By Tracy Riggs
Correspondent, The Alabama Baptist
By many standards, GAWVI is not a typical Christian musician. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t just as committed to getting the message of Jesus out to the world.
The Grammy-nominated producer and six-time Dove Award winning artist released his third studio album, “Heathen,” in April.
Though each of his three albums has a different message, all have Jesus at the center.
GAWVI’S first album, “We Belong,” was based on King David — a man after God’s heart who was broken and questioning, GAWVI said.
His second, “Panorama,” explored his personal struggle with depression and a call to action to help those who are hurting.
“Heathen” was inspired by GAWVI’s newfound confidence of his place in the Christian music industry — a place where he is okay not looking or sounding like mainstream Christian artists.
GAWVI knew the title “was going to be a bold and weighty word and kind of scary for Christian culture.”
But after thinking about it, he decided it was the perfect fit.
“If you miss church on a Sunday, your friends would be like, ‘Hey, you heathen!’ and you’d all laugh about it. There’s a serious aspect to it where ‘heathen’ can really become your identity … [after] one mistake you made in your life,” he said. “If you look at the root of that word, it’s just describing someone where they are in life, culturally or biblically a Gentile or someone who is just a sinner. And at the end of the day we are all sinners, saved by God’s grace.”
GAWVI said he wants listeners of this latest album “to be able to champion that. When they hear the word heathen now, to understand where they’re at and whatever identity they are, their story is not far at all from God.”
Growing up a preacher’s kid in the Latino community, GAWVI, born Gabriel Alberto Azucena, was in church all the time. As he got older, he started looking for things to do.
“I started hitting on the drums; I started playing on the piano because I was bored. That boredom turned into passion and curiosity. Friends would be at football practice, but I was home making beats and working on music.”
“Around the age of 9, my mother tells me, that’s when music was everything I wanted to do 24/7,” he said.
Though raised hearing the gospel, it wasn’t until his teens that his faith became his own, thanks in part to the influence of his youth pastor.
Comparing his spiritual journey to dieting, GAWVI said someone can tell you how to lose weight and you can believe it, but until you start doing it, you won’t see the effects.
‘Journey and passion’
“[In high school] was my moment where I understood who Jesus was in my life. So ever since then, that’s been my journey and my passion — to spread that message of Jesus in my music and in my culture.”
Just 20 years old when he started his professional music career, GAWVI said he felt a lot of pressure to make music to satisfy others.
However, after gaining experience in the industry — he’s now 31 — he feels free to create his own style of music. It’s a lesson that has implications for music and for the Christian life, GAWVI explained.
“[Nothing’s] going to be easy. It makes me think about how Jesus told His twelve disciples, ‘Hey, you need to leave your family and leave your fishing life’ — something that they were so comfortable about, right? People usually think that when you follow Jesus, everything is going to be a fairy tale, but when you see how Jesus speaks to His disciples, you can see that, hey, it’s about to be a journey. I’m taking you out of your comfort zone right now.”
GAWVI has learned so far in his music career that it may not be comfortable, but as long as he keeps Jesus at the center, “Just being out of the box, being different … that’s okay.”