On the afternoon of the last show with Third Day on the extended Come Together Tour, we sat down with the all three members that make up the Paul Colman Trio to discuss a little bit about, connection, their music, some insights from living in Australia, the simplicity of Jesus, and where they plan to go from here.
cMusicWeb.com: cMusicWeb's motto is "A different approach to music." How does pc3 fit into this?
Grant: I think for a lot of bands, being in a band is about the music, or it's about making money, or it's about a whole lot of other things. I know that a lot of bands do performances where they are very arty about it and it's about them expressing their music as an art form and hopefully people will appreciate it. And if people don't people appreciate it, then it's sort of their fault. Whereas for us the music is simply the vehicle to get to where we want to go. It's the car that we jump in to drive somewhere. The place we are trying to get to is connection. Connecting with people, and connecting with the Creator of the Universe. And encouraging the people that we are playing for to connect to the Creator of the Universe. And that's why performing night after night, even if it is the same songs over and over again, can be different because it is a different bunch of people there. And God is always fresh. So it's about connection, and not about music, and I think that's quite different from most bands. It's a different approach to music.
Paul: And that would be why we would have a passion for music. Because if you work backwards from that, that means the music has got to be good, it's got to be great. Most people start with the music and then go, "Now are we going to perform this?" and we start with how we are going to connect, and then we write the music.
Grant: And we'd like as nice a car as possible to travel in, but as long as it gets us there. If we need to do some goofy hand motions or if we need to make a few laughs at ourselves at whatever is going on, or if we need to be arty, then all those things are ways we can do it. But we don't want to box ourselves at just one way of presenting music. It's a lot more interactive and a lot more broad and interesting and fun and than that, and serious.
Paul: Grant is not saying anything will do as long as we connect. It's not that at all. It's nothing haphazard about making the music. We are fully intense about music. But it's just the purpose of it.
Phil: And the connection is not just when we are on stage with the people of the audience.
Grant: Yes, like when we are on the tour bus, it's an opportunity to connect, when you are in catering, when we are in here in the dressing room with you, it's an opportunity to connect.
cMW: What do you think about just before you go on stage?
Grant: Usually that we did not take enough time to pray properly.
Paul: We always pray before we go on stage, and I guess we should pray before we do anything. So I don't know why we don't just pray before we eat, well we do I guess. It's called Grace and it's more formal. I think, not a presumption in your question, but a presumption in just about any question that you get asked as a musician, I think is a false presumption, but it is not the fault of the person asking the question. It's a way of thinking. And that is that the time on stage is the really important part of your day, it's the important part of how God works through you. And that's why we don't tend to ask questions like, "What are you thinking before you get up and walk out of the bus and you are about to see the crew?" or "What are you thinking just before you get back to town and you are about to see your wife?" or "What are you thinking in the dressing room when there is still 5 hours to go and your bored and you have to choose between reading the Scriptures or watching a DVD?" We are often asked about what happens on stage, and really what happens on stage is a direct result of all the right or wrong decisions you made throughout your whole day. It's a result, it's not the main focus.
I heard Rebecca St. James say that she prays before every ministry opportunity. I don't understand that because what isn't a ministry opportunity? I guess what she means is that she is an artist who has grown up around the presumption that the ministry is from stage. I think that's the easiest, if that is a ministry, that's my easiest ministry. That's the one that requires less focus and attention than anything I do, because I am operating with my gift, I have already written the songs, I have already played them a thousand times each, we've already done a thousand shows. It's part of your work. And if God moves through people in the audience through people during that moment, I am amazed and I love it. But when you get off stage, to us, that's the real stage - every moment that you are not operating in your gift.
So, what we think about is getting the songs right, praying, where we are at, where the merchandise stand is so we can point people in the right direction, it's business. But also, you know that God is going to work through you because He is good and He does that. But it's not the same intensity for me as some others talk about it.
Grant: I also think that we will try to remind ourselves that, I know this comes out in the prayers often, it is actually very easy to walk on stage in front of an audience that is there to see you, or a particularly big audience, or any audience for that matter, and going, "Yeah, I deserve this, I rock, I have been working hard, and these people are here because I have been working hard." What comes out in the prayer is really trying to push that down and to remind ourselves that without God's love in us, we are nothing. The little image we have about that in my head is that I want to be like a clear glass window. I know that we all do. We want to be like a clear glass window rather than a beautiful stained glass window. You know when you are sitting in an old church looking at a stained glass window and the sun can be shining through and you can be going, "Wow, what a great window!" And that to me is like looking at a great band and singing about God, but you are actually only looking at the band. A little image that helps me and I try to remind myself of this before I am about to go on stage is that I want to be a clear glass window, so people are going, "Wow. Look at the beautiful day outside." That's the idea.
cMW: If at your next concert, instead of singing, you were told to preach for 20 minutes, what would you talk about?
