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Music

  • The Science of Song - an interview with Andrew Peterson

    Posted on September 5, 2012 by John van der Veen

    With strokes of his upbringing, faith, experiences and relationships, Andrew Peterson creates art. Like an intricate oil painting, the nuances, layers and textures combine to create something distinct and deep. But to Andrew, it’s just part of the process… down to the very DNA of the lyrics.

    Family Christian: So tell us a little about Andrew Peterson. Where are you from, what’s your family look like?

    Andrew Peterson: I’ve been married 17 years and have 3 kids who are 13, 12 and 9. I was born in Illinois (basically in a corn field), then when I was 7 we moved to what I lovingly call “redneck Florida.” So I went from having a sort of golden-boy-Midwestern childhood to [the] deep south, ya know? [With] all of the good and bad and wonderful things that come with a southern childhood. My dad is a pastor and he still preaches at the same town that I grew up in north Florida. I ended up randomly going to Bible college. Not for any noble reason, mainly because it was affordable and I couldn’t think of anything else to do (laughs). So I went to Bible college and fell in love with it almost immediately. I met my wife there, got a Bible degree, put out an indie record then moved to Nashville where I’ve been making records ever since.

    FC: Which Bible college?
    Andrew: It was called Florida Christian College in Kissimmee/Orlando. Just a small, really conservative Bible college within my “non-denominational denomination.” (laughs)

    FC: (Laughs) You may be the first person who has publicly made that into an official denomination…

    Andrew: I coined it! Yes!

    FC: Would you consider Florida to be southern living?

    Andrew: Oh yes, at least the part of Florida that I lived in. Florida is a funny place. I maintain that it is the weirdest state in the United States – and I mean that in a good way. I didn’t like it when I was a kid, but now that I’m a writer and part of my life involves telling stories, I feel like I could not have grown up in a richer story-telling culture than Florida. It’s this kind of strange convergence of beach culture and retired people and snowbirds and Cuban-Puerto Rican culture. If you drive about 15 minutes inland from the beach or out of any town, you’re in this swampy, unique kind of country, [with] racism and southern hospitality and Bible belt stuff and it’s just a really fascinating place. I’ve gotten to [this place that] now that I’m older, I’ve started reading books by southern authors because I’m so fascinated by the cultures there. Everybody from Flannery O’Connor to Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and people like that. And so I’m really grateful. I never want it to sound like I’m talking bad about my home state but it is bizarre and I’m just delighted by that.

    FC: Do people in north Florida eat grits or biscuits and gravy?

    Andrew: Oh yes, as often as possible. My little town is called Lake Butler and it has three generations of family sheriffs. There’s a railroad track and the white people lived on one side and the black people lived on the other. There was a poured house and a little drug store where farmers in overalls would talk in the heat of the day and my dad is a southern preacher which means that he paces a lot and occasionally little flecks of spittle. It was exactly what you would imagine a “deep south childhood” would look like. So yeah, I think that may be part of where my love for storytelling came from. All you have to do is sit on the porch for a few minutes and eavesdrop on my dad’s conversations and you hear the most colorful, beautiful language – good stories. It’s a farm culture and yeah, I couldn’t wait to escape it when I was a boy, but now that I’m a grown up I live in a metropolitan area and the older I get the more I’ve started calling my mom and dad and asking them how to grow tomatoes and how to keep the deer out of the pumpkin patch (that sort of thing), and so yeah, I feel like it’s a part of who I am.

    FC: Did you meet Rich Mullins?

    Andrew: I did. Just 2 or 3 times, and each time it was in a really unadulterated fan context. I shook his hand and told him I loved him and passed him a demo. That kind of thing. It’s funny, I had just finished recording my independent record in college. I was 22.

    FC: Was that The Walk?

    Andrew: Yeah, and it’s terrible. When I go back and listen to it, I can hardly listen to it because it’s so bad in so many ways. But at the time, when you’re 22 you feel like you’re the king of the world and I thought “Man, I’m going to give this CD to Rich Mullins and he’s going to love it and we’re going to become friends!” But he died a year later so I never had a chance to live down how bad the demo was. I later became friends with Mitch McVicker who was friends with Rich’s touring partner back at the time and I was always really self-conscious that I had met them both at this geeky fan phase so I didn’t let on that I’d already met Mitch before. Years later when we started doing shows together I was like “man, do you know that we met before we started traveling together?” and he was like “oh yeah, I remember, it was at your college in Florida” and I was horrified! I said “Ahhh! No! You don’t by chance remember that I gave you a demo CD do you? And he said “yeah”, so I said, “you guys didn’t ever hear it did you? And he goes “yeah… we hated it.” (laughs) So I thought that was delightful. There’s a part of me that’s like maybe it’s a small mercy that I didn’t meet Rich because it would have been the worst thing to find out that he couldn’t stand me, ya know? (laughs) [This way] I can pretend that maybe we would have been friends.

    FC: You’ve carried the storytelling trait from your dad, which Rich had too. Was that something unique in his music that drew you?

    Andrew: Yes, definitely. I’ve kind of jokingly said that Rich’s music rescued me from Lynyrd Skynyrd. I was in a rock band the year after high school, touring around, but it never ever would have crossed my mind that I wanted to do Christian music because I grew up in this goofy paradigm that meant being in the ministry meant being a pastor, or a missionary. And I didn’t want to be either of those things so I just thought, well, I guess I don’t want to be in the ministry. So hearing Rich’s music around that time opened my eyes to how powerful a song can be. C.S. Lewis described stories this way, he said that stories could “sneak past peoples’ watchful dragons.” The idea is that a sermon will hit you head-on but art can flank you, surprise you and flip truth behind your lines when you least expect it. I think that’s what happened with Rich’s music and me. I wasn’t terribly interested in the Gospel. Ya know, I would have told you that I was a Christian but I was really struggling and really trying to find my way and then I heard this Rich Mullins song that captivated me with its poetry and the roughness that I heard in his voice. He was a smoker – I didn’t know it at the time – but I heard something broken in his voice. Emotionally and physically for that matter. So that brokenness was more beautiful to me than any of the slick stuff I had heard in Christian music. And it really drew me in. What I heard was loneliness and some sadness and a deep longing, and all of that resonated with me. I felt like he was singing the way my heart felt. It was because he was willing to be honest about his own struggle and the truth about Who Jesus really is. That woke-up something in me. It took all of those Bible stories that I had grown up with over the years and my love for The Lord of the Rings and adventure stories and all of those things converged in the songs of Rich Mullins and I found something that I’d never found before. So ever since then, every time I sit down to write a song, I’m trying to get close to the feet of those mountains. If I can write something like “The Color Green” by Rich Mullins or “Copperline” by James Taylor or “Graceland” by Paul Simon I think it’s good for a songwriter to keep listening to the masters. To ask yourself “well how in the world did they write songs that move me like this?” Every time you sit down you’re probably going to fail but you gotta at least try, ya know? So I’m always trying to get back to the way that I felt sitting on the side of a mountain in east Tennessee and listening to Rich Mullins music. So that’s what I’m shooting for, whether or not I ever attain it.

    FC: So then you met Derek Webb… or he found you? How did that work?

