By Wade Coggeshall
AVON — Life didn't start too easily for Garrett Godsey.
The 16-year-old Avon High School junior spent the first week of his life in Riley Hospital for Children. He had fluid in his lungs.
"It was fairly serious," said Godsey, seated on a couch in his parents' basement. "They called me a miracle baby because they said I shouldn't have survived."
He credits God for saving him. He's had no related problems since. In fact, what makes it even more impressive is that Godsey has embarked on a music career for the last four years, with continually impressive results.
"Maybe that had something to do with it - strong lungs," he said of his survival and now burgeoning craft.
Godsey is surrounded by framed pop culture posters and musical instruments. His parents' basement is a hub for his band's practices.
It's been an especially Merry Christmas for Godsey this year because his song "Grown Up Christmas List" was listed as an "add" for Billboard's Mainstream Top 40 chart. It's available for purchase on major online retailers like iTunes and Amazon.
Not bad for someone who has only been writing music for about four years. Godsey's interest in music goes back much further than that though. His parents were always playing music around the house and Godsey has been singing as long as he can remember.
"I realized what I wanted to do when I walked into a store and saw a guy playing guitar on TV," he said. "I thought it seemed logical. Every cool kid plays guitar."
His parents bought him a starter guitar for Christmas when he was 7. Lessons followed.
"It didn't take me very long to get everything down - the basics," Godsey said. "That's all I really need for what I do right now."
By age 11 he felt ready to try writing his own music, though Godsey was 12 by the time he finished his first song. He considers it "terrible, but it felt good writing it."
Godsey still made a recording and posted it to his MySpace page. It garnered enough positive feedback to convince him to keep writing. One such attempt was inspired by a story Godsey saw on a TV news broadcast. It was about a teen-age girl who had texted a nude photo of herself to her boyfriend, who proceeded to forward the photo to several other people. The girl ultimately committed suicide.
"It struck me so deep that I wrote (a song called) 'Digital Demon' to help tell her story," Godsey said. "She felt like she had to commit suicide, and I'm trying to turn that around - to keep people from feeling that way or to ever get in that situation in the first place."
Godsey ended up teaming with Get Real - a local teen mentoring group - to make a video for "Digital Demon" and perform it at some of their events.
"It just became this huge thing, and the first steps toward getting my name out," Godsey said.
His next song, "Hope Hold On," was about a teen named Hope who had a similar experience, though Godsey considers it more of a revival than a story song. He met Hope's mom after performing the track at a Get Real event.
"It was a really cool experience," Godsey said. "I knew at that point music is something I want to do. I enjoy performing and impacting people's lives through the help of God."
Scott Godsey, Garrett's father, has noticed the effect Godsey's music has had on listeners. There was his song, "Where Are You Now," that Godsey performed at the funeral for his uncle and Scott's brother.
"All who were in attendance could feel the impact and healing power of the song," said Scott, adding that he's seen similar feedback on Godsey's music through social media. "The teens can especially relate to Garrett, because he has gone, and is going through, some of the same range of emotions they are going through."
By this point, Godsey was getting attention outside of local circles. He met a producer who wanted to record him. Godsey made professional versions of "Digital Demon" and "Hope Hold On," plus a new song. He wasn't entirely satisfied with the experience though.
"It wasn't the image I was trying to go for," Godsey said. "I want to be known as a Christian artist. One song was written about a girl, the other two were about sexting."
He vowed to double down on writing more spiritual fare. Godsey has always considered himself religious, though admits, "There was a period in my life when I was confused. I didn't know if God was real."
He credits Drew Hildenbrand, the student ministries pastor at Brownsburg's Church at Main where Godsey is a member, for helping to bring him closer to God. Hildenbrand, however, considers his influence to be negligible. He remembers Godsey struggling with whether to pursue music professionally, and if it should be to serve God or his own interests.
"It's like with anyone - the longer you listen to somebody, the more they'll tell you where they're at," Hildenbrand remembered of their conversation. "It was really just a matter of letting him talk his way through what he was most afraid of and what he was most encouraged by."
Yet at the time, Godsey's love of music was competing with another interest - football. At 6 feet 3 inches, he was playing defensive end for the Avon Orioles.
"They ended up clashing a bunch," Godsey said of football and music. "I'd have a concert and a football game both on the same day. I just kept praying, knowing I had to make a decision on one."
The team was practicing three times a day just before the start of the season and Godsey's sophomore year. He ended up suffering a concussion during the first practice one day, but didn't know it and proceeded to participate in the next two. By the time it was discovered, Godsey was in such bad shape that he could only attend school for half-days that first semester.
"That took away everything that used brain activity except for soft music," said Godsey, who was finally cleared of his concussion last summer. "God taking away everything except for music was His plan."
As if that wasn't a clear enough indicator of which path Godsey should take, he got an e-mail from Aaron Rice, a Nashville-based producer who has worked with some major acts in Christian music. Rice wanted to produce a full-length record for Godsey, a project that became "The Way I See it Now," released last April on Heartspark, Godsey's own imprint. He spent weekends from October 2011 to January '12 recording the album in Nashville. It includes the song "Spark," a duet with former Hawk Nelson vocalist Jason Dunn, one of Godsey's favorite bands.
"It was crazy trying to keep everything - school and music - on track," Godsey said of the experience. "I was trying to write songs in my free time and do homework."
Now backed by a band comprised of fellow Church at Main members, Godsey has been playing as many shows as his schedule allows. Many of those are in churches.
"That's a lot of fun because you get to let out the inner pastor," Godsey said. "That's when you really get into singing Christian music, when you're fully committed to God. You have to be careful with that in places like schools. But we don't really hold back. We're always 100 percent toward God."
There's something about performing in secular venues that drives Godsey too.
"That's when you can really reach people," he said. "People who aren't really full in it with God, those are the people you can hit the most. You want them leaving wondering if they can feel like this more often."
For more information, visit Godsey's website at GarrettGodsey.com.