The God that Kenneth Cope believes in is not just a Sunday God. Nor just a scripture-reading God, or a love-me-when-I'm-at-my-best God.
"I need God even more when I'm not in my best place. I go to him in all places," Cope says, So he wants to make music that reaches "that needy side, that will help with the journey all week long." He wants songs that reach out with encouragement, that help people put their lives in a larger context, that offer comfort as well as engender gratitude.
Cope's latest CD collection, "All About You," does just that. "My faith is at the core of my music," he says. "I have a passionate desire to make music that encourages faith and stimulates hope." It is also music that he hopes is "perfect for every day and for every family member."
It's Cope's first contemporary collection is more than a decade and, in a way, represents a return to his roots. He started his music career while he was working as a counselor with Especially for Youth groups. He saw a need for music that had energy and was upbeat but that also contained uplifting messages that kids and their families would enjoy listening to.
He began writing those songs, eventually producing seven EFY albums in all before turning to other projects. "Since then, I've probably become more known for slow-paced ballads, so some people may be surprised by the contemporary energy of this album," he says.
But, he adds, it is filled with praise, joy and hope and songs that have "great significance to me. As a whole, they reflect a chapter of thought in my life." He hopes they will have meaning for others as well.
As children, he says, we sing over and over that "I Am a Child of God." But as we grow up sometimes that message gets lost. "The pull from the outside world becomes stronger, and the focus changes to 'watch out,' 'don't do this,' 'don't do that.' You aren't hearing as much that God loves you, that you can't do anything so bad that he won't be there for you." But that, he says, is the thing people need to keep in mind.
As human beings, "we are faulty," he says. "So much needs to be repaired, enhanced, fixed. But God doesn't wait until we are perfect to love us. He's there to help us do better. He loves us every step of the way."
That message, he says, "is every bit as important to teens, to 20-year-olds, 30-year-olds, 50-year-olds as it is for children."
And it is the message presented throughout the album. "My name is pride, my name is anger, my name is impatience," Cope says, "but his name is love. That's really important to remember. Heavenly Father will never give up on you. You can refuse him if you choose, but he will not give up on you."
"All About You" is the 11th CD that Cope has released in a career that has spanned more than 20 years and has earned him numerous awards from the Faith Centered Music Association over the years. He plays guitar and piano. He's worked as a composer, producer, performer, singer, songwriter and mentor to younger artists.
He is currently collaborating with author Susan Easton Black and artist Liz Lemon Swindle on a multimedia presentation on the life of Christ titled "Son of Man." But funding for that project is kind of on hold right now, he says, and so he began writing songs about some of the thoughts and feelings he's been having over the past few years.
He doesn't see himself as a great songwriter, he says. "I do see myself as a song receiver, but the songs come slowly and over the course of much meditation." He does think he has a talent or a gift "to feel what's not quite right, both in lyric and melody. If I stay true to those feelings, then eventually the song turns up finished and feels complete."
Cope was born in Salt Lake City but grew up in Houston, where he attended the High School for the Performing Arts and then served an LDS mission in Switzerland and France before working with EFY programs.
If his musical thoughts have turned back to youth more in recent years, it could be because he and his wife, Kathy, have three daughters who are moving into their teen years.
"My mother had four boys, so it's fun to have girls," he says. "But I always felt those teen years were the funnest time for her. She enjoyed a great emotional connection with us." That may be partly why Cope also connects well with teens and thinks his music does the same. "When I'm playing at the house, I love it when one of the girls comes by and says, 'Oh, Dad, I love that song' or when they want to share one of my songs with their friends."
Life is not always easy; Cope knows that. But he also feels that music can have a powerful influence in helping us cope with life's trials at any age. "Music can reach right down and lift you up. It can provide positive messages for your daily walk."So it is no surprise that he sees his music not just as a form of personal expression but as a way to reach out and inspire. "I feel like God has given me this venue, this circle of influence," he says. He hopes he can return the favor. As he says in the title song, "We're the reason you do what you do. But for me, Lord, it's all about you."