As multi-platinum, Grammy Award-winning band Casting Crowns release their new album, The Very Next Thing, frontman Mark Hall opens up about his battle with cancer and the important theme behind the new record.
Casting Crowns' eighth studio album is focused on leading people to God with honest songs that feature an upbeat and fresh sound. Surpassing 10 million albums in sales, Billboard's top-selling Christian act has been making music with the message of hope in Christ since 2007 and are showing no signs of slowing down.
"All of the albums are personal to us because the songs that we write come out of our ministries in the local church. I've been a youth pastor, and this past Sunday I just celebrated 15 years at the church that I'm at now, in South Atlanta, Eagle's Landing First Baptist," Hall said in an interview with The Christian Post. "Any song that you've ever heard from Crown, before it was a song it was a Bible study, or a devotion or a moment or situation that has risen out of being a minister to families, and just loving on teenagers and their parents and walking through our own struggles.
"I always say this: If we sing a song about a girl, it's a song about a girl — this stuff is happening, this is real life," he said. "That's what makes Christian music so awesome because most genres sing about real life."
In March 2015, right after Casting Crowns released their album Glorious Days: Hymns of Faith, God answered the prayers of thousands around the world who prayed for Hall to survive his battle with cancer. Doctors successfully removed a cancerous growth on his right kidney and the frontman admits that the experience changed his life forever.
"Between these two records I was diagnosed with cancer and had a kidney removed. I went through a good five months of a bit of a storm in our family. When you're in youth ministry you're always about helping other people get through their stuff. I'm the guy that's helping everybody else. 'It's going to be OK, you're going to get through this and I'll be there.' And all of a sudden, I'm the one getting the phone call from the doctor and I'm the one hearing all this stuff. It really humbled me in a lot of ways because I don't hurt well in front of people," he said.
The Georgia native admitted that even though he's a public person, being on stage and being a pastor, he wasn't used to being taken care of because in the past he would only let people see what he wanted them to see.
"I'm not really good at getting comforted, so I really had to walk through letting the church love me and pray for me and know my business, and it was so good for me," Hall said. "Now, when I sing even old songs of ours, when I sing 'Praise You Through The Storm' — I always knew what it was about because I wrote it for friends going through cancer, but now having been in it, it's a whole new world."
The talented singer-songwriter described cancer by comparing it to a natural disaster that leaves one hopeless.
"Cancer is kind of like an earthquake. There's a lot of ways to deal with things in life. If there's a storm you run for cover. If there's a fire you get away from it. But when the earth under you shakes, what do you do? Cancer is an earthquake. It just shakes everything up," he said.
When asked about the meaning behind the new album title and single, The Very Next Thing, Hall explained that so many people in this day and age are too busy aiming to fulfill future goals that they miss out on what God wants to do through them now.
"Especially our younger generation, we feel that we are all in this preparation stage for something like if this really isn't life yet and we're just preparing for life," Hall said.
He referenced the school system and how preschool prepares a child for elementary school, elementary school preps for junior/middle school, middle school for high school and so on.
"Everything is working toward something else as though you haven't gotten there yet. I think a lot of times we feel that way about our lives. We feel like, 'OK God, this can't be what it's about — here in this little job that I have, or this little hobby that I have, or this little world that I'm living in, there's got to be more.' We're always looking ahead. I think we got to be missing out on some big stuff," he told CP.
"I hear my teenagers say that all the time, 'I want to do big stuff.' What I tell them is, 'Big stuff for God is probably the person sitting next to you today at school. It's probably the person that's tugging at your heart everyday as you walked by because nobody is talking to them.' And it's probably this call every time you hear about it, it tugs at you a little bit and you feel like you should do something," Hall continued. "Big things for God isn't a year from now, it's right now. You weren't put here to wait, you were put here to know God and make Him known right where you are, right in your circumstance.
"The Voice of Truth" singer added that obedience to God in little and big things will lead people to live for now and the very next thing that God wants them to do.
"To follow God is really just to say, 'Jesus, I love you so much, I'll do the very next thing you say, just tell me what to do," Hall said.
As Casting Crowns has gone on to achieve sales milestones including one RIAA 2x multi-platinum album, four RIAA platinum albums and much more, the band has managed to keep the true heart behind their music while their sound has evolved.
"We've never purposely changed. There's going to be a natural evolution to your creativity whether you want to or not. At the base of that we also know that the lyrics are the most important part of what we do, so we know that the song, the music is really just the plate that the meat is served on," Hall said.
"We may venture out and try things that are fun, but we don't ever want a song to run away with the lyrics, to where you have to hear the song three or four times and then say, 'Oh, that's what the song is about.' I don't want anybody to ever hear a Crown song and not know what it means the first time. For me, there's never a 'Let's get out there and get current,' because we've done very well just like we are."
Hall said the album was recorded with no orchestral strings, with the exception of band member Melody who plays violin. He said having no strings is a first for the band and they didn't even notice until after the record was done.
"It is possibly a new version of us, I don't know," he said.
Casting Crowns will hit the road this month on "The Very Next Thing" tour presented by Compassion International and Museum of the Bible. The tour will feature label mate Matt Maher and special guest newcomer Hannah Kerr.
For more information on the new album or tour, click here.