    Andrew: (laughs) That was back when the internet was relatively new and I was waiting tables at the Olive Garden here in Nashville. We had just moved here. Jamie and I were childless, poor and working really hard. I couldn’t get any bookings. One night I discovered this band, Caedmon’s Call, and I really liked their music. I think I discovered them because of their friendship with Rich Mullins. I think that’s how I ended up finding their website. I ended up posting something online about how their songwriting and music was really the first thing that had moved me like that since I’d heard Rich Mullins’ music. I included a link to my really lame website, and Derek followed the link and read my lyrics and he really liked them. He saw something in them and I ended up meeting them later at a concert and he remembered me and I said, can I open for you guys? And he said yes. That was basically the beginning of my music career. (laughs) I don’t know why he said yes, he’d never heard me play a song before. Never heard what I sounded like live. But for whatever reason, they happened to not have an opener like a week later so I got to drive out to west Tennessee and play a show with them. A month later I was on the tour bus.

    FC: Wow and now you’re getting ready to release your 12th or 13th album?

    Andrew: Well if you included all of the little side projects [I’ve done] it would be about that many, but it’s either the 8th or 9th full-length studio record, I can’t remember.

    FC: Ok, before talk about the new album, let’s talk a second about this “Square Peg Alliance” group you created. What is it?

    Andrew: Well, it’s funny, The Square Peg Alliance is not as active as it was maybe 3 or 4 years ago. Basically, I didn’t start it – it was just something that grew sort of organically at our little songwriting community here in Nashville. In reaction to how a lot of us had been on Christian record labels, some of us had had radio play and then as the industry started to change we all found ourselves not “pop-Christian” enough to get by in the Christian world and “too Christian-y” to ever have a chance to get by in the mainstream world. And so we didn’t know what to do other than lock arms with each other and just try to help each other survive and stick to the calling of the type of songs we were writing. We kinda jokingly named ourselves the Square Peg Alliance. Ya know, all we did was give a name to this thing that was already happening. The same thing is still happening, we just don’t officially gather under that name anymore.

    FC: Did the Rabbit Room kind of morph out of that?

    Andrew: The Rabbit Room didn’t morph out of it, but it came for the same love for community. Ya know, I went to England and saw the pub where Tolkien and C.S. Lewis and Charles Williams and their buddies used to get together and read their stories. And around that time I read a book about the Pixar company and I started to recognize that really good art thrives in the confines of community. We had some of that happening with music already, but I was writing my books and I wanted to grow into a better writer – and I knew a lot of people who wanted to do that same thing. So The Rabbit Room was kind of an experiment in community. We thought, what happens if we get some authors and pastors and songwriters and artists all joined together with the hopes that we’ll learn to make excellent work? And invite people into that conversation and see what happens? So we didn’t really have a clear direction, I just bought the domain name and made the website and invited some friends to be a part of it, and that was about 5 years ago. It’s doing really well. It’s been a pleasant surprise at almost every turn.

    FC: And so now you’ve written 3 books?

    Andrew: I’m [currently] writing my 4th book.

    FC: Obviously you’re an artist, but do you have a preference between writing music or books? Is one easier for you?

    Andrew: Um, I think that the easier one is whichever one I’m not doing. (laughs) Yeah, it’s all hard. There’s a part of me that really loves the book making process. Part of that is because I can stay home, it doesn’t involve a lot of travel, [it’s] a slowing down. It’s work, but it isn’t frantic work. Being on the road, playing music, there’s a lot of travel and deadlines and craziness, whereas book writing is probably more diligent work. It just doesn’t take me away from my wife and kids, so I really love that. With that said, I’m supposed to be writing book 4 right now but it’s been like trying to push-start a semi truck. Like I’ve had a really hard time mustering the discipline to really dig into it, so ya know, it’s all really hard, man. (laughs) It’s like planting the garden, the only way to get good fruit is to sweat and bleed for it, so that’s where I am right now.

    FC: But maybe that’s due to the fact that you have a new record coming out too…

    Andrew: Well, that’s part of it. I have been pretty busy with the record thing. I feel a little bit creatively capped ya know, from writing the songs probably too quickly. So that’s part of it. If I’m really honest with myself I am also just trying to avoid it because it’s a lot of work. (laughs) When I was in Bible college I wanted to be a youth minister because I thought he was the one who did the least amount of work in the church. (laughs) I did it for a year and realized that the opposite is true. So I quit [youth ministry] thinking, well maybe I can get out of doing work if I play music. And that wasn’t really true either.

    FC: You’ve touched on various themes in your previous records… What is the name of the new record, and is there an overarching theme?

    Light For the Lost Boy

    Andrew: The name of the record is Light for the Lost Boy. And if there was a theme (I think the title kind of sums it up), [it’s that] a lot of the songs on this record are about growing up. There are a lot of aspects to what it means to grow up. There’s the exit from Eden, this aspect of childhood that we are all kind of exiled from as we sin and grow old which creates this longing for restoration. There’s this longing for Jesus to hurry up and come back, to let us enter this Kingdom where we’ll have undying bodies [without] the pain of age or wasting away. Ya know, the effects that occur. There’s a lot of longing wrapped up in [this record]. I’m just trying to figure it out myself too. I don’t know. I’m watching my kids teeter into adolescence and the conversations with them have gotten more difficult. It’s not like we’re having problems with them, [it’s just the] preparing them for the world they’re growing into. It’s been pretty sad for me. I mean, I’m excited because they’re amazing kids and I think they’re going to do great things for the Kingdom, but at the same time, I’m grieving a little because I know that part of the process, the discipline that we receive as children of the King is sometimes painful. They’re going to make mistakes. The older they’ve gotten the more I’ve remembered my own childhood, ya know? I remember the sweetness of it, but I also remembered some of the moments that have continued to cause me pain over the years. So I’m guessing that’s why so many of the songs deal with childhood and the longing for restoration. But honestly I don’t know. I’m trying to be better about writing the songs I write and letting the listener add his or her own DNA to the thing. Most of us have seen the movie Jurassic Park, but I don’t know if you remember the scene where they’re going through the ride and the little computer thing is animating how they recreated dinosaurs from the DNA they found in the mosquitoes. And it shows these cartoon DNA strands and they’re like, well, we couldn’t really complete the DNA strands from the dinosaur so we used some from a turtle (I think or maybe it was a lizard) to complete the DNA and we created these dinosaurs. And I think songwriting and art are like that. My songs are these strands of my own DNA but there are all of these holes in them, like the songs aren’t a complete story. So the listener then brings his own DNA to the song and it begins to mean something specific to him or her. I remember that happened with “Dancing in the Minefields” this song about my marriage. The first line is “I was 19 and you were 21 the year we got engaged…” And I’ve gotten so many emails from people who are like “your story is just like my story, she was 19 and I was 21 the year we got married” and those details aren’t right at all! (laughs) They got the numbers backwards and they got the engagement and the wedding different because these people have brought their own story to my song so much so that the details of my song becomes irrelevant. So I’m hoping that with this record that whatever I meant by it will only be the beginning of the story for what the songs do in the heart of the people who are hearing it.

    Rest Easy

    FC: What music are you enjoying lately?

    Andrew: I have been listening to a lot of the new – I’m trying to be careful not to say anything “bad” because I’m talking to Family Christian (laughs) – I’ve been listening to the new Bon Iver record a lot. As soon as I said that I remembered there’s a bad word in one of the songs. There’s a band called Fleet Foxes that my sons and I really like. It’s really creative, almost classical sounding folk music, “chamber folk” is what some people call it I think. And then there’s this new Ben Shive record, he’s the guy who produced my new album – he’s really great. There’s this guy Josh Garrels, he’s great. We’ve connected and I tried to talk him into the Christmas tour this year. His wife is going to have a baby right before the tour so he couldn’t do it, but I’m a huge fan of his. Josh makes me feel the way I felt when I listened to Rich Mullins, I think Jon Foreman (of Switchfoot) is like that too. There are very few people who have such great music that is so unabashedly about the gospel. I think Josh is one of those guys. Man, when I’m jogging and I hear his music, sometimes I “ugly cry.” (laughs) He’s so explicit about the God that he’s singing to and about. I’m deeply moved by that. So there’s a short list.

