Blaine Larsen (Photo submitted)
When his song, “How Do You Get That Lonely” hit No. 18 on the country music charts, Murfreesboro resident Blaine Larsen was just 18 years old. And in 2009 when George Strait cut Larsen’s song, “I Gotta’ Get to You,” he was only 23.
With seven of his country music singles charting in the Top 50 and tour gigs with Kenny Chesney, Gretchen Wilson, Brad Paisley and Trace Adkins under his belt, many believed Larsen was poised for major success.
“Blaine is one of the best male county singers in Nashville today,” said Nashville lead guitarist Matt McAtee.
People Magazine described Larsen’s voice as a “warm baritone reminiscent of his inspirations, Merle Haggard and George Strait.”
However, God had other ideas for Larsen, said his friend and mentor Bill Howard.
In fact, in late 2011, Larsen posted a video on his Facebook page notifying fans that he was leaving county music, both as a performer and songwriter, to become a stateside missionary with Search Ministries, an outreach to professional men.
Two years later Larsen has no regrets.
The business of country music always felt like a “glove that didn’t fit,” Larsen said.
This month, Larsen entered the Nashville branch of Dallas Theological Seminary to pursue a master’s degree in Christian leadership. That’s quite an about face for a kid who didn’t grow up in a Christian home and who, until his marriage in 2005, considered himself an atheist or agnostic, Larsen said.
“I thought Christians were hypocrites and pushing their morality on other people,” said Larsen, who lives in Rutherford County.
For many who know him, Larsen’s story is a fulfillment of Proverbs 16:9: “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.”
Larsen grew up in Buckley, Wash., a small town about the size of Woodbury, Tenn. His father left the family before Larsen was 6 years old and, eventually, his mother married the man who would take his place.
Larsen credits his stepfather with introducing him to country music. He later wrote a tribute to him titled, “The Best Man.”
When barely into his high school years, the relative of a school friend introduced Larsen to Nashville songwriters Rory Lee Feek and Tim Johnson.
They released Larsen’s first album when he was just 18. Six months later, BNA Records signed the young prodigy and re-released “In My High School” under the name “Off to Join the World.”
Also in 2005, Larsen married Sammie. Within months, the young couple moved to Nashville. With Larsen’s songs moving up the chart and his name appearing in major publications, Larsen and Sammie were experiencing great excitement, but their marriage was quickly degrading.
“We didn’t know what marriage was and what we’d committed to,” Sammie said.
Concerned about the direction they were headed, Larsen’s manager, Clint Higham, introduced the newlyweds to Howard, who founded and still runs Search Ministries in Nashville and speaks at Family Life conferences across the U.S.
“I just remember him being so young,” Howard said.
Larsen said of Howard, “He’s probably the most influential person in my life.”
One of the conditions Sammie gave for dating Larsen was that he had to come to church with her.
As he recalled that time in his life, Larsen said the people in that church began to soften his heart toward the gospel, but he still had big questions about Jesus.
Howard patiently counseled the couple, and he answered Larsen’s nagging questions. Soon, Jesus Christ became the center of their marriage and the Bible became Larsen’s constant companion, he said.
“I just couldn’t get enough of it,” Larsen said.
Larsen started sharing his new-found faith with others in the industry and it felt right, he said.
As Christ began to take over Larsen’s heart, Howard said, the young musician’s priorities began to change.
McAtee, who spent several months on tour with Larsen, recalled how he witnessed the transformation first hand.
“Blaine always cared more for other people than he did for himself,” McAtee said. “I’ve always known Blaine to be a deep thinker, and his integrity is something to be admired.”
So, the decision to leave country music wasn’t a surprise to his friends.
“It’s the perfect thing for him,” McAtee said of Larsen’s decision.
“This guy is really special, Howard added. “God has his hand on him.”
These days Larsen said he spends his time hanging out in coffee shops and group settings with men who question their faith and have no faith at all, and he is eager to continue his passion of engaging other men in conversations about God.
“We create an environment for men who aren’t going to come to church,” Larsen said, “to come together to ask the hard questions.”
Larsen may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about the work of Search Ministries and its vision, visit www.searchnashville.org.