The Coffmans navigate uncertainty of pandemic with zest for new territory in upcoming album project
By John Herndon, KentuckySings.com
DANVILLE, Ky. — If you see Tamra Coffman imitating a NASCAR driver this summer, it’s safe to assume she’s listening to some cuts from her upcoming gospel album.
“I told them I want music that makes me want to drive fast,” she says with a laugh. “If it makes me want to drive fast, I know it’s good stuff!”
Tamra, her husband, Louis, and their daughter, Canaan, recorded the vocals to The Coffmans’ newest project recently. And Tamra says the yet-to-be-named CD passes her speedometer test. “This music makes you want to drive fast,” she laughed, “so if you have a lead foot, you are going to have to turn it down.”
The production of the CD, which will be on the Peace Records label, mirrors life for The Coffmans in 2020. There’s much uncertainty, but the group knows that God is good.
“We hope to have a release by the National Quartet Convention,” Louis says. “That’s our hope and we are very excited about this project.”
The Coffmans could not say much publicly about their first project in three years, but they really don’t have to. Their anticipation is off the charts.
“This is a project like you have never heard before,” Canaan says with a huge smile.
So it’s fitting that the release is set for the fall of 2020, a year like few have experienced before.
Like everyone else, The Coffmans’ year has borne little resemblance to what was planned. Anticipating their busiest tour since going on the road full time several years ago, the calendar is now full of canceled dates because of COVID-19. Every Sunday morning in July was filled, with other weekend dates surrounding those coveted spots filling the schedule. Now, The Coffmans are booked for one Sunday in July and the calendar for the rest of 2020 is mostly open.
“If we have all four Sundays booked, to us that is a full calendar,” Louis says. “The majority of groups now are lucky if they get all four Sundays.”
But the corona virus scare prompted church closings for more than two months — some have still not started meeting together — and still limits the size of gatherings in most locales. Filling the calendar is almost impossible and finding any dates is daunting.
“I think the churches right now, at this point, are kind of waiting to see what they are allowed to do by the governor or whoever,” Tamra says. “Some churches are not canceling services but are canceling extra-curriculars. Right now, some churches are trying to keep their lights on and they are trying to take care of the people they have to take care of.”
But even with ministry challenges like The Coffmans have never experienced or expected, the group feels blessed and is thankful that God has provided.
Not long before the pandemic shut down America, Canaan, then a high school senior, had been wrestling with her college choice when she received a lucrative scholarship offer from Campbellsville University.
And even though the crisis took the family off the road, there were some opportunities for ministry. The Coffmans sang at an open-air Easter service sponsored by their home church, Danville Church of God and were able to sing at two Kentucky churches in May and June. As we talked, the trio was preparing for a trip to Alabama the weekend of June 28.
Mostly, there were opportunities for personal growth, learning about themselves and focusing on walking every day with God.
“One thing (I learned) is I can read my Bible much more than I thought I could,” Canaan says with a bit of a smile. “We need to be relying on the Lord more than we were.
“God got us into a place like, ‘You can’t do anything else. You are going to sit here and talk to me like a big timeout. I am hoping other people have been like us and able to spend more time in the Word. Not that we have been perfect. There were a lot of days where all I have done is sit at home and watch TV.”
There have also been opportunities for learning new ways to be productive.
“It seems like everyone gets on Facebook and vents,” Tamra says. “We used Facebook. We did a live concert from our living room and we were able to use social media and we were able to do a Hope Sings concert.”
(Hope Sings is an online concert series put together by Godsey Media. The series came about in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.)
Tamra continues, “God is Good. He has taught us to be creative.”
It could have been easy to throw a pity party over not being able to sing, but Tamra says The Coffmans choose to count their blessings. “We are the whiniest society I have ever seen,” she says in her plain-spoken manner. “We are having first world problems. There are people in this world who are starving to death….We have been fortunate. In April, the government allowed people that do gigs to use government unemployment services. So we have been able to tap into that. That has helped us, but we miss being out there.
“Of all things for gospel singers, God has used the federal government and the state government to help us.”
It comes back to a basic truth that drives The Coffman ministry.
“The first thing (we learned) is we are not in control,” Louis says. “We never have been in control. God is always in control. There are some things we can change and some we can’t. We can get to the point we can trust the Lord for that guidance and everything is going to fall in place. We don’t have any choice. It might not always be what we want or how we see it, but if you are really leaning on the Lord, it will be good.”
Which brings us back to The Coffmans’ new album project. They believe God is in control of the work and it will be good.
The Coffmans had been looking for new music since the last project and reached out to several writers. They even put a message on Facebook, “Send us songs, we need songs.”
But nothing was clicking. “All those songs we were getting were OK but they were not resonating the way we wanted to. We started getting antsy about it. We had our producer lined up and were ready. We wanted to go into the studio.
“Our producer (Jeremy Peace) sent a lot of songs. He said, ‘Y’all are so picky.’ I said, ‘No, we don’t want to be picky but we want to convey a message to people.”
Tamra adds, “The songs weren’t speaking to us. If it wasn’t speaking to me, why should I expect it to speak to you.”
Louis says God was in control, though. He was lying in bed one night looking for some songs when he ran across one he liked. He continued to dig and before he was finished, he found three more. Eventually, there were 13 song possibilities that needed to be whittled to eight.
“The first day we were (in the studio) for vocal arrangements, we sat down and we had picked our eight songs. (Peace, the producer) had picked the same eight songs,” Louis says.
The new album will be new territory for The Coffmans. “It’s going to be different,” Louis says. “It won’t be your traditional southern gospel songs. Some will be like what you have heard from The Coffmans in the past, but some will be more progressive. There is a designated meaning that is focused on something.”
The Coffmans believe the vocal and instrumental arrangements will be memorable but most of all, they pray the message of Jesus Christ will stick with anyone who hears the CD.
“I am so excited for this project,” Canaan says with the enthusiasm of a child on Christmas Day. “I love every single song on there. I am so passionate about the songs we have right now.”
And Canaan knows how her mom feels about cranking up the music.
“This project might make you want to drive fast. It might make you want to cry or make you want to shout and have all those emotions. It might be in the same song!”
Put the pedal down and crank up the stereo. It will be good stuff.