When Wade Bowen set out to record an album of hymns for his mother’s Christmas gift, he didn’t plan on releasing it publicly. Each song was chosen specifically for her, coming from a list of songs she grew up singing on Sundays in the Baptist church. But after she heard it, she encouraged him to let others hear the project.

“The songs were strictly for her,” he tells Taste of Country of the record. “This really had nothing to do with me. My father came to me and said, ‘I really wanna do this for her.’ I can’t take any of the credit for the selection."

The first listen was met with many tears as his mother heard her son sing the songs she loved and missed from her childhood, as she converted to Catholicism when she married Bowen’s father.

“We gave it to her Christmas morning. It’s chaotic and crazy at our Christmas, so we kind of got the chaos over with and then surprised her with it. She just started bawling crying, and my dad started bawling crying,” Bowen remembers.

The unique purpose of the album makes this one particularly special for Bowen, as it originally wasn’t meant for the world to hear.

“This one is so personal. When you make a record and you think it’s not gonna be released, you attack the thing in a different way,” he explains. “This is something I’ll never be able to do again. I will always have this story."

Fans have already been reacting in an overwhelmingly positive way, which came as sort of a surprise to Bowen, who released the record primarily online through his website and digital markets.

“We’ve sold a crazy amount; I’m shocked how many we sold,” he says.

He's been performing the hymns live as well, and has been blown away by the response to the gospel songs, even in bars.

“It’s been overwhelming to see the response. People love it. They sing along, and it’s just really cool. You’ve got standards like 'I’ll Fly Away' — people know the words. They’re not afraid, even in a bar. It’s a little weird being in bars and playing gospel music but I think people are really enjoying it,” he muses.

He says fans have even said they have already started playing songs from the album at funerals, and friends have told him the project has impacted them deeply.

“One of my buddies sent me this really nice letter saying how much in his faith it helped him,” he said. "It’s something where you’re like, ‘Man, this is really affecting people in a really cool way.’"

The record, now titled Then Sings My Soul: Songs for My Mother, includes 12 timeless hymns and was produced by singer-songwriter and close friend of Bowen’s, Sean McConnell, who has written tunes for artists including Scotty McCreery and Brothers Osborne. Tracks include well-known classics like “Amazing Grace,” “In the Garden,” and “How Great Thou Art."

Bowen is “always touring,” he says, and he’s starting to write for a new record, which he says he wants to take his time with.

“I’ve got some really cool things I want to do with it. I’ve chosen my producer and I’m writing like crazy for it,” he shares.

Another Hold My Beer project with Randy Rogers, as well as a live acoustic album, may also be on the horizon for the artist.

Fans can download Then Sings My Soul on Bowen’s website or on iTunes.

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