Master storyteller Mark Schultz released his latest record Stories And Songs
in the Fall of 2003. Mark was kind enough to take some time out from touring to answer some questions
regarding the new record, his writing process, and more...
This interview took place on: 12/2003
Jesus freak Hideout: The last few years have been really busy for you as much of CCM seems to have quickly embraced you with open arms. How have your successes in the Christian music industry affected your life and music?
I think that I have gotten used to the new lifestyle of traveling all the time.
I just have a suitcase that I fill up whenever I get home from a trip with clean clothes and
set it by my bedroom steps so that I can just walk out the door at the last minute without having
to look for anything. That has been a change. It has been harder, though, from a song writing
standpoint because all of my songs are written in the church chapel, which is just down the street
from me. I write late at night and so it makes it harder when I'm gone or tired, or gone and tired.
JFH: You're known as one of the great story-tellers in CCM today, how do you feel about being given that status?
Well, I think that is really nice. I figure that I have kind of found out what I love to do, and
that is to sit at my piano and work on songs that back the hair on the back of my neck stand up.
Sometimes fast songs and sometimes slow songs that just make tears start running down my face. This
is what I am supposed to be doing, no doubt. I sense God looking down on me and smiling when I am
writing songs that have meaning and are substantive. Story songs are just so powerful because they
are so relate able.
JFH: Your new release, Stories and Songs is absolutely phenomenal. How are people responding to it?
The promotional tour was just fantastic! I went to places like Grand Rapids, Tulsa, Charlotte,
Dallas, Chicago, etc., and I just couldn't believe how many enthusiastic they were. I was in
tears after several of those places, because it was just so overwhelming. Everyone
was singing every word of my new single "You Are a Child of Mine" of off Stories and Songs
as well as all of the older songs: "Remember Me," "He's My Son," etc. I also did a promotion where
I went into people's homes and did living room concerts for them all around the country so…that
was so much fun!
JFH: What did you do differently on Stories and Songs as opposed to your first two efforts?
Well, the main thing is that I had Brown Bannister produce this record (Steven Curtis Chapman, Amy Grant, etc.).
We worked on this record like it was the last one I was ever going to do. We put our whole hearts into it.
The songs took a lot of time to create, and I am so proud of all of them. There is not one average song on
the whole record. I stand behind each one. In a world where most records have one or two really great songs
and nine average songs, this is a real gem. I think this is the record that I will have to play every song off
of during the next tour. It's just more than I would have ever dreamed.
JFH: Who are some of your influences musically?
MS: Billy Joel, Elton John, Boston, Journey, Eagles, Genesis…We only had one radio station where
I grew up so…A lot of 80's!
JFH: What are some thoughts on the CCM scene today and where do you see it going?
Mark: Well, I really don't think in terms of a CCM scene. I'm not really one hundred
percent sure I know what it is, so I wouldn't feel well good about saying where it is going.
I'm just a guy who likes to write songs and play them for anyone who wants to listen.
That could be people in my church or the janitors who are there after hours. Sometimes the radio
plays the songs and that's really neat.
JFH: Is your new song "Letters from War" a true story? (what is the story behind it?)
Mark: It was an idea that I got from reading my great-grandmother's diaries. Three of
her 4 sons were in WWII. She would write them letters and kept all of theirs that they sent her.
I was reading her entries, and a letter that my Uncle Gus, who spent a lot of time in Germany,
wrote. The letters and the diary entries were like reading a script from a movie. I am so proud
of this song, because it speaks of my Great-Grandma's faith in god that she instilled in her sons,
which in turn gave them the strength to become great men.
JFH: What inspired the song "Running Just to Catch Myself"?
Mark: This song is like Queen's "Boheemian Rhapasody" in a way. It has all the theatrics
of it. It was written about the state of the corporate life today. It is the musical version of the
running on a treadmill after a carrot. This song is for anyone who has ever been late for work and
stuck in traffic while trying to floss, late for an important meeting, ever had a paper cut, the
boss forgets what your name is, or if you've sat at your desk and daydreamed about going home.
It asks the question… whom are you serving today… God or money?
JFH: How about the powerful "Do You Even Know Me Anymore"?
Mark: I was a youth director for eight years, and it seems just like society puts this
enormous worth in work so that people make more money so they can buy more stuff. I have just spent so much
time with kids whose fathers spent all of there time investing in the stock market instead of their kids. Being
a father is so hard. I think this next generation or fathers has the ability, though, to break the cycle and
build incredibly healthy, stable children instead of businesses.
JFH: You write all your songs in a room in the First Presbyterian Church in Nashville called "The Chapel". Why is that? And what is your experience in that room like?
Mark: To me, it is where I get to have recess…like in grade school. My job used to be about
leading mission trips, going to football games, leading Bible studies, and meeting with students and then
taking all of that energy and releasing is into the piano. So many songs have been born out of that cycle.
"I Am the Way," "Let's Go," "I Have Been There," "Back in His Arms Again." It is just a quiet place to go at
1PM or 1AM. It has been great. I liken it to a little well where I show up with my bucket, and I drop
it down in there. Sometimes God chooses to fill it up with a song, and sometimes I wait until it's time.
It's kind of like fishing, even if the person fishing doesn't catch anything, it still beats working.
JFH: What usually helps you if you suffer momentarily from writer's block?
Mark: I think the more I forget myself the better off I do. I learned that from being a
youth director. Whenever I put someone else in the spotlight, and I step out, great things happen.
For instance: going down to work at the soup kitchen, visiting someone in the hospital, volunteering
to help a struggling church. All of these things have given me the extra incentive to finish songs
well by just taking the opportunity to get outside myself.
JFH: What has God been teaching you lately?
Mark: Really simple stuff that I learned when I was 6 but forgot when I was 16 or so, until now…
1. God loves me totally and accepts me for who I am…maybe I should try it. :)
2. God's grace is sufficient. End of story.
3. "Happiness" comes from the word "happenstance" or "circumstance." So if you are in good circumstances,
you feel happy. Joy, on the other hand, is different than happiness; because it is what God promises
in any circumstance for us. To tap into the joy of Christ has been awesome for me. It is deeper, more
satisfying, and more grounded.
JFH: What is your favorite movie?
Mark: Life Is Beautiful, My Life, and Braveheart.
JFH: Favorite book?
Mark: "Wild at Heart" by John Eldredge
JFH: What is in your CD player right now?
Mark: All the rough mixes from my new record Stories and Songs. I haven't been home since the record came out.
JFH: Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer some questions. Any last comments?
Mark: Thank you.