Paul: I'd be very happy. Kick all these guys off stage and leave the microphone, and I'd love to talk for 20 minutes. I think we'd talk about Jesus. We would find different examples, different stories, but essentially it would be 20 minutes about Jesus. Because in the end our opinions are what they are, and our doctrine is what it is, but this whole thing people refer to as Christianity is meant to be about a relationship with Jesus. So it would be simply that. It would be different examples about how that is reflected in our thoughts, but our hope would be that at the end of 20 minutes if we were asked to preach, that what people would remember was that was about Jesus.
Grant: At any concert setting, you have got a situation where there are people of all different backgrounds. You can't presume what their backgrounds are, what their church background is, or even whether or not they have anything to do with a church, or anything like that. But most people who might have a problem with the church culture, or religiousness, or even Christianity, if you present them with pure, as pure as we can possibly project Jesus, not many people will have a problem with that. It's love your neighbor. It's have a servant heart. It's all good things and people do not have a problem with that. And I'll tell you what would happen to me. if there was an opportunity to preach, Phil and I would very happily allow Paul the platform because we are very confident in the words he would speak.
cMW: (to Paul) I kind of think based on what I have seen and heard that you have the gift of Preaching.
Paul: Why do you say that?
cMW: Being able to take things and explain it in a way that people understand. It's simple. I mean like you said, it's Jesus.
Phil: One of the things that Paul is good at explaining about is, because we are created in God's image, the way we relate to each other is very similar to the way, almost identically the same, that we should relate to God because it is a relationship. Because we are created in His image. And that is something that I know Paul is really gifted in talking about. So if Paul were given 20 minutes to speak, I would hope that he would talk about that because I think that is one of the things that people…I know when I have heard Paul speak, that gives me instant connection to understanding more about who God is. It's the same. We can relate with Him the way we relate with other people. It's a conversation we have. We converse with each other all day. Why would it be any different with God?
One of the examples is prayer is seen as so formal, but it is really just talking to God. I don't just say, "Grant, I'd love to talk to you right now." But I say, "Hey Grant, what do you think about this?" And that's the way it should be with God. And I love the way Paul explains that. And I love the way Paul explains that from the stage, and if we had 20 minutes to talk about it, I hope he would talk about that because it is a cool thing that he has enlightened me with.
Grant: Back in Australia, Paul did a lot of preaching. There have not been as many opportunities in the United States yet, but I hope more of them come about for him.
cMW: I do too!
Paul: I think most people want it simpler. Most people go to church buildings week in and week out, and I don't think they get met where they really are. I think most people think they are the only ones who had an argument that day the way to church, they think they are the only ones that think they come from a dysfunctional family, they are the only ones who have a stash of porno's under their bed, they think they are the only ones that have had a week full of sexual thoughts. I think a lot of times people are trying to have this Christian experience because I think that is what is expected of them, rather than just bringing merely who they are to Jesus. I think people want it broken down into a very very very simple thing.
I think being a school teacher helps, too, because when you start teaching school you learn very quickly when you are talking over their heads. You are talking as an adult, and even over that. You start to realize that you just got to keep it real simple. I guess that's why our music is pretty simple. Because it is built for a stadium. It's built for 10,000 people. It's meant to be a simple idea, a simple melody, a simple thought, centered around the person of Jesus. That seems to be the whole idea. Our challenge is to live what I preach. I am good at preaching, we have to get better at living it.
cMW: Where does the inspiration for the lyrics on the songs come from? How is the music added?
Paul: Well this band started pretty much with me as a singer-songwriter, and it's evolving into more of a collaboration as every month goes by. I've come from singing and songwriting 100 percent of the songs and these guys putting a bit of input into the bass parts and drum parts. To now where the music we are demo-ing for the next record are more collaborative. That's a good thing - trying to figure out the resources that each of us have got. I have been writing lyrics for 20 years so I write pretty much all of the lyrics. But inspiration comes from number one God and number two from the thoughts that He would put in my head as expressed and shared every day through the relationships that I have. And I see these two guys more than anyone else. I have probably spent more time with Phil and Grant more than I have with my wife this year. I dislike saying those words. So God gives the thoughts and puts them through your mind. But, the conversations, the interactions that you have shape what you have to say. So in that way, everybody writes the lyrics, even though they come out of my pen.
cMW: How did Mac Powell first hear of your music?
Phil: Third Day came to Australia to perform at a festival (January 2001) where there were 5 international acts, and ourselves. We rotated in three different venues in three different states over three different nights. They paired up the bands in twos and we ended up touring with Third Day for three nights. We traveled in the tour bus for a couple of hours and occasionally took a flight during that time and I guess we just started a friendship, we started talking to them and that's how we met them.
