I’m James Trimble, and this is how God’s been working in me to live deeply.
It doesn’t take long before you realize you can only say ‘yes’ to so many things in life. Deciding just what those things will be is important to our witness and our walk- otherwise why would Jesus tell us, ‘Let your yes be yes’? I wasn’t even thinking this way yet back in 2006. That was when I said ‘yes’ to what was supposed to be a one-off joke of a rock band. We called -and still call- ourselves The Dirty Guv’nahs. It started not with me, but with another CSPC member and roommate of mine at the time, Justin Hoskins. He’d run into a friend who was putting on a benefit concert. They needed an opening band to play for free, and in a stroke of genius, Justin said, ‘That’s funny- I’m in a band…’ What he meant was, in that very sentence, he had started a band! So he came home -there were four of us roommates living together, everybody single, all just finished college at UT- and told us we needed to form a band in 12 days. We’d never even pretended to do something like this before- two of the guys had acoustic guitars and knew some Tom Petty and Rolling Stones songs, that was it. But we thought it sounded hilarious and said, ‘Let’s go for it.’ I was by far the worst guitar player, so they made me sing. We ended up adding a couple more band members, including Michael Jenkins, who is also a current CSPC member- there were six of us by the time of the performance. Long story short, we ended up going on for two years like this. We were playing bars in Knoxville and 500 or 600 people were showing up. The owners of these small clubs were like, ‘How are you all doing this? We have bands every night and like 50 people show up. There are people lined up in the street to see you.’ We didn’t really know the answer, but we started to realize, somehow, we were actually pretty good. Not in the classical sense- no one was formally trained. But we had this enthusiasm about us- it connected with the crowd. We ended up deciding to record an album, which got traction and led to another. Then it turned into headlining gigs at a few theaters in the Southeast, and then we played Bonnaroo.
All of a sudden, I look at myself and say, ‘I’m 27 years old, and… am I in a band now?’ We were all asking ourselves that because we had a booking agent. And this wasn’t some mom-and-pop booking agent- it was the same agent that booked Zac Brown Band. We were suddenly in this world where the agent was like, ‘Do you all want to go on the road 100 days next year? This could be your career.’ So we were like, ‘Okay, let’s keep going.’ That was around 2010, and from that point until about 2015, it got really serious. Well-known groups like The Black Crowes, Wilco, and Zac Brown Band had us opening for them. We were all in our late 20s and now taking this very seriously- turning down other careers to chase this passionate dream. It was a big surprise. As bandmates we were committed to each other and built a deep sense of trust. We really did lean on our faith- we had an actual purpose behind all we were doing. (Three of the guys- me, Justin, and Michael- still go to CSPC.) We weren’t a Christian band- we were a bar band, drinking beer, having fun, but at our core we had a Christian purpose. We wanted to make good music and entertain people in a way that connected us with non-believers and that allowed us to form relationships with people. That was our mission. If God gets a hold of your life, He calls you to be different, no matter what industry you’re in. We treated the people in our band with equality, the promoters with kindness, and we were fair. The whole biblical ‘Let your yes be yes’, well, we played the shows and agreed to the terms. There’s a lot of shady stuff in the music industry. Just being upright – ‘yes’ meant ‘yes’- was a way we could be very different. We wound down full-time music a few years ago, but we’re still a band about half a dozen dates a year. We’re playing places like New York City, DC, Atlanta, and Birmingham this fall. 500 to 1000 people come to every venue. It’s part time, but there’s purpose behind it and it’s a way to stay connected.
That ability to connect, which grew so much during the band’s journey, carries over to my work now as a sales leader at a software company. I keep a sticky note on my monitor at work with a question Jim Branch asked in a class he taught at CSPC a couple years ago: “What’s the name I give myself, and what’s the name God gives me?’ I think the name I give myself is ‘achiever- I can do this.’ I have a pretty good track record, but that’s not the name God gives me. The name He gives me is ‘His son, beloved, child of the King.’ That’s where the gut check comes in- it’s not just about me and being smart enough, good-looking enough or connected enough to get some stuff done. God doesn’t care about that part that much. He’s more like, ‘Did you do the heart stuff I wanted you to? Do you know who I am?’ When we’re living out of that sense of knowing and loving Him more, that’s when the connections we make as we go through life bear good fruit and become really meaningful.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how we each only have so many hours in our day and in our week, and we can each handle only so many commitments. We can only say ‘yes’ to so many things- the ‘yeses’ start bumping into each other. So I’m asking myself, what’s the order of my priorities? Because when I get those out of whack, my life is not in tune with God. When correctly ordered, first I’m a child of God, second, I’m a husband, and third I’m a father. After that come extended family, close friends, outer-circle friends, and eventually work. But it’s so unfortunate how often in my time and my thought life… well, you would think that numbers 7 or 8 in my order are actually 1A and 1B. I don’t want my kids to know me as the dad who loved them, but always had the phone in his hand. In sales, there are plenty of opportunities to be obsessed with work- because of the money to be made. So if your priorities are out or order, it can ruin you quickly. God’s asking me to make a choice with how I spend my time, and the pie’s only so big. What am I saying ‘yes’ to? What am I saying ‘no’ to? Is the ‘yes’ I said yes to, a ‘no’ to my wife, my kids, my friend’s 40th birthday party? You can only say ‘yes’ a limited number of times to work, volunteerism, creative projects, or even ministry before you push family to the side and get your life out of order. It’s a daily struggle. I sure don’t have this figured out.
With The Dirty Guv’nahs being a part-time band these days, there’s one question I often ask myself: Why do we still make music? The answer is because we believe art and music really matters in the kingdom of God. The stories that last are the ones that are honest and true. Michael Jenkins and I write most all the songs as a duo, and we’re always keeping that spirit in mind. We’re still writing music because we want to honor the outlet God’s given us to share honest, truthful, and encouraging music and lyrics. Our touring has changed so that we can keep the ‘order of life’ intact, but the passion for creating songs is as strong as ever. In fact, now that we’ve removed the commercial aspect from our performing and we aren’t trying to pay rent or mortgage with our music, we’ve recovered much of the original creative freedom that started us on this wild journey. Once you finish a piece of art or music, you release it. And once you’ve released it to others, they get to decide what it means to them. This is the beauty of art, but it’s also the beauty of living a life with God. We only get to control bits and pieces of our lives. He’s writing a story, and most of the time we’re quite unaware of the bigger picture.