Shaun Groves' Journey to the Third World

By Christa A. Banister | senior editor,
Posted: Wed, 09/07/2011 - 13:44

album promo image for Shaun Groves' Journey to the Third World

In this new world of virtual interconnectedness, you can often tell a lot about a person from his/her blog, and singer/songwriter Shaun Groves is certainly no exception.
In the same way that fellow artist Ryan Adams has been called “prolific” for the sheer number of songs he writes and records on a regular basis, Shaun also never seems short on inspiration for his little corner of cyberspace. And like many independent artists, he’s making the most of modern technology and the way it magically shrinks the gap between musicians and the diverse individuals who love their songs.
Whether it’s personal insight into what inspires the music or humorous reflections on the joys (and everyday challenges) of raising four kids who are 10 and under, it’s just one of Shaun’s favorite ways to get the word out about his music, ministry and well, everything else he feels like sharing.
Now as Shaun’s fourth studio album, Third World Symphony, hits iTunes, Amazon and the like, we thought it opportune to catch up with the Nashville-based artist and find out about his new songs, ’round-the-world travels, and the most recent addition to his family. Now that you’ve been doing this for a while, do you still look forward to release day, or does it feel like the proverbial old hat?

Shaun Groves: I do, but there's much more work involved when you're independent. There's less time to sit back and enjoy the process, but I enjoy working hard, too, and being hands-on. I'm looking forward to a nap when we get to September, though. I have to think that being on Rocketown [Records] helped prepare you for this kind of life, though.

Groves: Yeah, it did. Rocketown was a good gateway drug into independent music. There aren't many labels where everyone is your friend. You can sit down, talk and have input in everything – what songs go on the record, radio, marketing, what your album cover looks like, etc. Rocketown really does serve their artists well. I don't think I realized what a special place that is. They did a good job educating me and preparing me for what I’m doing now. Speaking of which, can you tell us a little bit about what inspired the new album and the concept of Third World Symphony?

Groves: Absolutely. For the last six years, I've been involved with Compassion international. When I began, I was on Rocketown and really didn’t know what was next for me. I thought maybe I’d take a position at a church or write books because I really felt that my time on stage was coming to an end. But what happened was that I wound up doing more and more with Compassion, leading trips for them, taking bloggers overseas to see what they do. And during those two or three trips every year when I was able to speak and sing for Compassion, at colleges, festivals and churches across the country, I collected all kinds of stories. When looking back, you don't realize why you're going through a change, but there would be moments where I would look back and think ‘wow, I'm not the guy I was two years ago, or four years ago,’ and it got to the point where I wanted very much to share those life lessons with other people.” What was it that really stuck out to you?

Groves: I really felt that God used the children of the third world to change me and make me a better person. When many people think about the third world, we think of Sally Struthers, children with the bellies bloated and flies swarming around them – just that heartache. But along with that, there's also a great deal of hope, a great deal of wisdom and a great deal of beauty. And I've been on the receiving end of so many great gifts from people in the third world, that I wanted to redeem that term. I wanted to show people the good of that, too, and that maybe, we're a bit poorer than we realize because there's a great deal that our brothers and sisters around the world living in poverty know about God and get to experience about God that we just don't get to. I wanted to share some of that wealth with the supposedly wealthy. Was it difficult to return to life as usual after experiences like these? How did you reconcile what you saw with your own comfortable life in the States?

Groves: I'm realizing that the blessing goes both ways: that, yes, I can participate in God's plan and educate them and tell them about His son Jesus. But in doing so, they’re participating in God's plan to humble me, make me thankful, to be dependent on God. That gifting goes both ways. I went through a period where I felt like a horrible rich person, this terrible guy who doesn’t know anything about God because I'm this ‘first world’ guy. What I've learned is that I’m not a horrible person for where I was born. The earning potential I have that allows me access to a hospital down the street or the benefit of a refrigerator full of food and healthy children, doesn't mean that I can't know God or love God. It just means I come at God from a different angle. When you spend time with people of the third world, there are different parts of scripture that come alive and you begin to realize the new depth. Like when Jesus talks about daily bread, for example. I've always prayed that as a metaphor. But to hear a pastor praying in the third world for daily bread, well, it's because there are people in the pews who are starving. I come at God and I'm understanding Him and loving him from a different angle. And the majority of Christians and people throughout history are different than the disciples of Jesus. So it's not that those Christians are better than we are or that their angle is better; it's just unique. One of the things that Compassion International has always been an advocate for is child sponsorship, which is almost like adopting a child into your family, minus the living arrangement. I understand that in the Groves’ family, there’s been an actual new addition to the family.

Groves: Yes, and there’s so much I want to tell you about the situation, but I can’t. But we were planning to adopt siblings from Ethiopia, and we got a call about six weeks ago from another agency, not even our agency, saying ‘We've got this little boy. He's from a different country. It’s a complicated situation, but can you take him in and foster him until we figure out what's next?’ Basically, had 24 hours to decide. So we said ‘Yes, yes we can do that.’ When we got him, however, we just knew this wasn't supposed to be a temporary thing, so we decided to see if it was possible to pursue adopting him. And they [the agency] were thrilled about that, so now we're moving forward in that process. But because the situation is so complicated, we are not sure how long that will take. It could be months, but it could be a year or more. So we're in that process, and every day, it seems like God is teaching me something new. Now we have four kids – a 10-year-old girl, an eight-year-old boy, a six-year-old daughter and now, a four-year-old son. You know that's what happens when you marry an accountant, right? It's very organized. She [Groves’ wife, Becky] balances me out.

Copyright 2011, For permission to repost or reprint, click here.


About the Writer

After graduating with a B.S. in Journalism from North Central University in 1998, Christa Banister moved from Minneapolis to Nashville, Tenn. and eventually started working at CCM Magazine/Salem Publishing in various editorial capacities as an editor, columnist and website guru for five and a half years. After that, she launched her own Dallas-based freelance writing company and writes for numerous clients including Salem Publishing, (she reviews movies for them each week), Christian Single, Christianity Today, Threads Media,, and also helped kickstart the first Christian music blog for MTV. In addition, she also writes bios for professional recording artists and authors and penned her first two novels, Around the World in 80 Dates and Blessed Are the Meddlers for NavPress.

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