Jen Ledger: I expect it'll be a fantastic show. I mean, this isn't new news for anyone, but Winter Jam just is the best at bringing in all different genres from across the board. I mean, you're never going to find that many acts for that price of a ticket - it's just kind of unbelievable the show they are able to put on. For me personally, I'm just super excited, because this is going to be my first tour just playing with Ledger - without playing with my other band, Skillet, at the same time. Skillet's getting ready for our new 2019 album release, so while that album is getting finished up, I'm gonna be doing Winter Jam with Ledger. So, it just feels like a very new and exciting season. It's going to be kicking off 2019 in a way that is just massive - massive and exciting - before more music comes. I just can't wait to play this Ledger music in front of all these people, it's just going to be so much fun.
Jen: I think for me, probably the biggest challenge is - my heroes are John and Korey Cooper - I don't think you could possibly respect someone more than how much I look up to and respect them. They are just some of the most passionate and radical people in the whole world. It's because of them taking a risk on me when I was 17-years-old and auditioning for them, and they felt faith to let me be their drummer. They're brave and world changing people. They took a risk on me all those years ago and kind of let me become something and helped me become something that I never thought I could be. You know, I'm like, "Oh, it's to be a hairdresser," and here I wind up touring with this world-touring rock band. And the reason that Skillet is so successful, I believe, is because their hearts for the Lord are so radical. They are the most incredible, passionate people. And so, for me, I feel like I've been on a 10-year/11-year apprenticeship with the Coopers, not only learning how to practice songs, how to write music people will relate to, how to bring a really exceptional show, but also learning how to live for the Lord. How to bring His light backstage, how to encourage people - they're just kind of like on-fire-people - and so, for me, it actually feels really challenging and stretching to tour without them. They've been my family for the last 11 years, and this is going to be the first tour where they won't be on the bus with me. So even if it is for only three months, I'm going to miss my buddies, but I know that they've been preparing me for this and helping me train for it. I think, on just a very selfish level, I'll miss them - cause they're like my best friends. I've got the most fantastic friends - that I've known for years - coming out on the road with me for Ledger. One of the funny things is, my guitar player - Chris Marvin - when I was a teenager, I was quite nervous about playing drums, so I quit for a while because they made me feel really insecure. So, I learned bass and I played bass for his band for a year. Then now, it comes full circle and he's playing guitar for me. It's kind of cool to have God bring other people along the way to go on this journey with me, that I'm just really proud of and I trust a ton.
Jen: It's incredible, isn't it!? But when He's doing it, you're always like, 'What's happening!?' And when you look back, you're like, 'Ohhh…I see.' *Laughs*
Jen: Honestly, it's everything. It's really kind of the only thing that ever made me want to write music. I just feel so challenged, being a part of Skillet and seeing how God has been. I think Christians can misunderstand Skillet, because of the rock side of things. We play mainstream festivals with some of the heaviest and most influential rock bands in the whole world. I think a lot of people can be like, 'Well, why would Skillet play with them?' And instead of misunderstanding Skillet, I would love to share the heart that it's actually God's faithfulness to these people that have run into the darkest of dark places, to try and escape anything holy - then to be a part of Skillet and see God bring His light, His presence, and to bring His voice into those dark places, it's so inspiring. I always feel so humbled when we get to go into the dark places and sing of Him and see Him be faithful to those people in a way. It's just phenomenal, honestly. And so, I felt really challenged to kind of follow in those footsteps. So I was seeing how girls were looking to me, and learning to play drums because of me, or they were changing their hair to be like me - which sounds kind of silly - but I just felt really humbled by the power of music and the platform that it gives to speak into people's lives, and to see how people will look to you and want to hear what you have to say.
I just felt really challenged that I could be more vocal with this platform that God had given me, and maybe it's time for me to start writing my own music. In a way that I can be more vocal, and if people are looking to me and I have this window of time where people care what I have to say, then why not say something - ya know? Even in me stepping out and doing the solo project, I do it only because I know if God's got people looking at me, I take this platform incredibly seriously. I find it really humbling and a big responsibility. I hope I can point people to Him, point people to His reality and His hope. It's kind of the only reason I do music - otherwise I'd be happy to be a hairdresser if it wasn't because of Him. *Laughs* I'm not looking to be a rock star; I'm looking to be a source of light and hope, and music is one of the most powerful ways in the world to do it. So, if I've got a window, let's just go for it and see if I can shine more light, and just be an example of something else, amidst all the voices screaming at our young people. We've got so many people kind of being the biggest influences on this generation. Not all people are the most wealthy, the most beautiful, the most shameless, and it would be really nice to be an example of something else in that platform.
