This is a story of a true 9-5 regular Joe, who found God while living a troubled life. His path is one that everyone can relate to in one form or the other. The story of overcoming everything the devil had a grip on. The story of not judging people by how they look, or what background they came from. And through his path, found God and shares his story openly in person and in his music. I had a chance to sit down with C.J. and get what turned out to be an amazing and truly touching testimony about his journey.
C.J. Ballard was born March 28th 1975 to Azalee Ballard when she was only 16 years old in Wilkes County, North Carolina. His father he has never met. He chose not to be a part of his life. He grew up moving around a lot and attending almost every elementary school in the county. He and his mother were growing up together, and he had a pretty “sketchy” childhood as he puts it. He was alone a lot and lived with other family members off and on as he grew up. When his mother married her third husband, who she is still with to this day, when C.J. was 13 years old his home life became steady. He says that he always believed in God. He asked while being bounced around as a child saying “God if you are there I need something”.
During his teenage years he was too busy partying and being a ladies man to care about music. He partied heavily during that time which included stealing, alcohol and pretty much every drug out there, with the exception of prescription drugs. He says he was never interested in pills, even at his lowest. He says he hit his lowest point when he watched a friend overdose and start turning blue. He says looking back he sees that at that moment he felt the hand of God. Although, he didn’t realize it until years later when he became sober. He remembers the event in flashes. He ran to the bathroom and got an ice cold drenched towel and ran back to her and laid the towel on her chest. At that point she took a deep breath and regained consciousness. C.J. says that even then it was God who used him. He was too messed up, and had been up for 4 days, to think of what to do in that moment on his own.
Music has always been a part of his life. His Grandfather could play about any instrument you put in front of him. C.J. says “once he touched it, it would sing like a bird”. At all family gatherings there was always music being played. But so was alcohol. He wrote a song in 3rd grade which was published in the local paper. But even then, C.J. wasn’t really all that into music. It wasn’t until he reached his 20’s, when he really started getting serious about music. He really began to write his own songs. He had a lot in his heart that he wanted to say. The passion for music has been there ever since. He decided to continue to write music, and pursue a career in music.
He met his wife Amy, in 1999 who was battling her own cocaine addiction. They both wanted to change their lives. At first they helped each other to stay clean. But after living together and knowing each other’s weaknesses, they had times where they backslid. They decided that enough was enough and to start looking for a church. So they tried his wife, Amy’s mother’s church. However, with C.J. having long hair and having tattoos, was judged and frowned upon. He realized then that going to a brick building didn’t affect your relationship with God.
I asked C.J., what was the turning point in your life that brought you to begin to look towards God, and if he thought his life of partying and his life’s events has had an impact on his music, and the goals he has set for himself, for his ministry and testimony of Gods power and miracles through music. He replied that when his kids were able to understand what he said is when he started to realize the words that came out of his mouth and the impact that they had made him want to change. He said those little eyes looking up at him made him want to change his ways. In the beginning of his song writing days, some songs had profanity in them. Keep in mind this was before he came to know God. He says that the light bulb went off one day at band rehearsal when his son was just a toddler and looked at him intently watching and taking in everything. At that moment he realized he didn’t want his son hearing that and saying those words. That was the beginning of the path of deliverance. His uncle invited him to come to church with him. So in 2003 he came to Crossfire Church, expecting it to be like the other judgmental churches he had tried. It was there he met the kind people who did not judge them, but welcomed them with open arms. It was here he heard a praise band for the first time. It really started a fire under him. He was approached to play in the band. He was honest with the preacher about his demons that he was battling. He thought that once he spoke to the preacher, and confessed, he would no longer be wanted to play on the praise team. But instead, he was told “when you fall down, get up with your eyes on God and keep on going”.
That lead me to ask how he came about entering the AMTC auditions. He said that he had heard about the auditions on a radio commercial. He talked to Amy about it, and decided to go for it. While there, Michael Lawrence, owner and president of Creative Answer, which is a production agency out of Atlanta GA heard C.J. and loved it. After the AMTC auditions and everything was over, there was an opportunity to get additional help and critiquing for a fee of $600. But being a working class family with two children, the $600 retainer was hard to get. So through fund raisers and donations, he was able to enter. After that it was time for the Shine weeklong event in Florida, where the fee was $5,000. Again, there was fundraisers, etc to get the money for that trip. Once again, God provided another miracle. Next, was the trip out to Tate Music to record the cd. Once the cd was cut and sent out, the Reverbnation.com page soared to #1 and stayed there for weeks. That ranking is based on page ranking and views.
With all that being done, I asked C.J. what his vision for this music and ministry to go. He says that he feels like he and the Thirteenth Tribe will break/open that barrier in religion where the judgment of looks and social status will stop. That the door will be open for all the religious communities to come together for the same goal of reaching out to people no matter what their status may be. He wants to help as many people as possible. He said that if it helps and leads even one to the Lord, then it is all worth it.
He has been sober and clean for 7 years now. C.J.’s overall conversion took about 15 years. God dealt with him on many levels, and at different times. He says God started working on him way before he got into the church. He began feeling the convictions through his kids. From that point on, there has been no looking back. Only forward for the glory of God. I was so moved by his story and watching him live what he now firmly believes, that I have become his agent. If this story isn’t power, and proof I don’t know what is. His national release date is June 11th. Below are the links to follow C.J. and see and hear more about him. Also, if you have any questions, want cd, or to book him, that information will be below as well. Stay tuned and be part of a worldwide hope and dream to reach out to people.
@CJBallard1 – Twitter
Article by Jamie Leigh