The Resurrection of Daniel Bashta

Words by Meredith Singer
Photos by Jaylon Jenkins

Daniel Bashta is running late. He’s apologetic while cheerfully explaining that he’s been bouncing between obligations at his studio and at a home he shares with his wife, Taylor, and their four kids. It’s a gentle and overcast Friday afternoon, so I order a coffee and settle in to wait. The café Daniel has selected is adorned with motorcycle gear and studded by young adults modeling themselves after the effortless cool of Steve McQueen and James Dean.

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I take the opportunity to brush up on Bashta’s biography: He’s a multi-instrumentalist who grew up traveling the world with missionary parents; he released his first album, The Sounds of Daniel Bashta, in 2011 and charted in the U.S.; he’s since released several more Christian albums and penned hit singles for the Newsboys, Third Day, the David Crowder Band, and more; and he organizes a host of community-driven ventures under his umbrella non-profit, GoMotion Worldwide. In all of my preparation, it’s clear that Daniel doesn’t shy away from big sounds and even bigger ideas.

A young man in a black Bethel Music hoodie quietly wanders by and takes a seat by the window. I smile. The moment seems fortuitous and, not long after, Daniel Bashta strides in. He’s enthusiastic and earnest in his greeting: “It’s been an intense couple of weeks." Within moments it becomes clear that Daniel is a chatty guy with a fast mind, so I throw on my voice memo and we dive in. He’s wearing an intriguing ball cap bearing the image of a matador kneeling before a bull. About 45 minutes into our wide-ranging conversation spanning art, faith, family, addiction, and both personal and systematic disruption, I ask him about the significance of the hat. “There’s this constant fight,” he admits. “This constant struggle. I think creating can be a bullfight."

For years, the bull has defined Daniel Bashta. One of his earliest spiritual forays involved work in Amsterdam where his eyes opened to a more radical form of ministry. He glimpsed a socially permissive culture where bar-going misfits also functioned as change agents. Daniel found a vigorous and spirited approach to the church that he carries with him to this day. “We haven’t had the space and the freedom to ask questions and to evolve without being labeled as a heretic, or a rebel, or someone who has lost their way,” Daniel explains as he speaks about the more rigid aspects of our country’s systems surrounding faith. “As soon as you start deconstructing the foundation, or the formula, or the establishment, all of a sudden you become this threat."

His most famous song, “Like A Lion (God’s Not Dead),” came from a place of frustration with the bureaucracy surrounding the church. After being pressed to quell his spirit by an employer, he penned the line: “My faith is dead. I need a resurrection." He felt the line would be controversial within a worship setting but, after all, that was the point. “It came out of disrupting the mega systems of the church.” Daniel further explains, “This disruption thing: you can’t kill it, you can’t cage it, you can’t suppress it. Whether you embrace it or not, it will rise and it’s exciting when that happens.”

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Despite having turned this creative spirit outward with so much force, there is restlessness on Daniel’s tongue. As our conversation winds on, it becomes clear that he is after something else these days: his own disruption. “I hit a wall,” he confesses. “For me, 2019 is all about resetting and re-centering and creating out of wellness." Channeling a bit of the bullfighter’s grace and humility, Daniel explains that means giving up his dependency on alcohol, diving deep on his own fears, and redefining what success means now. “Growing up, playing music, we’ve seen success. We’ve played in stadiums, we’ve written songs that have done all the things we want them to do. And I think now, while those things are beautiful, success is defined as, What does wholeness look like?”

Daniel’s energy for challenging the status quo makes him a natural entrepreneur and organizer. For this next chapter, he is pouring himself into songwriting, family, travel, and the development of GoMotion Worldwide. The nonprofit is a global collective of creatives centered around music, various forms of media, and events. Everything GoMotion does is inspired by the idea that faith isn’t static, it’s a constant act of questioning, dreaming, and doing. He runs a podcast and event series called LINUS Talks, inspired by the Greek myth of a musician who was struck dead in rage by a lazy and complacent student that he reprimanded. Guests have included chef Ford Fry, musician John Mark McMillan, and popular podcaster Drew McClure. Daniel is also hosting Table, a supper club that seats creative leaders and dreamers with each other for a night and lets the rest unfold.

After spending years of singing and sending his voice out into the world, Daniel Bashta is now drawing people together and promoting the voices of people he admires; and In this particular moment, as he is working on wellness and divisive forces permeate our lives, the heart of Daniel's work is communion. We’re all a bit of both, after all: the fighter and the bull. Sometimes the hardest fight is that battle for balance and, to that end, Daniel would admit: “We all need to get outside our comfort and get hungry.”