On November 20, 2015, News & Views publisher Tim Collins had the opportunity to interview Steven Curtis Chapman. He will be appearing at Mill Town Music Hall in Bremen on January 9, 2016.
Tim: Hey Steven – Thanks for calling me today and taking the time to talk to me.
Steven Curtis Chapman (SCC): Absolutely!
Tim: I did want to tell you this up front, that of all the people I could possibly interview, you are in the top 5.
SCC: Oh Wow – Thank you!
Tim: You have had SUCH an impact on my family. In 1994, I took two of my sons up to one of your concerts in Cincinnati, and my middle son, Adam got saved at that concert.
SCC: Gosh, that’s amazing.
Tim: It will be really cool when you get up to Heaven and see all of the people that you have impacted – it will be a lot.
SCC: It’s going to be a pretty amazing experience for all of us. Man, thank you for that. I am grateful to be a part of your journey and your family’s journey.
Tim: I know you are coming to Mill Town Music Hall in Bremen on January 9th. You’ve been here once before. Is that going to be kind of a standard concert, or are you going to be focused on the new album you have coming out?
SCC: It will mainly be kind of just an evening, taking the journey with me through songs through the years, but I am really excited about the new project. It won’t officially be out until the 4th or 5th of March. It won’t be appropriate, maybe, to do a whole lot from it because people will not be familiar with it. I’ll definitely have to do at least a couple of songs from it because I’m just excited. It’s new music, new things to share, and teach the audience. This project is actually the first ever of mine that is written as a kind of a corporate worship, singing together, kind of songs. So, I want to teach those songs to people when I can, and kind of get them to sing it with me. So, we’ll probably do that for sure. But yeah, it’ll mostly be me doing the musical journey that I love to do with my songs and stories.
Tim: Yeah, That’s one thing I really like about your concerts. We have seen you seven or eight times, and I feel, and I know a lot of other people probably do too, a connection to you and your family because you tell so many stories about life in general, and your family.
SCC: Yeah. Well, I love that. You know concerts now and over the years – I’ve been doing this so many years – I have so many stories that I tell and revisit. It’s kind of like homecoming, you know. There are so many families that I have been a part of their journey, just like you guys, being a significant part of your son’s story. And what a cool thing to get to revisit and remember those songs together, and just to remember God’s faithfulness in all of those different ways. It’s a pretty amazing, wonderful thing that I get to do.
Tim: Yeah, your music over the years has changed in so many ways, and you’ve gone through a lot of different phases. How would you describe that transformation?
SCC: Well, you know I think for me the challenge has always been how do I keep the things that need to stay the same, the same. How do I keep the heart, the integrity, and the honesty, I think is really what it comes down to. How do I stay honest with my music. Fortunately I have been influenced by many styles of music, even when I was a kid. You know, I was listening to rock and roll, and country, and jazz and pop and all kind of influences, gospel - I love Black gospel, the real raise the roof kind of stuff you know. There’s all part of me in there. And so really, through the years I think just trying to be a student of music, to continue to be inspired by new music, to continue to listen to what are some of the new sounds, and the new interpretations, kind of the new language that people might be speaking musically. And it’s funny, doing it as many years as I have, you see even come and go. For a while it’s like, you can’t put a banjo on a song, and then all of a sudden banjo is like the coolest thing in the world. And you’ll see keyboards are really cool and then it’s all guitar now. Music styles change, but I think for me trying just to stay in a way relevant enough that the music feels current, and yet still be really honest. The joke is always I don’t want to be squeezing in a pair of skinny jeans and getting a cool haircut and going “Hey I’m still really hip and cool and 30 years old.” It’s like how do I be honest, and I think people really respond to that more than anything. They know when you’re being honest. So trying to be honest is the goal.
Tim: I’d like to ask you a few questions, that as a fan I’m interested in, so I am thinking other fans will be interested in them as well. One is, do you have any idea how many songs you have written in your lifetime?
SCC: You know, I don’t really have any idea, but I’ve got to guess just based on the number of albums I’ve done and the number of songs that I’ve written that haven’t been recorded, or ones that have been recorded by somebody else – or all of that, I’m sure the number would be scary, probably if I looked at it. But it’s got to be up in the 500 to 600 range at least – maybe more like 700. It’s a lot I’m sure.
Tim: Do you ever have any songs that you’ve written a long time ago that you’ve written, and then you pull it out and go “wow – this is really a good song, I think I’ll record this now”?
SCC: Well, I have done that with certain parts of songs. You know, a verse, in fact my new project has a verse that I probably wrote four or five – no probably more than that even, maybe nine or ten years ago, that I just kept hanging on to, saying there’s going to come a time when that really fits into a song. But I never finished it at the time. But yeah, for sure I’ll have ideas and lines and a verse here or a chorus there that I haven’t used tucked away somewhere that will come back up.
