[Editor’s note: First published by SGM Radio Website in May 2013, written by Matt Baker.]
I first heard Three Bridges a few years ago on my local radio station. They were playing a song called, “I’m A Soldier”. I remember thinking to myself, “Those guys sound like they have a blast singing that song!” It was such a fun song to hear. They certainly have ridden off of that hit and brought many more toe-tappers to the airwaves. But their current single, “Forgive Myself”, struck me in a different tone. We certainly need those fast, fun songs that still have truth in the message, but we also need songs like “Forgive Myself”. When I had the chance to chat with Elliott McCoy, Shannon Smith, and Jeremie Hudson, and get their thoughts on the song, I had no idea how special the testimonies would be. There’s no better way to show the power of the song than to go straight to the ones who recorded it. Here’s my conversation with Elliott (EM), Shannon (SS), and Jeremie (JH):
MB: Let’s start with the basics. How did you all get started in Gospel Music?
SS – My family was musical. I sang my first solo in church at the age of five and began voice lessons at age 14, continuing formal voice training for the next 12 years or so. I was a voice performance major at the University of South Carolina and traveled with a college music group. I served as a Minister of Music, Senior Pastor, and then began to do solo ministry wherever I could. I filled in with N’ Harmony at the tenor position in the late ‘90’s. I went into full-time solo ministry in September 2000 and then was the lead singer for The Imperials from 2002 to 2008. For about 18 months I was the worship leader for a church in Miami, FL. I started with Three Bridges in March 2010.
JH – I started singing when I was eight years old. My father, who sang baritone for The Churchmen, was practicing one day and I just started singing alto with him. I realized that day there was something special about singing for God. I continued singing in church as well as competing in talent showcases and later won the regional Church of God Teen Talent Contest for the state of Alabama. In the early 1990’s some friends
and I formed the group, Fresh Anointing, at which time I discovered I could sing the tenor part. For the next five years the group not only sang on weekends but also worked full time jobs. In 1999, I joined The Imperials as their tenor and I was there until 2008. I needed to get off of the road for a while so I served as a Worship Pastor in Alabama. I started with Three Bridges in May 2013.
EM- I grew up in a musical family. My grandparents were great influences on me. I began singing with groups like The Laymen Quartet, The Premiers Quartet, and Southern Tradition. As a member of The Premiers, we were able to work with ministers like Dr. John Rawlings and Rex Humbard.
MB: Tell us how Three Bridges was started, Elliott, and where the name came from.
EM: I had wanted to start a Gospel group for a long time but in 2001 it seemed like the Lord’s time had finally come. I sang in a church choir with Mitch Kenitzer (Mitchell Jon) and talked with him about my dream of starting a group. He became the lead singer and we found a wonderful tenor, Stephen Blanton, to join us. We recorded our first CD, Soldiers, released a couple of songs to radio, which were very well received, and the rest is history. We chose the name, Three Bridges, because we liked the word “bridge” as we have bridged our lives to Christ and we want to be a bridge for others to get to Christ, and there were three of us so we decided on Three Bridges.
MB: Let’s talk about “Forgive Myself.” What does a song like this, a very personal song, mean to the three of you?
SS: This is one of those songs where the beauty of the lyric and the beauty of the music come together to create a breathtaking and powerful song! Most Christians know that God has forgiven them of their sins, but many of us struggle to forgive ourselves. We tend to focus so much on our sin and its consequences that we forget that God dealt with the sin when Jesus took our punishment at the cross. Rather than receive the truth of 2 Corinthians 5:21 “He made Him who knew no sin to become sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus” a lot of Christians become trapped in an “I’m just an old sinner saved by grace” mentality. Do we honestly think that the sacrifice of Jesus wasn’t enough to make us righteous? Do we think we must keep punishing ourselves because Jesus didn’t take ALL of the punishment for us? Of course, most of us would never say or even think that, but when we refuse to forgive ourselves, that is exactly what we are saying! Learn to say with Three Bridges, “If Jesus can forgive me, then it’s time to forgive myself.”
EM: I was raised by godly grandparents but chose to go my own way in my teenage years. Throughout my late teen years and into early adulthood I was playing rock and roll music in clubs and bars. I got married and had a couple of kids but I was living an ungodly, self-consumed lifestyle when a friend from high school days invited me to his church. Our second time at church we gave our hearts to the Lord but I just found it hard to believe that I could be forgiven of all the wrong I had done. It took me about three months before I realized that my salvation was all about the grace of God and there was nothing I needed to do to save myself because Jesus had done it all! That was a freeing and life-changing moment! Not only had Jesus forgiven me, but I could also forgive myself.
JH: I personally know several people who struggle with their past. These are good Christian people, but they were raised to beat themselves up when they do something wrong. I, of course, do believe sin is harmful and it does cause major issues, if we let it. However, once something is paid for or taken care of, then it’s done. We must learn from our mistakes but we should not increase the time lost by living in guilt and shame. To sum up, it’s like this: It’s like paying a toll at the tollbooth but refusing to drive through the OPEN gate… Jesus paid the toll so we do not have to. It is up to us to accept that He has paid the toll, drive through the open gate, and get on the highway to His plan for us and, ultimately, to heaven!
MB: What was your reaction when you were listening to demos for this project and you heard, “Forgive Myself?”
SS: My reaction was, “This is a great song! I think I need to listen to it again.” I listened to it several times and thought, “People really need to hear this song!” Then I emailed it to Jeremie and Elliott telling them we needed to record it. Then I emailed John Mathis at Mansion Records and asked him to put it on hold for us.
JH: Powerful message and just enough on the different side for Three Bridges.
EM: I thought of how when I first got saved, it took me three months to realize that Jesus Christ had done it all and I simply needed to recognize His grace and receive His forgiveness by faith. I also thought of a lady in our church that testified of how many years ago she had an abortion and struggled for so many years to forgive herself. She was finally able to receive God’s gift of forgiveness and has started a ministry to women who have had an abortion. The ministry is called Save One and has chapters all over the world!
MB: I’m a listener on the front row who has never had the opportunity to see Three Bridges in concert before. What can I expect to see and hear from you in concert?
SS: You will hear some great music, experience a lot of joy, and find yourself in the presence of Jesus!
JH: High energy, high vocals, strong and unique harmony, and the Word.
EM: Tight harmonies, powerful lyrics, and the JOY of the Lord!
MB: Here’s a fun one to close it out. You’ve got one last song to sing in your lifetime. What song would you sing and why?
SS: That is a very difficult question to answer! To narrow it down, I’ll limit it to Three Bridges’ songs. I think I will go with “Forgive Myself” because I think it is a message that so many people DESPERATELY need to hear! I think so many people, both saved and unsaved, really do not understand what Jesus accomplished on our behalf at the cross. This song brings glory to Jesus and hope and freedom to people!
JH: “Going Home”
EM: “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” because it puts the focus on God and because He has truly been so faithful to me!
I thoroughly hope you enjoyed this visit with Three Bridges as much as I did. These guys are making a difference for the kingdom of God, and “Forgive Myself” is helping minister to people in a way that changes them forever! If you haven’t heard it, call your local radio station and request it! Also, you can go visit their website to find out more about their ministry, as well as purchase their music atwww.threebridgesgospel.com.
First published in May 2013 on SGM Radio Website. For current features, click on to http://www.sgmradio.com/