    FC: What kind of dog is your pet, Moon Dog?

    Andrew: (laughs) He is a Great Pyrenees. He’s a white, bushy, sheep-herding kind of dog. That’s Moon Dog. He’s white so he’s easy to see when he runs around at night. I also have to say, my father-in-law worked for NASA back around the time of the Apollo missions, he lived right there in Cocoa Beach where all of the astronauts were and sort of ‘lived among them.’ So [he] had a dog named Moon Doggie because he was working on the moon mission. And I always thought that was a great name, so when we got this dog I liked the idea of Moon Dog Jr.

    FC: Well Andrew, thanks for talking with us today. We can’t wait to hear the new album.

    Andrew: I can’t wait for you to hear it either. Thanks so much for doing this.

    Andrew’s new record Light for the Lost Boy hit stores this week! Pick it up here and check out his previous works here.

    To look into some of the artists that Andrew mentioned in the interview, follow these links:

    C.S. Lewis

    Rich Mullins

    Caedmon’s Call & Derek Webb

    Switchfoot

     


    This post was posted in Music, Interviews and was tagged with Featured, Rich Mullins, Andrew Peterson, Derek Webb, Caedmon's Call, College, The Lord of the Rings, Switchfoot, C.S. Lewis

  • Family, Cancer, Music and Resting in Hope - an interview with Karyn Williams

    Posted on August 22, 2012 by John van der Veen

    Karyn Williams

    Whether it's growing up with 18 brothers and sisters or journeying through her father's cancer diagnosis, Karyn Williams has stories to tell through her music. And that's just what she does on her debut release, Only You. Karyn recently talked with us about her music, the importance of family, and what God is teaching her now.

    Tell us a little bit about yourself. When did you begin to pursue music full time?

    From a young age, I knew that I wanted to surround myself with music; it's the only thing that has ever really made sense to me. Growing up, my dad spoke in churches a lot and my mom would travel with him and sing. One night when I was about three years old, I begged my mom to get up and sing with her. She reluctantly agreed thinking I would probably hide behind her skirt the whole time, but when the music started, apparently I grabbed the microphone and took over the song. She sat down on the pew in the front row (laughing of course) and watched me finish! I was hooked and music became my thing.

    In the summer of 2007, I felt the Lord tugging at my heart to move to Nashville and pursue a ministry in music. I was absolutely terrified, but I packed my car, said goodbye to my family in Orlando where I grew up, stepped out on faith and made the move.  It was the scariest experience of my life, but it was also the time when Philippians 4:7 came to life for me. Even though I cried the entire way to Nashville, I also had a peace that I couldn't understand or explain. I didn't know anyone or anything other than the fact that if the Lord was leading this journey, I knew I was in good hands.

    I made a promise to the Lord on the drive that day that I would walk through every door He opened, as long as I felt it was from Him. I have kept that promise and the doors He has opened led to signing a record deal at Inpop Records in 2011, paving the way for me to release my first full-length album.

    From the minute I walked in to Inpop, it felt like a big family hug and I'm beyond thankful to have such a great team of people around me who have true hearts for putting out music that will encourage people in their walk with the Lord! I'm so excited to have put together a collection of songs for this record, Only You that speak truth about the hope of Jesus; that's really the only thing that matters to me. The Lord has used music as a powerful tool in my own life to draw me close to Him, and my prayer is that these songs will do the same for other people.

    What do you hope people come away with after listening to your songs?

    As I have traveled and shared music over the last few years, there is one thing that has become very real for me: people are hurting. Sometimes in a very big way and sometimes in ways they don't show. There is something we are all carrying around or walking through every day of our lives that is difficult, unfair, or something we don't understand. We have gotten very good at putting smiles on our faces, walking out the front door and going about our day when sometimes we're dying inside.

    If there's one thing I want people to take away from these songs, it is hope. Real hope! We as humans can do without a lot of things in our lives, but hope is not one of them. Many of the songs on Only You were born out of a very personal (sometimes painful) place, so the journey of writing for this record has been very healing for me.  I believe the Lord has allowed experiences in my own life over the last few years so that I can share this music in a way that encourages someone else walking through the same thing. Sometimes all we need is someone to put their arm around our shoulder and say, "Hey, I know you're in pain right now.  I've been there, and you're gonna make it through."  Music has a way of healing and encouraging in a way that sometimes nothing else can.

    For me, being a Christian artist is the biggest honor in the world and it is even bigger than just the songs on this record. Ultimately it is about helping people connect to God in a deeper way and trying to provide real hope for real people living in the real world. The only thing that matters to me is that I spread hope and encouragement everywhere I go and the fact that the Lord has allowed me to do that through music…well that's the ultimate dream come true!

    Your first single, "Rest in the Hope" was born out of your dad's cancer diagnosis. How has God used this song since its release to radio?

    As songwriters sometimes we have to go searching for great song ideas, and then sometimes they fall in our lap. "Rest In The Hope" was a song that fell in my lap, but not in a way I ever expected or wanted.

    On February 4th, 2011, my dad called me with news that would change both of our lives forever. He shared with me that he had been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called Multiple Myeloma, a blood & bone marrow cancer that was "incurable" and there was "no surgery" that could be done. I was devastated. I mean devastated. My dad has always been my rock, my hero, and then somewhere along the way to adulthood, he and I became great friends. We've done 7 marathons with each other, wrote a book together; he's just my favorite guy in the world. So this cancer news rocked me to my core and I walked around for many weeks in a complete fog trying to understand it and figure it out.

    I had a lot of questions for God, most of which started with the word "Why?" Those first weeks and months were extremely tough: lots of treatments, countless doctors appointments and lots of tears and uncertainty.

    After a few weeks, I remember collapsing on my bed in tears and asking my husband, "Am I ever going to feel normal again?" It was in that moment that I realized I was exhausted trying to figure it all out and I had to lay this down and allow God to be the One in control of this situation. When we don't understand something, our human nature is to wrestle it to the ground and try and figure out what God's doing in our lives. The truth is, we won't always understand, and His ways aren't our ways so we have to trust and rest knowing that He is still in control, no matter what we're walking through.

    Not long after my dad’s diagnosis, he said, “I thought I was close to the Lord before, but now I feel like I’m sitting on his lap hugging Him around the neck.” I thought that was such a beautiful picture of resting in the arms of Jesus and that is really the statement for how "Rest In The Hope" was born. When I realized this would be my first radio single to the world, I was overwhelmed.

    This song is personal for me in a way that’s hard to explain after walking through my dad’s illness. It is a song of comfort and hope, and my prayer is that whoever hears it will realize that the Lord is right there in the middle of whatever they’re going through. He knows right where you are and is walking with you every step of the way. We have a hope beyond measure and we really can rest knowing that He we belong to Him.

    Rest In Hope

    How have you and your family learned to "Rest in the Hope" since your dad's diagnosis?

    Well, cancer will definitely teach you to rely on the Lord in new ways! I will never ever forget the devastation of learning that news. It has given me a new understanding and a new respect for what people go through when someone close to them is diagnosed with cancer. Everything stops.

