Tesh used to celebrate Hollywood’s stars, lifestyles
and movies as host of Entertainment
Tonight. Today, he shares his faith through
music and, more importantly, his life. When he walked
away from Entertainment Tonight to pursue a
career as a musician many people thought he was making
a devastating career move. Not so. Already he has
earned three gold albums, six Emmys and two Grammy
nominations. Recently, he spoke with Associate Editor
Kirk Noonan about his music, faith and career.
You left Entertainment Tonight, a television job that paid seven figures; was that
an easy decision?
It was a very easy decision for me to make. Someone
handed me a book while I was on vacation that had
a list you filled out to pinpoint what you loved and
disliked about your job. It was a passion test and
I failed it miserably regarding my job on Entertainment
Tonight. In fact, I got an F. But I got an A-plus
when it came to music, so I decided to follow my heart
and became a full-time musician.
Musically you’ve been tagged as everything from
New Age musician to worship leader. How do you respond
to the New Age label?
I loathe answering
those accusations because, as Christians, they shouldn’t
be judging me. But I feel like I need to say something
so it doesn’t appear that I am trying to hide
something. There are different categories in the music
stores, so when you play mostly instrumental music
many stores put your records in the New Age section.
I am a Christian who happens to play the piano. I’ve
even asked stores to take my albums out of the New
Age bins, but they’ve told us they won’t
move us because that is where people know where to
You quit ET;
any other risks you wish you had taken earlier?
I’d risk getting into a stronger relationship
with God sooner and I’d risk having more kids
and spending more time with them.
What would you say is your greatest gift?
Being average. [Laughing] And I was
hideously thin and unattractive in high school, which
was a blessing in many ways. My grades were average.
I hit the honor roll every now and then, but I also
got a couple D’s. But that kind of beginning
makes you work harder. Being known as a stick with
a big head and a trumpet in hand humbled me and made
me work really hard.
It’s strange you call yourself average. In the
world’s eyes you’ve done extraordinary
Anything extraordinary I’ve done has not been
on my own. Because of my average abilities, the things
that have happened with my career have to be supernatural.
When I started in broadcasting I’d be in a job
for six months and then a job twice as good would
come along. This is one reason it is so easy for me
to share my faith now, because what has happened in
my career can’t be explained away as a lucky
You grew up in a religious home, but walked away from
your faith. Can you tell us about that?
By the time I was 18 I felt I had been over-churched.
As a kid I spent four days a week in church. When
I went to college in the ’60s and everything
was a mess, I did things I had never done before.
But I can never recall a night when I missed an opportunity
to pray. I developed that discipline early on as a
child, so there was always a prayer coming out of
my mouth. Even though I had strayed from God, He was
still connected to me. He was always with me, waiting
for me to return.
Let’s talk about the day you committed your
life to Christ.
I was confirmed as a teen in the Methodist church.
I said all the prayers and committed my life to Christ.
I had all the Scriptures memorized and I went to church
camp every summer and I was committed. But I was only
committed to a level that worked for me.
to when I met my wife 12 years ago and I entered her
church and recommitted my life to Christ and was baptized
in the Pacific Ocean a short time later. It was then
that I totally committed my life to Christ and was
What do you value most in life?
I have finally
gotten to a place where my connection with God is
vital. I have God on the telephone and everything
else is on call-waiting. Beyond that it is, of course,
my family. I am 51 and I have a 9-year-old daughter
and 22-year-old stepson. I am at an age where I have
no problem dropping everything and hanging out with
them. If I were younger I would probably mess everything
What lesson has your daughter taught you?
That I need to be present. She just wants me to be
in her company. I always want to do something, but
she has taught me that kids just want you there. It’s
like our relationship with God — we just want
to know He’ll always be there.
Is it easy to be a believer in Hollywood these days?
for me because I am not waiting for a job. I am playing
worship music and doing a radio show where the mantra
is, “If a 9-year-old can’t listen to it,
you won’t hear it on our show.” But what
I have learned is that if you share your faith, no
matter if you’re in Hollywood or Des Moines,
be prepared to be attacked.
Leading people into worship has really got hold of
you — how so?
The difference between worship and other stuff I’ve
done is that it is useful. When I released Red
Rocks, Grand Passion and Avalon, people would e-mail me once and say, I enjoyed
listening to it while I worked around the house. Now I get e-mails with people saying things like, My
friend listened to the worship album and came to know
Christ or I found healing from the death of a relative
after I listened to such and such song. It’s powerful to be a part of something that is useful. That’s
really what I want to be: useful.
What does the future hold for you?
Who knows? But
probably more of the same. I really enjoy finding
unusual ways to be a roaring lamb. I live by Bob Briner’s
book Roaring Lambs. I’ve had opportunities
to go onto many television shows and share my faith.
It’s great how God has allowed me to do that.
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