Ty Herndon Records Longtime Favorite ‘Orphans of God’ for Christmas Set ‘Regifted’

Herndon enlists Kristin Chenoweth for updated version of Avalon hit.

Ty Herndon Records Longtime Favorite ‘Orphans of God’ for Christmas Set ‘Regifted’
Ty Herndon; Photo credit: Jeremy Ryan; Kristin Chenoweth, Photo courtesy of AristoPR

Sometimes an artist hears a song and they just can’t get it out of their head. That was definitely the case the first time Ty Herndon heard “Orphans of God.” Originally recorded by the Dove Award winning Christian group Avalon, Herndon was an immediate fan of the song. Now, years later, Herndon has recorded the poignant ballad as a duet with his friend Kristin Chenoweth on his just released Christmas collection Regifted.

“I’m so glad to be able to finally cut ‘Orphans’ and to do it with Kristin, who is my dear friend,” Herndon tells Sounds Like Nashville of working with the Emmy and Tony Award winning actress/singer. “We both share a huge heart for God and a huge heart for letting kids around the world know that God loves them. It’s a huge statement for me to be able to do that song and to have my friends sing on it. That’s three of my dearest friends singing on that record with me.”

In addition to Chenoweth, the song features background vocals from former Avalon members Melissa Greene and Michael Passons as well as award-winning pianist and composer Paul Cardall on piano. “My best friend on the planet is Michael Passons and it was amazing to have he and Melissa Greene come in to sing. Then when Kristin goes into Kristin Chenoweth/Sandi Patty land,” he says of Chenoweth’s soaring soprano, “there’s Michael and Melissa right with her and it’s that explosive moment. It’s magical!”

“To sing with Ty Herndon was a dream,” Chenoweth said in a statement. “But to sing a song with lyrics that we both believe was so special. I hope as you listen to the song you hear the words and they speak to your heart.”

“Orphans of God” was written by Joel Lindsey and Twila LaBar, and Herndon’s version features a new second verse, penned by the original writers. “It’s been a healer for me,” Herndon says of the song. “Being gay and hiding for so long, I truly felt I was orphaned in a genre that I wanted to be in so badly, and it just hit me that I’m loved. I knew God loved me and that I loved God and that relationship has always been strong. My mama always made sure of that and that is my No. 1 message to these kids out there that you are not broken.

Ty Herndon and Kristin Chenoweth; Cover art courtesy of AristoPR

“Don’t let anybody tell you that you are,” he continues. “You can live a broken life and you can live a whole lifetime believing what people say about you, but you know who you are. Stand firmly in that. No one can ever say anything to hurt you and ‘Orphans’ hit me that way. I believed in it so much.”

“Orphans of God” is the only new track on Regifted, an album Herndon originally released 20 years ago under the title A Not So Silent Night. “It was independent. I had just left Sony,” Herndon says of the label where he scored such hits as “What Mattered Most,” Living in a Moment” and “It Must Be Love.” “The Christmas album really has never been heard. It was just sitting there, so it’s been nice to give it a little spotlight and to be able to finally cut ‘Orphans’ and to do it with Kristin.”

Regifted includes Herndon’s spirited take on such classics as “O Come All Ye Faithful,” “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” “Silent Night,” “Go Tell It on the Mountain” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Waylon Payne joins Herndon on “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” “I was a big fan of his mother,” Herndon says of the late Sammi Smith.   “So when we started this Christmas thing, I asked him to sing ‘Emmanuel’ and he kills it. It’s great.”

Ty Herndon with Avalon’s Michael Passons and Melissa Greene; Photo courtesy of AristoPR

The album, which released Nov. 27, has been remixed and remastered. When asked how he chose the songs for this Christmas project, Herndon says he reached back to his youth. “You’re going to giggle at this answer, but it’s the truth. We did the same old Christmas cantata at my church year after year for 15 years, so I took those songs and we did them. The church was Calvary Baptist in Butler, Alabama. They are probably still doing it. Who knows?” he says with a laugh. “We gave the songs new life and a new direction except for ‘Rudolph.’ I recorded that because I knew I had a nephew on the way, so that was for him.”

Herndon says he’s hoping Regifted will bring some cheer to his fans this holiday season. He admits he needs an emotional boost this year himself. “This pandemic thing has been hard on everybody. It’s just hard to see our community so busted up. People are not doing well. We were born to do this,” he says of artists performing, “and to have it not available, it’s been devastating to a lot of people.”

Ty Herndon; Cover art courtesy of AristoPR

The pandemic ruined all the plans Herndon had in place for 2020. “I kind of lost my mind. I was really angry,” he says. “We had the biggest tour I had booked in 10 years. A book, documentary and new album were all coming this year and in a matter of about two days, it was all gone. It felt gone. It wasn’t gone and it will come back of course, but everything was designed for last summer. Plus I moved from one house that I was renting because we were building another house and it had black mold. I didn’t know it, so I was sick and couldn’t figure out why I was sick. Everybody thought I might have had COVID, but I didn’t have COVID. When we moved we found the black mold and it kept me sick for a year.”

These days Herndon is feeling better physically and emotionally. “I’ve always turned to God in my toughest times,” he says. “I hate we’ve all had to go through it. We’ve got to find answers and we will, but my answer to heal myself is to do what I’ve always done. It was real simple. You’ve got to give it away to get it and a song like ‘Orphans of God,’ I poured everything I have into this, all those emotions. I want people to know that they are loved and to hear Jesus in it and to hear God. I want people to feel good and to know that they are loved.”

Regifted Track Listing:
1.          Orphans of God* (Duet with Kristin Chenoweth Feat. Paul Cardall)
2.          O Come All Ye Faithful
3.          Go Tell It on the Mountain
4.          O Come O Come Emmanuel (With Waylon Payne)
5.          We Three Kings
6.          O Little Town of Bethlehem
7.          Little Drummer Boy
8.          Silent Night
9.          Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
10.        O Holy Night
11.        A Not So Silent Night
12.        O Come All Ye Faithful (Acapella)