    Although I cried every day for weeks, I finally made the decision to lay it all down. I had no other choice. God is still God even in the middle of circumstances we don't understand. Cancer or any other difficult situations in our lives is not God punishing us; it is simply something He's allowing us to walk through as a chance to mold us, grow us and help us learn to rely completely on Him.

    I can remember the moment when I finally said, "Ok Lord, I may never understand this…but I'm not going to question it." We tend to only thing that we are "blessed" when things are going well in our lives. But I believe the Lord allows us to be in different situations in order to share His name. Sometimes we don't like those situations, but ultimately, the only thing that matters during our time on earth is that we shared Jesus with everyone we came in contact with. Whether that's done from a hospital bed or a pulpit – we all have a ministry to share right where we are.

    And how is your dad doing now?

    He is in remission! Praise the Lord!!! At his age (71 when diagnosed) getting his cancer in remission was going to be a challenge. He has always been a health nut and has always taken extremely good care of his body. He used to say, "I'm getting in shape for old age." Now he says, "I didn't realize it, but I was getting in shape for cancer." It was an extremely grueling process of treatment, but because of his good health at the time of diagnosis, he did a lot better than the doctors expected! It's a good lesson for all of us - skip the pizza and eat greens, and tomorrow morning, hit the gym instead of the donuts!

    Adoption is a central part of your family's story. How has adoption impacted you?

    I was four years old when my parents started adopted children, so I don't remember much before my brothers and sisters from different nations started joining our family.  I have siblings from Romania, South Korea, Brazil and the Philippines and I wouldn't trade it for the world.  My unique upbringing has definitely shaped me into the woman I am today; you learn a lot as the big sister in a family of 19 kids!

    My parents did a great job of keeping things running smoothly and stressing the importance of responsibility at a young age, so we all had morning and evening jobs that were age appropriate as we grew and matured. We were all very involved in sports, art, dance, cheerleading or whatever it was we were passionate about. If you came into our house on any given afternoon you'd find us outside playing basketball, swimming, sitting in the library reading a book or out back playing a family game of whatever we could come up with. Hanging around playing video games or staring at the TV was NOT an option! My mom ran a pretty tight ship; my dad used to joke that she wore sergeant stripes on her pajamas!

    When I was 12 years old, I traveled with my mom to Romania to bring home one of my little sisters, Gabriela (Gabi). I saw the orphanage where Gabi had spent the first five years of her life, and in an instant, my perspective changed. We have so much that we take for granted here in America, and seeing those conditions as a pre-teen really impacted me. All I've ever known is brothers and sisters who didn't look like me, but I have learned that if we put the color of our skin aside and get past our language barriers, we all have one thing in common and that is our universal need for God. No matter what side of the world you are from, God created us all with a void in our hearts that only He can fill.

    I am so thankful for everything instilled in me because of the diversity of my family. Growing up with so many people around, I learned quickly how to get along with different personalities and how to look past the color of someone's skin. I've seen what it means to give of yourself, and how to work together as a team. I also learned pretty quickly that life didn't revolve around me! There were a lot of kids to worry about, so we all had to pitch in, help where we could and we learned pretty quickly how to be self-sufficient.

    Watching my parents taught me what it means to open your heart to someone in need and I've seen firsthand the rewards that God has waiting for us when we do. My dad used to say, "I have 19 children, 14 of which are adopted but I forget which 14." I always loved hearing him say that because he never saw any difference in my biological siblings and adopted siblings.

    Because of his example, we all followed suite. From the minute a new child joined our family, we were so excited and tried our best to welcome them into the fold. As a longtime NBA Executive, my dad could have done a lot of things with what he and my mom were blessed with. But instead of building a bigger kingdom for themselves or going on more expensive vacations, they chose to invest in the lives of children in need. We are all adopted into the family of Christ and in some small way, I think what my parents did is a beautiful picture of the way God opens His arms to us and welcomes us into to His family.

    What has God been teaching you lately?

    The biggest thing the Lord has taught me this past year is to rely completely on Him. We read about it in Scripture and hear it preached in sermons all the time, but learning how to effectively do that is hard sometimes. As humans, our nature is to control things and many times we think we are in control. But these last few months for me between my dad's cancer diagnosis, walking through the process of making a record and so many other personal things in my life, the Lord has really helped me understand what it means to rely on Him in new ways.  He is in the One driving my life and I have found it works a lot better that way!

    The Scripture that I have made my life verse is Galatians 1:10, "Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God?" Decisions are easier with that mindset. We get so wrapped up and stressed in the busyness of our lives, and sometimes we forget that there's really only one thing we were put here to do and that's honor the Lord in everything we do and tell everyone we can about His love. The title track for this record, "Only You" was born out of that verse and the experience of doing this record has brought me to a place of knowing who my complete dependence is on.

    Two snippets from Karyn's album
    New Album Preview by karynwilliams

    To purchase Karyn's new album, click here.

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    This post was posted in Music, Interviews and was tagged with Featured, Galatians, Karyn Williams, Cancer, Adoption

  • Royal Tailor - Falling Free

    Posted on August 11, 2012 by Family Christian

    Royal Tailor

    Take a generous helping of soul...splatter it with bouncing rhythms, blistering guitars, engaging vocals, stellar musicianship and catchy pop melodies that make you want to move--all textured with the truth of God's grace--and you have Royal Tailor.

    Rarely has music collided with ministry in a more explosive mash up than on Royal Tailor's Essential Records debut Black & White.  Fusing pop, rock, R&B, hip hop and worship into a distinctive musical blend, Tauren, Blake, Jarrod and D.J. deliver the Gospel in a high-energy style that makes audiences want to dance, pray, shout and sing along.

    "We like to get down," Tauren says with a smile.  "That's how we roll.  If you ever spend any time with the four of us, you will be dancing.  If it's the Electric Slide, the dougie, free-styling or whatever, at some point we're going to turn up the music, and we're going to have a good time. That's just who we are."

    Check out their new single, Freefall (lyric video).

    For your further listening pleasure... here is the acoustic version.

     

     


    This post was posted in Music and was tagged with Royal Tailor

  • Four Questions With... (part 4)

    Posted on August 10, 2012 by Family Christian

    We thought it would be fun to ask four questions to some of your favorite artists.

    Change

    Question 4:  What has God been teaching you lately?

    David Zach (lead singer from Remedy Drive) - The biggest thing that I've been paying attention to lately is the idea of continually being born.  I keep on making the mistake that a list of steps or a formula will be the way to renew my soul - but then I keep realizing that the only chance I have to be made new again is through a redemption that's already been set in motion.  It's really easy for me to look to ritual or 'doing the right thing' rather then dependence upon the voice of a King that turned on stars in the sky just by speaking.  The biggest thing God has been teaching me lately is that salvation is an exciting, dynamic and essential thing.  Remembering that I'm blood bought, loved more than anything and a prince of a Kingdom behind the skies makes me want to run after this hope that I can't see - makes me want to let God reshape and repair this heart of mine and renew a right spirit within me.

    Jekob Washington (from The Washington Projects) - Patience, & giving up control. I've always been one to hold on tightly to my desire to hear something a certain way, or see a vision develop the way I'd like it to. God has been teaching me that it's not about what I want, it's about what He wants from me.

    Jason Gray - To be led by the Holy Spirit in a level I haven’t given myself to before. For instance, my mentor has helped me to see that when I’m headed into a conversation, I may be tempted to speculate about what I might say, or to prepare myself for whatever the other person might say so I’m ready for anything. I make these speculations based on past conversations. So I’m always projecting into the future based on my past, which in essence means I’m only ever talking to myself. But the Holy Spirit only speaks in real-time, and when I abandon all my speculating (which is really a form of damage control and trying to have an edge), his voice emerges. This is why Jesus says in Matt 10:19 - 20 to not worry about what to say when we stand before the authorities, because we will be given the words we need. To be tuned into the spirit this way—in real time—invites the voice of the Spirit into all of my interactions, my ministry from the stage, my songwriting, and every moment.

