Working as an independent Catholic artist is much like being a father, as both can have a big impact on the development of faith and values within an audience or a family. In some ways both jobs can sometimes feel thankless, yet many feel called by God to plow ahead, with an unconditional love, to work toward helping to deepen the faith of those placed before them, whether in a concert venue or around the dinner table.
In the case of Catholic singer/songwriter Jacob Rudd, these two jobs make up the most important elements of his life, which he has now brought together in a charming new song, “Called to be a Father.” Opening with a tender, plucked guitar riff, the lullaby tones build to a triumphant chorus that extols the virtues of fatherhood, while expressing the thrill of being a parent. Tied together with a catchy hook, we especially loved the clean electric guitar that Rudd added between verses, which gives the whole song a cool, laid-back feel.
The song becomes more touching when paired with the exceptionally shot music video, filmed this summer, which features Rudd and his family camping near Crested Butte, Colorado. Spliced together with breathtaking scenic views of the beautiful landscapes of Colorado, the short video was expertly edited by Rudd, who writes and records his wonderful brand of Catholic music all on his own.
We sat down with Rudd for a conversation on music and fatherhood:
From the lyrics and imagery of your new music video “Called to Be a Father,” it’s clear that your role as a father is of the utmost importance in your life. When did you feel called to fatherhood?
Growing up, I had a great father who spent a lot of time with me, particularly revolving around sports. My dad was my soccer coach (together we won Soccer Saturday, the big local tournament in our city each year), as well as my number one fan when I played hockey. Each winter, he would build a hockey rink in our backyard. My first mouth guard was my pacifier and my two brothers and I had a blast.
I spent two years in the seminary studying to be a diocesan priest. I was blessed to be able to visit the Blessed Sacrament often through scheduled prayer and also personal visits anytime. I had a very small subtle mystical experience in prayer one evening before the Blessed Sacrament. I wouldn’t call it a vision, but it was an image/idea of having a son. I could see myself carrying him on my back, and watching him running and talking to me with a smile. Obviously, in seminary I was thinking of giving up marriage and children so as to live celibately as a priest. I remember it was a very heavy cross to give that desire to God, and it brought me to deep tears. Though I can’t remember what the child looked like in the prayer image, it is definitely easy to connect my now five-year-old son to that prayer experience.
I should point out that later that year, God made it clear to me through the intercession of St. Therese that I was called to marriage. Father Edward Looney wrote about this intercession in a previous article for Aleteia.
What is your favorite aspect of being a father?
Being there with your child every step of their young life. Waiting for them during the pregnancy, holding them as newborns, watching them grow as babies, making them smile and laugh, and seeing them move and eventually walk. That is what we have been doing with our youngest, Fabian, who is 9 months and getting close to walking.
Our daughter Ksenia is 2 years old and it has been a joy for us watching her talk more and more, being excited when we read books to her, and watching her zoom around on her balance bike. Our oldest, Blaise, is 5 years old. I really enjoy playing with him, teaching him to hit and catch a baseball (tennis ball), throw a football, run around with a soccer ball, and to play the basics of basketball. This winter we are hoping it will be cold enough for our homemade ice rink. It is also fun seeing my wife homeschool him (not without some struggles) in the basics of math, reading, and writing.
How would you say your faith has influenced your role as a father?
It has influenced all aspects. Sundays are sacred and special as we dress up and go to church together and then spend time together with family and friends. The teachings and examples of Christ challenge me to a greater patience and love for my children, and the sacrament of confession is an amazing remedy for the times when I fail to show love like Christ to both my wife and children.
We rent out a church rectory in a small town connected to a simple parish in Wisconsin. To help cover some of the rent, I play music for the Saturday night liturgy and teach two classes of catechism on Wednesday nights. We are blessed to have the Blessed Sacrament so close to us! We try to visit Jesus each day. One of our favorite prayers is the prayer the Guardian Angel of Portugal taught the children of Fatima: “My God, I believe, I adore, I hope, and I love you. I ask pardon of You for those who don’t believe, do not adore, do not hope, and do not love you.”
My wife and I have recently been trying to give spend 20 minutes individually in simple silence (no vocal prayers) before the Blessed Sacrament. It is a great blessing. Even if you can’t visit Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, I highly recommend this practice of 20 (or even just 10) minutes of silence with no other agenda than to just let God love on you.
Can you talk more about the music video and the trip behind the video?
We bought a 13-foot 1977 Fiberglass Camper in the spring and fixed it up. It was quite a project as we had to re-seal and re-paint the window frames, pack the wheel bearings, make new cushions, re-paint the interior, and patch up the exterior, among other things.
Ten of these days were spent in the beautiful wilderness near Crested Butte, Colorado, on a boondocking (free and legal) camp site, including the 4th of July. We were surrounded by mountains and just a stone throw’s away from the Slate River. We cooked all of our meals and fit cozily into our camper. We filmed the different spots we hiked and it became the footage for the music video of my song “Called to Be a Father.”. I also spent one night busking (street performing) in the small town and it covered some of our gas expenses.
What other activities do you enjoy together with your family?
My wife has encouraged our family to be detached from visual media. We do play Super Nintendo once a week and I must say I am a big Green Bay Packers fan. As a family, we enjoy playing board games together and also playing as a couple. I love board games so much that I am actually in the process of making one, with Blaise being my go-to play-tester. We have a big selection of a variety of kids’ books, classic novels, and Catholic books that we’ve acquired through thrift stores, library sales, and garage sales. We have a routine of reading to our kids each night. We try to spend a lot of time outside on beautiful days.
Fatherhood is one of the most demanding jobs. How do you balance songwriting with raising your three children?
Since I work and record out of my home, balancing work and family can be a challenge. Recording music usually takes place when the kids are out with Calena (my wife) for a playdate or errands, and sometimes late at night when everyone is sleeping. In the rectory, the upstairs is exclusively for my work and for guests. I have a recording studio with decent quality microphones, instruments, and gear. During the day, I spend time writing, practicing, and editing my music. I also run my own website and YouTube channel. I book and organize my own concerts. I promote my music and produce my merch (CDs & T-Shirts) through different online websites.
On a typical day, our main family time takes place from around 4:00 pm to 7:30 pm. We play sports and simple games in our yard or at the park, with my wife and I switching off doing short workouts during that time. We come back and eat dinner and do the dishes together. We then pray the Rosary together with the kids doing a puzzle or playing quietly (sometimes not so quietly) in the background. My wife is a stay at home mom who is a great cook and homeschool teacher. I am grateful for her steadfast sacrificial love for me and our children.
What advice would you give to those who might be struggling with fatherhood?
For any struggles, if you are blessed to be Catholic, I cannot overstate the importance of the Sacrament of Confession. Asking God for forgiveness for our failings and omissions is so important because God both takes away our sins and sends us grace to be better in the future.
Overall, it is important for us to try to see our children as God sees them. In my opinion, a good father must be merciful to His children, quick to overlook their faults but not enabling them to selfishness. He must be just in calling them to a high standard of goodness, first by his own example and then by being present, clear, firm, and consistent.
Jacob Rudd notes that the hardest part of his musical mission is maintaining his role as a provider for his family. He asks that those who enjoy his music and wish to see more might support his fine product, which interested parties can do by joining his support team on his website. Pledges to Jacob Rudd Music come with some perks including: musical downloads of all past and future releases, Padre Pio and St. Therese T-shirts, and fans can even request that Rudd write songs about particular saints, passages of scripture, or other appropriate themes.