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Steven Curtis Chapman

While on the Fall leg of his Live In This Moment Tour, Steven Curtis Chapman sat down with John and Amy DiBiase of before his show in Manheim, PA, to discuss his latest record, This Moment. Twenty years into his career, Chapman candidly discussed the theme of his new record, songs that didn't make the cut, playing music with his sons, and... The Chariot?

Visit our iTunes podcast for a 20-minute video montage from the interview!
This interview took place on: 11/13/07.

  • Jesus freak Hideout (John DiBiase): It's evident by listening to your new record, This Moment, that there's a theme about living for this moment and seizing the day. What inspired that?
    Steven Curtis Chapman: Well, this record was a real interesting journey. And you, having listened to my records for years, know that themes and thematic albums are something that I love to do. I'm a guy who can kind of go all over the map with writing. I'll bring 30 or 40 ideas in for an album. Even Brown Bannister, great friend and amazing producer who's worked with me for years, he often said that "Steven doesn't really need a producer as much as he needs an editor. He has plenty of ideas, it's just a matter of helping him edit the ideas down to the best of the 40 - how do you get to the 10 best." And that is totally true. He really nailed it and he's so wise and he's just such a great producer in that way. He really looks into the heart of the artist and knows how to help shape it. I have so many ideas and that's why, I think even for me, albums have been one of the ways God has kept me from going crazy artistically, cause it's like - here's the theme, now that gives you a way to border in all your ideas and does it fit into these borders, so to speak. This album was really difficult in that way, because I kept sort of waiting for the theme to emerge. All Things New came out of a series of sermons my pastor was preaching and it started all these ideas that revolved around that theme. I started that whole theme-writing thing with the For The Sake Of The Call record, which was inspired by Dietrich Bonhoeffer's "Cost Of Discipleship" book. So it always seems like it's been a book, or a series of sermons, or experience of life - something that sort of helps define the theme. And with this one, there was so much going on, there was no lack of inspiration. I travelled with my family to Africa, to China, and of course adoption and orphans, all that stuff - there was inspiration all around, but to really identify what the theme was difficult and really, I began to freak out about it a little bit. I was kind of like, "Is this God's way of saying I'm not ready to make a record yet? Do I wait on that theme? Or do I forge ahead without really knowing what that is?" And in the midst of all that, I was really kind of overwhelmed with this sense of - right now with the industry and so much changing, and this idea of a lot of different people with ideas and input of what Steven Curtis Chapman should be doing this point in his career. I mean, the record company - I'm entering into my twentieth year, I've done fifteen albums with them, whatever. And this, in fact, was the last record under my current deal with EMI, so there's a lot of pressure with this [album]. It really needs to deliver. And the industry's going through a weird time. Y'know, All Things New was critically received well, [but] didn't sell as many records as the record company would have hoped and expected. So there's all kinds of people - management, record company - well-meaning, wonderful, great people, but they all got opinions about what you did wrong and right and how you should fix it or how you should do this or that. And so, for me being the guy who wants to keep everybody happy, I want everybody to like what I do, y'know, that I'm trying to figure all that out. And that becomes the - I've used this term before - the paralysis of analysis for me. I'm looking so hard at everything, listening to all the voices and all the input - radio, retail, do this, don't do that, here's what's working, here's what's not - that all of a sudden, I'm just going, "Aw man, God, I don't know how to take this inspiration and turn it into songs cause I'm so torn about how I should even proceed - what that next step ought to look like." So, in the midst of all that, there was a little bit of time of almost kind of just shutdown creatively, because I didn't know where to go and I'm waiting for a theme to help me define it, and finally I just had this sense that God was saying, "I am telling you to move forward creatively and start making this record, even though you don't know what the theme is," and that really was the theme. What I began to realize is I think God was saying, "This is a journey of faith." And that this is one that - I mean, I've shared before and you've probably even read - that there's that verse in Revelation that I came across that was kind of as big of a push that I felt like I got from the Spirit. [It] was that verse, "write the things that you have seen." I felt like God was saying, "I don't want you to wait for a theme or whatever, but I want you to just write what you've seen and what you've experienced. You've experienced a lot of things, just start talking about that. And write about it."

