My Hope Radio: Tell us a little about your family.
Mandy McGraw: First of all, we're crazy. Love us for it! Most of my family lives in Orlando, Florida. I have a fifteen-year-old brother named Michael, and he rocks. My dad owns a real estate company, and my mom works for the Orange County Courthouse. My grandparents have been in the ministry for forty years, and also live in Orlando. They're my role models, and are the most Christ-centered people I know. My paternal grandmother is retired, has the best sense of humor of anyone I know, and can make an organ come alive. I also have extended family in West Virginia, and Kentucky. We're all very different, but we just love each other. And that's that.
MHR: Describe your spiritual journey?
MM: My spiritual journey is just that, a journey. Some roads are smooth, well lit, and easy to navigate through; while others are rocky, dark and just plain hard. Nevertheless, He is faithful, and has proven to be the only constant in my life. My journey is a constant battle of my flesh versus the Spirit - a constant choice to break my human will that desires to defy God. My spiritual journey is the focal point of my life, and really, all that matters.
MHR: What is your favorite Scripture in the Bible?
MM: Philippians 1:6: “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.”
MHR: What is your music background? (Who influenced you, when did you start singing, etc...)
MM: When I first began singing, Kimberly Goodman gave me voice lessons. Her voice was so beautiful, and I wanted to sing just like her. When I became a student at Gateway College of Evangelism, Barbie & Jeromy Hoffee saw potential in me that I had yet to recognize. They believed in me, and gave me opportunity after opportunity. They gave me confidence in my natural voice, and encouraged me to just be myself. I'm so thankful that I learned that lesson as a young artist. “Don't try to be anyone but yourself.”
I started singing in the shower when I was just a child, starting singing in my car at fifteen (using a water bottle as a microphone, of course), and sang my first solo in church when I was sixteen (thanks to Deano Graham for giving me my first solo on Easter Sunday. God bless those that had to listen to it). As a teenager I sand in a trio with my grandparents. There's no blend that like of a family. I have been in Gateway's ensemble, United, for three years, and have been the vocal leader of the group for two years. Since then I have had the opportunity of singing at many churches around the US, Gateway Worship Arts Conference, North American Youth Congress, General Conference and many other venues. I'm blessed, and wouldn’t trade the experiences I've had for anything.
I played the saxophone in middle school and high school, and have played the piano for four years. Recently, I've begun learning the acoustic guitar and it has become my newfound love. My love for music has led me to pursue a Bachelor's Degree in Church Music, which I received in May of 2011. Music is life. When I'm singing I feel alive, and the world just feels right.
MHR: What is one of your favorite songs to sing? Why is it your favorite?
MM: Songs I've written, or old hymns. I sing the songs I've written with passion, because the lyrics are so close to my heart. Old hymns are powerful, and make me feel connected to a previous era, and past generations.
MHR: Do you write your own songs? (If so, discuss your usual songwriting process.)
MM: Yes, I write my own songs. After developing a concept for the song (theme, message, basic musical concept), I like to complete the song by co-writing/co-arranging. Thus far I've mainly worked with Justin Lee and James Simms. They are incredible to work with, and know my style. Simple. They're also talented musicians, and very creative. If you're a young artist, the key to producing quality music is to work with seasoned artists who are more knowledgeable than you are. It will push you, challenge you, and give you an ear for quality material.
I've found that my best songs have been co-written. Two heads are always better than one. I believe that most of the songs I've written have been God given. I'll usually write the majority of a song within 15-30 minutes. God knows I would never be able to do that with my own human ability. It's all Him. Inspiration tends to come at the most inconvenient times, such as during a nap, while boarding an airplane, or while doing homework. I'll never forget recording a fresh song in Garage Band while flying from New Orleans to Orlando. Fellow passengers weren't too happy with me. But hey, maybe they'll hear the finished product one day and feel differently. Until then, I'd like to publically apologize to the elderly man that I woke up from a nap.
I treat a song like a mini-sermon. I have less than four minutes to communicate a message, and help create an atmosphere that will expose a heart in the presence of God. Music is powerful, and an agent of change. I believe that it can change the world.
MHR: Where can we listen, purchase, and connect with you?
MM: facebook.com/mandy.mcgraw or twitter.com/mandymcgraw
What would you do with a million dollars?
I may need more than a million…
1. Pay for graduate school and a doctoral program
2. Purchase a vehicle that doesn't overheat every five miles
3. Pay off the debt of every member of my family
4. Travel to every continent
5. Give $100,000 to a non-profit organization
6. Build a church plant in New Orleans
7. Record a full length album in Nashville
8. Have some fun with the stock market
What time in history would you like to visit for a week?
The week of Christ's crucifixion and resurrection
What is your favorite breakfast cereal?
Trix, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Resees Puffs, Cocoa Puffs, Apple Jacks. Basically anything sugarcoated.
What is your dream vacation spot?
Who do you want to send a 'shout out' to?
I'd like to send a shout out to everyone that is going to purchase the album. You all rock, and thank you for believing in me!
A huge shout out to all of the people that have made this dream of mine become a reality…
My dad (for always believing me, and footing the bill), Richie Johnson, Brandy Rose, Justin Lee, James Simms, Caleb DeHart, Keith Pace and all of those that have contributed their time and talent to this project. I love and appreciate you all so much! Oh, and my Mamaw, just for being awesome!