Danny Gokey Found Peace After the Pain —and His Gratefulness Shines Brightly on 'Agradecido'
On a sunny day towards the end of June, three-time Grammy nominee Danny Gokey and his family boarded a flight to Puerto Rico to film a new music video for his heartfelt song "Agradecido," which means 'grateful' in Spanish. But with four kids to wrangle for more than six hours on two different flights, Gokey and his wife Leyicet might have been anything but grateful.
But they were determined to push through.
"My wife and I have this deal that since she packs them up and gets them ready for trips, I have to basically take the lap child and most of the others," Gokey explains of their kids Emanuel, 23 months, Gabriel, 3, Victoria, 5, and Daniel, 8. "She just watches movies on planes."
Gokey lets out a slight chuckle, but his wife did in fact get the last laugh when she ended up getting proof that wrangling little children might not be as tough as it looks. Because on a trip back from the bathroom, she caught Gokey sound asleep…with a full glass of orange juice in his hands.
"That cup almost fell out of my hand, I think, two or three different times," Gokey, 41, tells PEOPLE. "I caught it every single time."
This was the first of many endearing moments caught during the trip, further captured on a behind-the-scenes look at the filming of the "Agradecido" video, exclusively premiering on PEOPLE. The video also goes on to show the playful banter between Gokey and his wife of nine years.
"My wife is Latina, so you know, she's got a fiery personality," says the Wisconsin native who now lives in Nashville. "She's a very loving person too, and she's not really concerned about what people think about her. That benefits her because of some of the stuff that she puts up with. Some people on social media are always like, 'Oh my gosh, she treats him so bad.' But she treats me very well, she just has a very funny personality."
It's a personality that has certainly helped Gokey put the pain of his past now firmly behind him. As fans may recall, Gokey lost his first wife Sophia of congenital heart disease mere weeks before auditioning and eventually becoming a Top 3 finalist on Season 8 of American Idol.
"Leyicet has never, ever walked in the shadow of my first wife," he says. "She never prepared herself for that, which is really interesting because it does take a certain amount of grace and an ability from God to accept someone as they are and not be intimidated by their story. She's been a blessing to me."
And it's this gratefulness that now serves as the backbone of "Agradecido."
"I went into the studio, and I just wanted to write a song about how I was so grateful," says Gokey, who has seen chart success with songs such as "Hope in Front of Me", "Tell Your Heart to Beat Again," "The Comeback," and "Haven't Seen It Yet." "Many people know me from who I was on American Idol, but I wanted to write a song and film a video in such a way that it showed people that this is the other side of my story that a lot of people don't know. I'm grateful for all the blessings that I've received in this life."
Granted, the gratefulness was never a given.
"You think about where I was in 2009 and where I am now," he says. "I have lost a spouse and went on American Idol and lost my music career and restarted my music career and got married and had kids…"
He lets the lengthy list float out of his mouth, and then he continues.
"When you're grateful, you just see everything that you got as a blessing."
It's this belief that seems to beat strongly amongst the songs on Jesus People, his new full-length studio album set for release on Aug. 20.
"I really do hope that it encourages people," says Gokey, whose new album also includes collaborations with artists such as Koryn Hawthorne ("We All Need Jesus"), Christine D'Clario ("Cristo Es Necesario") and Angie Rose ("Do For Love"). "We're living in pretty tumultuous times, a lot of division — there's just a lot on that right now. When it comes right down to it, we are all filters of the information we're taking in. A lot of that information we're taking in is clogging up the pores in a way, so you can't see correctly. I just feel like this album washes away all that junk."
Gokey admits, though, that he couldn't have done this album or anything else in his life without the help of God.
"When I write, I really do ask God to write through me," he says. "This album is full of messages that I hope cleans the filters and cleans the heart and cleans the mind."
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