    Album cover So the first song I wrote for the record was "Cinderella," which is kind of weird because I wrote that song and it was very moving, but I thought - God, after everything I've seen and experienced, like worship in Asia with Philippines and different places - I thought there was going to be a more 'worship' theme woven in, real organically, not 'hey- I need to write a worship album because that's what's working' - and that's why I've resisted that so much with the motivation not being pure, yet all of a sudden I felt like 'hey, this would really be pure cause I've connected with something I've never connected with and that was in Asia particularly,' but even with that I write this "Cinderella" song and I'm like, "God, I didn't expect that! Does that even belong on my next record? Is that what people expect?" Y'know, all this stuff again! Finally I just thought, "that's what I'm experiencing, that's where I'm living, maybe that's what I'm supposed to write." And that's when I felt like God said, "Yes! Just keep moving forward in that." And so that was interesting. That was the first song, and then as the record began to develop and I went to L.A. and we tracked a bunch of songs, got these amazing players and came back to Nashville, working with a new producer, Matt Bronlewee, and loving it, but also freaking out cause it's totally different [with] his approach to making records. You get pieces all over the place and I'm used to doing it this way and you kind of know the course you're going and he's like assembling all these little pieces everywhere musically. And in the process of all of that, we had tracked and done seventeen songs at this point and I had this thought, this idea that I kept in the back of my mind of this thing of, "I really think what God has been teaching me in this whole process is about just showing up in the moment." Cause I was writing "You're being loved right now at this very moment," and then I've written a song about walking the streets of London and God saying, "Right now, in the midst of this, I'm telling you it's all Mine, I'm in control of everything. Don't stress, don't worry, just find Me in this moment." And I'd even written a song called "Find Me" that ended up not on the record, but it was the same theme. It was, y'know, "Find Me in the orphanages in China, find Me in the military bases in Korea where you met people there that revealed more of My heart, find Me in the day-to-day stuff with your family, in the big moments, the low moments..." and that is where I think, then, the song, "Miracle Of The Moment" came out of that. And as I was writing that song, I thought, "This is the theme, this is what God has been teaching me all along! Just show up and be present right where I put you. Don't try to figure out the next twenty years, don't do too much looking over your shoulder" - cause this is the twenty year mark, 1987 was the first record. So there's a lot of that playing in my head too. I think God was just saying "I really just want you to be present in this moment - the good ones, the bad ones - all that." And I'm still trying to learn it, y'know? *laughs* And this is always the way God does it with me. I write the record, I write "Dive In," I write "Saddle up your horses, let's take the great adventure," and after I write it, God says "OK, let's go to China and adopt three babies!" [And I'm like,] "Oh, you mean like I wrote in that song, you actually want me to LIVE it now?! I thought I just got to write the theme songs, I didn't know I actually..." *laughs* So now I'm learning to live in the moment even now!

  • JFH (John): Why were songs like "Run Home" and "Beautiful Scars" cut from the record?
    Steven Curtis: "Run Home" was written for a movie called Hidalgo that was a Disney movie. I was sent the script of that movie and a good buddy of mine at Disney said, "Hey, we're doing this movie, and you're the guy to write the end title song. I just believe it!" So he sent me the script and I read it and wrote "Run Home." For me, the whole theme was this guy kind of going back home to who he really was and this prodigal journey. So I thought, "Man, for me, this is kind of a prodigal son journey, so I'm gonna write that song and see what they think," y'know? And it was really cool, cause they sent me some cues from the score that James Newton Howard did and they're like "Here's early stuff nobody's even heard, write it around that theme." So I wrote that and it actually got down right to the wire and was going to be the end title - I was finally going to get my end title on a movie! And then the director decided to pull all the music and just use score at the end, so it dropped off. So then we tracked it for the All Things New record and then it got left off the record at the last minute.