    Andrew Peterson - Not to trust people at church camp who promise you free Snickers bars for every snipe you catch.

    Phil Vischer (VeggieTales and What's In the Bible creator) - Just because it isn't easy doesn't mean it isn't valuable.  We always look for great results to show us we're in God's will.  But God's will is more about obedience than results.  VeggieTales was a massive success - a success on a numerical scale I may never see again.  But numbers can be a dangerous way to look for God's will.  Or, as Albert Einstein once said, "Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts."  It isn't about numbers.  It's about obedience.

    Jon Micah (from Kutless) - Trust Him completely. When things seem out of control I can always be reminded that HE is in control. There is no challenge too great for God, I must simply put my faith and trust in His strength and not my own.

    KJ-52 -Be myself! Be exactly who God has created me to be and never be embarrassed or insecure about it...

    Jason Atkins (from Harbinger Media) - Joy is a choice married to faith, supported by hope, and governed by love.

    Barry Graul (from MercyMe) - God is always in control. There are however circumstances in life that I want to control, but know that I have to rely and wait on God. He is now teaching me patience.

    Laura Story - He's teaching me that I'm not a big deal. I read the first chapter of John this morning, the part where John the baptist tells the pharisees that he not only is NOT the Christ, but he's not even worthy of untying Jesus' smelly sneaker (my translation). As someone who plays a lot of concerts these days, stands on a lot of stages with spotlights and has my name and face on posters, its easy to lose sight of the fact that I am not the main attraction here. I know its the simplest of prayers but one I must return to daily: "He must become greater; I must become less" (John 3:30).

    Tobymac - To continue to trust in God and the promises He has for me.

    Danny Riley (from Gold City) - I am learning that I should look at the trials in my life as opportunities to watch God work, knowing that He is making me the man He wants me to be. I'm learning to trust Him. I was involved in an accident one time, Bus vs. Ford Ranger. The 2 girls in the truck were drunk. The bus had little damage, but the truck... Wow. I was amazed that the girls were alive. They were both ejected from the vehicle and walked away practically injury free. Why? Because they were so drunk their reaction time was yesterday. When the accident occurred, they didn't resist it, they just went with it. When trials come, we shouldn't resist, we need to yield. God is our strength. He will fight our battles on one condition... Get out of the way and allow Him to take control.

     


    This post was posted in Music and was tagged with Featured, TobyMac, MercyMe, Remedy Drive, The Washington Projects, Jason Gray, Andrew Peterson, Phil Vischer, Kutless, KJ52, Laura Story, Gold City

  • Four Questions With... (part 3)

    Posted on August 9, 2012 by Family Christian

    We thought it would be fun to ask four questions to some of your favorite artists.

    Questions 3:  Have you ever gone cow-tipping or snipe-hunting? If not, would you be willing to go with some of the Family Christian folks?

    David Zach (lead singer from Remedy Drive) - Neither.  I would love to go cow-tipping or snipe-hunting with the Family Christian folks.

    Jekob Washington (from The Washington Projects) - Wow. I've only eaten cows, I've never tipped them, & I'm not even sure I know what snipe-hunting is. But in both cases the answer is "Yes" I'd love to go with the Family Christian folk.

    Jason Gray - I did go snipe hunting once as a kid with my uncle and cousins. However, I’d be happy to go again with the Family Christian folks :-) Not cow tipping, though. That’s just mean.

    Andrew Peterson - This question is perpetuating a lie and I refuse to answer it. Both cow-tipping and snipe-hunting are fake. No matter how hard you try, you can't push a cow over, and if you walk in the woods for seven hours looking for snipes you'll probably get seven ticks and a spider bite, then your friends at church camp will ridicule you for the rest of the week. Or so I've heard.

    Phil Vischer (VeggieTales and What's In the Bible creator) - No, neither of those.  I once, however, led a late night bear hunt with Mike Nawrocki on the campus of our Bible college.  Since all bears like puppets, we put a puppet inside a bag and dragged him around as bait as we traipsed through the woods.  Sure enough, a large, furry creature rushed out of a marsh toward us with something in it's mouth.  We figured it was a bear carrying a fish.  Turns out it was someone's dog, carrying a stick.  We named the dog "bear," declared his stick a "fish stick," and he joined us for the rest of the bear hunt.  25 years later I still have that puppet, and his last name is still "Bearbait."

    Jon Micah (from Kutless) - I've done my fair share of Snipe hunting. I actually used to be a Snipe hunting guide!

    KJ-52 -Yes... At our FCA retreat my senior year of high school we took a bunch of the cheerleaders snipe hunting in the swamp... lets just say they didnt ever catch one but they did scream loudly when we busted out the swamp and scared them..

    Jason Atkins (from Harbinger Media) - Not yet. We have cows all around us at the farm and talk about it regularly. It would be fun and an honor to hunt snipes with the folks from Family Christian.

    Barry Graul (from MercyMe) - Have tried the cow tipping, almost got stampeded. What is a snipe? I wanna see one.

    I could be coaxed to ride in a safari jeep with night vision glasses and watch the Family Christian folks cow tip and snipe hunt, for, say, some double stuff Oreos? Oh, and I will be wearing running shoes in case I have to exit quickly, not looking back. You understand.

    Laura Story -I have never gone cow tipping but I'm always up for an adventure. :)

    Tobymac - Yes, I have been both cow tipping and snipe hunting.  The cow tipping was unsuccessful because we couldn't find any cows.  The snipe hunting trip was crazy.  I was totally bamboozled by the whole process.  Convinced that we would find a snipe.  Of course, I came up empty handed.

    Danny Riley (from Gold City) - I have, unfortunately, been snipe-hunting. I won't be falling for that one again. I would love to go cow-tipping though... Call me

     


    This post was posted in Music and was tagged with Featured, TobyMac, MercyMe, Remedy Drive, The Washington Projects, Jason Gray, Andrew Peterson, Phil Vischer, Kutless, KJ52, Laura Story, Gold City

  • Four Questions With... (part 2)

    Posted on August 8, 2012 by Family Christian

    We thought it would be fun to ask four questions to some of your favorite artists.

    Favorite Place to Eat

    Questions 2:  What is the best restaurant you have ever been to?

    David Zach (lead singer from Remedy Drive) - Emilio's in downtown Chicago.  It's a Spanish tappas place.  The dishes are very small - almost like a whole meal of appetizers (tappas) but it's great for a date because you can try each thing together and then wait for the next one to come out.  The caramelized fried bananas are the best at the end.  Plantains actually.

    Jekob Washington (from The Washington Projects) - Fleming's Steak House in San Diego.

    Jason Gray - I have to name two, both in the Twin Cities: Chino Latino—a fun and trendy urban hotspot that blends foods from the hot zones: Indian, Mexican, Asian. I also love Punch Pizza—one of only a handful of officially certified Napoli pizza joints in North America. With super fresh ingredients, a wood burning oven that bakes your pizza in 90 seconds, a fun atmosphere, they make a distinctive pizza that pleases my kids as well as my foodie friends I take there.

    Andrew Peterson - That one that served chocolate chip cookies.

