Behind the Song… with Lyn Rowell and Wendy Wills: "Jesus is Holding My Hand"

Behind the Song… with Lyn Rowell and Wendy Wills: "Jesus is Holding My Hand" June 3, 2011

When I “reviewed” Doug Anderson’s solo album, I said that “Jesus is Holding My Hand” was easily the best song on the project. I said that even after hearing clips of all the other tracks, and I put in a later note saying that I still maintained that position after listening to the CD in its entirety. Fortunately, somebody out there agrees with me and decided to single the song. It’s enjoyed chart success and become a staple of Signature Sound concerts as Doug takes it around the country and the world.

I asked the writers if they would be willing to let me and my readers into the process of how the song came to be, then came to be recorded. They graciously agreed.
Me: What was your initial inspiration for the song?
Wendy Wills: I came to a chapter of a Bible study I was doing that focused on Psalm 23.  I was thinking about how the Shepherd Lord is with us in both valley and pastures, and “Jesus Is Holding My Hand” popped into my head.  I remember thinking what a nice little song idea that could be, simple and hopeful, certainly true.  I do remember specifically thinking of starting from the green pastures and still waters, because that’s where I was spiritually – I was experiencing no trials or tribulations at that time.  I also was thinking that it’s these peaceful times that God wants us to recall when we’re going through the hard times because he has shown us his faithfulness.
In my mind was a picture of the mountains I hiked around when I lived in western China.  Deep, cool valleys nestled in between forbidding mountains.  But, oh, the view from the top!  That is truly a mountaintop blessing!  Life is a chain of mountains and valleys and Jesus is with us in both places, leading us to the place where he restores us, and helping us climb through trials.
Lyn Rowell: Wendy and I had a writing appointment at BMI in Nashville, and she said she had an idea — a lyrical hook with a melodic idea, so she played and sang “Jesus is holding my hand.” I immediately liked it, and we started talking about what it meant to us personally. I told her I had been realizing that both mountains and valleys can be encouraging or discouraging, based on the specifics of the circumstances and exactly where we are at the time. A valley can be restful and inviting when there are green pastures, but when the valley turns dark, the main goal is to move through it as quickly as possible! Similarly, if we stand at the base of a mountain looking up, it can be imposing and challenging. But once we’ve reached the top of the mountain, it becomes a place of victory and peace. So those different perspectives were the inspiration for the verses in the song for me, but the one idea holding it all together was that “Jesus is holding my hand,” no matter what happens.
Me:  How did lyrics and music come together? Did one of you write music and the other lyrics, or were both a joint effort?
WW: I came to the appointment with a melodic and lyrical hook.  But after that, it was definitely a collaborative effort.
LR: Since Wendy had the initial melodic hook on the guitar, she took the lead musically. It did take more than one writing appointment, but the music and lyrics came together at the same time as we worked through what we wanted to say.
Me: How did Doug come to record it?
WW: Lyn was more involved in that process.
LR: Ray “Chip” Davis did a great demo for us, and we began to pitch the song. Then in June of 2010, Wayne Haun (who was producing the project with Ernie Haase) texted me to ask if “Jesus Is Holding My Hand” had been cut yet. I texted back that it hadn’t been and asked why. He said they were listening for Doug Anderson’s solo CD and loved the song.
Me: Did you expect it to find the kind of success that it’s had?
LR: I was surprised, but excited to hear that it would be the first radio single from Doug’s project. When they first put the song on hold, they said it had the classic sound they were hoping to find, so that may be one reason why it’s been so well-received in live concerts all over the US and in other countries they’ve visited recently. Doug’s YouTube videos show that he always makes that song a rich moment during the Ernie Haase & Signature Sound concerts. He has the perfect voice to bring the song to life, and he communicates the message beautifully.
WW:  I really had no idea what to expect!  Lyn really kept me in the loop. It went from:  “Wayne loves it,” to “He played it for Doug,” to “Doug loves it,” to “It’s going to be the first single!”  I saw Doug sing it live at his CD release concert in his hometown of Lapel, IN, in April.  He was awesome.  People were singing along . . . it was a sweet moment.
Thank you ladies so much! This is a great song, and I’m just pleased as punch that it’s getting such good exposure. When you put two gifted writers in the same room, good things are bound to happen.

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  • Tim

    I always love interviews like this — thank you (and Lyn and Wendy) for taking us behind the scenes.

  • Jim H

    I love hearing the “story behind the song”! thanks for sharing this with us. I think it is fascinating to hear how all of the little pieces fit together to make the songs we hear – Doug does a great job with a wonderful song!

  • You’re welcome! I love it when I’m able to do this.

  • John vP

    John vP
    Is the song now published and if so, where can I obtain a copy? Thanks.

  • It is the first track on Doug Anderson’s solo album Dreamin’ Wide Awake, which you can download at Amazon or iTunes. You can get a physical copy from Christianbook or the Signature Sound website.

  • shelby diiro

    hey there doug i love your solo cd and my favorite songs numbers are #1,#2,#7,and #10 and also thanks for signing your new solo cd just for me make sure that you and the guys call me on my 19th birthday to sing happy birthday to me please.

  • Pingback: My Favorite Southern Gospel Songs of 2011, Part 2 | Southern Gospel Yankee()

  • Hettie Pienaar

    The song made a huge impression the first time I played the CD. I play it for all my friends visiting me. I would like to translate the song into my Language, Afrikaans, one of an African Language, and have it recorded. Do I have to get permission from you ore the publisher?

  • Good question. I’m not sure. In any case, I’m just a blogger. Would you like me to put you in touch with co-writer Wendy Wills?

  • Hettie Pienaar

    Thank you,
    I believe that the record company in South Africa who do the recording of the song in Afrikaans, all ready got in touch with the publisher of the song.

  • Hi Hettie! That’s great news! I’d forgotten about your request, but I’m so happy to hear you’ve got the song in your own language now.