  • JFH (John): It would have fit on there too...
    Steven Curtis Chapman Steven Curtis: Yeah! Yeah it would have cause it was tracked in with all that stuff. So anyway, it was just one of those kinds of things that just floated out there for awhile and when they started looking at the iTunes exclusive - 'what are we going to give iTunes?' and all that - I said, "What about 'Run Home'?" Cause I keep thinking, "I want people to hear that song!" *laughing* I think it's a great song, I thought it was really strong, so they used that for that. "Beautiful Scars" and - I don't know if you've heard "Proud" or "What I'm Fighting For" - Cause I wrote a song for my sons called "Proud" that I love, I mean it was so hard to leave those off the record. The record company just said, "Look, we want to put 11 songs on the record." I was like, "OK....." It's like Sophie's Choice - who dies and who lives?! *laughs* You gotta sit there and go, "Well I can't lose that one... Well I can't let THAT one go!" And they came back and they made their suggestions and it was one of those deals that we just kind of had to make some calls, and I hate it. I mean, for me, "Beautiful Scars" is probably - that was one of the most significant messages on the record. That was a very strong lyric for me. I just felt that that was a real important thing to say. I wrote it with Geoff Moore actually. Geoff cowrote that with me. And it was originally a whole different song. In fact, the lyrics were originally a whole different song called "The One That I Love." I just kept having this thing of "beautiful scars," the more and more people I meet, especially that work with orphans, I keep finding these amazing people that have these deep wounds on their soul and yet they're the people that are working with these kids. But those two were both ones that were really hard to not have on the record. And then there's this song - actually, it's just weird... I wrote a song - *laughs* I've actually not even told anybody this yet, I don't think, because I don't know how people will perceive it once I tell them. I got a call from Clay Aiken wanting songs for his new record. Actually, it was his manager, and they said "Clay would like to talk to you, he loves your music and has always loved your writing..." And so we got on the phone. I said, "If I were to write a song for you, what do you want to talk about?" And he said, "Well, I've got a brother that just went to Iraq and I wish I had a song to sing somehow about that. Just about his family and all that." And I thought, I'd just been to Seoul, Korea, getting to visit with a bunch of troops there, I've been to a hospital to visit with Marines there who had just come back from Iraq, and I get regular letters and emails from a helicopter pilot who's in Iraq. He sends me pictures, he tells me how much my music's meaning to him and encouraging him and I just thought, "If anybody ought to be saying 'thank you' to those who really defend the freedom that we enjoy, the religious freedom particularly, it ought to be Christians." So I wrote a song called "What I'm Fighting For," about family - very non-political thing that just says, "I'm fighting for my family and this is my job and I'm not a hero." It's all things guys tell me that are there. "We're not heroes, we're just doing our job. And we want to see this thing over as much as anybody - more than anybody, probably." And I wrote that song for the idea that maybe it would be something Clay would use. I sent it to him, he and his manager loved the song and at the same time Clive Davis said, "I want it to be a love song album of covers," and this was the last record he did. "So, this song will not fit on that record." So it was another one of those where I thought, "I wonder if I could actually put this on my record?" So I tracked it, we recorded it, and I've sung it a bunch of places and it's really a pretty powerful song, but it was one of those where I thought, "I'm going to use that one as a bonus cut cause I don't know if it belongs on a Steven Curtis Chapman record or not!" So the plan is, in January, all of those are going to come out on a Deluxe Edition record [of This Moment]. So they will all be available, it just won't be until, I think, January or February they're going to re-release a Special Edition or something.

  • JFH (John): What's it like to record a song with your sons?
    Steven Curtis: It's awesome. You probably haven't seen them play with me, but we were on Winter Jam together. They have gotten so good in just the last couple of years - especially Will, my 16-year-old drummer/son. And the music, I mean, obviously stuff like "You're Being Loved" and "Children Of God," Hillsong United-influenced stuff, or all that - is very much from just listening to music with my sons. Cause I love the stuff that gets them excited about music, but also music that honors the Lord. I love when they get connected to that. So one of the things about this record that I wanted to include was them in a way that's real natural and organic and not "Chapman's trying to be way younger than he is!" or whatever. And having them involved was the coolest thing ever. And being on tour with them is amazing. I mean, to look up there and have my two sons with me every night is the coolest thing in the world!

