete Kipley.
Of his producer Wickham says, "He not only, I feel, refined me as an artist and kept funneling me in the right direction but still lets me be creative and call all the shots. But even more than that he became almost like a big brother to me."
Wickham's journey has sparked the desire to fill the producing role someday where he can play the big brother to another young musician.
"I'd really love to work with younger artists that I see the Lord in and potential in."
But he won't stop at singing, writing, performing and producing. He can also see himself settling into a staff position at a church one day.
For now, this talented young man will continue to perform and write songs while making his mark on the music scene and with early signs of success (his album hit the Billboard's Top 200, Top Christian Albums and Heatseekers) Wickham's philosophy is paying off.
"I don't want to stop writing songs. I just love touching and affecting people through musicóit's just such a thrill and such an honour."
For more information please visit www.philwickham.com.
Writer: Meghan Wubs