Six-time Vocal Group of the Year, Diamond Rio has been one of the most successful bands in country music history. They won a Grammy for their first Christian record, “The Reason,” and have also produced a Christmas album called, “The Star Still Shines.” Currently, they are the artists in residence at Gaylord’s Opryland Hotel Resort in Nashville and have been bringing joy to audiences through their Christmas show, “Holiday & Hits.” Lead singer Marty Roe and guitarist Jimmy Olander visit with us on the podcast to share what Christmas meant to them growing up and what it means to them now.
Narrator: Welcome to the Jesus Calling podcast. Today we speak with two members of the country music supergroup Diamond Rio. Marty Roe and Jimmy Olander grew up with completely different ideas about Christmas. They discuss what Christmas means to them, both then and now. They also talk about the band’s new Christmas show at Nashville’s Gaylord Opryland Resort called, “Diamond Rio: Holiday & the Hits” and why it was important to them to share the hope of Christ in this show that is reaching thousands of people this Christmas.
Marty Roe: I’m Marty Roe with the group Diamond Rio; I’m the lead singer.
Jimmy Olander: And I’m Jimmy Olander, and I play guitar.
Diamond Rio’s Marty Roe & Jimmy Olander: “The Star Still Shines” at Christmas – Jesus Calling Podcast Episode 73
Marty: Christmas at my house was mostly about family and family gathering. Obviously, when we were little, gift exchange was a big deal. My grandfather on my mother’s side was just a large child. And so he never could wait till Christmas, so we usually did Christmas on Christmas Eve. And then my other grandparents it was, you know, they were strict, you know, traditionalist: Christmas morning. It was cool with us because, you know, we kind of get stuff in the morning; in the evening and in the morning.
And then with my children, we have taken a little further, and we always had a Christmas program. My children would read, you know, the birth story, and they would act it out. Actually, one of us adults would read it, and they all fought over who was going to be, you know, Joseph and Mary; I think it’s because they wanted to hold the baby doll. It’s just been about family coming together and being very thankful and grateful for the gift of Jesus.
Jimmy: Mine was totally different. I did not grow up in a Christian household. We were forbidden to go to church so our Christmas was all snow and Santa Claus and gift exchange, and it was a great family thing. It wasn’t, you know, necessarily deviant. It was just not Christ-based and not faith-based.
And so becoming a Christian late in life and now having children, that’s completely different at my house. God’s been pursuing me my entire life with my friends and with grace and with good fortune and stuff. And for the most part, I’ve taken credit for everything the whole time and didn’t actually recognize those things.
I was actually a Christian recording artist and was not a Christian.
Making The Music Personal
And a lot of my friends said, “You would make such a good Christian. You would make a wonderful Christian.” And I was like, “Well, you know.” Anyway, I had to, during the process of us cutting, “The Reason,” I was doing producing it with Mike Lute and was doing all the label meetings, and we were getting all these songs pitched to us because that’s what we’ve…Diamond Rio has always been very open about the material that comes into the band, and the best songs gonna win. And that’s really benefited us in our career. Well, all the stuff that was getting pitched to us, they were great Christian songs, and they were; but we didn’t have an attachment to it.
I went, “Man, we need to actually tell the truth and speak to God and what he has done specifically in this very situation.”
And they were pressing for deadlines and, “How are we doing with this type of stuff?” And you know, like “We’ve got to stop this right now.” I just kind of was spoken to about what this project should be. And it should be honest, and it should be real, and we should not. We were going through some struggles in the band with Marty singing, and he was having some vocal trouble, and a lot of this was hidden. And we’d prayed about it, and God had put somebody in our life to bring him back around where he’s singing like he is now. And in that meeting, I went, “Man, we need to actually tell the truth and speak to God and what he has done specifically in this very situation.”
And I told the label, “Look, I’ve got to have a meeting with the band. They don’t know what’s coming. We’re not used to writing all the material for a record. We’re not used to you know we’re used to saying other people’s words and stuff. This actually needs to come from us.”
Christmas: A Special Time Of Year
It was profound to me, and it kind of came out of the blue, and it was just a kind of a slow process all my life. He’s always been with me, but this was kind of the thing that I was just, finally, I said, “Ok. I get it. This is You. This is not me.”
