The Unapologetic Beauty in the Music of Fr. Kevin McGoldrick
Beauty is its own end. Beauty does not need an apologetic. What’s the answer to the question, Why do something beautiful? Because it’s beautiful.
I was intrigued by his sound and drawn in even further by his lyrics. And then I realized that artist Kevin McGoldrick was in fact Father Kevin McGoldrick. I knew I had to sit down with this “square peg in a round hole,” a Catholic priest who sings about both Jesus and coffee with a musical style that is really an eclectic mix of styles.
Fr. Kevin, tell me a little about how you got into music in the first place.
I always did music as a kid. I played piano and sang in choirs, things like that. It was my freshman year in high school when I started writing and playing music and doing recordings with my best friend, an Orthodox Jew. I played a lot throughout high school and college and always kept writing.
When you realized you were called to the priesthood, did you think it would mean leaving music behind? Or did you always see that as part of your vocation and ministry as a priest?
I was in the middle of my junior year in college when I realized my vocation. At that time I was studying theatre and acting and music took a back seat to that. When I entered seminary I thought I would give all of that up. And I did at first. Over the years it took some time of reintegrating it. It took laying it down to the Lord and then getting it back, but in a more purified way. It took some dying, but that’s the good thing about our faith: dying is always followed by rising.
How has your music changed as a priest?
It’s kind of gone in stages for me. When I entered the seminary it was mostly like sacred music and praise and worship. I’ve done a lot in that area, that was kind of the big thing.
In the past five years I was really opened back up to the “twisted mystics,” those artists who, maybe their lives don’t look perfect, but they’re really open to some of the deepest truths out there. These really moved me. People like John Mayer, some of the music, some of the writing is deeper than the worship songs I play and it’s really invigorating me.
Can you speak a little more on this? A lot of people wouldn’t expect a priest to play music like you do at all. But on top of that, a lot of your music isn’t explicitly Christian or religious.
Wherever there is truth, beauty, and goodness, there is God. What has changed for me is really a more holistic understanding of beauty. Seeing it in the secular works, acknowledging it, embracing it. For me it’s more of an integration. At the beginning I had much more of a dualistic Manichean view of the world – you know, God and spirit good, body bad. But I’ve gained a more healthy integral view. The secular is meant to permeate the sacred. If you’re singing a song about the human heart it doesn’t have to have the name of the Lord in it. Beauty is its own end. Beauty does not need an apologetic. What’s the answer to the question, Why do something beautiful? Because it’s beautiful. You don’t need a defense. So it’s been more of a change in my own understanding.
And what about people who inspire you in your music…Is there anyone in particular?
I’ll give you two: one is Catholic and one is secular. Our Lady of Guadalupe is a huge influence for me. A lot of people don’t realize that, while it was a miraculous image, and that was a huge part of it, the real evangelistic genius is that she spoke to the people in their own language. For thirty years the missionaries were preaching to them with very few converts. But when she spoke, there were millions of converts in just a few years. She spoke in their own language, she used their own imagery, and her message was one of good news: You know longer have to practice human sacrifice. You’re free. And that’s what I want to do: use this secular language, speak the language of the culture, and bring the Good News.
And the secular artist?
The only artist I know that has really bridged the secular and the sacred is Bob Marley. While he was Rastafarian, his whole vision was that he was a prophet and was trying to bring God into the secular by doing his music. And he was extremely successful without compromising his ideals. And I really see myself in that light.
And on a side note, a lot of people don’t know that Bob Marley was baptized later in life. I’m pretty sure when we get to heaven he’ll be up there leading praise and worship.
Last question: Your latest album is called Square Peg, Round Hole. Is that about you?
It’s definitely me. I’ve always felt like a square peg in a round hole. I’m melancholic by temperament, and I think every melancholic feels that way to some degree, like no one understands me. And the other thing: I’m a Catholic priest and singer/songwriter. And the genres in the album are kind of mixed; it’s more embracive. There’s no box for that
Finally, here he is, singing his song “Coffee” in a special acoustic session for Cecilia at World Youth Day. And – if you haven’t already – download Cecilia’s free exclusive album made in honor of World Youth Day, which includes the song “Coffee,” among many others. Download here.
Make sure to like and follow Fr. Kevin McGoldrick on Facebook to keep up with the latest news. You can find his latest album, Square Peg, Round Hole on iTunes, or for a hard copy, head over to Love Good Music.