Jim Cole has been playing guitar since he was 14 years old. He started out writing jingles for advertising agencies out of Cincinnati. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, he had a rock 'n' roll band that attracted the attention of a fairly significant record label at the time. But a contemporary Christian festival he attended in 1974 changed the course of his life forever. A group called Andrae Crouch & The Disciples played what he called some of the most amazing gospel music he had ever heard.
"At the end of that three-day period, for lack of better terminology, I had a fairly radical conversion to Christ," Cole said.
After that experience, Cole picked up the acoustic guitar and started writing songs about faith issues. He wrote about what it's like to struggle and work through your faith, and what it really looks like to be a Christian in a post-modern era.
Cole will perform a free concert at 4 p.m. May 18 at First Presbyterian Church of Hilton Head Island.
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In the late 1980s, he started pursuing a solo recording artist contract and has been on the road ever since.
"I feel like the Lord has really blessed me," the Nashville artist said. "Every dream that I've had in regard to music has come true. I've been able to share my faith and see the world."
Cole has played Carnegie Hall on five different occasions. He has played across the United States, Europe and Asia. He has performed his acoustic folk/pop music for anywhere between 30 and 17,000 people.
Cole said people arrive at his concerts with so many different hurts and needs. He said there is no way he can remedy all that.
"Not to get too cosmic on you here, but when the holy spirit gets involved with the music and he begins to move among the people, then there's really amazing things that can happen," Cole said. "It can be on a very personal level, in ways that I could not have crafted or engineered or attempted even to meet the needs of those people."
He said it's great to see audience members leave his performances less encumbered than when they arrived.
"That's a beautiful thing for me," he said. "I love seeing that. Beyond that, being able to encourage people in their faith in a very gentle and respectful way, and also to maybe challenge others who may not have faith to pique their interest and perhaps introduce them to a thought that might, at some point down the road, cause them to come to faith."
Cole said some people have said his songs have helped them through difficult times. One man sent him a letter, writing that he had heard Cole's song on Christian radio and it touched him.
"To be able to speak into people's lives like that is great," Cole said. "I just want to encourage people to come and bring their friends, and I promise that I will be very gentle with them, and we'll have a wonderful evening. It's just very stripped-down, organic, acoustic music, just me and the guitar."
Follow reporter Amy Coyne Bredeson at twitter.com/IPBG_Amy.