[ nashville, tn | gospel music week 2005 ]
cMW: Why do you suppose your music appeals so much to the college age crowd?
David Crowder: I don't know. I don't interpret market trends at all. It might be more perception just because we have been in front of college students probably more than anybody else. I got my start at and I am still at the church that I helped start as an undergrad. I moved to Waco, Texas. I went to Baylor University and when I was an undergrad there I helped start a church. And it was college students. And about a year into the church, I started writing songs to try to articulate or express faith for these students that I was living life with there. Then the songs seemed to trickle out and be picked up in other gatherings or church services and so forth. So we started seeing our platform expand and we were being asked to do different things. And it seemed like the college students are who we were in front of. That would be, if you were going to refer to it as our fan base, our grassroots, people who have been attached to our music for the longest amount of time are definitely that age group. And [that is] probably because that is where the music came from to begin with. It originated in front of college students trying to express their faith. So it probably translates on that level more readily than others, perhaps.
cMW: Previously you wrote songs for this church. So when you write your songs now, do you write for big worship conferences, for big arenas? Do you write for church songs? How has that changed?
David: I can even think back to last year sitting in some interviews. I was very confident in answering the same. I still write for the same group of people. We are getting ready for a new record now. By the time this one comes out, it will be about two years between our official full-length records. So we are sitting on a batch of songs we have had a whole lot of time and all these songs really get their legs under them at our church still. But at this point I have had more experience outside of our church community and it is easier to picture how that song or that moment of music will translate in different settings whereas even a year ago, I felt less confident there. I felt really confident because I had seen the songs translate at our church. But now I feel more of a responsibility. A year ago even I probably felt less of a responsibility for the public and more of a responsibility for our community.
What leads me into a room with you even is the fact that these are songs that I feel God has breathed through us for His people which happen to be in Waco, Texas that we are trying to articulate this faith for. And then for some reason, He has breathed a presence unto Him elsewhere. And just like I feel responsible for carrying the songs well and delicately for our people in Waco, now it seems like there is another responsibility that He has entrusted. So there is another stewardship issue that we are trying to figure out and to be honest I do not really know. But it is rattling around and we are trying to find out how we are to carry these gifts and what He has given us in a more public sense than just ouf local community. So I do not know what that looks like exactly. I just know that there is an awareness.
I never really think in many concrete terms anyway. I think it is more in the process of these songs formulating, I can picture them in more settings than I could previously. It has actually translated into arrangements changing a little bit here and there just with other audiences in mind. But I am still in Waco and I get to see if it is a detriment to what we are doing as a community or not. If it is not a detriment and maybe throws a larger net, if we can use those words, I feel like that is something that we should consider and be responsible in. I have enjoyed it. It feels like another exciting, challenging portion of what we are doing. [it is] another opportunity for growth and bettering or taking steps forward in the gifts He has given us. I have actually enjoyed that new expanded view of what we are trying to do.
cMW: That must be hard to figure out what to do.
David: You know I think it is one of those things where if you think too much about it, you are just going to mess yourself up. Awareness is probably the best word I can come up with. Be aware of it, but see whatever God breathes. If people connect, then wonderful. You know you are living life and you have this small group of people that are the ones that you really know. And so if you are somehow able to connect them — allow them to continue in their journey with God — that is when I get excited. I love it when a room of people I have never seen before can articulate and express themselves through whatever God has given us. And that is really meaningful. It is mostly when you have got these folks that you have just eaten dinner with that you see these songs help them in their journey with God. That is when I get really fired up.
cMW: Do you ever get disheartened when your music can't get out to the masses because it is not what I call "soccer mom" music?
David: Well, no. Maybe it is a lack of awareness. I just started making music for this little church in Waco. And to me it is like ridiculous the amount of people that God has used these simple songs — it blows my mind that any of these songs can be meaningful to anyone outside the community. So I guess it does not occur to me. I guess there are a lot of folks who are just not aware or do not connect to what is going on. Because I think that there is so much going on that is for those folks that they do connect to readily that I do not feel obligated to fill a gap that is already filled.
cMW: What can you tell us about the new CD [coming out later this year]?
David: That I am having a hard time being here when we start next week. It is so hard! It really is. Here is the cool part. We bought this house about two years ago. It was built by the guy who invented Dr. Pepper. I was a sucker. We walked in the place, and the realtor was like, "This house was built in 1886 by Wade Morrison who invented the beverage Dr. Pepper." And I found the words coming out of my house, "We'll take it!"