I think God can make things better. You know in this particular time around Christmas time, I had a friend of mine who had a sudden death of her husband.
You know, and she’s in church, and she’s in church with the kids, and I think it’s creating some comfort for them. And I think that they’re making some great choices because I think this particular holiday…if you don’t have it focused on Christ, and it’s just a calendar date and a celebration, and it’s, you know, gift exchange. Then that can be associated with worldly things, and passing. And all of a sudden, the significance of the birth of Christ, when it’s diminished, and you’re just focusing on the calendar date. Then you’re thinking about the calendar date of somebody passing, you’re thinking about other struggles that are happening. So I think, you know, like me, late in life, it was always a calendar date. And it was always a gift exchange, and it was always a to-do list and stuff like that.
I love this time of year. I think it creates a lot of hope, and for being a new Christian, you know, I think it’s just…it’s fantastic. I’m still such a work in progress. You know, that exploring these things…it’s great.
Celebrating Through Christmas Music
Marty: We thought it would be fun to do a Christmas album. We had never done our own Christmas CD. We’ve done a few guest spots on other people’s CDs and things like that. So we were recording our favorite Christmas songs, as Jimmy said, a lot of snow and Santa Claus, you know, and a couple of Christ-centered songs. We found this original tune that really spoke to our current social world.
Jimmy: “The Star Still Shines” is about the birth of Christ and how relevant that is still in modern times you know. And if you can kind of go back and reference that, “Why” the spirit of Christmas. It was just a great message.
Marty: We really love the song, so we recorded it…put it on there and made it our title cut. And before we were finished with the project, a major label, Word Records, Christian label, beat our door down to sign and have that as a piece of their product and actually led us to do a gospel CD for them.
Jimmy: Which we won a Grammy for.
Marty: So all that was a great experience. And now we get a chance to do a show and feature a lot of that stuff in our show.
It’s called, “Diamond Rio: Holiday & the Hits.” It’s a celebration of our success and how we’ve been blessed. We play several of our hits and number one records, and our fans really, I think, want to hear that. And we are blessed to have it. But it’s a small part of our show and then we play, “The Star Still Shines,” and then we play several Christmas classics from our CD. And then we do some goofing around. We do a little jingle bells, and Dana shows his gifting for having fun with the audience. And Jimmy is down there. He pulls out the banjo, and then we do a little…we do The Nutcracker. We play five different movements of The Nutcracker…
Jimmy: Yeah, five different movements of The Nutcracker on the banjo.
So we get a little bit fun with that, and then we go to it. We have a section that is dedicated to the story of the birth of Christ: the Christmas story in Luke 2. And Brian, our drummer reads. We read the Scripture that’s known to the world that sets up where Mary’s at that time in the manger when the shepherds come, and she has this baby and husband and, you know, this knowledge that this is a special child. And the question of, “How much did she know?” Did she know all the things that she was going to go through, and so Dana sings, “Mary Did You Know,” and we follow that with, “O Come All Ye Faithful” and, “O Holy Night” and the celebration of that night and what that was like. And then it’s a wonderful experience for the folks.
A Story That Gives Us Hope
We gathered up all of our, you know, family Christmas photos through the years, you know, from our first Christmases for all the guys in the bands, their family Christmas photos, whatever. All that is playing while the folks are eating dinner. And then we also put together a long string of a lot of our career photos from the very beginning with all the hair and even some different band members.
And all the great artists that we’ve been able to work with, and become friends with, and just visual snapshots of how God has blessed us through our career and share that with the folks.
It really has been fun.
That is a bonus for us. Even though it’s changed all of our normal Christmas family plans, for me, for my whole life. This is the first time in 56 years or 57 years or whatever that I won’t be at my home where I grew up for either Thanksgiving or Christmas, but all my family is there. They’re at the show every night. The center of the universe kind of changed a little bit for us for this year.
But we’ve adjusted well, and it’s actually been a lot of fun.
There is no preaching, and there’s no desire to do anything other than to tell the story that gives us hope, and that’s what we do on our show.
Jimmy: We’re getting a lot of feedback from the audience as if they’ve never seen this in a Christmas show before.
