Sit down with Mike Weaver for five minutes, and you’ll soon be deep in conversation. It won’t be long before the warm, affable @Big Daddy Weave frontman will turn the discussion toward a fellow artist. He’s quick to compliment others, and even quicker to downplay his own band’s success. That’s why it feels appropriate that the group’s impending music was created out of shared grief and collective artistry.
In preparation for another record cycle, the modest lead singer recently found himself chatting with some fellow songwriters over breakfast. After Weaver outlined his vision for Big Daddy Weave’s next radio single, @Matthew West — one of the ace lyricists in attendance — came up to him when the gathering ended with a phone full of notes. “Mike, this is not a song,” Matthew told him. “Bro, this is a record.” The well-known hitmaker proceeded to show Weaver a running list of song titles he already had brewing.
That was the genesis of Big Daddy Weave’s ninth studio album. More than anything else, that day over breakfast, the congenial Weaver shared his sorrow. It’s an emotion he’s well acquainted with following the loss of his dad, his mom and then his brother in close succession. His brother Jay, who served as Big Daddy Weave’s bassist, passed away in early 2022 from COVID at the age of 42.
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Since Jay’s death, Weaver and his longtime bandmates — Jeremy Redmon, Joe Shirk and Brian Beihl — have contemplated quitting numerous times. “Just last week, I literally thought, ‘I can’t do this without him here,’” Weaver admits. “There have been days in this last season where it’s just been hard for me to move beyond it.”
Weaver says he doubts he’ll ever fully get over the anguish of losing those closest to him, but “I feel like maybe I’m learning how to carry it differently,” he offers.
Like much of life, grief is a journey, not a destination; and along the way, it’s teaching Weaver lessons he likely wouldn’t have learned any other way. “Religion wants you to be perfect, but the Lord celebrates progress,” he observes. “Like a kid learning to walk, that’s His viewpoint of it.”
As the group’s latest song, “Heaven Changes Everything,” attests, it’s our perspective that helps us survive life-altering loss. “I think it’s my choice. When I’m in that dark place, it’s because what I’m looking at is darkness,” Weaver contends. “But when I focus on the fact that heaven is a reality, you can hear the ticking of the clock, because we’re going there one day. And so, all of a sudden, I don’t feel so far away from the people I’m missing.”
With loved ones now residing in heaven, eternity looks different for the remaining members of Big Daddy Weave, who have forged on as a four-piece. “Jesus says, ‘The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.’ I don’t know that I can break all of that down for you, but I do know there’s an element of what’s eternal that lives right here, right now,” Weaver asserts, pointing to his heart. “When my brother passed, nobody cried in heaven. In heaven, it was all joy. And if heaven’s living inside of me, then I can carry some of eternity right now, and that changes today. And so, that helps me.”
In his time of grief, Weaver says his friends in the music industry have rallied around him and the other members of Big Daddy Weave. Artists paid tribute to Jay at the 2023 K-LOVE Fan Awards with special video messages fondly remembering the bassist for his genuine kindness and thoughtfulness.
Big Daddy Weave’s forthcoming record — slated to release next year — was crafted in the midst of this supportive community. The genre’s best and brightest surrounded the band, offering encouragement, affirmation…and songs. As writers piled into a large house in Nashville, Weaver went room to room, relaying his feelings and contributing to numerous co-writes — many of which resulted in new selections set to appear on Big Daddy Weave’s next studio effort.
“Some of the songs that came out of that were very hard to write, but it was so therapeutic,” Weaver shares. “I think if it had been any other subject matter than what it was, it would’ve been a lot easier. But man, it was like facing hard thing after hard thing after hard thing.”
The upcoming collection will walk listeners through the various stages of grief, giving them space to process personal feelings. Some of the tracks are extremely specific to Big Daddy Weave’s story, while other selections traverse more universal territory. The concept album also includes songs Weaver didn’t have a hand in writing. The outside cuts were all sent to him by artist friends who thought their original lyrics and melodies might extend Weaver some sense of peace, even if they were never heard by anyone else other than the frontman himself.
