For 28-year-old Michael Olson, the two years since Rocketown released his independent debut, Long Arm of Love, have been filled with countless clashes between fear and faith. From moving to a new city to finding his career niche to ongoing family trials, Olson is learning what his faith means in a very real, very personal way. “We can be afraid of life and the difficult circumstances that come our way,” remarks Olson, “and let that adversity define us completely. Or, we can lean on God and let our faith be what provides our basic identity in the midst of whatever happens.”
It’s an apt description of the theme that pervades his new album, Where Fear and Faith Collide, a project written and recorded in Olson’s current hometown near Nashville, Tenn., with producers Jason Ingram (Bebo Norman) and Nathan Dantzler (The Turning, Tree63). Despite a seemingly introspective theme, the album bursts forth with a dynamic and upbeat reaffirmation of faith and a renewed conviction of God’s steadfastness. A gifted multi-instrumentalist (piano, guitar, drums) and producer himself, Olson lent his creative energy to every step of the process, bringing to the table the über-pop sensibilities of a kid raised on everything from James Taylor to Sting.
The title track, “Fear and Faith,” perhaps sums up the project’s themes the best. Co-written with Big Daddy Weave frontman Mike Weaver, the song outlines how individuals often find themselves in frightening and unfamiliar territory, unsure of how to respond: I’m being brought to the brink/Stepping up to the line/And I’m not giving up this time/It seems more than I can take/It takes more than I’ve got/But I’m gonna live this life/Where fear and faith collide
Olson elaborates, “This is a theme that I think resonates with everybody. Everyone’s in process—as individuals, as churches, as families and even as a nation—and we’re all asking defining questions. Understanding the reality of what it is we are afraid of and why we’re afraid enables us to find the true value of our faith. After all, our fear comes from a false or incomplete understanding of who we are in Christ.”
Understanding one’s identity as a believer in Jesus can only come through time, through relationship, through study. As a member and worship leader at New River Fellowship in Franklin, Tenn., Michael Olson sits under the teaching and guidance of a man who is his pastor, touring mentor and the owner of his record label: Michael W. Smith. Smith, an acclaimed worship leader in addition to his numerous other positions, was among the first to hear “Our First Love,” a moving piano ballad Olson wrote with producer Jason Ingram that draws its listeners to contemplate their closeness to Christ.
Olson says, “Many Christians live for mountaintop moments, but that’s not the real experience of life. Faith is less about the goosebumps and more about digging in deep to a relationship with Jesus. David had to remind himself again and again to not be discouraged. When we really engage with the person of Christ, with ‘our first love,’ we start to realize who we each were created to be and we allow God to define us fully.”
For Michael Olson, connecting with that first love in his current everyday life is made easier when recognizing the long heritage of faith that’s gone before him, a theme he reiterates via a beautiful duet with INO recording artist Sara Groves on the track “Tell Me Again.” “With the Bible we have the benefit of seeing God speak to His people through time, and that legacy that’s gone before us should be an encouragement for us in the here and now. We’re not alone. We’re part of a huge story, an immense journey of faith, that spans eternity.”
And that’s the ultimate message for this new music. Regardless of where in life fear collides with faith, God is there, present and working today as He has been forever. Trusting in Him, a creator and savior bigger than we can imagine who will save us from our helpless state, is what Michael Olson hopes to communicate more than anything else.
“I can honestly say that I believe in God more now than I did a year ago. So many things have changed circumstantially in my life since then, but God’s faithfulness has remained the same. It has been the overarching covering amidst all the unsteadiness.”