Jen: Absolutely. I would say the main thread you're gonna hear through the Ledger EP is just overcoming fear and anxiety. I think something I've battled the most in my life with would be coming up against fear, and feeling like 'I can't do this', 'I'm not strong enough,' or this 'looks too big and too scary for me.' It was the thing that made me not want to try out for Skillet, and it was the thing that made me scared to write my own music. You'll notice in pretty much all of the songs threads of hope, stepping out, and actually choosing to cling to the truth of who your God is. Yeah, maybe you are a bit broken, maybe you do struggle with things, maybe you can't do this, but you know what, your God can. And if you're stepping out with Him, it changes your reality. I think sort of resting in that freedom, that God chooses weak and broken people to display His glory. So, maybe you do feel like, "I struggle with this," or "Someone else could do this better" - who cares! Your God wants to use you. Isn't it wonderful that through your weaknesses He gives you strength, and anything you're not, He is, and anything you can't do, He can. So just kind of rejoice in the fact that you're weak, and let Him display His glory through that. It's really freeing and it's a thing I've noticed a lot of people connected with - struggling with anxiety, or panic attacks. I was kind of overwhelmed with the amount of believers who were saying, 'I've completely been through the same thing.' And the song, "Not Dead Yet," is really about stepping up, being brave and bold, and just being like, "I'm gonna go down swinging, even if I have to keep fighting the same issues. I'm not gonna let them hold me back and stop me from living my life for the Lord to the fullest." I've been pretty amazed to see how many people have responded to that and I hope that people, when they hear the music, will feel empowered to just live for the Lord - being bold, not worrying about what the enemy might use to hold you back. Just letting those things be broken from you, not ignoring them, but actually rejoicing - and "Yeah, you're right, maybe I'm not the strongest, but it doesn't matter because my God is."
Jen: I would say "Not Dead Yet" is definitely the theme of my heart, because it was the moment I felt the lowest. It came out of a time when I actually was having panic attacks from anxiety - and I've never been through anything like that before - so it felt really disorienting and like 'What is going on?' It kind of shocked me, because I've never struggled with those things and it made me feel defeated. It made me feel disqualified from the Ledger project, actually. It was when I was praying and starting to step into those things that I started struggling a bit. I feel like things that God is on often do come under attack - you know what I mean - and often discouragement comes along with destiny type things. It was as I was struggling and wrestling with the Lord - 'is this You, is this not You?' - all of a sudden I'm struggling with fear in a way that is way more intense than anything else that I've been through. You wrestle through seasons like that and you think, "Yay, I've beat it. Finally, I've won!" Then it starts to creep up again a year later - and that was when I was like, "Man, I can't believe after wrestling my way through a season like that - winning and having victory - I can't believe it's come back again." It made me feel like, what if this is something I never stop fighting? And I said that to Korey Cooper after a Skillet show, because I was feeling those old feelings creep up, and she just looked at me and she said, "Then you fight, Jen. While there's breath in your lungs and until the day that you die, you fight. And you never stop fighting, and you don't let it rob you of working out in the calling of your life." And that was what the song came from. It is just beautiful to surrender to the fact I'm never going to be perfect, and I can be sanctified through the Holy Spirit and God is working on me, but I still will fight. I might have the same battles that come up several times in my life, and even if they do, I'm not going to let it knock me down and keep me down. I'm just going to choose to fight it, even if it's until the very last breath in my lungs. I just hope that song [has] that spirit of "It's okay, God chooses us and it's amazing that He chooses us, even though we're not perfect. He wants to breathe His life through us and He wants to use us." Let's just celebrate in that, and let's stop worrying all the ways we can't and start focusing on all the ways He can.
Jen: Absolutely agree with you. It seems to be the most defining moments of your life, too - when you feel you're in the fog and you can't see where you're going - and that's when you kind of cling to Him, in a way you never have before. You find something new about Him, and He's like, "I needed you to find me in that way, to prepare you for what's next." But then every time He leads us into it we're always like, "What is happening!?" *Laughs* He's like, "You think you'd know now that it's me." *Laughs*
Jen: It's actually an incredibly exciting season for us. We're currently working on a Skillet album, which will be released in 2019, and it's just some of our best music we've ever done. It's going to be a really exciting year. Not only is the Skillet album going to be coming out, but we'll be following that up with a Ledger full-length album, and then also music from John Cooper's side project, Fight the Fury, which is a metal project he just started. So basically, if you're a Panhead, you're going to be hit really hard with a lot of new music, very soon. *Laughs* So 2019, we've got Winter Jam coming - which is going to be a ton of fun for Ledger - and then I'll be switching over into touring with Skillet. And hopefully, we'll be doing some runs where Skillet, Ledger, and Fight the Fury will all be playing on the same tours. So, keep your eyes and ears open, because it's going to be a lot of music in 2019!
Jen: Me too! *laughs*
Jen: Man, that's too tricky! Cause no matter what I say, I'm caught between a rock and a hard place there. *Laughs*
Jen: I don't know. I would just have to say they're just too different. I love being behind the drums because, obviously, in some ways, it's like less pressure - because it's not me running the show. I get to just throw myself into the music, unabandoned. *Laughs* There's a freedom with playing drums that all I have to do is just have an amazing time on the drums. But then there's something really special that I'm stepping into now, where I'm singing songs that are from the depths of my walk with the Lord. So, there's a vulnerability aspect in that, that I find stretching - in that if they don't like this, it feels more like they don't like me. *Laughs* But if they connect with it, it's rewarding on a level that I've never experienced before. I didn't answer your question on purpose, I just told you I love both for different reasons. *Laughs* It was a sneaky way. *Laughs*
Jen: It's a good question!
Jen: Awww, yeah, that would be great. It's so cool getting to talk to so many people, it would actually be really nice to put faces to names. I'd like it a lot. Thank you so much for having me, it was really lovely talking to you!
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