It was a little over three years ago when Carson Britt, his wife, Jennifer, Ridge Grinstead and Jimi Bell, along with Jimi’s brother, started playing music together in a praise band based out of Hawkinsville, though the Britts are both from Cochran.
The band, called, The Barabbas Project, was formed, according to Carson Britt, “because there was a need to use the talents of those in our churches and a lack of contemporary worship here … the Lord has had His hand helping the band grow from there.”
He plays rhythm guitar and sings. Carson Britt is a music director and youth minister at the First Baptist Church of Hawkinsville, and serves as the band’s ‘leader.’
Britt said that the band’s purpose is to lead others to “worship and spirit and truth.”
As per the band’s name, Britt’s wife, Jennifer explained, “The band name was a long time bone of contention for us … Some (cough-Jimi-cough) thought that ‘Strawberry Waffles’ would be great,”
She continued, “Our friend and youth speaker, Will Snipes, preached one time about each of us Christians being Barabbas … because he is the one in the Bible, whose place on the cross was literally taken by Jesus. Our name reminds us that without God, we are not worthy. God uses imperfect people (like us) to carry out HIS perfect plans.”
Influenced by “Shane Bernard and Shane Everett, Chris Quilala, Kim Walker, Amos Lee, and Nora Jones,” Carson Britt said he learns when he can sit with other musicians and plays with them.
He said that, “my faith is my life. Without Christ, I have no identity. He is the one constant that I have in life … Worshiping Him (through music) helps me to stay focused on Him making me realize that where I am is where God wants me … life comes with hurdles but God makes those hurdles manageable … I couldn’t imagine facing what life brings without Him.”
“Life is… a matter of perspective … Look at it through Christ’s eyes and see where He takes you,” Britt said.
His wife, Jennifer Britt, agrees with her husband. “Starting our married life in a new place away from our family is a daily hurdle for me … My family means the world to me, so it is hard to be away from them.”
She said, “ Our music keeps me focused because God has revealed to me that this is where He wants me right now. My family couldn’t be prouder that I am responding to God’s call on my life.”
Jennifer Britt said, “Life is great, because God is on His throne … I am blessed.”
A special education teacher, she handles vocals mostly, though she said, with a smile, that she “dabbles in percussion now and then.” Her musical favorites include Kim Walker, Misty Edwards, Brooke Frasier, Taylor Swift, Nora Jones, David Crowder, Brad Paisley, Lady Antebellum and Moses Hogan.
She said that her musical influences were her high school chorus teacher and college choral director, and “my mom taught me to read music and love music, and the Barrabas Project band members-who have talent that I could only dream of!”
Ridge Grinstead, 23, of Hawkinsville, agreed with his bandmates and friends, “We started the band a while back to just play together at a youth lock-in one night at our church … it just grew from there after that.”
Grinstead, who is the percussion instructor and percussion ensemble director at Hawkinsville High School, plays drums and percussion. He said his favorite musicians are “Neil Peart, Steve Gadd, Alex Van Halen, my teacher Miguel Castro, and the list could go on and on … Hillsong, Jesus Culture, Chris Quilala….those are just some of the many that pop off the top of my head.”
He continued, “My faith is very important to me … I wake up thanking God everyday that He allows me another day to go and use my talents and teach kids music and drums.”
Music for Grinstead has served many purposes. “I’ve lived my whole life without my dad. He was killed in a car accident when I was around one years old … God gave me and my family the strength to pull together and live our lives without him. When I’m playing, nothing seems to go through my head,but glorfying and honoring Him. I go into this ‘zone where nothing can bother me or distract me from what I am trying do for my Lord and Savior.”
“Life can be difficult … because of all the hurdles that may be thrown our way that we have to overcome … it is not about me or my friends or you or the neighbor across the street … life is all about living for God and glorifying Him, and giving nothing but the best towards Him.” Grinstead said that is what The Barabbas Project strives to do.
Jimi Bell is still in the group – playing mostly in between college breaks and trips home. His brother went on to other things.
Dana Billingsly, 48, of Hawkinsville, is a photographer and painter by day, and plays bass in the band. “I was asked by the band members if I would like to join them and I gladly said, yes … because of their talent, dedication and love for the Lord.”
Billingsly said he is most influenced by Doyle Dikes (“favorite guitar player”), Chuck Leavell (“favorite piano player and good friend”), and Laurie Pettis – a vocalist/musician. “I grew up mostly listening to music on the radio and church.”
In fact, Billingsly has been playing guitar and bass guitar since he was 10-years-old.
“I try to focus on people who suffer worse than I am and pray for those people – understanding that all creation is under stress like never before, and I am always thankful for what God has given me … “ including being a part of The Barabbas Project.
Marla Garnto, a music teacher who lives in Hawkinsville, plays keyboard, percussion and sings. She has been with the band “approximately two years … I heard the group play at a discipleship weekend for youth that was hosted at our home church in Hawkinsville … shortly after, I sat in and played with them in a worship service.”
“Beyond the actual invitation to play with the band, I am drawn to the personalities of the group. It’s obvious that each members has a strong conviction to draw others closer to Christ,” Garnto said.
“It’s never about the music … it’s about how God uses those who are willing to serve,” she said.
Some of her favorite musicians include Sting, Chris Botti, Maroon 5, Coldplay, David Matthews, John Mayer … “But the musical influences on my personally were piano teachers and professors, Kathryn Tillson, Dr. Larry Scully and music teachers, Barbara Lawson and John Hillsman.”
Thinking about the band and its’ purpose, Garnto said, “Life is your mission field.”
The Barabbas Project has performed throughout the state at youth rallies, concerts and led worship for special events. For more information about The BarabbasProject, contact Carson Britt at (912)441-2213.