Award-winning musician and singer-songwriter Ron Block has had a storied career in music as a member of Allison Krauss’s band Union Station, but with his latest release, “Abiding Dependence: Living Moment by Moment in the Love of God,” he’s showcasing a more literary side. The new book, which recently released, focuses on the qualities of God as Savior, comforter, and friend.
In this exclusive interview with Reel Faith’s DeWayne Hamby, Block talks about the process of putting the book together, his music releases, and memorable moments from his career.
At what point did you think ‘Maybe I have a book here somewhere’?
I’ve written articles for a long time for The Rabbit Room, Andrew Peterson’s website. I was one of the charter member charter writers and my leaning was to write on theological topics, like things that had been meaningful to me, that I knew if they had changed my life, they would change other people’s lives. So, I had lots of practice. Even before that, I was writing on my own blog. From the 90’s on, I was writing, and studying and reading the Bible. It was probably in the 2000s that people started saying “You should write a book.” I’m a musician, so that is totally off my radar. And I thought, “Yes, someday —in the vague someday that’ll never happen—I’ll write a book.” Andrew Osenga was talking to Trillia Newbell from Moody, and she asked him, “Do you know anybody that should write a book?” And he said, “Ron Block.” So, that’s kind of how that came about.
Did you use a shutdown as some of the time to put the book together?
Yeah, I did. I was doing other projects as well. I did do a lot of writing during the shutdown and then in 2021, as well. I was going to write a devotional, and this is what I talked about with Trillia, I was going to write a devotional on identity in Christ. And as I wrote, and I was writing all these pieces, many of which are in the book, I began to realize I couldn’t talk about identity in Christ until I talked about Christ. So, I talked about Jesus—why He became human, what it was like for Him to be human and all that and what the cross accomplished all those things.
At what point did your spiritual journey begin?
When I was six years old, my mom got saved. I was probably two. She had a really abusive childhood and finally found a place where God loved her, where she knew God, the Father, a father that really loved her. And it changed her life. I grew up in that. I went forward at church at six. I was a six-year-old, but God still honored it. God to me was still like, He’s up there somewhere. And He was kind of like a Zeus, where He got mad. He was more like the Old Testament, where it wasn’t God living with you, it was God living up there. I read my Bible for all through my childhood and then in my teen years, I felt the need for something more. I joined a legalistic church. I spent nine months there, which was a gestational period. And then something was born in me and that was, “This isn’t the way.” And I went to the pastor, said, “I don’t think everything you’re teaching is the truth. I don’t think you’re teaching the whole truth.” And he said, “Let us study with you.” I said, “No, I’m gonna study on my own.” And that’s what I did. And, of course, God brought me in contact with people in church. I began to read and study and got really deeply into why legalism is not the answer. And it took me awhile to find out also that that license is not the answer. Because you can be bound by legalism, or you can be bound by your just fleshly desires every day. Eating too much, drinking too much, whatever. You can be bound by anything, unless you’re bound to Christ. That was that was my early 20s was like that.
Then I joined Allison’s band at 26 or 27. In my teens, I built a sense of self-worth on playing music. When I played well, and I was learning and growing, I felt great. And if I didn’t play well, I didn’t feel good. I had to be good because my self-worth was tied into it. When I joined Allison’s band, I had this rush of being in a great band, and it was incredible and wonderful. And then I got perfectionistic and my self-worth kind of started crashing. I had plugged into a fluctuating source. Anything in this world that fluctuates, it goes up and down. If I plug into anything in this world, my self-worth is gonna go up and down. If I plug into God in Christ, He never changes. So, when I feel when start feeling the pulls of the world, I go, “Wait a second, I have a Father, Christ lives in me, the Holy Spirit lives in me and I have everything I need for life and godliness. I already have worse because of that.” All my studies started very early, but it was really that impetus, when I was probably three years into Union Station, that I really felt the need, where I was like, “I have got to figure this out.”
How have you been able to weave your faith into your music career?
If you look at the essence of art in general, not just music, but every artist puts himself and what he believes in who he is into his work, it’s a picture of what’s inside. So, it’s just simply knowing that God is present, and God is with me. And God is in me as the fullness and sufficiency for everything I need. That takes a lot of stress off. Because I’m no longer just that kid who grew up in this way, in that way and had this problem and that problem, I’m no longer just that guy. I’ve now got an ally. And more than an ally, a friend that sticks closer than a brother, I have Christ in my heart ready and willing and able to come out through me at any point. And I just have to turn to face him and recognize and then trust Him inside me.
What are a few of the moments that kind of stand out to you where you’re like, “Man, I can’t believe this is happening” or “I’ll never forget this moment”?
There are lots of times where we’ve played big places, such as the White House. I remember coming back from the White House, looking at our house and going, “Can you believe that? We just did that!” We were just dumb kids growing up playing music. And it’s amazing where it takes you. For the most part, for me it’s always been, mostly about did I play well? Did we play well as a band? Did it sound good? Did the audience respond to how it sounded? I can tell you a short story that illustrates that I was. Allison called and said, “Hey, you want to play this gig up in New York? Jerry can’t make it. It’ll be just me, you, Barry, and Dan.” Then came the day, months later, we fly up there and we go into this place, a big place. Beautiful place. And I look around I go “Wow.” And then I look on stage and Bill Clinton’s up there. Brooke Shields, and Rudy Giuliani and all kinds of people are they’re like getting ready to present. It was the National Breast Cancer Awareness benefit. It was massive. Tony Bennett was in the audience. We soundcheck and then called my wife and told her who was there. She goes, “Honey, it’s so wasted on you.” But it really. In the moment in the moment, I appreciate it. But I’ve always been focused on making the music sound as good as possible. The other stuff is secondary. It’s wonderful and I’m not I’m not knocking it. I think it’s amazing.
I was going to ask you about how the success of “Oh Brother Where Art Thou” and the song “Man of Constant Sorrow” impacted you.
A lot more people started to come into our shows, just like in ‘95 we had “When You Say Nothing at All.” Lots more country fans and people started coming to our shows. And some of those people fall off after a while because they just they heard that one song and they liked that and that, but lots of those people stay and become friends.
It’s been a pleasure talking to you. Anything else you’d like to add?
The audio book is out. I read the audio book myself. I put guitars all throughout it, not just at the very beginning, but each devotional day starts with a guitar piece or a hymn or something I made up, and it ends with one, too. Then in the middle, there’ll be usually three scattered throughout, guitar pieces that are sometimes only 20 seconds long. Other times, they’re a minute long, or more. I wanted to create something that was almost like a movie soundtrack for the audiobook.
“Abiding Dependence: Living Moment by Moment in the Love of God” by Ron Block is now available through book retailers. For more information about Ron Block, including music releases and online classes, visit his official website.