    Phil Vischer (VeggieTales and What's In the Bible creator) - I recently had the opportunity to take my 15 year-old daughter to Club 33, the private dinner club inside Disneyland.  While it isn't necessarily the best restaurant I've ever eaten at, it is really, really good and the experience is very unique since you have to walk through Disneyland to New Orleans Square, find an unmarked door, ring a buzzer for admittance, then ride a small glass elevator up to the restaurant on the second floor.  Way cool!

    Jon Micah (from Kutless) - Without a doubt, Fogo de Chao.

    KJ-52 -I can't name the "Best" but the Columbia restaurant in Ybor City (TAMPA) is one of my favorites because my dad did all the tile work on the outside of the building and it's very historic restaurant (over 100 years old) and reminds me of growing up in Ybor City.

    Jason Atkins (from Harbinger Media) - Le 58 Tour Eiffel. (The food is likely not the best ever but not far from it. Regardless, how many times can you eat from an observation deck in the Parisian landmark - Eiffel Tower? Second Choice - Scalinatella in New York's Upper East Side - best food ever in my mouth.

    Barry Graul (from MercyMe) - I don't remember the name but there's an Italian place in NYC that serves a white sauce pasta dish and I'm pretty sure the noodles have been bathed in butter. So yummy!

    Laura Story - Easy. its a place in Banff, Canada called Nourish. we went there for our 5 year anniversary and ate there about 3 times in 5 days.

    Tobymac - The Red Pony in Franklin TN. If you have never been, you will never understand. Amazing food.

    Danny Riley (from Gold City) - I've been to a lot of great places, but oddly enough, the best is a restaurant called "Classic On Noble" in Anniston, AL. They have a fried green tomato salad (that was not a typo) that is incredible. Their shrimp and grits are life altering.

     


    This post was posted in Music, Food and was tagged with Featured, TobyMac, MercyMe, Remedy Drive, The Washington Projects, Jason Gray, Andrew Peterson, Phil Vischer, Kutless, KJ52, Laura Story, Gold City

  • Four Questions With... (part 1)

    Posted on August 7, 2012 by Family Christian

    We thought it would be fun to ask four questions to some of your favorite artists.

    The Best Cookie

    Question 1:  What is your favorite kind of cookie and what do you like about it?

    David Zach (lead singer from Remedy Drive) - I like the oatmeal raisin cookie.  It's a desert but I get the sense that I'm still getting something positive for my body with the iron from the raisins and whatever makes oatmeal healthy.

    Jekob Washington (from The Washington Projects) - Chips ahoy (Regular). The prefect milk dipping cookie.

    Jason Gray - I’ve always been a big fan of the classic chocolate chip cookie, but these days I’m more inclined to enjoy a delicious shortbread cookie, especially if it’s thick and crumbly. It’s perfect for dipping in my coffee.

    Andrew Peterson - Chocolate chip. What do I like about it? Well, the taste, I guess.

    Phil Vischer (VeggieTales and What's In the Bible creator) - I love a good sugar cookie.  And the very BEST sugar cookie can be found at my favorite sandwich restaurant, Potbelly.  Yum!

    Jon Micah (from Kutless) - I have to eat gluten free which makes cookies difficult.  There is a shop in Lake Oswego, OR called Crave that makes the most amazing gluten free deserts I've ever had.  They were featured on the Food Network's Cupcake Wars  and won in their competition against regular cupcakes with their gluten free cupcake.  Any cookie from their shop is a pretty solid choice.

    KJ-52 - The kind that my wife makes... Before we stared dating she used to do all the baking at this Bible study we used to go to... She won me over with her baking ha ha... It just reminds me how much I love her.

    Jason Atkins (from Harbinger Media) - My bride Shannon's version of a Neiman Marcus cookie (Oatmeal Chocolate Chip with both white and milk chocolate chunks). First, I like that it is a Christmas tradition. Second, seriously they are Heaven's gift to the taste bud (textures - crunch, creamy, chewy; taste with salty sweetness from the chopped nuts mixed with chocolate) I sometimes wonder if Jesus whipped up a batch when nobody was looking.

    Barry Graul (from MercyMe) - Double stuff Oreos

    Laura Story - Those big monster cookies with oatmeal and M&M's and all kinds of goodness.

    Tobymac - Peanut Butter cookies with the Hershey's Kiss on the top.  The bomb.

    Danny Riley (from Gold City) - Chocolate Chip... That is the classic cookie, you just can't beat it. And, I LOVE chocolate.

     


    This post was posted in Music, Food and was tagged with Featured, TobyMac, MercyMe, Remedy Drive, The Washington Projects, Jason Gray, Andrew Peterson, Phil Vischer, Kutless, KJ52, Laura Story, Gold City

  • Brandon Heath - Blue Mountains

    Posted on July 26, 2012 by Family Christian

    Brandon Heath - Blue Mountain

    Brandon Heath is certainly no new comer to the music scene.  His career has taken him on some amazing journeys through the years.  Brandon has written songs not just for his own albums, but also for Bebo Norman, Matt Wertz, Joy Williams of Civil Wars, Britt Nicole, Jars of Clay and others...  Most fans know him for writing and recording songs like "I'm Not Who I Was," "Give Me Your Eyes" and "Your Love."

     

    Carrie Underwood's Wedding

    Not many folks know that Brandon sang his song, "Love Never Fails," at Carrie Underwood's wedding.  Carrie has been a fan of Brandon for a number of years and she wanted him to sing the song for her first dance with her new husband, Mike Fisher.

    This October, Brandon releases his newest album, Blue Mountain. From the dynamic first single, "Jesus In Disguise" to the heartwarming tale of "Paul Brown Petty," Brandon weaves together a collection of songs full of heart and rich with redemption. Staying true to his craft of personal songwriting, Blue Mountain's back porch ease further establishes Brandon Heath's accessible brand of story telling.

    The first single from Blue Mountain is Jesus In Disguise.  Below is the lyric video for you.

     

    Earlier this year, Brandon recorded an acoustic EP earlier this year. Songs include "Give Me Your Eyes," "Your Love" and "Wait and See."  Click the image to see the album.

    PS - Bonus video here. Brandon with Third Day, singing a great song from the late Rich Mullins.


    This post was posted in Music and was tagged with Britt Nicole, Brandon Heath, Bebo Norman, Joy Williams, Civil Wars, Jars of Clay, Carrie Underwood, Third Day, Rich Mullins

  • Matthew West - New single. New album.

    Posted on July 18, 2012 by Family Christian

    >Matthew West returns with his new album, Into the Light on September 25th. Continuing his journey of drawing inspiration from true stories of people’s lives, he’s written an album of all-new songs including the first single “Forgiveness,” which tells the story of a mother forgiving the drunk driver that took her daughter’s life.

    Into the Light encourages people to embrace the hope and restoration in Christ, in the middle of life’s toughest challenges.

     

    Here is the first single from Matthew, Forgiveness, done acoustically.

    Also, here is Forgiveness again, but the lyric video.

    For more on Matthew West, click here.
    To purchase his new single, click here.


    This post was posted in Music and was tagged with Featured, Music, Forgiveness, Matthew West

  • Pulling No Punches - an interview with Lecrae

    Posted on July 10, 2012 by John van der Veen

    From “latch-key kid” to key player in the Man Up movement, Lecrae’s life is an example of God’s transformative power – and he’s not quiet about it. In his signature straight-shoot approach, new album Gravity calls Christians to open their eyes to the weight of need in their world and share the love of Jesus as never before.

    Lecrae

    Family Christian: Can you give us a brief overview of your childhood? Where did Lecrae come from?

