By JASON REYNOLDS
Tennessee Christian News
If you are a fan of ‘90s rock music, like me, you probably have listened to Hootie & the Blowfish a time or two. Hootie and another band, The Presidents of the United States of America, were my first forays out of the country music I grew up with.
So I jumped when I had a chance to review a new album by Jim Sonefeld, Hootie’s drummer. Sonefeld last month released his third solo album, “Love.” His two previous projects in this series were “Found” and “In.”
I had the opportunity to speak to Sonefeld recently. He shared his story of brokenness with drinking and drugs and how finding faith in Christ turned his life around.
“Love” is the third and final piece of the musical puzzle that started with “Found,” he said.
“These are a way of saying thanks to God for keeping me here and giving me purpose,” Sonefeld said. “Musically I am spreading my wings.”
“Are We Prepared?” opens with reverb-laden guitar and a story of birth before describing God’s higher plan for each of us. Sonefeld asks the listener are you prepared to fly, to take the leap.
“God is Here” has a contemporary pop energy in declaring the universal presence of God that supersedes time and place.
“Cross Before the Crown” is Sonefeld’s most autobiographical song, chronicling each of his mileposts before concluding, “Now the time has come/Though I’ve been slow to change/Desperation’s led me here to You.” The song is a celebration of a redeemed life and the message he shares through groups like Celebrate Recovery.
A new path
Sonefeld said his life took a big turn 10 years ago when God showed him a new path, a way to be what he was wired to be.
“I’ve had no disillusionments writing about my faith. I feel like it’s where it needs to be.”
Sonefeld said that when he is describing his solo albums he does frequently have to talk about the contrast from his work with Hootie.
“Yes, I am the drummer for Hootie but yes, I am a songwriter and lead singer,” he said. “I choose to sing about my faith, versus a bunch of love songs to random relationships … most pop music revolves around. It’s good. I love being able to explain myself. Luckily I do have the Hootie audience still listening.”
He uses the Hootie platform to share his faith not only with fans who may be believers but also to try to reach those who may be unsure of their faith.
“I love singing about God to people who believe in God but also people who are unsure, who were hurt at church. I want to tell them about redemption and rebirth. Man, those are the people who need to hear it. I was in a position where I was not sure what I believed, not sure I wanted Jesus Christ as my savior. I wanted fame and fortune and booze. I had to figure that out. I am slightly qualified to speak on behalf of those who are doubting.”
A new understanding
He began to understand something.
“I was not running the show, as we say. The drugs and alcohol were in charge of me.”
That was about 10 and a half years ago. He found a recovery group which taught him how not to drink. That’s where he found Christ.
“For someone who was 40 years old at the time, it was good, exactly where I needed to be, painful and embarrassing as it was.”
The man who had grown up in church said he was not sure now how much he believed as a kid. He thought spirituality was a reverence to a sort of wrathful God.
“I’ve come to believe many years later that it is a celebration of a loving God.”
Moving beyond Hootie
In 2008 he had become disenchanted with touring on the rock scene. The Hootie band decided to roll up the carpet, he said, and stop touring. Eventually, band member Darius Rucker went on to have a country music career. The band members get together four to five times a year to perform for their charitable foundation.
Sonefeld started to put his life back together. He had been divorced but later remarried his current wife, Laura. They have a combined family of five children.
“It’s a big journey of life, for me, trying to be useful and asking God to make me useful for His glory,” Sonefeld said. “I think I am more useful being a stay-at-home dad and writing about God’s love and the importance of us loving one another.”
He uses social media to draw people to his music and to his message of hope and rebirth.
“I sat behind a drum set for 20 years. I needed to see what it’s like as a leader; it’s harder than I thought it would be. But I’ve never felt more at home, now, singing about my faith.”
Sonefeld did not rule out another Hootie tour one day: “Another Hootie tour will happen someday, but I’m not sure when that day will be.”