  • JFH (John): Bet you never thought it would happen, when they were little and you used to talk about them on stage...
    Steven Curtis Chapman Steven Curtis: No! Yeah, I used to talk about them all the time. Cause I always thought that by the time they're good enough to be play music on stage with me, I'm gonna be so uncool to them that it's going to be like, "Dad, we love you as a dad, but your music's just not quite cool enough!" But no, they're like "Dad, this record rocks!" *laughs* They're like my biggest fans, y'know? And here's my son, Will, who bought the Thrice CD a couple of days ago, listening to Underoath. Y'know, they go to The Chariot concert - this is a great story. In Nashville, we've got Rocketown and there's bands coming there all the time and my boys go see bands there all the time. They'll go see The Chariot and all these bands... I tolerate the screamo thing - I can't even really tolerate it. But Will just loves it - the double kick stuff. He's 16, y'know? The noisier the better! So they go to this show to see The Chariot and they get backstage with some buddies - cause they're real good buddies with one of the guys in Red - Hayden Lamb - they grew up with the Lamb brothers... So they get them backstage and The Chariot guys find out they're my sons, and they're just freaking out! Like, "Saddle up your horses!!" They're singing "The Great Adventure" to my boys! So my sons came home and were like, "Dad! Did you know The Chariot are like fans of your music?! They grew up listening to your music! That's so cool!!" So that made me cool to Will, especially. So it's so funny to find out that these guys will come up and go, "You really influenced us!" and "Here's our new record..." I put it on and it's like "WAAAAAAAAH WAAAAH!!" I'm thinking, "I influenced THAT?! How did that happen??" *laughter* It's amazing...

  • JFH (John): Have you ever thought about re-recording any old songs? Like doing an acoustic album or something?
    Steven Curtis: See, you are reading the mind of EMI and the powers that be!

  • JFH (John): Uh-oh. Is that bad, though?
    Steven Curtis: No, no! I think it's good. It's actually... unless you tell me you think it's a bad idea...? No? OK! *laughs* They actually have been talking to me about doing something, going back to some of the records - Speechless and Declaration, even Heaven in the Real World and some of that - and they want to re-release them but with like six or seven acoustic versions of those songs...

  • JFH (John): So re-release the original albums with additional tracks?
    Steven Curtis: Yeah, with additional stuff redone. So that was just an idea they just presented to me, so I don't know what will come of it...

  • JFH (John): You should tell them you just want to do a record OF that. That way fans won't have to go back and buy the old records again to get the acoustic tracks.
    Steven Curtis: Yeah! Right! They can just get the new stuff.

  • JFH (John): That would be kinda cool... and you could have a couple new songs on there. There's something about acoustic music...
    Steven Curtis: Yeah, I would love to do that. In fact, honestly, This Moment was going to be... I came in with a bunch of demos of real, acoustic kind of... it was almost like that KT Tunstall record that was a real cool, kind of organic, acoustic thing and I was kind of inspired by that musically and I thought, "That's the kind of record I may make!" And I came in, I had these ideas, it's just sort of the way things go and evolve - "Well, listen to this," "check this out," "well, we're thinking of maybe this," so that is definitely the next record that I want to make. I don't know how much of it will be new material? I've been wanting to do a hymns record forever, and then all of a sudden all these hymns records came out. So I thought, "Er... I guess maybe not..." So I thought, "My versions of hymns..." this or that, but really, that is the music that I think I'm dying to make.

  • JFH (John): I mean, I think it still sounds natural [for you] to do the sounds that are on This Moment, to even kick it up a bit and do "Something Crazy," to do "Only Getting Started" on All Things New, still doing a little bit more up-beat. I mean, I was thrilled with Speechless with songs like "I Do Believe" and you cranked it up - I was like, "This is awesome!" Even Declaration had some rock songs on it. It works. I mean, I guess if you've done "Got 2 B Tru," you can get away with anything!
    Steven Curtis: Yeah! *laughs* Right, after that, you can do anything! And get away with it.... to a degree! We'll see - the jury's still out, yeah, whether or not I totally can get away with it! Nah, but the cool thing - we just did a tour in Asia last Summer and my boys played with me, and it was just the three of us and I had my bass player. We did "I Do Believe," "All Things New," and a lot of that stuff, and did it acoustically and it was so fun! Even to do "I Do Believe." Because I write it all on acoustic. I don't really write much on the electric. I write it on the acoustic and then transfer it over - even like "You're Being Loved" - all that stuff was all written acoustically. And it has a whole different energy to it. So I think it'll really be fun to make that record.

  • JFH (John): Yeah, even if you have to just release it on iTunes or something.
    Steven Curtis: Yeah, that's why I think I might do something myself. It'd really be fun - and to tour it that way! Cause we do a little set in the middle of the show tonight, a medley - and Will Franklin's just playing a bass drum and jimbay and Caleb on guitar. And it's probably my most favorite part of the night!

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