Singer Steven Curtis Chapman on Evolution of Christian Music (Interview)
Award-winning, multi-platinum-selling artist Steven Curtis Chapman talks about the evolution of Christian music as he releases his 23rd career studio album, Worship And Believe.
"I love music, I love being a student of music. Now at this point in my life, creatively and my journey musically, I'm still learning, and growing and still a student," Chapman told The Christian Post.
The well-respected artist has received 58 Gospel Music Association Dove Awards, 5 Grammys, 48 No. 1 singles, and has sold nearly 11 million albums. With a career that spans almost 30 years in Christian music, Worship And Believe, released March 4, is Chapman's first-ever worship album.
"I'm still listening to music and when music moves me or inspires me, I try and figure out what it is about that that moved me and I try to learn from that and incorporate that into what I'm doing creatively," Chapman said of his 16 track release.
Christian music has changed drastically since Chapman first emerged on the scene in 1987. He joked that while still trying to keep up with the times, he is not going to put on a pair of skinny jeans and become a "hipster."
"At this point in my life I still think there are things that I have to say that can be very relevant hopefully to millennials and to all of us because there are real connecting points," Chapman explained. "Yeah there are some things that are unique to our different age brackets but there's a whole lot more that's real common ground. I'm trying to stay real connected to that and find that common ground."
The talented musician and activist aspires to make songs on this new album that can be sung by others individually and corporately, with corporate worship music being a concept that was unheard of when Chapman first started making Christian music. He explained that the diversity and styles of music have since expanded greatly.
"When I first started, Christian music was pretty narrowly defined. You'd have your crazy people out there like Steve Taylor who was doing punk rock music but for the most part if you really looked at what was considered Christian music at the time it was pretty inspirational," Chapman said. "Even the singer-songwriters weren't even as prevalent. There were songs that were kind of hymns, big productions, beautiful great songs but it was more narrowly defined as far as what Christian music was."
Artists began to stretch the boundaries and Chapman pointed to groups like Stryper, a Christian heavy metal band that came along with spandex and long hair, as examples. He maintains that at the time they were viewed as the "radicals and rebels."
"As time has gone on, you had DC Talk come along and said 'let's take rap music, it's an art form and it's a style that a lot of people really connect with, let's take that and use it to proclaim truth and use it to speak messages that are redemptive, and faith filled messages to encourage people," Chapman explained.
The successful songwriter also praised Kirk Franklin as someone who pushed the boundaries even further and further out for the genre but yet still at the heart and soul of everything maintained the goal and purpose of glorifying God and pointing people to Him.
"[Now], you have everything from singer-songwriters to rappers to all kinds of different styles and different genres. I think that has grown and also the quality of the music," Chapman celebrated.
"In the early days we fought a lot against Christian music being viewed as a sub par. The production wasn't as good, we didn't have as much money to try and spend to make the kind of record that they were making in pop and rock 'n' roll music," he continued. "But over the time as the genre has grown and more and more people have connected with it and bought the records and supported the infrastructure, the more and more we were able to really make better quality music, with the sounds of the recording, which allowed it then to grow even more."
The Nashville resident explained that people who may have once dismissed the Christian genre and labeled it "substandard" have greatly come around because of groups like Jars of Clay, Switchfoot, and BeBe and CeCe Winans.
"They're making great music that is woven together with the thread of their faith so I think all of those have helped the genre grow," he added.
With his newest release Worship and Believe, Chapman delved into the world of worship music, which he says has grown greatly also.
"I can remember when Martin Smith and Delirious first came along singing, 'I can sing of your love forever,' and repeating those phrases over and over again. Something really powerful was happening with that. People were really drawn to that," he recalled. "We've seen this whole phenomena of music that was written to be sung together in a corporate context, worshipping together and I've watch that give the church songs to sing."
Chapman spoke of his powerful travels around the world including to China and Africa to some of the most remote places and hearing believers sing together the popular song "How Great is our God."
"I'm thinking, 'this is amazing. It's joined and connected believers all over the world with the same song. That's been a pretty amazing thing that I've seen happen," Chapman revealed.
Worship and Believe features co-writes from artists such as Matt Maher, Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman and Rend Collective. The album is now available and Chapman is showing no signs of slowing down as he just wrapped up his seven-city tour with fellow Christian music pioneer Amy Grant, and is about to embark on another tour with Third Day starting April 14.