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Soul survivor

Ryan Stevenson spent more than seven years working as an EMT saving lives. Today he is focused on saving souls.

Thanks to an independent recording that caught the ear of Toby Mac, Stevenson landed a record deal, a Grammy nomination for co-writing “Speak Life” with Mac, and this summer, a chart-topping song, “Eye of the Storm.”

Not bad for a guy who wondered just a few years ago if he should give up his dream of being a musician. Stevenson is scheduled to take the stage on July 23 at Darien Lake during Kingdom Bound, the annual Christian music and arts festival. I caught up with Stevenson last week to talk about his career and his trip here.

Question: To go from EMT to Grammy-nominated with a No. 1 hit in a few short years is a wild ride. What it’s been like for you?

Answer: It’s all very surreal to me – unexpected honestly. I always wanted to put out music that would touch people and impact their lives and draw them into an encounter with God more than anything. It’s been a long, slow journey over the last five yea, and then when “Eye of the Storm” came out this year, it just took off like a fire and started striking a chord with everybody. Now things are happening so fast, it is really exciting.

Q: During your early struggles, did you ever consider packing it in and quitting?

A: Absolutely I did. Before I signed with Gotee Records, I had a deal with another record company and we put out a single and it did well. Then, they put out my next single and it didn’t do well, and suddenly I was dropped. I felt like it was definitely over, like I was damaged goods and I had failed. But I had this small voice in my spirit and the Lord was saying, ‘It’s not over, I’ve still got you.’ And so I continued on.

Q: How did you come back from that level of disappointment and rejection?

A: For a year and a half I was independent and it was a gut-wrenchingly difficult, lonely and hopeless season, but in the middle of that period was really the birthing ground of being signed to Gotee Records and getting connected to Toby Mac.

Q: You were nominated for a Grammy in 2014 for the song you worked on with Toby Mac. How did that collaboration come together?

A: I wrote the song called “Speak Life,” and Toby heard the original recording of the song and he fell in love with it and wanted to be part of it with me. He had just a whole other side of inspiration he brought to the song and from there it just came together.

Q: Was it hard to keep perspective and not lose focus when you went from being dropped from your label to having a No. 1 song on the charts and a Grammy nomination?

A: With everything that has happened, I just feel like I am so grounded in who I am and what it actually takes to be here. I am just so grateful and honored to be able to do this. I know it doesn’t happen for everyone and I am just so thankful.

Preview

Who: Ryan Stevenson

When: 5 p.m. July 23 as part of Kingdom Bound

Where: Darien Lake Performing Arts Center

Extra: Kingdom Bound continues through July 23 with speakers and music.

Info: kingdombound.org

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