An interview with Jenny and Ryan Simmons, from the band, Addison Road.
While I was waiting for you, I spent some time with your daughter…
Jenny: Yeah, we just got off stage. That’s Anniston; she’s 17 months old. These night times can be crazy. We get off stage, catch our breath, put her to bed, and then we come back and sign autographs, tear down gear and get to bed at midnight. It’s a whirlwind.
You travel together. That’s pretty cool.
Jenny: This year Ryan said, I think I finally figured it out. And I was like, What? He said, Most guys get to take two weeks off a year and go on vacation with their families. I’m with you every single day. [Chuckles] It’s like we’re on a perpetual family vacation. And I was like, You are the luckiest man in the world then.
Plus you have no house to clean.
Ryan: That’s true.
Jenny: Well, right now, the bus is our house and with 13 people living in it, it’s a little bit of madness.
Life on the road is unique for you, compared to most married artists.
Ryan: Early on I thought it would be difficult, mixing work and business and navigating those blurry lines.
But as we’ve grown and the other guys in the band have to leave their wives — and now kids — and are gone for periods of time, we realize that we’re very fortunate in that we get to travel together and see each other every day. I wouldn’t trade it.
Jenny: I think the older you get, hopefully the more wisdom you have and the more you start seeing the beautiful aspects of the way you get to live. As his wife, being able to see him work as a business guy with integrity is wonderful. Those are things that a lot of wives don’t get to see their husbands do. And for him to be able to watch me do what I’m good at and for our daughter to be able to see both of us is pretty amazing.
How do you think marriage affects the way you are on stage?
Ryan: I think it directly relates. If we’re in a fight and miserable and hating each other right before we go on stage — that translates. I’m angry. I don’t want to be there. It’s all I’m thinking about.
Jenny: I agree. We’ve had so many rides where we’ll get in the bus at seven in the morning and we’re fighting about something and we’ve got to drive 15 hours yet that day. The poor guys in the back they’re like, La-la-la and plugging their ears.
It affects everything. You can’t give good counsel. You can’t encourage people to love each other in a deeper, healthier way. There are so many different things that you really can’t do if your relationship with your husband is in shambles.
We’ve had seasons of brokenness in our marriage, seasons of dryness, boredom or anger — highs and lows — and even in those I don’t think that makes us totally immune from being used by God. I think the graciousness of God, even in the midst of our brokenness when we are on stage and angry with each other, He can still somehow take something that I say or sing and use it to touch somebody else’s marriage.
How do you express spiritual intimacy together?
Ryan: It’s probably one of the biggest challenges because our job is doing just that: praying and singing and worshipping. Sometimes it’s hard to break that down. When you’re off the stage it’s the thing you want to step back from. It’s like I want to step away from that a bit because it’s what we do so much.
It’s the little moments. It will be moments we have with friends or our pastors back home and them seeing us in a different way than other people see us. There are those special moments when I think we click with each other and we can see it, we can sense it, and we know it.
Jenny: I know those moments you’re talking about. I think for us the best word to describe “spiritual intimacy” is rest — those moments where we tune out the world. We get on the bus after a show and just be together — the two of us and our daughter — and we reflect on what’s happened.
Like other couples that are saturated in the church world, we’re in a lot of prayer times and Bible studies together. I think getting away from those group settings and having those “together” moments and sharing what it is that you feel God has given you peace about or freedom from or things you’re struggling with. I think those are the little moments that define our spiritual intimacy.
I’m thinking that finding those “little moments,” it’s not easy.
Jenny: The more we’ve gotten into this lifestyle and this ministry, the more intentional we’ve had to be. The word “intentional” means a lot to us. It’s these moments of saying, Okay, we’re going to get away from everybody. Everybody is going to a movie tonight so we’re going to stay on the bus. We’re going to create space to be a family. Eat at the dinner table together.
Even little things with our daughter, when we walk in the hotel room we say, Okay, we’re home. I cringe every time I do, but Ryan smiles and says, This is home for the night, even though it might not look like everybody else’s home.
That’s something that I love about Ryan. From day one of our marriage, I came with so many fears: our marriage was going to fail; it was going to be unhealthy. I had a lot of bad examples of marriage in my life and he’s always been so good to say, No, this is our own thing. This is our marriage. This is you and I and God and we get to create this beautiful thing together. He’ll say, Let’s be intentional. Let’s be intentional and make moments to be a family. I think that kind of guides what home looks like on the road: we choose to create home wherever we’re at.
When is the last time you guys had fun together, just the two of you?
Jenny: The last few days we were home we sent Anni off with friends and she spent the night. Our thing is to lay low. We literally get to the house, put on our pajamas, order in pizza and watch a Cowboys’ game and lay around together. That’s fun.
What are you hearing from God?
Jenny: This has been a year of brokenness for us. Honestly, it’s been a hard year in every way possible. We had our van and trailer stolen twice and then got it back and got in a head-on collision and lost it a third time. When we started our spring tour, everything we owned was on this bus and it burned down. We lost $400,000 worth of stuff. We’ve had family members in the hospital and illnesses and bills that we can’t pay. It’s just been a year of brokenness.
But on the flip-side of that — I hate saying it because it sounds so cliché — it’s been such a beautiful year. I think God is growing us up. For a long time, as a band, we were just kids. Life was easy. We never really had to make any huge sacrifices. And this year it’s like we’ve gotten our taste of what it means to sacrifice. This is what it looks like for God to say, Follow Me here and do this ministry. And for you to feel like Jonah wanting to run the other way and say, No, thank you.
In the smallest ways, it’s been a glimpse into people’s lives that really know tragedy and suffering and pain. People around the world suffer in a way that Americans have no clue about.
Tell me about Mocha Club.
Jenny: Mocha Club is through an organization called African Leadership. They train pastors and young students on the ground in Africa to be better pastors and better leaders of the church. They train people to start different mission organizations, so it’s not Americans or Europeans going into their country and saving them or fixing them, but it’s training their people to train their people to train their people. That’s what I really like about it. I love that it’s helping people become self-sufficient and helping the Body of Christ develop much needed skills.
Through Mocha Club, you can pick a number of projects; we picked “The Village of Hope.” It’s a community for women who were abducted at some point and used as sex slaves. They live in Uganda. A huge part of the civil war there was using women as physical slaves. When they get on the flipside of that, they’re not welcome back home because they’re defiled and dirty. These women have kids and a lot of them have AIDS and there’s nowhere for them to go.
So these churches in Africa have created the Village of Hope for women to go with their kids. They have a bed, three meals and education for the kids and job skills for the women and a clinic. It’s a place where they start over again.
We all serve the same God and we’re all created by the same God who says, I redeem all stories, whether you’re a rich American life story or you’re a broken story from the middle of Africa. I’m the God that calls you all by name and is writing the story over all of you of redemption that one day you all get to be in the same place and worship Me and know Me. Until then you serve each other. And that’s what Mocha Club is.
Copyright © 2010 by Jim Mueller, President and co-founder of Growthtrac Ministries.