It has this barn behind it. It is downtown. Waco is no metropolitan area, but if there is a downtown, it is downtown. There is this barn that survived — it has not been torn down through 100 years. I do not know how it made it. But we have converted [it by building] inside the existing structure into studio space. We do not have any gear. But with past records we have had all our equipment and have just found space and had the engineer that we work with bring all his stuff. Now we are going to be in the barn behind my house where the horse Pepper lived in. So I can't wait. Just walk out your back door and start making music with your friend.
I have been setting up all of our tracks so that we can just start rolling when we get back into town. And so I shut down the computer and walked out and got on the plane. It is so hard to be away when you are ready to start capturing these songs.
It is going to be called A Collision. For me, songwriting is a completely bizarre process. I do not understand it. It is very mysterious. I am more inspirationally driven. A moment will hit and it is like, "Oh, no! Quick before it is gone." I have other friends who say, "I write at nine o'clock AM every day. I sit down and I have an hour blocked off and I write." When I try to do that, it is just horrible. It is just the worse songs you would ever hear. Really bad. So the songs [for me] tend to come in spurts. And usually these different spurts are very thematic in their orientation. It seems like there is an idea that they all tend to try to be coming at from different angles.
It seems like the whole of this record just has to do with the fact that — this may be a bizarre way to come to it. Me and a friend of mine — he tends to be one of those friends that whenever he says something it is like a spark sets off. Constantly. He is actually getting his doctorate in string theory, he is a really smart guy — a physicist. His approach to life in general is a little different than most. So we are talking about something and all of a sudden, he is really joking, but he says, "Did you ever notice that the sky goes all the way to the ground?" He is kind of being funny, and I chuckle, and he says, "No, I am being serious with you. We are walking around in it. There is ground, and there is sky, and we are somewhere in between."
It sent my heart and head down this path. That is really our state. And especially me trying to create spaces for corporate worship settings. The fact is that we live in the presence of God all the time. There is not a moment that we are not in the presence of God. Once the veil was torn, here we are. He is accessible. We are in His presence. But yet somehow corporate moments tend to transcend whatever everyday life is. When you get a roomful of people in a corporate setting, there is something that is a bit transcendent about it. And music tends to transcend the earthly as well. So there is this thing that is worship that is someplace in between where our every day experience is and what our reality will be ahead of it.
cMW: I like that!!
David: So this record is this collision that we are constantly colliding with this awareness of God's presence. So this record is trying to do that. There is a lot of eschatology to it. I found myself in bluegrass and gospel, there is a huge hopefulness of what is ahead of us. It is all very heaven oriented. Let's get done with now because there is something amazing ahead. I think culturally, in our Christianity, I have kind of felt that there is something unhealthy there. That we took our eyes away from anything that was tangible and earthly. So I think we have made some good adjustments. If our faith does not count for something now, then what is it worth?
When you look at Christ as he was talking about the kingdom of heaven, he was talking about, "I am bringing the kingdom of heaven, now, here, right this second." And we tend to look at eternity and rid ourselves of now. And what we did as Christians is that we neglected the environment. We neglected things that really where this faith matter or not — does the stewardship of our planet and people matter or not — it did not really count for anything because we are concerned with eternity and our eternal soul. So it seems like the eschatology of what is happening in the future, we have then put to the side. And so on this record, too, I thought there was some amazing stuff.
The reason that these people were looking for something other than now is because now did not hold anything worth while for them. The fact was their lives were very void of anything meaningful and is mostly full of stuff they would like to be rid of. So the record is very heavenward as well. It has to do with now and this constant collision of what is happening, but also what it is coming towards. I think my writing on Illuminate was headed in this direction. For me personally, there is a moment when I was rescued — when rescue found me. And continual. Every day I am rescued from myself and from my depravity. But there is also a bigger rescue headed our way. There is a new creation and a new heaven and a new earth.
Look at the stuff like the tsunami. We know humans are flawed. But even the ground under our feet is not right. It is not how it was intended. And so there is a bigger rescue of all of creation headed our way, that we are headed towards, and that God is coming towards as well. And so this collection of songs is trying to come at that from different angles, too.
- Kim Flanders
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