Tim: What verse was it – do you remember? (that he used on the current album)
SCC: Yeah, it was a verse from a song called ”More Than Conquerors”. It really comes just straight from scripture. It’s a scripture that I have just always been very encouraged by. It’s the verse that talks about there being no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus. And it’s just one of those that I have always loved because of what that verse means to me. And so I put it to music and thought I was going to write a song at the time, but I never kind of got it right, so I just kind of tucked it away and pulled it back out when I was working on this new record and put it in a song.
Tim: That’s a cool story. Do you have a song of yours that is the most meaningful to you personally, or does that vary over time?
SCC: You know, it really does, it varies over time in a way and just from different seasons of life. It’s hard to pick one where you’d say, “wow, yeah, this is the most meaningful”. They’re all very meaningful because they all kind of come out of my own story, you know, the pages of my own life and my family. You know, I mean I could pick certain ones, obviously songs like Cinderella, that have a relevance to my family, and even our journey, you know, with losing our daughter. All of those parts of my story that are kind of connected or tethered to certain songs. That’s one, (Cinderella) obviously, very special. You know, one that’s on my very first record, that I actually re-recorded, a song called “My Redeemer is Faithful and True”. That has been one of those songs, even though it was on my very first album. I’ve often said. I can’t really say what my favorite is, but I can tell you that if I could only sing one more song – you know, if I could only do one of all of my songs and it was the last song I could sing, that’s the song that I’ve kind of always said would be the one, because it just kind of sums up what I hope all of my other songs say – that God is faithful in my life.
Tim: I wanted to ask you about Beauty Will Rise. I saw you perform that the last time you came to Mill Town. Is that a hard song to perform, just because of what it means emotionally? (note to reader – this was a song he wrote following the tragic death of his six year old daughter)
SCC: Yeah, well, for sure, I mean it is, and yet it’s also, you know a very, the message in the song is the promise of God and it’s holding on – it’s what sustained my family and I – it’s what helped us survive, you know, the darkest journey we’ve ever taken. It’s just knowing, and believing and trusting that because God’s promises are true, that beauty is going to come from this terrible thing. And so, while it is a hard song in many ways because it’s connected to such great loss and pain, it’s also a song I love to sing when I get a chance because it celebrates the hope and the promise of God, that the story isn’t over yet.
Tim: Did it take a while to get to that point? We just lost our son to cancer, two months ago, and boy, I tell you it has been hard. Did it take you a while to get to a point where you could get past the grief? Or were you able to move past it fairly quickly? Or are you still grieving in a lot of ways?
SCC: Yeah, it’s still, and first of all, gosh, let me just say I am so sorry for your loss. What I’ve learned is there are no words big enough, heavy, weighty enough for that kind of loss, other than just I’m sorry and I know that the story isn’t over yet. It will take a lifetime for us to really process through the grief of that because it’s something we’ll never put in our past. We carry it with us. We talk as a family – you know, you learn to walk again, and you start to run, even, again, but you always have a limp, you know, you walk with a limp, you run with that permanent thing that has changed how you live, how you breathe, you know, it’s always there – that hole in your heart that God heals, and gives hope and comfort for. But, you still carry that hole in your heart with you. And I know we will, and I know you guys will. It’s just a journey that we’re on.
Tim: I want to ask you a couple more questions about your music. Is there one song that was the very hardest one to write?
SCC: Gosh, you know there are some that come very quickly, and some that do seem to take years and years to finally come to fruition. I can think of ones that came really quickly – songs like Cinderella that I kind of wrote in one sitting which is very unusual for me, because more often than not my songs just take a long time, you know, a lot of wresting with a different idea. I’ll rewrite a song sometimes 10 or 15 different ways before I kind of go “yeah - that’s it – that’s the way it’s supposed to be.” That’s more often the case I think.
Tim: Is there one song in particular that is the most difficult one to play or sing from a musical perspective?
SCC: Not really. I can’t think of one that’s kind of scary. It’s more, as you said, emotionally. For a while a song like Cinderella was, at first, impossible to think about singing, but then, with time, it became a song of hope for me, to know that I’m going to dance again with my little girl. So, I can’t think of one that is the most difficult as far as musically. You know, some of them are – I sang them so high when I made the record originally about 15 or 20 years ago, there are a few of them that I might have taken the key down about a half a step or something, just so they’re not so hard to sing.
Tim: I know you are on a tight schedule and I only had 15 minutes, and it looks like my time is up, but I just want to tell you how much I really appreciate you taking the time to interview with us. We are really looking forward to seeing you when you come to Mill Town Music Hall in Bremen.
SCC: That will be amazing. I am looking forward to it!
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