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Jessie Clark Funk 'follows the light' with her latest album

Ask Jessie Clark Funk about her life, and she might tell you about the dream that didn't come true — how when she was 14 she signed a recording contract with an independent affiliate of Sony Records and spent four months as a budding pop star. Before she realized that world was not for her.

It's OK, she will tell you, because she still has "A Million Dreams To Go."

Ask Jessie about her desires, and she might tell you how she's found her "Place In This World" — as a singer, but also as a wife and mother.

Ask her how she got where she is, and she might tell you how she put in faith in God, how she told him "You Know Better Than I."

It's no accident that these are among the songs on Jessie's newest CD. Although she didn't write any of them, they seem to fit perfectly with where she is in her life.

It's not where she thought she would be, even five years ago. She was pretty sure back then that she would have a college degree and an established singing career before she even thought about marriage and family. "I never saw myself being married and having a child by the time I was 21."

But then she met Jim Funk.

A local songwriter and record producer, Jim's biggest claim to fame is probably that he co-wrote "Buy Me a Rose," which turned into a mega-hit for country singer Kenny Rogers. "Jim hired me to sing on an EFY CD he was producing." One thing led to another, and Jessie and Jim were married in May 2004.

This summer, they welcomed baby Janessa into the family — and while all that was going on Jessie was recording her second CD. "It's been an amazing season," she says, but she realizes, "I'm right where I want to be. I'm so blessed to be able to do both — to be a mother and to sing."

Everyone has been so supportive, she says. "Janessa has been an angel, but I've still had to learn to manage my time. I can't just jump in the car and go whenever I want. But it's great to work with so many people who all value the gift of family."

Working with Jim on the latest project has also been exciting, she says. He co-produced the album with Greg Hansen, co-wrote one of the songs in the collection and sings with Jessie on an arrangement of "Come, Thou Font."

"She's pretty easy to work with," says Jim.

"I trust him a lot," says Jessie. "He's got a good ear."

Hansen sees a new maturity in Jessie's music than reflects the changes in her life. "She's reached a whole new level. She's developing her own style and vocabulary. And I couldn't be any happier with her tone. She's starting to feel her power, without going overboard. She also has an ability to connect with listeners, particularly the youth. The transition from Jessie Clark to Jessie Funk has been exciting."

Other songs on the CD were written by local songwriters, including Brett Raymond, Sam Cardon, Don Stirling, Tyler Castleton, Staci Peters and Michael McLean. A couple from gospel musicians Wayne Kirkpatrick/Amy Grant/Michael W. Smith are also included.

If there is an overall theme, says Jessie, "the songs all talk about various aspects of following the light, and the joy it can bring."

It hasn't always been easy for her, she says. "The process of teaching myself to just let go and trust that guidance has often been difficult. But it's also been liberating and strengthening."

Ask her how she learned that lesson, and she might tell you, "On My Knees." As the words from the song Jim wrote with Barry Gibbons say, "On my knees I stand much taller . . . In my heart I see what he sees in me."

But you don't really have to ask Jessie if she is happy with her place in her life; you can see it in her eyes. "I can honestly say, there's nowhere I would rather be."