Extraordinary People - Jimmy Mitchell
Have you found your life's purpose yet? For some people, like Jimmy Mitchell, it becomes clear through a moment of great tragedy. After suffering a terrible loss, the purpose for his life's work came into focus. Since then, he has profoundly influenced the lives of thousands of young people.
I first met Jimmy when he interviewed my daughters' band for his podcast. As we got to know him, it became clear he was truly an extraordinary person with a passion for changing lives, and I was curious to learn more.
So Jimmy, where did you grow up, and what was your family like?
Throughout childhood, we moved every few years for Dad's work - Georgia, Tennessee, Massachusettes, Alabama. We ended up in Atlanta by the time I was in middle school and stayed there through high school. With an older brother, younger sister, and parents who were high school sweethearts, these were joyful and adventurous years!
You’ve lived in lots of different places. What brought you to Nashville, and why did you decide to stay?
I studied business at Vanderbilt University as much for the beauty of its campus as for the city it called home. I've been slightly obsessed with Nashville ever since, so staying here after graduation was a natural fit. Constantly inspired by both the creative and faith community here, it would be difficult to call any other city home at this point.
I was listening to some of your piano music; it’s beautiful! How old were you when learned to play?
Thanks! I started playing piano when I was 10. I took classical lessons for the better part of 7 years, played in a classic rock band at one point, and got involved with a lot of church music along the way.
Do you play other instruments, too? What do you try to convey through the music you write?
I occasionally mess around on the guitar, but piano has always been the main thing. When I started composing original songs a few years ago, I wanted to convey beauty without words, a beauty that we're all made for and that ultimately points beyond us. While much of the personal inspiration behind my instrumental songs is rooted in faith, I think they also transcend the human experience enough to speak to every heart.
Tell me about your time at Vanderbilt and then seminary and how it has influenced and helped with what you are doing now.
Aside from studying business and human development at Vandy (something that should have been more my focus at times), I interned at record labels and artist management companies, studied and served abroad, and generally stayed up way too late with friends discussing life, culture, and theology. As you can imagine, the transition into seminary was intense but also quite natural. By the end of that one year at seminary, it was clear that I was called to a life of mission and evangelization but not necessarily the priesthood. I now spend most of the year traveling as a conference speaker and event host for retreats and camps all over the world. More and more, I've been able to hire help and train apprentices to expand our online presence, with new blogs, podcasts, and videos launching at LoveGoodCulture.com all the time.
Was there a turning point or specific event that changed everything for you and gave you a clear vision of your life's purpose?
My brother passed away in his sleep nearly six year ago. As you can imagine, it was a difficult and unexpected tragedy. In the months that followed, I began witnessing one miracle after another that were true signs of healing and hope. Mom and Dad reconciled after several years of divorce. My sister realized that she couldn't bring about the change in our family of origin that she wanted and had to be that change in the family that she'd one day start herself. She's now married to an incredible man and has two beautiful sons. Finally, I was feeling a lot of pain and bitterness about seven months after Bobby's passing. One night, I had a powerful moment in prayer that made me feel closer to him than I had ever felt during his earthly life. And in many ways, it confirmed a profound call on my own life - to be the older brother in the lives of young people that for whatever reason my brother couldn't be for me.
For the full story, check out the YouTube playlist below that tells the story of salvation history intertwined with a lot of my own testimony of beauty and pain, hope and redemption.
On your website it says, “Love Good, Beauty that transforms culture.” Would you explain this further, please? What role do young people play in the transformation of culture?
I am convinced more than ever that beauty is the last standing apologetic of our time, the last great defense of all that is good and truly human. Beautiful art, music, film, and literature play a hugely important role in changing the world - often one heart at a time. Even more important is the role that young people can play when they live life to the fullest, when they respond to their own personal call to holiness and greatness. The beauty of young people fully alive and aspiring to be saints together is enough to change the course of human history.
We first met when you interviewed my daughters for your podcast, and that led to an interview on Relevant Radio, a concert in New York for Catholic Underground, and an appearance at Summit in Milwaukee. All were amazing experiences (thank you!); how did you go from an ordinary kid from Atlanta to becoming a Connector in your field? I have a couple of natural Connectors in my family, so I know that it’s an inherent trait, but we can all improve at it. What advice would you give a young person just starting out?
Brilliant question! I agree that being a Connector is a bit more intuitive for some than others. For me, there is great joy in seeing great people come together. I'm always taking mental notes and actively seeking ways to connect people who would be blessed by knowing each other and sharing life together. It's more than mere networking or careerism. It's about being other-focused and helping weave the fabric of humanity away from individualism and more and more towards authentic community.
You’ve traveled all over the world doing speaking engagements. What have you learned about young people around the world? Any favorite places? Fun anecdotes?
While cultural expressions, food, and vernacular may differ across the world, all young people (like the rest of mankind) long to be known and loved. I know this is something the Cimorelli band sees in their travels too. Young people desire the beauty and joy that comes from authentic love.
I recently spoke to thousands of English schoolchildren during a six-week tour across the United Kingdom. Theirs is the only country I've ever seriously considered living in other than America, and I'm crazy about the history of their literary giants and martyrs. Over and over again, these young people approached me after talks and concerts asking to be baptized or confirmed Catholic. It was something about hearing the story of God's love affair with humanity through a lot of personal testimony and original songs. It affected many of them deeply. One girl in particular told me she'd never felt so loved in her entire life.
I consider moments and opportunities like that to be the greatest privileges of my life up until this point.
I hear you are something of a Renaissance man (I have a couple of kids like this, too, so I recognize it!), being a connoisseur of coffee and craft beer in particular. Tell me about how you dive headfirst into new interests, and what other things interest you?
Haha! Little holds me back from trying to turn every hobby and passion into a mission-driven business model. It doesn't work most of the time, but it's always an absolute blast to try. I hope one day for Love Good to expand far beyond music and events into books, coffee, beer, carpentry, and so much more! I love that! What’s next for you?
I ran the numbers recently and realized that I've spent 30% of the last two years out of the country and probably another 40-50% anywhere but Nashville. Next for me is slowing down a bit, "moving back" to Nashville this fall, and beginning a masters degree in theology. Most weekends will still be packed with retreats and conferences, but I'm greatly looking forward to a more Monday-through-Friday life in Nashville this upcoming year.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Here's to hoping that my path and those of your readers cross in the months and years ahead! My missionary adventures can be followed on Twitter and Instagram (@jimmypmitchell), and my two instrumental albums can be found on Spotify and Apple Music. Let's be saints together!
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