    Lecrae: I was born in Houston, Texas to essentially a single parent household. We moved from Houston to Denver, and then, just because my mother was single and was just kind of struggling to make ends meet, I would stay with my grandmother quite often in San Diego, California. So between Texas, California, and Denver, those were the places I bounced around. I was just a sponge. I picked up so much in all that time. Obviously not having a strong male influence or role model, I gravitated to anyone who would pay attention. Most of the time those were terrible influences [who] influenced me to run in the wrong direction quite often. I grew up with a great sense of insecurity in figuring out what I was and where I belonged. Not growing up in church didn’t make it any easier. So I pretty much wrestled through that my whole life until my senior summer in high school. I got into a lot of trouble and [things] really exploded. I had to say “God, I need your help.” That’s really when I began to sense that God was drawing me and [I] later became a Christian after hearing the Gospel.

    FC: What made you feel that impression that God was pursuing you?

    Lecrae: I had gotten into trouble my senior summer. Financial trouble, trouble with other people, trouble with women – I was just running myself into a dead end. So I’m thinking, “I’m seventeen, let me do the mature, adult thing, and go to church.” Grandma was a Christian so the roots of the foundation I had established of the Christian God were through my grandmother. And that was where I needed to go. By grace, there was a young lady that I went to high school with that invited me to a Bible study. I went, and I had never seen Christians who dressed like me or talked like me, so I thought they were Martians from another planet! When I saw them, I said, “Oh you guys are human!” They loved me genuinely and that’s really what started it.

    FC: Do you still live in Houston?

    Lecrae: No, I’ve since moved from Texas to Memphis, and from Memphis to Atlanta. I’ve been in Atlanta for the last three years.

    FC: You’re married?

    Lecrae: I am, with three beautiful kids.

    FC: So did you marry that lady from high school?

    Lecrae: No, I actually met my wife at the same Bible study [though]. She was friends with the young lady who invited me. I met her there, and obviously I thought she was way too Christian for me, but I became a Christian and grew in the Lord and it worked out between us.

    FC: How much was music or the arts part of your life growing up? Did you realize early on that there was some talent in your life, or did that come later?

    Lecrae: Absolutely. I was a latchkey kid so I would sit at home for hours while my mother was at work. I had to use my imagination. I’d sit in front of the television so much. Sometimes she would allow me to watch television and she would come home to see if it was warm so I had to figure out what I could do with my time. It just became an outlet to start writing, experimenting, and just trying to be creative. I knew I had a passion for the arts, but we didn’t recognize it. It was one of my fifth-grade teachers who recognized it and suggested to my mother that I be put in a special class. That special class led me to audition for a special school so I actually went to a performing arts middle school for a couple years. That’s really where I started to hone my writing skills.

    FC: Would you say that you’re trained in other forms of art beside hip hop?

    Lecrae: I definitely wanted to be around artistic people all the time, [because] you pick up a lot. Acting and theatrics are my forte. I got a full scholarship for acting. I thought I was going to be an actor. I saw a movie with Bruce Willis in it and thought, “I want to do that.”

    FC: So at what point did you decide that maybe there was something in hip hop for you? If you were leaning toward theater or acting, or at least had a desire for that, when did you decide “I want to do something with hip hop”?

    Lecrae: Hip hop – it’s an art form but it’s a culture as well. You grow up in the culture and you never leave it. It’s a style of dress; it’s a way of thought. I always grew up in the culture, and it was part of who I was and I carried it into every world I was in. Even moving into the theater world, I would bring that element into it. What was unique about me and different about the world I traveled in, was I grew up watching cousins and uncles. They loved hip hop, listened to it constantly. As a little kid, you just listen to everything they listen to, they’d break dance in front yard and I was just exposed to this. From grabbing paint cans and trying to learn how to do graffiti to all those different elements. As I grew older I found that I really had a knack for rhyming and I pursued that. So by thirteen I got serious about using my writing and rhyming skills. I did it everywhere I could. I didn’t really have a lot of social currency in middle school or high school. I wasn’t the most popular kid. I’m super tall, but I started playing basketball late so it took me a while to catch up. My social currency was being able to rap and that’s what I would do in the cafeteria at lunchtime. That’s what really connected me to other peers.

    FC: Did you feel forced to approach hip hop or lyrics differently after you became a Christian?

    Lecrae: As a Christian I really did kind of wrestle with “How do I do this?” The things that really steered me away from Christianity [originally] was that I really did think it was about putting on airs and about rules and regulations. I liked baggy jeans and my urban style and I thought that Christians and that didn’t mix. And so going to the Bible study I saw individuals who did dressed like me and talked like me. [Up until that point] I didn’t know Christians wore their hats back and things along those lines, so that really intrigued me. I loved that I could be authentically hip hop, but authentically Christian. The things that God didn’t endorse, obviously I would have to let them go, but there were so many beautiful things that He did endorse and so many wonderful aspects within hip hop culture that just made me me that He could use for His own glory. I just began to walk in that and allow Him to change me.

    Lecrae

    FC: When you hear the term “Christian rap” or “Christian hip hop,” what do you think?

    Lecrae: I think what people are trying to communicate is that there are redeemed individuals within hip hop culture. And I would say I’m one of them. I think that as a Christian, we’re to be a light in this world. I think it’s almost like saying “Christian American,” it doesn’t mean that I’m not American, it just means that I’m distinctly and authentically Christian as much as I am American. And so my Christianity is going to permeate throughout my American-ness. So when I think about Christian hip hop I think of an individual who is a Christian who is using hip hop to communicate things that God will endorse.

    FC: What do you think of the Christian hip hop industry? Are we doing well? Are we competing, in a sense?

    Lecrae: As an industry, there is definitely a lack of infrastructure. Simply because it’s definitely more of an organic art form, I think there’s definitely a lack of infrastructure. I think that’s been one of the passions that my friends at Reach Records have had; to bring some awareness to music and to really bring a different light and perspective. I’m really grateful to all of the different entities within the Christian music industry for embracing us and giving us a seat at the table. And I think that’s only helping more hip hop artists in positions to serve.

    FC: What artists do you listen to personally, either hip hop or not?

    Lecrae: I love listening to all the guys on my label: KB, Tedashii, Pro, Andy Mineo, Trip Lee. I love those guys. There’s another guy, Swoope, that I think is a phenomenal artist. They’re people that really inspire me and I think they’re just phenomenally talented at what they do.

    FC: You’ve been busy with collaborations lately, appearing on Britt Nicole’s newest and also with Jimmy Needham. Who would be on your list of dream collaborations?

    Lecrae: I’m a big fan of Brooke Fraser and Gungor, so I would love to work with them. You might see some Lecrae and Tenth Avenue North action happening as well... I definitely would say Hillsong United. I’m blown away at all that they do. I’ve been to Sydney and seen how incredibly passionate they are about what they do. I think that’s mind-blowing. I’ve been really fortunate. Not many artists can say they’ve done stuff with the Chris Tomlins and the Crowders. So that’s really been a blessing for me.

    FC: Do you think you’d ever cross over into mainstream music? And what do you think about that type of responsibility?

    Lecrae: There’s a saying that goes around that says “I you crossover make sure you bring the cross over.” That’s definitely my heart and my aim. I want to remain distinct and authentically Christian in whatever realm I’m in. I don’t want people to walk away saying, “Lecrae is a Christian because he said so. Lecrae is a Christian because they labeled him that.” But I want them to say, “Lecrae is a Christian because I can tell by his life that he values Jesus.” That’s really what my aim is, for people to see I truly treasure and value Jesus and His Word. If [crossing over] happens then, by God’s grace, let their lives be changed.

