Story Behind the Song: Jo Dee Messina, ‘That’s God’

In 2010, Jo Dee Messina released an EP trilogy, the Unmistakable series. Unmistakable: Inspiration, the final of the three projects, includes a particularly personal song, “That’s God.”

Messina was in the midst of some personal struggles when she and bandmate Brent Rader co-wrote “That’s God.” She’d been inspired and reminded of the presence of a higher power during a work trip to Canada, and after Rader heard her tell the story onstage, he encouraged her to turn it into a song.

Below, Messina shares the story behind “That’s God” in her own words.

“”That’s God” just came to me. I had just gone through a year and a half of battling with my label, trying to get them to release an album; several singles had been pulled.

It was a really trying time, and I was hanging on by a thread. I think, at that point, I had tunnel vision: I was like, “Oh, God, where are you? Why are you letting all this happen? Where are you right now?”

My son was six months old, and we were in Canada. We went for a walk on our day off in Jasper, up in the Canadian Rockies. On the walk, I saw the most incredible view: It was July, 85 degrees, I’m in a tank top and shorts, and right in front of me, so close you could touch it, is a snow-covered mountain. At the bottom, there was a turquoise lake, called a glacier lake, formed from the runoff of the mountain — crystal clear, just stunning.

I couldn’t get my brain around it. I’m wondering: What’s my son thinking? He just become aware that he wasn’t the only thing in the world, that there are things moving around. When people smile, he had just started smiling back. He’s just found out there are things on Earth, and so I looked at him and I said, “Look, Noah, right there, that’s God.”

I told that story onstage, and my band member Brent Rader said, “We need to write that song.” So, we did.

“We see God in miracles, but people overlook him in all the small stuff. Just in the moment, when I thought God was not around, he showed up right in front of me in that majestic scene. I was so small in the midst of that. It was one of those moments where you realize the world is beautiful.

You just have to take your head out of your butt and open your eyes. God’s here; he’s everywhere. There’s happiness everywhere, there’s hope everywhere — we just have to open our eyes every once and a while. That’s what this song is: It’s that “a-ha moment” of “Okay, God’s here, Jo Dee.”

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