Gene McDonald admits he feels like Moses telling God he was under-qualified for his calling. After performing with the legendary Florida Boys for 10 years and lending his deep voice to other quartets, including his own family, launching a solo career was a jolt to his system, mainly because being the lone person on stage meant he had to speak. “I sang for 40 years and never said anything from stage,” McDonald quips. “I was scared to do the solo thing because I was afraid I couldn’t talk, but at some point, you just have to realize you’re going to say something, and they’re going to look at you like crickets. And you just have to accept that’s what’s going to happen and go on,” he laughs.
With every solo show, McDonald gains a little more confidence on stage. Now, with the release of his fourth solo album, From Love to Love (Homeland Inspiration Group), he’s redefining matters of the heart for himself and for others. “I needed to understand love better — with my spouse, my child, with my family, friends and fans,” says the singer.
The recording process was like viewing life through a prism for McDonald — every song revealed a new facet of love. “I had a wonderful time doing the project. I enjoyed the whole process,” he says. “I just tried to soak in what I was singing about on this record, just to better myself and hopefully share with others.”
The new 10-track collection, produced by McDonald and Scott Godsey (Legacy Five, Jim Sheldon), reflects his preference for old hymns and tried-and-true melodies. “Songs, to me, were much better 30 years ago than they are today,” he says.
The bass singer cut his teeth on Southern Gospel, and when he’s not on the road singing solo, his unmistakable baritone can be heard at Homecoming concerts across the country. He’s played a vital role in Gaither Homecomings for nearly 20 years, something he considers a privilege. “I was just a big gospel music fan, and so it was phenomenal for me to get to sit with all the guys and listen to the stories and marvel,” he says. “To me, gospel music is a family. It’s people I love and have a lot of respect for and would do almost anything for.”
Ben Speer is one of McDonald’s mentors, and the Gaithers have had an immeasurable impact on him, both personally and professionally. “They just gave me a chance when nobody else would,” he shares. “Ben called me, and Bill just wrapped me up in his arms and has put me under his wing ever since. And Gloria, she’s my marriage counselor. She’ll give me advice on things and always has a smile for me. That kind of love is hard to come by. There’s history there. They’ve watched me grow up, and they’ve watched me mature, I hope. They’ve tried to nurture the abilities I do have. They’re heroes in my book.”
Two of McDonald’s other heroes are always waiting for him at home —Teri, his wife of 11 years and his 6-year-old son, Nathan. McDonald says his marriage is stronger now than ever before, and he attributes that to lifelong lessons of putting family first. “You get skewed in life, and you’re trying to make things work; you’re trying to make everybody happy. I wasn’t trying to make my wife happy,” he admits. “That was my fault — not realizing love starts at home. I love my wife more today than I did 10 years ago, and learning how to love has gotten better for me as a friend, a husband and a father.”
According to McDonald, it’s all about sowing the things in life that matter most. “We’ve got to grab the right seeds before we go out the door every day,” he advises in regard to building a successful marriage and a meaningful life. “I believe God allowed us to stay together so I could find out what love was, and so I could fi nd out what compassion was, what understanding was. And my child has definitely revealed a lot of that to me, too.”
McDonald reasons that’s why it was so significant Christ was born into the world as a baby, and he’s taking cues from the best communicator around. “Jesus came in the form of a child because He knew He would be loved,” he comments. “I think if Jesus had come as an adult, there wouldn’t have been half as many people listening to Him. I think it was the seeds He sowed. He sowed love and mercy and discipline. It’s the whole package.”
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