“I had a strong desire to share the gospel and felt the call to preach.”
Born and raised in the working-class town of Kilmarnock, Scotland, faith didn’t play a part in Kimmett’s life early on. He excelled at soccer, was part of the Scottish National Youth Squad and was even scouted by professional clubs like Scottish champions Celtic FC.
At the same time, music was becoming a serious interest. “The first cassette I ever wanted was Michael Jackson, Dangerous,” Kimmett shares. “I heard his voice on the radio and said, who is that? I had to have it.” He taught himself to play guitar, a 16th birthday gift from his father and entered his town’s Pop Idol contest (a precursor to American Idol in the states). He won the contest, sparking a deeper interest in pursuing music full-time. Due to school schedules, he was forced to choose between sports and music. Giving up sports, particularly when a successful soccer career seemed likely, was difficult, but such was Jamie’s newfound love for music.
After graduating from Napier Music School in Edinburgh, Scotland in 2008, Kimmett posted a few demo tracks on MySpace and was soon contacted by a manager in Los Angeles who offered to fly him to America. He arrived in LA to a team of people ready to make his ambitions in the music industry a reality.
While in LA, he made friends and worked with some of the biggest names in songwriting: Steve Porcaro (member of Toto and songwriter of “Human Nature”), Randy Jackson (American Idol), Babyface (Al Green, Whitney Houston, Bruno Mars), Jeff Silbar (songwriter of “Wind Beneath My Wings”), Erik Griggs (Chris Brown, Boyz II Men) and Michael Sherwood (songwriter on Thriller). He even got the opportunity to sing on demo tracks sent directly to Michael Jackson. “I was working with some of the biggest names in pop, getting through the right doors, all the while, people kept inviting me to church with them, in LA of all places.” God’s pursuit of Jamie started to become apparent.
“It’s like God was bringing all these people to talk to me one after the other. It got to the point where I’d be in line at Starbucks, turn around and someone would ask, ‘Do you know Jesus?’ and I’d reply, ‘No, I’m just here for some hot chocolate.’” Despite constant invitations to attend church, Kimmett maintained his distance from anything relating to God or faith. “I was living my life as if God didn’t exist. I wasn’t an atheist, it just wasn’t something I thought about.”
Finally, a friend persuaded him to attend the Dream Center in LA. “The first thing I noticed was they were feeding and providing shelter for the homeless. I’d always thought religion was an inward experience. Being at the Dream Center was the first time I saw faith in Jesus as making a difference in the world. It challenged the presuppositions and prejudices I’d developed about religion.”
God continued to pursue Kimmett in even more direct ways. “I was in a session with this unbelievable guitarist and I was badgering him about his technique. He smiled and said, ‘We’ll get together to talk about it, but, I want to ask you a question. Will you go to church with me?’
Amazed I said, ‘You too?! Why is everyone in LA obsessed with God?’” Kimmett declined the invitation and instead went to the gym to prepare for the next day’s photo shoot. “I get to the locker room and open a locker and there’s this book inside. The front said Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6). I looked around the room, sure there’d be someone there like I was on the Truman Show. But no one was there.” It was a defining moment. God had been chipping away at his heart, piece by piece, and was starting to get through. “In that locker room, I said to God, ‘Are you real? Do you exist? If you are real, the next church invitation I get, I’ll go.”’
A few days later, the invitation came. Kimmett went with a friend to a small Pentecostal church in Bakersfield, CA. “I went from the Priests in my Scottish Catholic school to people dancing down the aisles whilst praying in tongues. I remember asking, ‘Do these folk need to see a doctor?’ I had no idea what was going on.” But it was the message that truly grabbed his attention. “The pastor spoke from Genesis chapter 3 and I thought, yeah, I know this story, the one with the talking snake and the apple.” As the pastor spoke, Kimmett’s perspective began to shift “I realized it wasn’t just a story! it explained why the world is the way it is, why even though there were good things happening in my life, there was still an emptiness, a brokenness that wouldn’t go away.” The pastor explained that emptiness comes from being separated from God by sin. “It’s the first time I understood sin wasn’t just a religious concept, it was a reality in my own heart.” He wept throughout the service, the message of the gospel piercing him deeply and significantly. It was a dramatic conversion. He was now a believer. “From then on, my life became about Christ. It was a personal relationship, not abstract or keeping rules. The magnitude of realizing Jesus died on the cross for me was an overwhelming experience and became the most beautiful and important hope in my life.”
