(Photo courtesy of Sherman James Productions/Anthony Evans Entertainment)
Being a Peace Pursuer
An Interview with Anthony Evans
By Sarah Komisky
When you hear the name Anthony Evans, a few things might come to mind. Singer. Songwriter. Worship Leader. Voice contestant on Team Aguilera. Son to Dr. Tony and Lois Evans; Brother to Priscilla Shirer, Chrystal Evans Hurst, and Jonathan Evans. Collaborator with artists like Mariah Carey and Sam Smith.
However, you might not know that he was responsible for the vocal arrangement for the double-Grammy winning album “Hiding Place” by Tori Kelly, or that he worked on yet another Grammy-nominated project, an episode of “Black-ish,” and furthermore, that he took stage at the Hollywood Bowl alongside Zooey Deschanel to play The beast in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast concert series. Yet, with all the layers of creativity and intrigue, Anthony says it’s been the times that he’s been still and about emotional peace that he has felt the most successful.
In fact, it was his renown or born into celebrity status, with all its twists, turns, and dilemmas that brought him to seek out his own recovery. This is where his newest endeavor, “When Faith meets Therapy” comes into play. An endeavor that is lesser-known in the public eye, yet I would dare to say to be of his most pleasantly surprising achievements. An endeavor that is authentically human.
Spending years working on his own recovery, being a pursuer of peace, Anthony longed to bring the expertise and the tools offered in his own therapeutic life to those in need this 2021. The two-time Zoom event involves two therapeutic sessions that address the much-needed topics of trauma and relationships, led by the acclaimed licensed psychotherapist, Stacy Kaiser, and Anthony Evans.
The invitation is for anyone who wants to take that first step towards growth, those who are in need of hope during this global time of crisis, and for anyone in general who desires progress in life.
Prior to the event, I had the opportunity to chat with Anthony Evans, not only about this new experience, but the passion behind it, what his thoughts are on mental health and faith, and his own journey to peace. Here is what he had to say.
Sarah: Getting started, maybe you can talk about where that passion came from to advocate for mental health awareness?
Anthony: The passion came from me understanding what it feels like to have everything OK on the outside, but your insides feel crazy. You know what I mean? Growing up in a ministry family, I’m so thankful that I had amazing parents and an amazing upbringing because even with that, it was still hard to be in a high-pressure scenario. I think there was a lot of pressure not just because my dad and mom were leaders in the community, but it’s extra pressure that’s not normal. It’s not what normal people have to think about. It can create an internal dissonance thinking about what everybody is going to think about the next move you make. And, I’m a people-pleaser, and so those ingredients over time – the people-pleasing, the ministry family, the scrutiny, the wanting to make everyone happy – that can create a very unhealthy emotional state. And I was living in that state for quite some time with nobody to talk to because I was living in Dallas and thinking, ‘if I talk to people, then they will think bad about my parents, they’re going to think bad about…’ and it was just a lot. So, that’s why I started therapy. I got into a place where I was like, ‘this is not any way where anyone should live. I’m going to work on me for me and then when I have the opportunity to work on it for me, I’m going to try to make it available to other people if I could find a way how.’
Sarah: As someone who’s been through therapy and has been able to work through these things, you really broke through so many stigmas in society with faith and mental health, with being male, etc. So, talk about some of these stigmas that you had to wrestle with and overcome.
Anthony: Yeah, there are stigmas in so many ways. Male strength is personified in the whole, “not needing anybody to help you deal with your issues.” And it may be an older school of thought, but I think that’s a big part of being a male, and especially a black male. It’s like, you don’t share weakness because that does not translate strength. And what I’ve realized along my journey is that you being made to communicate your weakness is actually strength. You being able to say, ‘I’m having trouble in this area,’ it takes more strength to do that than pretend like you’re not. So, I had to redefine what that was to be and when I started doing that and taking those steps, it made me a better man. That’s the bottom line.
On the faith side of it, it’s almost like adding anything to Jesus and God is unacceptable. But I don’t view therapy as adding anything or saying that prayer and God’s word is not enough. Sometimes you need practical strategies to execute what you are wanting to do. Therapy has brought an expert to help me go along the path; it’s not taking away from my faith or not believing what God can do. It’s only added to it.
Sarah: When I was preparing for this conversation, I watched an interview with you and your sister Priscilla (which I love), and you shared about chasing opportunities that line up with peace instead of success, which I really appreciated. Expand on what that means to you.
Anthony: A lot of times in our culture, we just view success as what I have or what I can achieve on a tangible, status level. And those belongings and that status not coupled with mental, spiritual, and emotional peace, become a megaphone through which loneliness, emotional hurt, and dissatisfaction can be amplified. Because, it’s horrible to realize that you can accomplish all the success in the world, but then you can’t write a check for peace (that’s what I said in that interview you are referring to). It takes a lot to redefine and go against culture, but once you do, you don’t want to go back.
