Passion, inspiration and true, raw talent are all things most musicians have in their blood.
Covington is home to some of the most talented musicians around, and Judah Swilley, known by his stage name "JUDAH," is among them.
His music is a mix of "hip hop" and "pop," or as he calls it "hip pop."
And while many artists strive to just make it to the top with hopes of reaching and maintaining celebrity status, Judah wants to go beyond that — to actually make a difference in the world.
For this 22 year old, youth is no barrier. He is a full-time musician, youth pastor and CEO of his own nonprofit organization called "Ignite.’’
Born in Conyers, but raised in Covington, he was born into a family known for its many talents.
His father Jim Swilley, is pastor of two congregations, Church in the Now East and Church in the Now Midtown.
His mother Debye, is active in both churches and as a motivational speaker. Older brother Jared is lead singer of the popular band The Black Lips, and younger brother Jonah is a musician as well.
"I’ve always had a spotlight on me because of my family’s accomplishments," Judah said. "I think that fame can either make or break you. The pressure to live up to everyone’s expectations can be daunting, to say the least. However, I chose to use the spotlight to my advantage and make it work for me.’’
Judah started a rock band at the age of 12, was part of a hip-hop duo at age 19, and is now working on his "hip pop," and experimenting with an acoustic/indie sound.
He said he’s been influenced by one of the world’s most acclaimed bands: The Beatles, and he’s inspired by music that you can actually "feel" and not just hear.
"I tend to listen to a lot of older music and try to shake it up with different sounds and genres. I feel that it’s important to break out of the box that is ‘your’ music and explore what else is out there," he said.
Being a musician also allows Judah to write his own music.
"When a situation causes a lot of energy, whether positive or negative, that is usually when my best music is created. I’ve learned to seize those opportunities and make them work for me creatively."
Judah became an ordained youth pastor in 2009 at Church in The Now, which has moved locations from Conyers to Covington at 13183 Harland Drive NE.
"I love being able to speak into young people’s lives and help them achieve their dreams, fight through their battles and build an awesome relationship with Christ… I will be doing some form of ministry for the rest of my life because it is a great passion of mine. Whether or not I will have my own church someday is in God’s hands. If I feel that move for my life, then I’ll make it at the right place and right time."
But for now, Judah is focusing on what he sees as a "movement.’’
"Everything I write is to be used as a tool to make a radical impact on the world. Music is just the vehicle to gain the platform to influence the impact."
He recently wrote a song called "No More Bullies" to help promote an anti-bullying campaign.
"The purpose of the song is to start the conversation on bullying and what we can do to stop it. I will be launching a No More Bullies campaign when I drop the song this fall. We will be going to schools and presenting a way to put an end to bullying," said Judah, who experienced bullying firsthand as a child.
"The worst part is there are still people acting like bullies as adults. The bottom line is we’ve got to stop treating each other in a way that is detrimental to our well-being — no matter what age we are."
He also works hard on his nonprofit organization "Ignite." Started in 2011, the organization "ignites small organizations with big ideas by raising awareness, supplies and funds for their cause."
They accomplish this through the events and concerts they put on throughout the year. You can check out more about this organization and its next event at IgniteYourWorld.org.
"A lot of people accuse the hip-hop world of being totally disrespectful, degrading and detrimental to society. I don’t 100 percent disagree with that notion, because it is largely those things; however, there is a movement of positive music on the rise. To me, if it’s not negative, it’s positive.
In other words, I believe you can write about real life issues and even fun, comical concepts without causing harm to young minds. I aim to do that with my music, adding just enough flair to avoid corniness.
"My music is real, fun and even daring at times, but I never want to be responsible for someone destroying [his or her] life by promoting some of the things the hip-hop industry promotes… The bottom line is it’s a new day for hip-hop, and I believe we’re going to ignite a movement of music that everyone can enjoy from ages 9-99, all while staying authentic and changing the world at the same time."
Having already completed one music video, "Atlanta Style,’’ that gained a lot of traction, Judah has been featured twice on 11 Alive. Well-known comedian and TV personality Jeff Foxworthy was featured in the video, and Foxworthy himself asked Judah to be part of his current show, "The Bible Challenge."
"We really got along well. He’s such a great guy and even helped promote the ‘Atlanta Style’ video."
Judah recently debuted another video, "Funk You," which is a fun dance video that is about enjoying life and just having a good time.
"The video has a ‘Harlem Shake’ feel to it, in that it features crazy costumes, funny situations, and of course, a catchy beat."
The video was released May 20 on YouTube, and has already received nearly 9,000 views. The success Judah has achieved so far and sees just around the bend inspires him to never give up on his dreams.
"Don’t quit," he said. Ninety-nine percent of people never make it simply because they stopped trying. Failure is a necessary step in the process of success… The key is to keep pushing with everything you have and eventually the world will match your passion with its attention.
"I believe that everyone is here for a purpose and sometimes the best way to find that purpose is to help the world. In helping the others, you begin to find yourself and are able to locate your purpose for life. I don’t believe we’re supposed to wait for the world to change — I believe we are the change."
Judah will be performing in Athens at Bishop Park on July 4 at 7 p.m.
You can also connect with Judah at OfficialJudah.com and "OfficialJudah" on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.