Within a week of finding faith, Kimmett was invited to the biggest music meeting of his life, a meeting with a major pop record label. Performing in their offices, he impressed the executives and was offered a record deal, the very thing he had dreamed of since his 16th birthday. “The label was all in,” he shares, “and offered me the dream, the thing I’d been working so hard to get. But I was having a huge spiritual check, like, would this be good for my faith? I told them I needed to go home to Scotland and think about it.”
Upon arriving home, Kimmett went to a church he picked from Google search results and knocked on the door. “A woman opened the door and I said, ‘Jesus has saved me.’ She said, ‘That’s wonderful! Come in.”’ After the service, Lorna, the woman who had opened the door, took him to coffee to hear his story. He told her about the record deal and his dilemma. She told him God always speaks through His Word and asked if he would be willing to read the Bible with her. Kimmett agreed. “The passage was from Leviticus. It was a surprising Old Testament verse she shared with me. It said, ‘Thou shall not sacrifice your firstborn to the gods of Moloch.’ I said to Lorna, ‘I know you mean well but I’m not seeing the relevance to my situation.’ Lorna repeated that God always speaks through His word.”
Kimmett flew back to LA for a second meeting with the executives. The dream record deal was sitting on the table, ready to sign. “I’m sitting in the conference room with the President, the execs and my lawyer, pen in hand, unable to say yes…questioning if this is what God wants me to do.” After a few minutes of silence, one of the executives, exasperated with his hesitation, gave an ultimatum. “The deal is today,” he said. “There are people who would sacrifice their firstborn child for this opportunity.” The verse from Lorna’s Bible study flashed through Kimmett’s mind and he had his answer. God had spoken through His Word. Even in his brand-new faith, he knew pursuing God was more important than pursuing fame. He walked away from the deal.
Now, back in Scotland, Kimmett wrestled with what came next. “On the one hand, I was thrilled to get such clear guidance in following God’s will, but on the other, I was devastated to lose the record deal.” His family couldn’t understand his decision, why he would walk away from such a huge, life-altering opportunity. As he tried to explain the depths of his newfound faith, Kimmett threw himself into the church and reading the Bible, learning to unpack scripture and how to apply it. God went from being experiential to being something tangible and accessible. He began sharing the gospel with anyone who would listen. “I had a strong desire to share the gospel and felt the call to preach.”
Kimmett enrolled in the Cornhill Training Course, part of The Proclamation Trust, an organization that trains men for preaching and pastoral ministry. His first placement was with an Anglican church in Hampstead, London and then with a Baptist church in Hammersmith. During the week, he would apprentice with the church pastors and on Saturdays he would busk in front of Big Ben to pay rent and put food on the table. “I’d sing 4 hours of pop covers, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, John Mayer, and the last hour I’d sing about Jesus.” He hardly made any money singing songs about his faith but found fulfillment in ministering to people. “Every week I’d be so excited to finish the pop stuff and get to worship. It got to the point where I didn’t want to do the pop stuff anymore, but I had to pay rent.” The next week Kimmett showed up and, instead of launching into pop hits, he prayed and heard God say, “Seek first the kingdom of God.” (Matt 6:33)
Feeling led, he played his own Christian songs instead of the pop covers and within three hours, made more than double his usual take. “It wasn’t about the money, but about the Lord’s promise to take care of me. I mean, strangers approached me saying serve God with your music, handing me 50 quid notes, and all the while the scripture to honor God first was burning in my heart. I determined in that moment, from now on my music and faith come together.”
Nearing graduation from The Proclamation Trust, Kimmett considered his next steps. “When I was preaching, I wanted to do music. When I was doing music, I wanted to preach.” Doing both music and sharing the gospel seemed to be the answer, which led him to the Christian music capital of the world, Nashville, TN. Kimmett saved up enough money busking to make the journey back to America without a single contact or meeting set up. All he had was a strong belief that God was leading him to Nashville. Through cold-calling churches and a contact from his time in L.A., he found a place to stay and got a meeting with Reunion Records/Sony Music. They liked what they heard and signed him to a record deal and publishing deal. But success isn’t the end of the story or even the prize. “When music was my identity, I was only as good as the next song I wrote or the next performance. Finding a relationship with Christ has been the most fulfilling thing in my life” At 16, he never imagined becoming a recording artist would include finding transformative love in a God who saves, but that suits him just fine. “Where once there was emptiness, I’m now called His child.”
Now, with new music ready to be released and tour dates with artists like Zach Williams and for KING & COUNTRY, Jamie Kimmett’s truth-fueled songs and soulful pop vocals are set to carve a new ministry path, combining his gift for songwriting with his passion for sharing the gospel.