Winter Jam: A Conversation With Jeremy Camp

The nation’s largest Christian music tour — Winter Jam — returns to Des Moines Friday night, with headliners Jeremy Camp and We the Kingdom, as well as Andy Mineo, Disciple, Austin French, NewSong and Anne Wilson. Winter Jam’s pre-jam party will be led by Thrive Worship, Sean Be and Renee with pastor and author Zane Black.

Jam Nation entry is 5 p.m., and general public at 6 p.m. Showtime is 7 p.m. General Admission is $15.

ListenIowa caught up with Jeremy Camp to talk about the tour, the personal struggles he’s faced and overcome over the years, and his new single just released to radio, “Anxious Heart.”

You’ve been on the road with this year’s Winter Jam for a few weeks now. How have things been?
It’s been a really, really sweet time because of the community we have on the road. We’ve been very unified. It’s been really amazing in watching everyone come together. There’s all types of artists, from rap to rock to pop to country. Everyone is here for the same purpose and embracing what they’re doing and encouraging everyone as well. It’s been great to watch. 

Are there any artists you hadn’t seen before that you’ve been watching play before your set?
Yeah, I haven’t seen most of them, actually, so it’s been fun to watch. I’ve seen Andy Mineo before, and that’s about it. I’ve actually watched every artist play, which has been fun to see the different gifts of people. 

Have any sought you out for advice since you’re the “ Winter Jam veteran?”
(Laughs) Definitely. People just kind of talk and share, open up. I’ll open up about things I’ve learned, and encourage them. Kind of, “Here’s the things I’ve learned not to do.” (Laughs) Or, “Here’s some things that I’ve seen God use in my life.” It’s been really, really sweet to have that kind of mentorship feel. 

How many Winter Jams have you been involved in now?
This is my third.

So what keeps bringing you back?
Again, just the community and to be able to be a part of something, rather than just going out on my own. I love doing that, but it’s really sweet to be part of something different. I love the heart behind Winter Jam as well. I can get behind what they’re doing. 

There’s a lot of discord in the world right now. Has any of that been reflected in the audiences? Are they saying anything different to you than usual?
Yeah, they’re saying a lot of stuff. I feel like more people are hungry and desperate, but in a good way. They’re desperate for authenticity and something real. We live in a day and age of social media, and sometimes it’s not reality. And then there’s all the conflict going on politically and in our culture that’s difficult to watch. I think people are unsure or uncertain, and they’re just desperate for hope and truth. The fact that we can point them to Jesus, for me, is the best thing. 

You just released a new single, “Anxious Heart.” Talk about the story behind that.
Honestly, it’s my personal story. Five years ago, I went through this crazy time of, I call it, “irrational fears.” These crazy things that the enemy was trying to put into my mind. I don’t know what was happening, but I just all of a sudden had this crazy panic attack, and it just wouldn’t stop. I became bed-ridden for about two weeks. I couldn’t get out of bed. I just remember it being a super dark place. I couldn’t be around people. My wife was praying for me and listening to worship music, and I was finally, like, “God, I need help. I can’t function.” I’ve battled with trust all my life, partially due to losing my wife to cancer and different things, but basically I just wasn’t trusting the Lord. He spoke to my heart and was like, “Hey, why aren’t you trusting me? I love you.” I wasn’t trusting my future, my family and my finances. Things that I was trying to hold on to and not let anything bad happen. And because of that, I was overwhelmed with panic and fear and all that kind of stuff. Jesus literally rescued me out of that dark place. I can remember getting to the place where you understand what it means when you hear, “Jesus is the light.” When he reached out when I was in that dark place, I was like, “OK. I get it now.” So writing “Anxious Heart” was me just sharing my story and showing that He is the light amongst that dark place. It’s something that I feel I needed to share. I’ve gotten hundreds and hundreds of stories from people about what they’ve been through, and it’s been really good to be able to share and be transparent about what I’ve done and how He pulled me out of it. He’s our hope. 

Was this something that had been bubbling below the surface for many years?
I would have anxiety, but never like, panic, in whatever I was going through. I’d never experienced that. When you’re traveling or whatever, there’s always that certain little bit of anxiety, but there was never any hint of this type of thing. And when it happened, you just feel like you’re out of control. It was this whole new world where I didn’t know what was happening. And now, in talking to so many people, I know that it’s their story, too. But there is hope. 

It almost sounds like it was a sort of test.
Yeah, and it’s OK. It’s part of it. He rescued me. So whatever that was, I’m thankful, in a sense, that I experienced it because I can relate to a lot of people now. I still have to wrestle with these things; it’s still a thing. Yeah, He rescued me from that place, but it’s just a thing where you constantly have to trust Him, constantly cry out to him, constantly run to Him.

When you feel this coming on, is there anything you do now?
Yeah, honestly it’s just listen to worship music or Christian music in general. Anything that can keep my mind fixed on Him. That’s really one of the best things that I’ve found that helps me. 

You’ve faced some big challenges in your life, from losing your wife to cancer, to making a movie that was supposed to be released right when COVID hit, to this. Was there ever a point in your life when you questioned your faith?
Yeah, absolutely, especially when my wife went to be with the Lord. It was one of those, “God, I thought she was going to be healed. I thought she would be fine. Are you even there? Do you hear my prayers?” But I remember picking my guitar up one day, three weeks after she died, and what came out, even though I was questioning my faith, was like, God poured out his love and tenderness, and I felt his presence. I said, “I still believe in your faithfulness, I still believe in your truth.” I just wrote that song. God gave me that song to remind me that He was there. I felt like that was the moment. It wasn’t like I was fine after that, and everything was good, but it was the turning point.

Let’s end this on a positive note, shall we? For those who don’t know what Winter Jam is, but are on the fence as to whether or not check this thing out, or go see this Jeremy Camp guy, what do you tell them?
I think the beauty of this tour is that music transcends culture. I go overseas and play to people who don’t know what I’m saying. They can’t speak the language, but they know the music. Music just does something. I think anyone who comes will enjoy some part of the night because there are so many different styles. It’s an eclectic group of people. But I think, too, that it’s such a moment of vulnerability and authenticity of people sharing their hearts, that I think it will connect. I think that people who don’t understand who Jesus is will have a different understanding in a good way. And those who have been struggling or hurting are going to be comforted and encouraged, which is the goal. 

By Darren Tromblay

Friday, Feb. 10
Wells Fargo Arena, Des Moines
Admission: $15
Jam Nation entry: 5 p.m.
General public entry: 6 p.m.
Showtime: 7 p.m.