A Conversation with Steven Curtis Chapman


Growthtrac interviewed best selling recording artist Steven Curtis Chapman about his music and his marriage. His latest album is the soon to be released (September 2004), All Things New.

Steven, your latest project, your fourteenth album, All Things New, is to be released soon. Tell us about that project.

God is whispering to us, and sometimes screaming ? through creation and all that goes on around us ? He desires to renew all things including our hearts, minds, and relationships.

Everything around us is wasting away ? the car is wearing out, the house needs painting, the bread’s going stale, I  notice a new wrinkle ? plenty of reminders all around us that things are declining. We look at God’s truth and who God is and see He’s committed to renewing all things and making all things new. I believe He’s provided indications all around us.

That is such an encouraging, comforting, exciting reality for me that I started writing songs about it. And it excited me so much I wrote a whole album full of songs about that truth. I’m really looking forward to sharing that with people this September when the album comes out and then doing a tour, about 70 concert appearances, starting in October.

You’ve done some new things on this album.

I felt like I had to make sure this album, while it was communicating lyrically and thematically, be as good musically. A really important part of the process was that artistically, I would break new creative ground. I entered this process with a real desire to explore some new things.

The only part of the team that stayed the same is my co-producer, Brown Bannister, who worked with me on the last five or six albums. I felt strongly that he was the guy, even though we considered using a different producer. Brown has been such a dear friend and a genius at the production helm. He’s a great editor of the thousands of ideas I bring to the table.

We made a pact that whenever we felt ourselves doing something comfortable or familiar we would challenge that. So that meant working with new players, new engineers in a new recording studio ? a whole new environment in Los Angeles. We assembled a new group of people who really weren’t that familiar with my music. Some of the players were musicians who’ve played with Jon Mayer, Cheryl Crow, Alanis Morisette, Michelle Branch.

It’s always a challenge to explore new territory. How do you make things fresh and new and still be creatively true to who you are?

We explored new territory sonically and as a result we got something that’s fresh and new. Everyone on the project was inspired. The musicians came away saying, “this is one of the best records I’ve been apart of in a long time”. When I look at their credits, I think, that’s really saying something. I felt like it was rewarding for them.

There was one song in particular that really moved me. You wrote I Believe in You for your daughter Emily. That must be a special song.

One of the things about being a songwriter is occasionally your kids will ask you to do a song at an event. So, Emily asked if I would sing at her senior graduation. I thought, this is going to be one of the toughest assignments I’ve ever been given. How will I hold it together singing a song at my daughter’s graduation… And immediately I knew I had to come up with the perfect song.

I Believe in You is a song I’d written for Emily when she was crossing from junior high to high school. Rummaging through some old songs I came across this lyric and remembered. I rewrote it, gave it a remodeling job, completed the music and lyrics, and I sang the song at her senior graduation.

It was a tough thing to do. I couldn’t make eye contact with Emily or I knew I would lose it; I had to keep my game face on. But I did catch her eyes for one brief moment and it wasn’t pretty; I almost lost it. I felt the lump climb up in my throat and I thought, “uh oh”, if I go out now I’ll never finish the song. (laughs)

I’ve been blessed with just about the greatest eighteen year old God ever gave a dad. She is just an amazing young woman. She is the person God used to start this whole adoption process in our family; she started praying about that when she was twelve years old. She has a great heart for missions, orphans and people in general. It’s been a great joy to be her dad.

And now it’s one of those bitter sweet things as a parent; you just know she’s ready, and so excited to see what God’s going to do with her life, yet so hard to let her go.

I was doing the math… It seems in any given year, you invest about four months on a recording project, and an additional six months on the road, touring. Add a wife and family to the mix. I’m wondering, what are the challenges of an on-the-road husband and father?

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The challenges are great. Through the years I’ve prayed with counselors and pastors and others and I ask every time, “Do we go into another season of this? Is this still pleasing to God? Is this still what I’m supposed t o be about?”

My number one priority and job is to get to the end of this life and hear my wife say, “I really believe my husband loved me, cared for me, protected me. I was cared for.”

And for my kids to say, “We know our dad loved our mom. We know our dad loved us. He worked hard and he did his calling well, but not to the extent where it sacrificed us or the family.”

I think the key has been to keep myself in relationships where others can keep me accountable, and help me navigate these waters. And these waters can get pretty murky and wild and stormy at times. There are many opportunities ? great opportunities. But what would it mean to finish this race and have gained the world and lost my family and things that are most precious to me.

When I’m touring, at the most I’m gone five days and then I need to be home for a few days. That will last for five or six months and then I’ll take time off and not tour at all, maybe for a year. I’ll be home for a consistent period of time and be involved probably more than most dads.

Steven, you’ve made no secret of the fact that you and Mary Beth have had to work hard to keep your relationship moving forward. How is marriage these days?

We’ve been married twenty years this October and I can honestly say my wife and I have never been more in love. You know I just finished this album and albums are a real challenge. It’s something that you can get so consumed with ? I think creative people are that way ? and you can lose site of the other things that matter in your life.

But we’ve never been surer of God’s calling and never been surer of our need for each other. I think that’s a pretty wonderful place to be.

We find ourselves pretty tired. We just returned from China, having adopted our third daughter, a fourteen-month old little girl named Maria. To have a freshman in college and two in diapers and one in pre-school ? that’s enough to wear anybody out. (laughs)

What about romance? Is that still a reality for old married people and a houseful of kids?

We need to keep ourselves aware that we have to make time for ourselves. Even when I was making this record, Mary Beth came out and spent some time with me in Los Angeles. It was a special getaway time. We’ve been blessed to be able to do that.

With three older kids, they can baby sit and give us a night out. We can escape to our favorite restaurant, grab a meal and gaze into each others eyes — even if they’re bloodshot and sleepy.

We realize that seasons pass and the one thing that does remain is our relationship with each other. What we get to do now is enjoy life together. Find those little moments to romance each other; and slow dance, even if it’s after we get everybody in bed. We’re so thankful that God has given us each other and this journey to walk on together.

As we close, I’ll give you the floor.

I appreciate your ministry so much, there’s nothing under greater attack than the family. Certainly my wife and I have experienced that. Christian marriage puts on display the love of God, the power of God, the grace of God to a world that sure needs to see it. We need ministries to remind us of that, and keep holding up the light and the truth. God bless you and what you’re doing!

Copyright © 2004 Growthtrac.

His music a cross between ’70s-style light rock and orchestrated pop, Steven Curtis Chapman has been one of the most prominent performers of contemporary Christian music.

Read more about Steven at StevenCurtisChapman.com

Visit Steven’s adoption site, Shaohannahs Hope

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