A Conversation with John Tesh


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John Tesh — Television host, recording artist, music director and syndicated radio show host — caught up with us to discuss his faith, family and career.

John, you’ve had an amazing career so far. You started up as an investigative journalist, sports reporter for CBS, music composer for World Wide sporting events, host of Entertainment Tonight for 10 years, jazz pianist, I could go on and on and on. You have such great versatility, John. What drives you to strive for the excellence that you do in everything?

It’s really passion. If you look at my career, it just looks like a road map for an ADD maniac (laugh). I surround myself with high order people, but I learned from my dad many, many years ago that making decisions based on money is the wrong way to go. And I’ve made some of those decisions.

For me, I listen to God. I try to have a conversation and say, “Okay, what is it, what do you see in my heart?” For the most part, that’s music. But I’m also at this point of my life just really trying to create anything that could be an encouragement to somebody else.

Is there one medium you enjoy more than the others?

That’s a great question. I don’t think anybody’s ever asked it like that. It changes. I used to love television. I grew up with Kronkite and with Ed Sullivan and you know stuff like that, but television ran out on me. It just got to the point where the program I was on, “Entertainment Tonight” — and I love those people there — but my kid, who was three or four years old at the time, and my eleven year old, my step-son, they couldn’t watch it, because it had changed. It had evolved into something that was really dangerous for kids to watch; I felt anyway.

So, I’ve gotten to the point where I love radio. I really love the idea of creating theatre for the mind. And I think it’s a much more creative medium.

John, tell us a little about your spiritual journey. How did you come to faith in Christ?

I grew up in the Methodist Church. People can really relate to this, I was “born” into the church. My mom and dad were very involved, my father ran the Sunday school, both my mom’s brothers were Baptist preachers, my mom ran the women’s auxiliary. So four days a week I was in church, and it was painful (laugh). It’s not like it is now with, like, multi-media and all that. It was just memorizing scripture and going to church camp and there was no relationship with Christ at all.

And then I went to college and I really had no foundation. It was the 70’s and I just sort of went crazy and enjoyed myself and did what I could to stay in school and to try and find myself — and tried to stay out of Vietnam.

And then, fast forward to meeting my wife about 13 years ago. She brought me to this tiny congregation, and it was different. It was teaching. It was like a Bible study with only 80 people there. And it was cool. It was like intelligence for your faith. It was like, here’s why you should believe. And the pastor was this ex-drug addict, alcoholic, Vietnam survivor who was a Jew and became a Jewish believer and studied under Bruce Wilkinson at Biola and Walk Through the Bible.

So all of a sudden I had a peer talking to me, my exact same age. And anybody who’s dodged cocaine addiction and bullets at the same time and gets out alive, is somebody you’re gonna listen to.

So, that was a defining moment for you during that time? And this is where he helped to guide you to Christ?

It really was. And the funny thing is people are like, “When did you become a believer?” Well, I became a believer when I was born in to the church, but I was born again certainly in this church. It was really a Proverbs 16:9 thing. God really ordered my steps.

At the same time, I met my wife. We were the only two people in a gym in Palm Springs. She was a crazy, Italian, powerful, scary woman. She brought me to that church, she sent me to Promise Keepers. I met Tony Evans. Tony Evans gave a message about not being a closet Christian and going public for God. Within eight months, I had left Entertainment Tonight and my pastor shepherded me and said “You need to start playing music that is honoring to God.”

So I was just being discipled by so many people, I didn’t have a chance (laugh). You know what I mean?

Well, how did coming to Christ impact that career in Hollywood, John?

What happened to me was, I was going to this church and I was doing Entertainment Tonight. So I was doing Entertainment Tonight during the week, then I’d show up for church on Sunday. I was playing in the worship band and enjoying myself and all that. And I’d go and read the birthdays, talk about Victoria Secret’s super models, and gossip and all the rest of the stuff.

One of our parishioners, who never spoke to anybody, comes up to me and she goes — it was almost like the church lady — and she says, “I have a question for you.” And I was like, “Ah, okay.” She goes “I know I’ve never spoken to you, but I have one question.” “What is it?” “How can you come to this church and lead worship and then go do that show? That horrible show.” I said, “Well, it’s not so horrible.” She goes, “But do you think it’s a good fit for your life?” And I’m like, “Ahhhhh, good question, I gotta go… (laugh)

And that’s really what happened. You got one foot in and one foot out. And so, thankfully, God put this amazing music career in front of me.

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And of course, that’s led to your syndicated show, “Intelligence for Your Life” which is reaching millions of listeners and it seems that it’s aimed at helping others cope with that every day life struggle. Who’s your target audience, John, and what do you hope to accomplish through this show?