Paul: I had been coming to Nashville for 3 or 4 years trying to get this band signed, trying to get people interested - management, record companies, agents, everybody. I laid a lot of groundwork. I did not realize how much groundwork that was. But it was people like Mac who ended up being a catalyst in a solicited fashion, getting the attention of record companies executives and management. Because once the singer of arguably the world's biggest Christian bands right now, and Monroe Jones, one of the most popular producers starts saying to people and record companies, "Hey, you should take a look at these guys." It throws a whole little more weight than 15 little piddly conversations from the singer. So I think that Mac was very instrumental in getting us attention, and people looking to us saying there is something of substance to get behind. The friendship with Third Day has been very instrumental in us, playing in front of many people so far in this year country, particularly Mac. He has been a strong advocate of us and our music. We have done something like 80 shows with them this year to about 350,000 people. That would not have happened to us without us meeting them and without them being men of their word. I have to say that I got his cell number and I called him about every 5 days for about a year, reminding him of what he said. I believe in the persistent widow, I have PWS, persistent widow syndrome.
cMW: I see a lot of believers making music in Australia who come to the United States. Can you explain why so many believers who are in the music industry leave Australia and come to the United States? If everyone leaves, will there ever be a Christian music industry?
Grant: There is a Christian music scene in Australia, but it's just that it is very very small. The thing is that it does not support a career, it doesn't support much of a professional level. If you want to be a musician, if join a band or you are an artist, and you believe in what you are doing and think it is the right thing, you want to do that to the biggest audience possible, generally speaking. If you want to influence culture to some level of change, if you want to influence culture to look more into Jesus, then the best place to do that, as far as we are concerned, is to come to America. I think we are following a line of bands/artists like Newsboys, Rebecca St. James, Michelle Tumes and Beanbag. Travelling over the Pacific is a natural progression, because you can't stay in Australia and do it for very long, you'll be living on the streets.
Paul: There are plenty of artists in Australia that have chosen that music and following Jesus takes the form of singing in High Schools and doing low budget records and living in the bread line. Perhaps even having another job. And they feel called to that. But I think anyone who is ambitious in terms of trying to make their music a ministry, for want of a better word, but also a career. You get to a point where you just cannot afford to do it in Australia any more, and we got to that point. The difference between us and the Newsboys and Rebecca St. James is that they didn't even do it in Australia, they just moved straight here. And that does not give them more credibility, it's just a statement of fact. We spent 3 years there, and a Newsweek article reported that our band sold 33% of all the Christian music of any band. Hillsongs sells more than that. But of any band, we sold 33% of the Christian music over there and still after three years we each had only $3,000 in our bank accounts after 3 years, generally speaking. Our goal, we have decided that music is going to be a career, as well as the ministry side of things. Therefore, this is the only place that has a circuit in the world, even in Europe and Asia, they don't have anything.
Grant: I think also, Australia is a very secular nation. The United Nations did a survey and, even though there are some strong churches there and a good number of believers, the percentage is so high - Australia is a secular nation. So if you stand up to be a follower of Jesus, you are already sticking your neck out. If you stand up to be a follower of Jesus and be a musician, you are sticking your neck out even further. And if you have got that much gumption, you are probably also have enough to make that big trip across the Pacific as well. Whereas in America, I suppose, my assessment is that it is easier to be a cultural Christian. You can dabble in music and see how it goes. If you do it in Australia, you are going to really have to really do it, and do it enough to launch yourself over the Pacific.
This is going to sound a bit wacky. I am a bit of a history buff. In 1066, all the Normans arrived in England to invade. And they got off their boats, and then the Commander said, "Burn all the boats, we are not going back." They burned all the ships and they thought we have to win now otherwise we will be stuck. If you live in America, it is easier to keep your boats there.
Paul: I also think we felt a real call from God, too. Because I think we also felt our message was for the world, not just for Australia. We have relaunched our band from a different country. Does that mean we don't want to return to Australia? I want to return every day. This is a cost. Not that living in your country is a cost, but this is not our country. It's not where we were brought up. And so we love this place, well here we are, but we do feel like we have obeyed a higher call. It's not just money and a career, here we are so let's take the greenbacks out of your pockets. No, it's not that. There is a higher reason. This is the country that everyone is watching, and whatever happens here, rocks the world, and we want to rock the world from here.
Grant: The whole world is watching here for leadership in culture, in politics, in finance, and in faith. I think if a really big swing digging back into Jesus happens, then it is going influence the world more so than if it happens in Australia.
cMW: Coming from another country and another culture, what is something that you wish American believers would understand better?
Paul: Follow Jesus.
