Landlocked: Stuck between doubt and freedom, Tanner Qualls uses music to overcome

tporter@lsjournal.comAugust 14, 2014 

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    16 Date in August that Lee’s Summit resident Tanner Qualls will release his first CD, “Landlocked,” with a free concert at 7 p.m. at Lee’s Summit Community Church, 1440 SW Jefferson St.

Tanner Qualls’ music resume speaks volumes, but it may be his testimony that garners the most praise.

A singer and songwriter since the age of 12, Qualls plays acoustic and electric guitar, bass, piano, drums and ukulele.

A freshman at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, the 18-year-old Qualls has since seventh grade entered a song in the University of Missouri’s Composing Original Music Project, a contest opened to students throughout the state. His songs have placed in the contest each year, taking one third-place prize, two second-place awards and three first-place wins.

Qualls also entered two original songs in the Metheny Music Foundation’s summer camp scholarship program during his junior and senior years as a home-schooled student and was awarded a scholarship the past two summers to attend Camp Electric, a music camp in Nashville, Tenn. 

The Lee’s Summit resident has combined those experiences with his walk as a Christian and will release his first CD, “Landlocked,” Aug. 16 during a free concert at Lee’s Summit Community Church, 1440 SW Jefferson St.

Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the concert will begin at 7 p.m. 

Qualls said “Landlocked” is full of original songs he wrote through the years. Half of the songs he wrote before he experienced doubt in his faith and walk with God. The rest of the five-song album details Qualls’ journey toward a better understanding of his spiritual self.

“It’s my very first album,” Qualls said. “I actually recorded it myself and it’s my first self-produced album. I’m really proud of it. It’s a good feeling.”

Qualls’ older brother, Taylor, will open for his younger sibling. The brothers are part of a band “To the West Coast.” Taylor, too, competed for years in the songwriting project at MU and attends Southwest Baptist University.

Tanner Qualls will pursue a double major in music and Christian ministries at the university, where he already has friends through the band.  

“It’s going to be a transition, obviously, but my brother is there so that’s going to make it easier,” Qualls said.

Qualls’ mother, Becky, said Tanner was raised in a Christian home with Jesus being a part of their everyday lives. The family was involved in church as well.

For a period of time during his junior year, she added, Tanner struggled with questions about his faith. She said it was difficult because Tanner was deeply troubled that he was even having doubts. 

“It was not that he was rebelling, or turning his back on Christ – it was an inward struggle of faith,” Becky Qualls said.

“It was hard for my husband and I to see Tanner wrestle with the questions that he did because his peace and joy were gone during those months. But, we kept reassuring him that just because he had questions and doubts did not mean he was a bad kid, or that we were disappointed in him – or that God was disappointed in him. His questions just meant he was seeking truth.

“We encouraged him to talk with us, to ask the questions, and to keep talking to God about his doubts and fears.” 

Tanner said he’s had a relationship God all his life and never really walked away.

“The whole time, I knew that He was who I always knew Him to be, but I was just overwhelmed with doubt,” he said. “I knew the whole time, I just felt stuck between doubt and freedom. That’s where landlocked came from.”

Becky Qualls said it was amazing to see God reassure Tanner through music.

“Tanner wrote a lot during this time and the songs on this EP are not only about the struggle, but also about the peace of resolving the doubts and living on the other side,” she said.

“It has been amazing to watch Tanner walk in that peace for this last year and a half. He knows the joy of peace like never before. And the music that came from it really applies to God walking with us and leading us through any struggle we may be facing.”   

Tanner Qualls said although he is a Christian and his songs reflect his spiritual journey, he does not want to be pigeon-holed. He wants his music to reach the masses.

“I go back and forth on calling myself a Christian singer/songwriter,” he said. “I feel like if I do that, people who aren’t Christian will feel like they couldn’t listen. I don’t want to sound exclusive. I don’t want to discourage anyone from listening to me.”

For more information on “Landlocked,” visit The CD will also be available via iTunes in two weeks.

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