My target audience is really my wife. She’s the one that’s responsible for this show because I just watched how she led her life and she couldn’t take what was on television, so she tried to watch things that gave her information on how to live her life a whole lot better. And sometimes that would be Dave Lyon, sometimes that would be the Today Show or things like that.

Then she got newsletters and she would read magazines and she would watch Dr. Phil. And she said, “We could do something on the radio like this and why don’t we try and create a brand that’s completely different that’s actually family friendly?” Which, in this day and time, is unusual. So our target audience was women 25 to 65. Oddly enough we hit all adults — if you look at our demographics — from 8 to 65, because kids use this stuff for their homework.

So the idea was, if you can imagine yourself standing in front of the largest magazine rack in the world and suddenly magically every article that you need for your personal life jumps into your hands and then somebody who sounds like me whispers it to you. So we have people calling us saying it’s brain food, and we have people saying it’s home improvement for your brain, for your life.

As you know, Growthtrac is all about doing marriage God’s way. How has responding to the demands of your successful career and fulfilling your passion to help others impacted your marriage?

About 8 years ago, I just showed up at home with my tour schedule. It was like 40 dates or something like that. We had the tour all lined up and my wife was like “Really?”. It was like, “Oh, but I had this opportunity to do all this stuff and it will be great.” And Connie’s like, “Well, you know I’m not coming with you. I have my life here. And so that doesn’t really work for us.”

Doing all this stuff is great and you get encouragement from emails and phone calls from people saying “Oh my gosh, this song has changed my life or this piece of intelligence has helped my marriage.” But Dr. Dobson is one of those guys who said “You know what, John, I learned this the hard way. You need to be a dad and a husband first and then you can work on other people.”

So what I do is I just turn my schedule over to my wife. The funny thing is once you do that she’ll let you do more things anyway (laugh). I said, “Here are opportunities that I have and that we can have together” and let her take care of it and it’s taken the heat out of our marriage that way.

I would think that accountability is a real important issue, in the sense of saying, “I have boundaries and I’m focusing my life on doing life God’s way and impacting other lives.”

My belief is that everybody needs a board of directors. And the best companies in the world fail because the leader, whoever that might be, goes off on their own and starts making decisions because they feel all powerful. And pastors have done the same thing. And they get in trouble. So if you have that board of directors, we’ll just call it that but it could be accountability partner or partners, you’ll never get into that trouble. And if you do fail, they’ll be right there to help you.

Before we close, I have to tell you that “Worship at Red Rocks” is still one of our favorites.

Red Rocks is my favorite place to perform of any place on earth. Ten years ago I was able to change?well, allow God to change, my life by doing this amazing concert. It became this huge public television special and PBS ran it. So we wanted to go back 10 years later and just be real honest and have church there. So we got 10,000 people in there and we let the kids come in for free. And if you ever see the DVD, you see kids dancing and going crazy and just really enjoying it.

In the first “Red Rocks”, all the cameras are pointed at me. This time we said to the director, “We want most of your cameras pointed at the audience”. And we actually hired an extra two cameras just to be doing that. So we could see what was happening in there.

And what you see is kids 5, 10, 15 years old with 65 year olds and 45 year olds all dancing and singing together. And we have an opportunity, unlike a lot of other people, to get on Public Television. So this is now a Public Television special and largely because I have a relationship with them, but also because it’s Red Rocks and PBS understands Red Rocks.

So what people are going to be saying at home is “What are these songs, what are these people doing?” And you’d be surprised how many people in New York City have never seen this before. And that was the whole idea behind this.

Copyright © Growthtrac.

Read more about John at Tesh.com

Television host, recording artist, music director and syndicated radio show host – John Tesh has explored and succeeded in all of these facets of the entertainment industry. In a remarkably successful career that now spans more than 25 years, Tesh is known worldwide as a leading and respected figure in the entertainment and broadcasting industries. If you follow his career, it becomes obvious that music has always been Tesh’s main passion. In 1996, after 10 years as co-host of “Entertainment Tonight,” he surprised many by leaving the highly visible position to pursue his career as a fulltime musician.

With three gold albums and a career that includes six Emmys, two Grammy nominations, an Associated Press Award for investigative journalism, a Keyboard Magazine Award, several number one radio hits, three hit PBS specials and two tours as an Olympic announcer/composer, it’s obvious that Tesh has a drive for versatility.

Tesh lives in Los Angeles with his wife, actress Connie Sellecca, his nine-year old daughter Prima and his son, Gib.

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