@Matt Maher contributed a song called “Let It Begin” that ignites the healing process, and @Zach Williams — who also co-wrote Big Daddy Weave’s hit, “Alive” — offered “When You Come Home,” another contender about our final resting place. (Incidentally, the Williams original marks another full-circle moment as it was a Big Daddy Weave song that allowed Williams to have a transformative encounter with God, changing the trajectory of his life and charting a fresh course for him in Christian music.)
“The Christian music community has really just ministered to us, and we have songs that I didn’t write, but man, I’m telling you, they are just so incredible. There’s songs that are about grief, and then there’s songs that are beyond grief and just about the greater Christian life,” Weaver says. “I don’t have to have written the song. We just want the right thing. We just want the best thing."
“Songwriters are the unsung heroes,” he continues. “I’d love for people to know that these people don’t just write for their own records; these guys are just bonafide great songwriters.”
Weaver did co-write the album’s lead single, “Heaven Changes Everything,” alongside West and Jeff Pardo. The bright pop track has already landed atop the Christian charts and serves as the namesake of the beloved band’s fall tour, with special guests @Tasha Layton and @Hannah Kerr.
The two-time K-LOVE Fan Award winning collective is no stranger to No. 1 hits. The group — who initially formed in college — bowed an independent album, “Neighborhoods,” in 2001 before partnering with a major label to release their official debut, “One and Only” in the summer of 2002. Their 2024 release will continue to build their catalog of surefire hits.
Over the past two decades, Big Daddy Weave has served up a steady stream of musical home runs with songs that have journeyed with listeners through life’s greatest celebrations and life’s biggest challenges. “Overwhelmed,” “My Story,” “I Know” and the 2013 K-LOVE Fan Award Song of the Year winner, “Redeemed,” are just a few of the singles that have defined their storied career to date.
“God Is In This Story” is another recent addition to their setlist that has readily resonated with fans. Former tourmate @Katy Nichole asked the band to collaborate with her on the chart-topping track, which dropped in 2022. It was really the first opportunity Weaver had to process his emotions in song after losing both of his parents and his brother.
“This is a song of hope, a song of encouragement, that God really is present with us in all seasons of our lives — the really great ones and the ones that are difficult,” Weaver shares of the hit — another one he didn’t write. “God is not giving up on us. He is in the details of our lives. We can trust that He is working things together for our good.”
Weaver says that Romans 8:28 promise is often the only thing that gets him through when the same question keeps him up at night: How do you find your way to the other side of sadness?
His answer? “I think the way I find the other side of sadness it by looking for what the Lord is doing right now. Sometimes the enemy wants to point out what you feel like God is not doing, but when we connect with the Lord and get in the flow of what He’s saying and what He’s doing, we start getting concerned about other people. And when I care about someone else, it helps lift my own sadness,” he offers. “Suddenly, we find something that supersedes the sadness by seeing the light that He is and that He wants to bring to any given place. And we find that most readily when we recognize His presence in our everyday, mundane lives.”
As Big Daddy Weave puts the finishing touches on their new album, they’re searching for God in the ordinary. The grief is still palpable. The sadness remains. But hope gets a little brighter every time another Christian artist reaches out with a new song, a word of comfort or a thoughtful lyric. And Weaver hopes the wattage further increases as the vulnerability in this new music connects with listeners. Because, unfortunately, sometimes the best songs are birthed from the greatest pain.
As he continues to wade through his own personal heartache, the very real God he sings about has become a consistent refuge. In the process, Weaver’s discovered a renewed sense of purpose in pointing people to the safe harbor of Christ as he openly shares his outlook on eternity in light of the sorrow he’s experienced on this side of heaven.
“In the presence of the Lord, there is fullness of joy and peace forevermore,” he affirms. “And that’s the difference — being in His presence, being reminded that all of this is just temporary.”
Have you recently lost someone you love? Are you struggling to find your way to the other side of sadness? The K-LOVE Pastors are available to pray with you at 1-800-525-5683 or on the K-LOVE app, and they’ve curated some resources specifically for those experiencing grief and loss here.