LYNCHBURG, Va. (BP) – Charles Billingsley, teaching pastor and acclaimed worship leader, has released a brand-new album “The Shadow of Your Smile,” which represents a new chapter in his musical career.
The album, released May 13, contains a blend of well-known songs from a variety of genres including Broadway classics, big band hits and light jazz.
Billingsley currently serves as a teaching pastor and worship leader at Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Va., and though the record is not a worship album, he said he hopes the music will help him reach an expanded audience.
“Dr. Jerry Falwell Sr. always told me everybody needs a salt ministry … and I’ve always felt like I could use my voice to reach a broader audience,” Billingsley said.
“I’ve sung in churches for over 30 years and it’s been wonderful and I don’t want to stop that, but I wanted to branch out and just gain a new audience. It’s been amazing how accepting a mainstream audience can be. People will show up to simply hear great music and songs that they love.”
Songs on the album include “It Had To Be You,” “Beyond The Sea,” “Bring Him Home,” (from Les Misérables) and “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”
The album’s lone original song is the opening track, “Perfect,” which Billingsley wrote for his wife. The record was produced by renowned producer Tim Davis (Barbra Streisand, Lady Gaga) and is Billingsley’s debut project with Club44 Records.
Billingsley performed the full-length album, accompanied by the Lynchburg Symphony Orchestra, on May 13 at the Academy Center of the Arts in Lynchburg to celebrate its release.
He also recently performed for Kentucky Baptist Convention leaders and disaster relief workers earlier this week at a conference in Gilbertsville, Ky.
Billingsley said the album’s name is simply what he and his team thought sounded the best, but it ended up representing the effect he hopes the record will have on listeners.
“It’s been in my brain to do this for over 20 years,” Billingsley said. “I wanted this to be a pure singing record, and the process was very refreshing for me.
“I told the crowd Friday night as I was performing the record that I just wanted them to leave with a smile on their face. Because it’s been two years since we’ve seen everybody smile due to the horrible pandemic and everyone wearing masks. It just felt like America had lost its smile and I wanted to do my part to bring that back.”
The album represents an exciting and joyful new chapter for Billingsley, which he contrasted with the difficult season he went through around this time two years ago when he was in the hospital with COVID-19.
He was diagnosed with the virus on March 27, 2020, his wedding anniversary. He was gearing up for the release of a new album in early April but ended up in the hospital a few days after his diagnosis.
He said despite the “frustrating” experience, the dark time helped remind him of his love for singing and worship.
“God really had to teach me some things through that experience and He really deepened my relationship with Him,” Billingsley said.
“I had the worst 10 days of my life physically after leaving the hospital, but probably had the best 10 days of my life worshiping the Lord, and I really grew close to Him during that time. I rediscovered the joy of singing. It reminded me how to worship Him again.”
Despite the fact that the album is not a worship album, he hopes it will begin new avenues for ministry. One avenue was already opened, through Billingsley’s work with Liberty University’s School of Music.
He serves as the director of strategic partnerships for the music school and recorded many of the record’s vocals in the Liberty studios. Students were invited to watch along as he worked with producers to record pieces of the album.
He hopes the experience was valuable for aspiring musicians.
“They were hearing and watching the process – the good, bad and ugly,” Billingsley said. “It was really a neat experience for them. I wish I had that experience when I was their age. Unless you’ve made a record yourself you would never have never seen something like that before.”
Billingsley also hopes to partner with churches and other organizations to host concerts that non-believers would be willing to attend simply to hear great music.
He hopes the simple positive messages of the album will encourage audiences in the same way he has been encouraged through the process.
“I’m not going to preach to audiences, but I am going to ask them to consider the condition of their soul,” Billingsley said. “I hope that when they leave they’ve had a wonderful time, but that they also start to think if there may be something more to life. I hope they leave with more joy and hope in their heart than they did when they came.
“One thing I want people to walk away with is just a new appreciation for the goodness of life. I just want people to put on this record and just enjoy life. This record is a celebration of that.”