With a baseball career already mapped out for Jack Diven of Spring Hill, deciding to change focus midstream and follow a recording career might seem a bit of a stretch. But when he opens his mouth and falls into verse, the passion he projects clears up any skepticism.
"All my life I've played baseball," said Diven, 21. "I've played since I was 2."
Five years ago, he decided to help as a worship intern at his church, NorthcliffeBaptist, a ministry with a 30-year history in Spring Hill. And that led to an interest, and a discovered talent, in songwriting and acoustic performing. He wrote his first song about a year and a half ago, which inspired him to make a conscious effort to write daily.
Diven will introduce his first CD, "Fortress," tonight at 7 p.m. when Northcliffe Baptist Church hosts a CD release party. Diven will be performing tracks from the CD.
"Fortress" is a compilation of seven spiritual songs, six of which are Diven's original work. It took the Spingstead High graduate about a year to put the project together, once he recognized that this was his new path.
Diven grew up in a spiritual home where his family attended church regularly. But even he was surprised when the idea to follow the path of a spiritual singer/songwriter presented itself. After writing his first song and receiving positive reviews from friends and colleagues at his church, he began writing professionally with a clear goal in mind.
With the help of his friend, Chris Springer, the producer of "Fortress," Diven was able to record a demo CD and get his music in front of the right people.
"It went from an acoustic demo to five demos to this album," Diven said. "I look back and it's like I don't even know how this happened."
Musical talent runs in Diven's family, he said. Both his mother and sister play a little. His sister, he said, writes some beautiful songs. He learned guitar when he was a student at Chocachatti Elementary School, although his talent didn't take off until last year.
He admits he sometimes struggles with inspiration, taking days sometimes to write a song. "I have some God-given ability," he said. "But mostly I think it is hard work."
"Fortress" includes six original works, with one cover song Diven said is very special to him. "'How He Loves' is on the CD because it has a very special place in my heart," he said. The rest were written by Diven and inspired by his own experiences.
The album includes gentle tunes with titles like "Forever Faithful," "Heaven," "Save Me," "Through the Fire," "How He Loves," "Overcome," and the bonus track, "Sweet Victory," which is currently only available on the hard copy of the CD. "It will be available soon on iTunes," Diven said.
Diven's decision to pursue spiritual leadership was inspired, he said, while participating in a children's summer spiritual camp.
"I learned how to rely on the strength of the Lord," he said. "When I had nothing left, God provided all that I needed to do the Kingdom work to which I have been called. I will take camp with me for the rest of my life."
Diven is currently attending the University of Mobile where he is studying leadership worship. But he is back in his hometown of Spring Hill to release "Fortress" and bring his message back to NorthcliffeBaptist Church.
"Pastor Jerry is pretty excited," Diven said.
It took a strong backing from his family for Diven to choose this brand new focus, but he said that kind of support was always part of his upbringing.
"I would come home with a dream and they would say 'that's too small,'" he said.
As for what he hopes the CD will accomplish, Diven smiled.
"I really want to bring God's work into people's lives," he said. "I want people to hear it and I want them to be changed by it. I want them to want the same God that I've found. That is the main goal."
Jack Diven will perform at 7 p.m. at Northcliffe Baptist Church; 10515 Northcliffe Blvd.; Spring Hill. For more information, visit jackdiven.com.
Hernando Today correspondent Kim Dame can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org