    FC: So you’re not apprehensive of something like that happening? You’re just saying, “If that happens, God’s going to have to be the one to make it happen”?

    Lecrae: Absolutely. I think as Christians, we all have the same calling, and that calling is to love God with all our heart, mind, and soul and love others as ourselves and to glorify God in everything that we do. If I was an architect, who all of the sudden made it into one of the biggest architectural firms, I’m still going to have that same calling. As a musician, to be able to walk in mainstream realms, I still have that same calling. The Bible says, “Take heed, lest you fall,” but this has really been the story of my life. I’ve traveled into other realms in order to be a light and be a missionary. Some of them were very dangerous, and I don’t look at this as any different.

    FC: What do you think of church culture today, here in the U.S.?

    Lecrae: Obviously, I love the church, the church that God is establishing, that Jesus died for, so I’ll never have any negative things to say about His church. Even though she’s spotty and has issues, He’s perfecting her. Church culture, or what I’d call Christendom, is this kind of traditionalism that we’ve set in motion. It doesn’t necessarily have any validation in the Bible, and I think can be very dangerous—creating rules and regulations and putting ourselves in positions where we’re the final authority on things because this is the way it’s always been done. It’s dangerous and we can be Pharisees in that regard. I’m very optimistic that there are sincere believers out there that are okay with tradition but don’t want to endorse traditionalism for the sake of traditionalism but want to embrace tradition because it’s God-honoring. I think that’s a beautiful thing.

    FC: Tell us a little bit about Man Up: what went into it conceptually and what you hope it accomplishes.

    Lecrae: Yes, so Man Up was kind of us at Reach Records and Life Ministries surveying the culture, both the church and outside the church. There was a lack of understanding of what masculinity really looks like and what it is. Obviously, we believe the Bible is the authority on masculinity, and so we wanted to address that. Men, specifically in the West, have no rights of passage, no way to know when they become a man. Everywhere else in the world you gotta kill a lion or stab a shark, or go on some journey, and you come back and you’re a man. But here in the West, we’re really kind of clueless as to what makes us a man. So we’ve begun to make up our own definitions when Jesus has given us so many. He was the picture-perfect man. He was selfless, He was sacrificial, He was courageous, He was authoritative, and He loved his wife – the church – to the death. Those were some of the elements that we wanted to put out there and portray for those inside and for those outside the church, that they may say, “Ah, this is what manhood looks like. And it’s a goal that I’ve never attained in my own strength.” And so, one of the key factors in manhood is repentance. Ya know, you’ve got to man down to man up. Wave your white flag and say, “Jesus I can’t do this.” I think that’s the first step in being a man.

    FC: And it has been well-received?

    Lecrae: Incredibly well. So we did a campaign where there was an album, a short film, a tour, and a conference. The tour sold out, the album has been incredibly successful, the film is attached to the album so people have been watching it and being encouraged. And at the conference we anticipated about 1,000 people and 2,200 men showed up – three generations, the grandfathers, fathers, and sons. It was mind blowing. It was a powerful, powerful time.

    FC: That is so valuable for men and fathers. Talk to us a little bit about Church Clothes: the mix tape, the video, the controversy.

    Lecrae: I’ve always been a missionary and what people don’t know is that I’ve always taken some strategic and eyebrow-raising steps. So historically that’s been my M.O. I moved to one of the worst neighborhoods in Memphis, as a newly married man, which everybody said “That’s ridiculous, that’s insane, you’ve lost your mind.” From there, my wife and I went to Asia in ministry there and had to duck and hide and run from authorities and she agreed to go pregnant. Everyone thought we had lost our minds again. God showed us incredible fruit. I’ve always done music to push people to get them to get uncomfortable in their seat so they could wrestle with things. Not to become pew potatoes, just simply sitting there, growing fat with knowledge and not applying it. It’s a mixed tape that’s really aimed and geared toward hip hop culture. And one of the formats that is highly respectable within hip hop culture is a mix tape. Just talking about controversial issues that I don’t think people outside of the church wrestle with. Being an artist that’s well received in Christian circles, the majority of my fan-base is Christian, and are hearing it and seeing it, and have all these questions and issues. For me, it’s me saying to them, “Hey, this exists out here. This is what people are wresting with. We need to get out here and love on people and engage people and engage culture.”

    FC: So you’ve encountered some controversy with your music. Do you think it’s because you take a bold approach?

    Lecrae: I think some people don’t get it, but as we talked about I think there’s a Christian culture that wants everything to be comfortable and safe and they think that’s what Christianity is. It’s “Aaah, I’ve escaped the craziness of this world and now I’m safe.” And we would like to move into a safe environment and have, ya know, a Christian barber shop and a Christian swimming pool and not have to deal with the world anymore. But Jesus prayed that we would remain in the world but [be] protected. He also told us that the gates of hell shall not prevail against His church and for the gates to not prevail against His church and [for that to happen], it must mean we’re trying to storm them. So, I think there’s just a sub-sect that want to remain safe and tucked away and not engage the world for the glory of Jesus.

    FC: Can you just stop rocking the boat for a while?

    Lecrae: (laughing) I would love to, but I can’t.

    FC: No don’t! Don’t stop rocking the boat. So, tell us about Gravity. What’s the theme of the record?

    Lecrae: Gravity is loosely based on Ecclesiastes and I think what Solomon was trying to do was bring some weight to life and that’s really what I want to do, to paint some sober pictures. Honestly everything sober is not bad so I don’t want people to think that sober pictures are bad. You know, there is a sobering picture when you’re overwhelmed with all of the hurt and the pain in this world. There’s a sober picture of how it’s only for a short period of time, it’s short-lived, or that we still have Jesus. So that’s what I would call a weighty part, a gravitational pull to remind us of who we are in Jesus. So obviously, just wanting to paint hope, but also just giving the pictures of the realities of this life that we live, and how there’s no escaping it other than Jesus.

    FC: I do have a couple of questions from our Twitter followers. They should be fairly easy. What was the hardest thing that the media has put you?

    Lecrae: Ya know, I don’t know if it’s the media. I would say it’s probably social media. Social media is just constant, it never stops, 24 hours a day. And so there’s always someone who is very loud and very opinionated. I will say it’s strengthened my faith if anything, because it’s made me feel closer to Jesus, or relate to Him more. I’m sure He was constantly criticized, and constantly someone had an opinion about what He was doing. I’m not perfect like Him though so some opinions or critiques might be warranted (laughs).

    FC: Who was your favorite artist growing up?

    Lecrae: My favorite artist growing up would probably be Lauren Hill. She sings, she raps, she sings from her soul, and then she wasn’t afraid to articulate her faith once she started to embrace it. And I really appreciate that about her.

    FC: She certainly wore her heart on her sleeve, that’s for sure. One more question, are there any guests on your new record?

    Lecrae: Absolutely. It’s still in the works, but I would love to work with the likes of Brooke Fraser and Gungor. There are a few, but I don’t want to give them away until it’s signed, sealed and delivered.

    To find out more about Lecrae's new album, Gravity, click here.


    This post was posted in Music, Interviews and was tagged with Music, Jimmy Needham, Tenth Ave. North, Lecrae, Church, Solomon, Ecclesiastes, Fathers, Brooke Fraser, Gungor, Hillsong, Chris Tomlin, David Crowder, KB, Tedashii, Pro, Andy Mineo, Trip Lee, Hip-Hop, Rap, Britt Nicole, Swoope

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