It was a pleasure to have Tonja Rose featured in this article, as she has an impressive message to share. This lovely lady talks to SGNScoops writer, Jantina Baksteen.
Jantina Baksteen: Could you please introduce yourself to the SGNScoops readers?
Tonja Rose: My name is Tonja Rose, I am a country girl from Eastern North Carolina. Pinetown, specifically, with a population of 155. I grew up on Free Union Church Road, where I lived between corn and tobacco, and had a pig farm across the road from my house. You don’t get much more country than that unless you’re driving a tractor. All in all, I’m as country as cornbread and I am a sinner saved by grace who dies daily.
JB: You have had a long, rich career in music, starting from a young age. Can you share something about that?
TR: When I came along, or shortly there after, my dad was part of a gospel quartet called The Coachmen Quartet, so I grew up singing. From the age of two, the stage just became a natural fit for me. Throughout school, I was in the band and ensemble and would sing anytime I could. After high school, I got married and moved to Virginia, was in a country band and had the opportunity to open for many country artists that all told me, “You need to move to Nashville.” I moved to Nashville to pursue country music where I had charting success with an Independent record label before the label decided to shut its doors. In 2012, some friends were starting an Christian group and asked if I would be interested in joining them; that group ended up being named Crosby Lane. While with Crosby Lane, we had charting success with our song “Crucified,” and we traveled all across the country. Shortly after this charting success, my husband, Ward, had a stroke in 2016. During his, recovery I tried to convince myself how I could continue with Crosby Lane, but found myself struggling to leave him at home alone. So in early 2017, I stepped away from Crosby Lane and and decided my music days were over. As therapy for myself, I continued to write music and would write a song that changed the whole trajectory of my life, (and) our lives. My co writer, John Mathis, suggested we release the song to radio to see what happens. That song, “When the Mountain Can’t Be Moved” would be the first of four top ten singles from my album, “Me, Jesus, and the Highway,” and would garner five Diamond Award nominations.
JB: You have a new song out to radio, “I’m Not Who I Used To Be.” How did this song come together?
TJ: All the songs off of “Me, Jesus, and the Highway,” have some kind of connection to my husband’s stroke and recovery. The co-writer of “I’m Not Who I Used To Be,” Erin Johnston, brought the idea for this song for a completely different reason but I thought it fit perfectly with our story as I knew both Ward and I were not the same people we were before the stroke. I have learned so much from this song. The idea of that song meant one thing to Erin when she brought it to the table, which we both embraced when we wrote it, but in the end God used it in a completely different way. And whenI say “the end,” I mean it. The song truly became what it was intended to be when we decided to release it as the last single from the album and talked about ideas for a video. Here is how God turnedthis song into so much more: The gentleman in the video is not an actor, but my co-writers’ uncle, John Williams. At the time we wrote the song, Erin’s family did not know if John was alive or dead. They did know this: he had struggled for years and was addicted to drugs, alcohol, gambling and was living on the streets. About the time “Me, Jesus, and the Highway,” was released in July of 2018, John reached out to his family for help and they were able to help him get in a recovery program at John 316 Mission in Tulsa, Oklahoma. There he found the love of Christ and has completely turned his life around and is now a mentor to others in the program. He uses this video to share with others his story of how God has changed who he is.
JB: Do you write all your music?
TR: Though I did not initially enjoy writing, I now love to share my thoughts through music. I have written music for other artists. I co-wrote Ivan Parker’s top 20 hit, “Who I am, Ain’t Who I Was,” which was a huge blessing and a big wink from God that I was on the right path and should continue spilling my thoughts, ideas, moments, feelings and all that into writing. You will find music from all over on my albums. You will find hymns, my original music and music that touches my heart written by friends, mentors and heroes.
JB: What musician would you have liked to have spent dinner with and had a long chat, someone who is no longer here?
TR: Someone I admired growing up was Dottie Rambo. I always heard my dad talking about the Rambos and knew the name “Dottie” as one of the women of the family. Now that I am a singer-songwriter too, I would love to be able to sit down and ask why she wrote certain songs, what inspired her as an artist and writer, and ask if there is anything she would change in certain songs. Dottie had songs recorded by just about every genre of music from Whitney Houston to the Cathedrals to Elvis Presley. One of things I find hard as a singer-songwriter is knowing when to share a song with other artists, or keep it for myself as an artist. I’d love to know how she handled those kinds of things. Then finally, as a woman in the industry who has been there and seen everything, could she give any guidance and advice that would help me continue to create my music and grow ministry.
JB: Do you have a testimony to share?
TR: I grew up in church and traveled with my dad and his gospel quartet. So there has never been a moment in my life where I didn’t know about Jesus. He’s always been present. I’ve often said I didn’t feel like I had a testimony, some great testimony of healing or transformation. Has he done wonderful things in my life? Absolutely, but nothing that I felt held a candle to what others had experienced. What both Ward and I feel is this: God took us through Ward’s stroke and recovery to have a story to share of God’s grace and mercy with those that may not have hope. I now know that we all have a story to share that can help others get through the struggles and climb their mountains. If you don’t think you have a story, just wait. He may give you one when you least expect it.
JB: What message do you share with your audience?
TR: We are not perfect. I am not perfect. I love God, I’m a Christian but I am a sinner saved by grace that dies daily. God’s love will bring hope and will see you through any situation you may face and though none are worthy, His grace reaches all who call on Him.
Tonja Rose can be found on social media: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Youtube, at @tonjarosemusic.
Watch Tonja perform, “I’m Not Who I Used To Be:”
By Jantina Baksteen