For just about everyone, music is part of the workday. Whether listening to your favorite radio station during the morning commute or sitting at your desk listening to Spotify while meeting a deadline, music is the soundtrack of life. But for two hardworking contractors, singing on the job has blossomed into exciting new opportunities. For Aaron Gray and Josh Arnett, what began as a way to pass time while hammering nails and sawing boards has landed them a record deal and burgeoning music career as The Singing Contractors. After many years of performing individually and honing their distinctive vocal talents, they’ve joined forces to become one of the hardest-working new acts in any genre of music.
The talented duo is transitioning from building houses to building the kingdom. They have signed with Gaither Music Group and are releasing Working on a Building, Hymns & Gospel Classics–their national debut recording and companion DVD–that not only showcase the vocal skills that have earned millions of Facebook views and national TV appearances, but also the fun-loving personalities behind the music.
“So much has been happening to us,” says Arnett. “We’re just amazed that God can take two simple guys and is making something of us.”
Though much has happened and their lives have been a whirlwind since the world discovered their talents, the duo are steadfast in their mission. “We want to spread a message of hope,” Gray says. “That’s what we’ve received so why not tell everyone about it? We know we’re nothing without God and we didn’t choose this. He chose us and we’re just following His call.”
Both men grew up in families where sharing the gospel was a priority and so was hard work. “Aaron and I knew of each other when we were 13-years-old,” Arnett says. “His dad was a preacher, and they traveled in a singing group with their family in camps and revivals. It was the same for my family. We traveled all around the country singing, so I kind of knew him and he kind of knew of me.”
Though their debut album may introduce Gray and Arnett’s talents to a new fan base, in reality making music and entertaining an audience is nothing new to these seasoned performers who have decades of stage experience under their tool belts. They both logged many miles on the road touring with their families, crammed in the car with siblings and instruments, putting in a lot of sweat equity and learning early on both the rewards and challenges of life on the road making music. It didn’t scare them off, yet they weren’t destined to be your usual musician types. Instead of initially taking the path of the typical starving artist and looking for a record deal, they developed their skills in construction and entered the job market. “Our resume is the calluses on our hands,” Josh says of the duo’s work ethic.
After they were grown and starting families of their own, the two men kindled a friendship. Gray was born in Charleston, Illinois, and moved to Indiana after marrying his wife, Tamara. Arnett was born and raised in Anderson, Indiana, where he resides with his wife, Alicia. “Our wives were friends, and I went to school with his wife; So, we started hanging out,” Arnett explains. “I knew he sang, and he knew I sang, but six or seven years ago when we first started subcontracting this started because we’d get on a job site, and we’d be alone in the house and we’d strike up a tune. He’d be in another room, and he’d come over and vocally we’d let it rip.”
At first, the duo was a little shy about sharing their vocal gifts with others and would usually just sing when they were alone in a house. Then one day Gray suggested they make a video and put it on Facebook just for fun. In September 2015, they posted a clip singing the gospel classic “How Great Thou Art”; and before they knew it, fans were asking for more. “People would write messages and say, ‘Hey, we want to hear more from The Singing Contractors,’” Arnett says with a laugh. “We didn’t even call ourselves that. We were just Josh and Aaron and that’s it. The people gave us that name and it’s stuck with us.”
The duo responded to their demand by posting additional videos and their following began to quickly grow. A local television station sent a reporter to a job site to film a story. “Our wives never come to the job, but they were there that day watching,” Gray says with a laugh. “We started doing the interview, and the reporter said, ‘Just work like you do and I’ll just let the camera roll’; so, we started cutting boards, and because we were so flustered and blown away that we were doing an interview, we were just cutting like crazy.”
A week later they got a message that would change their lives. “We started a Facebook page for The Singing Contractors, and we got an email from ‘Fox & Friends’ in New York,” Gray recalls. “Josh came out and was like, ‘Dude, you’re not going to believe this but “Fox & Friends” NY just emailed us!’ And he fell on the ground.”
They began selling T-shirts in order to raise money to make an album, and fans rallied around the hard-working duo. “We sold enough T-shirts to pay for an album,” says Arnett. “From that point on, we felt it was our duty to keep pursuing every door that God has opened. We felt like the call was to do as much as we could.”
Since then the momentum has continued. They signed a deal with Gaither Music Group, who produced the new DVD hosted by gospel legend Bill Gaither. Both Gray and Arnett had grown up listening to southern gospel music and revered such esteemed groups as The Kingsmen, The Talleys, The Cathedrals, Gold City and the Gaither Vocal Band. “The songs that we love to sing are songs that connect with the common folk and share a message of hope,” says Gray. “We are drawn to songs that relate to everyday struggles–songs of brokenness that show how God can change everything.”
Arnett says they looked for songs that people could relate to, and he also wanted to find something with special significance. “I wanted to pick a song that would actually be my testimony and share what I’ve been through,” he says, noting that “There’s Always a Place at the Table” is that song. “Marriage is tough; and I can say today that after almost 25 years, we’re still together because we chose to place our faith, hope and trust in God. I’ve been through a lot, and I’m amazed at the place I’m at now from where I was. That’s why I chose that song because there’s always a place at the Father’s table.”
For Gray, it was an old Cathedrals’ song that resonated most deeply with him. “Growing up in a Christian home everything was supposed to be perfect, and my dad and mom did an awesome job raising us kids,” Grays says with a smile. “They are great people of God and they taught us right. But when I got older and on my own, I started facing different things in life–battles and temptations–and there are a lot of things I regret and things I’m ashamed of. I wanted to pick songs that told our testimony as well and chose ‘He Saw Not What I Was, He Saw What I Could Be.’ I grew up singing that song with my brother and sister, and it means so much to me because God is not looking at my past. He’s looking at my future, and without Him I wouldn’t have a future.”
Working on a Building, which will be featured as a TV special on various networks, also showcases The Singing Contractors’ distinctive vocals on such classics as “How Great Thou Art,” “Working on a Building,” “It Is No Secret,” “Mary, Did You Know?,” “In the Garden” and a tender version of “Why Me Lord?” But these days instead of singing while they are sawing or hammering, they are spending a lot of time playing concerts all over the country. “We’ve been in Texas, Missouri, Arkansas, Virginia and South Dakota,” says Gray. “It’s been unbelievable. We’ve played in Wisconsin and everywhere from universities and concert halls to lumber yards and a framers convention at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. Music is what keeps me going. It is my fuel. I love playing music. It’s a huge thing in my life.”
“I have the same feeling too,” Arnett adds. “There are people out there longing and searching for something to encourage them. Those people that pay attention and are getting encouragement in turn encourage us. That’s what keeps us going.”