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Letter and Testimony From The Music Editor: Karmann Powell

Photo credit: Kathy Brokaw

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I’m an Independent Artist.

Hardly anyone hears about the Indies, but we are out there in force producing music because….we must. It’s an unexplainable drive within us. It keeps us singing, keeps us playing even when the odds of “making it” are against us due to age, finances, circumstances, or geography. It doesn’t matter. Good, bad, ugly or indifferent, the Indie artist keeps on going, like the bunny in the Duracell commercial.

For the Christian independent artist, it’s more than a labor of love–it’s a mission, a ministry, and a calling. We feel God’s leading in our life and music; and feel compelled to use our musical gifts to reach others for Christ.

I’m a “Genetic” Musician

Growing up, I recall that our family get-togethers were often centered around music. I sang my first solo at the age of 5 in my kindergarten’s production of, Up With People. I took piano lesson as a child, but they didn’t stick. I started playing guitar when I was 10-years old. The guitar became my main instrument. I also play the ukulele, banjo, mandolin and bass guitar.

As a child, I performed in nursing homes, parties and gatherings. When I got older, I sang and played instruments in bars. After a while, I had to choose if I would sing or drink. Finally, there was no choice; I’d just drink. Some opportunities came during this time to further my music career. I was leery because many of the opportunities had strings attached. Eventually, I became very disillusioned with the business of music.

My Downhill Slide

On my first date with Stan Powell, we rafted down the Salt River near Phoenix. He came to pick me up a little before 8:00 a.m. I answered the door with a beer in my hand. He said, at that very moment, he fell in love. He would come to my gigs and be as drunk as I was by the end of the evening.

Ironically, he had prayed for a wife, and then I came along. He was a backslidden Christian. I was a wild, heathen woman, but God doesn’t make mistakes. He knew exactly what we both needed. Stan and I got married and I pretty much stopped performing.

We continued to drink and do drugs until I got pregnant with our daughter. I quit all my bad habits while I was pregnant with her, but picked up where I left off soon after her birth. She was about 2½-years old when I got clean and sober. Stan followed me into sobriety a couple of rough years later.

My Personal Desert

I began performing again, but this time, not in bars. I became disillusioned with the music business for the second time. It seemed that bars were the only place a musician could get recognition, and with my background, that was the last place I wanted to be. I quit performing again. I hardly picked up a guitar for the next eight years.

I was not a Christian. I had been raised in a Christian home, but there seemed to be such a disconnect from the behaviors I witnessed and how Christians were supposed to act. I had rejected Christianity and disdained Jesus. However, through a strange series of events, I found myself praying the sinner’s prayer at a Calvary Chapel in Black Canyon City, Arizona on October 31, 2000. With me, was my best friend, Lynn, who also accepted Christ that evening.

I had wandered around in my personal desert for 40 years. Before that “moment of grace,” I was on a single path leading nowhere. When I accepted Christ, life literally bloomed. My life has been a flower with each petal representing a different area of me that has grown.

For instance, I’ve written songs all my life, but never took it seriously. After I accepted Christ, I found myself writing praise and worship songs. “Joyful” is the first song I wrote as a Christian. I was sitting on the back porch playing my guitar in the rain. The song was born out of the pain of a horrible incident that had occurred in our family. My heart was broken, yet God gave me these words:

Weeping comes in the night time

That’s the time to morn

Joy comes in the morning

A new day is born

So be joyful joyful, joyful

Give your thanks to the Lord

Powell/Goveia, © copyright 2006

Moment of Grace Music/ASCAP

Lynn assisted me in writing some of that song. We’ve since co-written several other songs, and I’ve written a bunch on my own as well.

I started performing again, often singing at church. I loved the Patsy Cline version of Just A Closer Walk With Thee so I incorporated a country swing feel into the my version of the old hymn. The first time I sang it at the church I was attending (Stan was still backslidden and thought I was nuts), I got a standing ovation. I was shocked because I didn’t know you could do that in church! However, it gave me the confidence to continue.