Sarah: I thought that was so great because you have achieved that success and yet you said what was more valuable was peace. Which I think is such an important perspective to have. And, when I was watching another portion of that interview, you talked about The Voice and how Christina Aguilera pretty much gave you the advice to be yourself. In connection to that, I think so many people struggle with not being authentic because of fear. Share a little bit about how peace connects to authenticity.
Anthony: I have a horse, his name is Gideon. And he is a big, almost 18 hundred pound monster, thick-boned…He’s like my dream horse. But, Gideon was not made to be a thoroughbred. He wasn’t made to be a racehorse. Because of his size, he was not made to move as fast as a thoroughbred can move around a track. Now if Gideon had the right to choose what he wanted to do, and he chose to be a racehorse, he would be miserable. He would always be losing! Because he is not built for that. His DNA was not built for that. What Gideon has to do, if Gideon was a person, he would have to go, ‘how am I built? How am I made? And, where is the best place for me?’ Even if he’s surrounded by thoroughbreds he has to go, ‘that’s not what I was created for, I’m going to go to this because this is more suited for the way I am built.’ And I think that is what Christina was saying to me. She was saying, don’t go follow suit just because that’s what everyone around you is doing. And she was talking about the temperature of the contemporary Christian Music Industry at that point [reference to ‘suit’]. She was like, ‘you’re not made to do what everyone else is doing and the more you do that, the more miserable you’re going to be because you’re always going to feel like you’re losing. And the reason why you feel like your losing is because you’re doing what you’re not called to do.’
When you line up the way that you’re built with the opportunities that God has placed in front of you and the doors that are opening right in front of you, and you step into those, even if it doesn’t show itself in the traditional American view of success, you will feel successful. I think people will also start to believe when you are in the center of what you are created for. People are attracted to authenticity and want to find their version of that. When you’re not, you’re not only doing a disservice to yourself, but to anybody who’s supposed to be impacted by you.
Sarah: I want to get into “When Faith Meets Therapy.” I’m really excited for this. And I know you’re teaming up with Stacy Kaiser. So, share about how you met Stacy and how she impacted your own mental health journey.
Anthony: I just met Stacy on a whim, honestly. And I was in a position of like, ‘let me just try therapy.’ I saw her on a TV show and emailed and that was four years ago. What I loved about Stacy, as I mentioned earlier, growing up in a little bubble, she was outside of that bubble completely. She was oblivious to me, to my family, she was a bipartisan that said, “I don’t know anything about you, but let’s talk.” I loved and enjoyed every second.
Sarah: You have two Zoom sessions with this virtual event and one of them is overcoming challenges and trauma. I know for you this is familiar for you going through so much adversity, especially within the last couple of years, which we acknowledge and are so sorry for. And then, it’s a conversation for everyone facing loss, pain, hurt, etc. So, for you, expand on your hope for those who attend with this specific session.
Anthony: Thank you. My specific goal is to give people hope. I know what it feels like to just be dealing with constant challenges and trauma. And, it can feel like you’re snowed in or cornered. You can’t stop life’s storms, but you can be situated in a way where life’s storms don’t have to have that negative or devastating kind of impact on you because you were thinking about it beforehand. So, for the people who are going through something now, we want to be able to give them tools. But, if they’re not going through something now, everybody will in the future and we want to give you tools for that. Or, if they went through something in the past, and they’re trying to figure out how to help repair some of the heartache and hurt, we want to be able to give them tools as well. So, I would love people to walk away going, ‘the storm didn’t stop, but I have tools now to let it impact me in a different way.
Sarah: The second session is on relationships. Speak into the heart for that.
Anthony: My heart is to help redefine them for people in general so that they understand that you don’t have to be in relationships that aren’t good for you. I think one of the big things is understanding your value. I think a lot of people hyper-invest in relationship because they’re trying to prove their value, and once you understand your value, you go into relationships differently. You go into relationships with boundaries. You don’t allow yourself to hyper extend to the point where you’re sacrificing your well-being for the sake of somebody else. And, in this session, I really want to talk about narcissism. Because, our culture kind of celebrates and perpetuates narcissism in some ways. And, I think it’s good for me, for us to know what we are doing out of a place of woundedness that is hurting other people around us. There’s so many different angles in relationships, but that is one of the main ways to return to internal peace, is having healthy relationships around you.
Sarah: Closing, what are some other ways you nourish yourself?
Anthony: I love my friends. I have a very small group of trusted close friends that don’t need anything from me and I don’t need anything from them. We’re just enjoying each other. I love that. I also love to go grab my horse and just be out in the woods and act like that’s all I need is being with my horse and a fire. You know what I mean [laughs]. Also, family time. So those things: friends, family, and the outdoors are the three things that I can do to nourish my soul and kind of take a break and leave my phone somewhere and just get replenished.