Tim Menzies’ New Album
The Story Behind “Mama Knows”
Prolific Nashville singer/songwriter Tim Menzies has more than likely — according to the Grammy buzz — recorded this year’s Grammy award-winning album for Best Roots Gospel in the Gospel/Contemporary Music Category. The album is titled “His Way of Loving Me,” and it includes a collaboration with Ben Isaacs of the internationally acclaimed Christian singing family The Isaacs.
Tim, Ben and recording engineer Mark Capps began recording the album in the summer of 2013, and the ten-track record includes one of my favorite songs ever written, “Mama Knows,” which was initially written and recorded by Grammy award-winning super-group Shenandoah — who, consequently, is now back together with original singer Marty Raybon.
Tim wrote most of the songs himself with the exception of a few standards such as, “I’m Working On A Building” and “Swing Low Sweet Chariot.” In my recent interview with Tim, we discussed the Grammy buzz and why now is the time to do a Gospel album:
Why record this album at this point in your career?
I received Jesus in 1991 and in ’92 I didn’t understand what all was going on, but I was led to start leading Bible classes. That is how I came to be saved — was studying through Scripture and Bible classes. And over the years I taught hundreds of them, and the writing and the Bible study kept merging closer and closer together. I never really wrote songs kind of celebrating getting drunk and those kind of things. There were certainly those themes I could not avoid, being a writer in country music, and really didn’t. So it has just been a process and as my father died in 2013 I went home for eight weeks, and I spent all that time with my mom, and it was through that, that was the tipping point that I knew that doing a Gospel record at this point in my life was so much more meaningful than just continuing to write just country songs. So it was really more of a ministry and a faith walk than a music decision.
You wrote one of my favorite songs “Mama Knows,” performed by the great Shenandoah, and now you have cut it on this album. How did you get the feel for that song and write a song so relatable to so many people?
It was born out of reality. Most of my writing had a seed of an experience in it. And just like that song in the bridge, the mom passes away, was not autobiographical — my mother is still with us thankfully — but the origin of it and the seed of it was, literally, I had moved here, so I am 650 miles from all of my family, and as I would struggle especially financially when I would call home, I could kind of not expose how bad things were to other family members. But my mom always knew. [laughs] It is like that line in the song “she’s got a window to my soul.” That is what it felt like. And so out of that experience of even 650 miles, and I am a grown man, and I have moved away, she has this insight and connection that I think is second only to the Holy Spirit, that a loving mother has the insight of her children. I think there is a spiritual component to it, and I think that we sometimes overlook that that is where it came from.
How do you feel about all of the Grammy buzz coming along with this Gospel album?
I am surprised to tell you the truth. Butch Baker, who I have known for years, he runs a publishing company here in Nashville. I had known him from the church I went to in ’91 and was saved. I knew Butch at that church. He took a weekend — because as you may know that the filling in of the application for the ballot is quite a task — it almost takes a law degree. [laughs] He did it because he heard the album and was moved, and I did a presentation in Franklin, Tennessee at the Franklin Theatre, and he came to that and enjoyed it, and then filled out the necessary papers for the ballot, and I am surprised and pleased. It won’t be until December 5th until we know whether or not we have made the final five, so I am praying about it.