They find this very unique, and they seem to be incredibly…lots of gratitude for us: “O thank you for doing this.” And that… Did that surprise you? It completely surprised me because I hear it so often. We’ll hear it. After each show, we’ll go out and we will sign some autographs. And there will be an autograph line…maybe take us 20 minutes? Maybe? Something like that. And in that, we’ll get ten comments, “Thank you for doing this. Thank you for including Christ in your message and your testimony.”
A Prayer For People In Dark Places
Marty: The story of Christ and the birth of Christ is really kind of the finale of the story of God and the story that He has been scripting from the beginning. And the gift of Jesus has…and the life that Christ led and the death that He suffered for us, is all the culmination of God’s love for us and how much He does pursue us and how much His grace is upon us.
And that all we have to do is turn and accept that gift. For someone who is struggling here in this world; it’s difficult to say other than, “He is there with you. He has doors there for you that are open.” I believe that we have to have some sort of connection with the Holy Spirit so that we can perceive those things and discern them.
That is my prayer for people who are in dark places, is their turn to the light. Even if that’s not the way you want to go. A lot of times in my life, the obvious choice, the one that was there for me…I didn’t go that way because, “I’m not doing that. I’m not going there.” And, it was my fault that I missed that.
Somebody told me one time, “If you’re in a valley or if you’re on the mountaintop, look to your right, look to your left and see who’s there with you. And those are the ones that you can depend upon. And if the same people are in the valley that were at the mountaintop, then you know those are true friends, and you can lean on them.” I pray that people in those places have someone they can lean on.
Jesus Calling: The Importance Of Spending Time With The Lord
Jesus Calling is one of my several different go-to’s.
It is very helpful, and I’ve used it for a long time. I was introduced to it, actually, through one of my students in my Bible class. We called it Life Group, but it was also my neighbor who has since passed away. His name was Ty Osman, and he used it a lot.
I enjoy it. It’s very short. If I don’t have, you know, the 30 minutes or more that I’d like to spend. It’s great, and, actually, I don’t even use the book that much anymore. It’s on my phone and on my iPad. So, it’s important to me to have that time with the Lord.
Jimmy: I think the devotional time is important. A lot of times I get very caught up with deadlines and stuff like that and will forget to do that. And just, I guess I’m pushing Jesus out, you know, just kind of not having that quite as a priority. And I know that every time that I spend and get in the habit of more devotion, things seem to be much more clear.
Marty: This is December 14th.
“Rest in Me my child, forgetting about the worries of the world. Focus on Me–Emmanuel–and let My living presence envelop you in peace. Tune in to My eternal security, for I am the same yesterday, today, and forever. If you live on the surface of life by focusing on every changing phenomenon, you will find yourself echoing the words of Solomon: ‘Meaningless! Meaningless! Everything is meaningless!’ Living in collaboration with Me is the way to instill meaning into your days. Begin each day alone with Me so that you can experience the reality of My presence. As you spend time with Me, the way before you opens up step by step. Arise from the stillness of our communion and gradually begin your journey through the day. Hold My hand in deliberate dependence on me, and I will smooth out the path before you.”
Marty: That’s my prayer, is that God would make his presence known to those people, through other folks, through other believers to be His hands and His feet in those valleys.
Narrator: To find out more about Diamond Rio, their Christmas album, and their new Christmas show, “Holiday & Hits” at Nashville’s Gaylord Opryland Resort, please go to DiamondRio.com. Today’s reading comes from the December 14th passage of the Jesus Calling Audiobook:
Rest in Me, My child, forgetting about the worries of the world. Focus on Me—Emmanuel—and let My living Presence envelop you in peace. Tune in to My eternal security, for I am the same yesterday, today, and forever. If you live on the surface of life by focusing on ever-changing phenomena, you will find yourself echoing the words of Solomon: ‘Meaningless! Meaningless! Everything is meaningless!’ Living in collaboration with Me is the way to instill meaning into your days. Begin each day alone with Me so that you can experience the reality of My presence. As you spend time with Me, the way before you opens up step by step. Arise from the stillness of our communion, and gradually begin your journey through the day. Hold My hand in deliberate dependence on Me, and I will smooth out the path before you.
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