God used music to bring me more fully into the church, but also used it to bring me to my knees. I didn’t understand the true nature of worship and I ran smack dab into a brick wall called “pride”, which led me right into a discipleship program. The program, “Called to Obedience”, is an intense, one-on-one discipleship/bible study. It taught me how to study God’s word, how to listen for His voice. It jump-started that wonderful/dreadful refining process within me so I could truly be used by God.

Through another strange series of events, Stan renewed his commitment to Christ. Our marriage has always been a good one, but with Christ, it’s become absolutely amazing. We began working together in a music ministry. He decided it was time to record some of the songs I’d written. He started with a computer interface and a cheap microphone. We now have a recording studio in our home. We’ve self-produced two CDs of original gospel songs and are working on more. We’ve helped other Christian musicians with their CD’s, and produced gospel festivals and concerts.

God led us to different churches for a few years, too. I would be on the worship team, or sometimes be the worship leader. Stan would be on the technical end of things. Little did we realize God had us in training. Through yet another strange series of events, I was offered the worship leader position at a cowboy church. That cowboy church went through some changes and is now North Valley Christian Church, of which I am the worship leader and music director. They got “two fer one”, because Stan became the sound man for the church.

So, God took a bar singer and turned her into a gospel singer. Eventually, He turned her into a worship leader. I don’t deserve to serve Him, but He allows me to anyway. If you ever wonder what God’s grace and mercy really means, just look at me. I’m a good example of doing it all wrong. God didn’t care. He loves this “cracked pot”.

You now know that I’m a Christian, musician, performer, singer, songwriter, recording artist and worship leader. One other area of the musical realm I want to mention. I’m the lead singer and cook for the award-winning band, Karmann and Kompany. All members of Karmann and Kompany are Christian and participate in worship teams at their home churches.

Currently, Karmann and Kompany consists of Joe Brokaw on 5-string bass, Joe Stolpa on lead guitar, and Darrell Stackhouse on drums. Stan runs sounds for the band. John “Whiteboy” Walden is our member at large. He plays a mean harmonica and lives in the UK. He was planning to come back to the US for a visit, instead he opted to go on a mission trip to Kenya. You’ll hear John on some of the recordings. You can visit Karmann and Kompany’s web site, http://www.kandkband.com.

Joe Stolpa, our lead guitarist, has an amazing, powerful story of God’s grace working in his life. I’ll share it with you in the next issue of The Relevant Christian Magazine. I will also be talking to independent Christian musicians and bands, telling their stories, sharing their songs and ministries. For instance, our winter issue will feature an interview with Covenant 31, a contemporary Christian band based in Prescott, Arizona. They are about to release their new CD and perform all across the state of AZ. They have a wonderful story to share with our readers.

I always have one more song to sing, and I have one more story to tell. A while back, I was singing at a Baptist women’s conference. I’d just finished with the worship service. A woman came up to me. She was very excited. She said she loved the music and said I was “anointed.” I pridefully thought, “of course I am”. I realized I didn’t know what she meant so I asked her to explain the meaning of “anointed.” She looked at me funny and said, “honey, you showed up.”

The only credit I can claim in my life with Christ is my willingness to show up. The rest is entirely God’s doing. He gave me gifts and I nearly destroyed them, along with myself. I now use those gifts for Him. He recently showed me, in no uncertain terms, that He loves me and wants me, but does not need me. If I don’t show up, someone else will step in and take my place. I can do nothing for Him. I serve solely at His pleasure. For that, I am grateful, humbled and in awe of every single day. Because of Him, life is a sweet song.

I almost forgot. What’s in a name? My name, Karmann, means song. God makes no mistakes.

karmann

Singer/songwriter Karmann Powell is a "genetic" musician from a musical family. She is the lead singer of the award-winning Karmann and Kompany band; worship leader/music director for North Valley Christian Church in Phoenix, Arizona; and former Music Editor for The Relevant Christian magazine, currently a columnist. She is a wife, a mother, and a former real estate agent. In her spare time, she is a substitute teacher. www.karmannpowell.com or www.kandkband.com