Grant: Something I said before, I if you are a follower of Jesus in Australia, it requires a greater lever of sticking your neck out than it might require in America. This is a gross generalization, but it is easier to be a cultural Christian in America than it is in Australia. What I have been encouraging believers to do is to do a stock take of everything in your life. What are the core principals that being a follower of Jesus is all about? Is it wearing a tie to church on Sunday? No. OK. that's one little stock take item. Let's have a look through everything and make sure that what you are holding onto what are the real fundamentals, and make sure the things that aren't fundamentals, you know they are not fundamentals. They are not the things you really need to be holding onto.
Paul: I would say to read the teachings of Jesus. Paul is great, he has been canonized in scripture because his words were inspired by God. But I think most people spend more time reading him and James and Peter than they actually do the actual words of Jesus. Jesus entered economics is way different to ours. He left the 99 sheep to go get one. He sold all of God's pearls to get one. He gave a feast for one guy that had slept with prostitutes and ate with pigs and kind of slandered the older self-righteous brother. We are often that as religious people, we are often self-righteous.
So I think to get back to Jesus, back to Him. There are so many ironies with the whole thing because Jesus said I am a home. And I don't think he would have built a big church building with a huge parking lot and have a café and everything in it and make it like Jesus World or something. I don't necessarily think He would have done that and His method of teaching was not 45 minutes of teaching strutting around a pulpit on Sunday morning. It was living with people and working with them and discipling them. And also his sermons were not that easy to understand. They were like a U2 song more than a Steven Curtis Chapman song. Really. They were not that easy to get into. There were layers of meaning and metaphors and stories. And his own friends were going, "What? Don't get it." And he had to sit down and explain to him the mystery of who He is, it's amazing. But if you buy this new Prayer of Jabez thing, this is the real key (slightly sarcastic tone). And it's like, so much that surrounds Jesus that isn't really Him at all it would seem. You can get this perspective when you come from the outside, but then again we don't want to be sitting in the seat of judgement, or into conversations of criticism either. Because we came to be a part of the solution, and not criticize people.
We try to do that in our own lives. We are trying to get back to Jesus ourselves and maybe the best way we can teach is just by doing it ourselves and let it reflect in our music and our lives. And maybe we'll only ever influence 5 or 10 people, but those 5 or 10 people may each disciple 5 or 10 and maybe in 43 years the whole world will be discipled. That was Jesus plan. That's why we are sitting here today. It wasn't through mega churches and evangelistic rallies. It wasn't his method that I can tell.
cMW: This is the last night of the extended Come Together tour. Are you ready to jump away from being under the wings of Third Day?
Paul: Oh yeah. Definitely.
Grant: I don't think that means it is over due, it has been great to be on as much as we have with Third Day, but we are looking to doing a bunch of shows on our own.
Paul: The only thing that they have that we don't have is profile. We feel like we are just as good a band with just as much to say. We are closing act tour opening up right now and that's because where it's at. No night do we feel overshadowed or intimidated or that we don't have a solid sense of what we are meant to do. We have four hours of music to play every night. OK, we only play for 31 minutes but we have plenty more to say. At Purple Door we had a 25 minute set and two 15 minutes sets and believe me it took us swallowing our pride to drive 15 hours to do that, especially seeing we were the only band without tattoo's. It's a little bit intimidating.
But we do not feel overshadowed by them. We feel a sense of honor and thankfulness and respect and humility being in that position. But believe me, we are ready. We are adults in a pram (baby stroller for those who only know American english). We are sitting here, but our legs are all curled up and we are ready to start running.
cMW: So then what is next for Paul Colman Trio?
Paul: We have about 11 or 15 of our own shows in the states in November, then to Switzerland, Holland and Germany for three weeks in late November/early December. We go back to Australia to begin tracking the next record, with some shows in both New Zealand and Australia on our own and also with Rebecca St. James, Audio Adrenaline and Out of Eden. In next Spring, the "New Map of the World Tour", then we finish tracking our next record. Next year summer festivals and then some sort of tour in the Fall. Following that the next Spring will be the touring of our next record.
Grant: The new record should be coming out in September.
Paul: Well next Fall will be a more correct answer because we are not the record company. So, summer festivals, fall tours, spring tours, summer festivals, fall tours, spring tours, records, having babies, loving our wives.
Grant: Connecting with people.
cMW: The Spring 2003 "New Map of the World" Tour, is that going to be with anyone?
Paul: No, it's going to be on our own next Spring. I think so.
Grant: That's hot news by the way.
Phil: That's what we aim to do.
Paul: There is a balance between touring with a named act or a co-bill versus doing your own thing and Tai Anderson, the bass player in Third Day has been very encouraging of us to make sure we get a healthy mixture of the two. To be not staying in the wings of someone else, "Oh they are just an opening band," to developing ourselves as the hot ticket act that can command our own audience nationally. As well as partnering with other bands. We don't want to be seen as just the band that Third Day had charity on. We want to be seen that we can hold our own. Having said that, at no time do we want to deny the help they have been.
- Kim Flanders
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