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[Worship Musician] 15 years ago, when we published our first issue of Worship Musician magazine, you were on our cover!
[David Crowder] (laughter) That was the first one? No way!
[WM] Has it been more of a “I can’t believe it’s been that long,” kind of a feeling, or more of a “time flies when you’re having fun,” feeling?
[Crowder] Well this explains everything! We peaked too soon! We started out 15 years ago on the cover, and now I’ve been working my way back every since. (more laughter).
I can’t believe it’s been 15 years. I think that, along the way, every stage of this has felt crazy. It’s so much more than a career, or a job. I get to do what I love, and talk about and think about Jesus all the time. And all the people that have been around me for all of those years are talking about Jesus too.
I remember when we first started at the church in Waco, TX. It was the first Sunday, and there were probably 200 people there in a room that seated 100. So there were people flowing out the side doors and some were even outside the building and looking in the windows. And I thought, “This is crazy! I can’t believe we get to make music and sing together with this many people. This is insane!”
And then it grew really quickly and we moved to a big theater downtown, and I thought, “This is blowing my mind! I don’t even understand. This is nuts!”
Then we were invited to take our first trip outside of town to play at a conference for Youth Specialties, back when Mike Yaconelli was the president. There was a big conference for Youth Ministers in San Diego. Now, I had hardly travelled anywhere. The only places I had gone was on family vacations. We would drive to Florida and go to Destin beach and to Disneyworld. And that happened twice. Then one time we took a trip to Michigan to visit some of my parent’s family, and that was all I’d seen of anything. Then we, (the band) get this phone call to come to sunny San Diego, and to get on a plane! And that blew my mind.
Granted, we were just on a side stage. They had too many people to accommodate in the main room they were in, so we got to do the overflow. A dude by the name of James Ward was doing the main music. He had come to my church in Texarkana, Texas and done a concert. He was a jazz musician and a brilliant piano player, and I couldn’t believe that we were playing the same place that James Ward was playing. It was amazing!
So all along the way, it’s always just felt crazy. It feels unbelievable that something that I love so much could affect people, so it’s created a very heavy sense of responsibility all the time. I look at a room and think, “There’s 200 people here. . . . and I’m just a dumb college kid. . . Wow! I gotta work hard and do my homework and prepare, because I need to give my best to these people.”
You gotta be leaning forward all the time and making sure you are with people who feel the same way and are motivated in the same way. People who want to be more like Jesus, and who always are looking to treat people better and better, and will tell you if you’re not doing those things. If you’re doing that, then the rest of it kind of takes care of itself.
[WM] You have an interesting line in the bio that you wrote. You said, “There’s only one definitive line, and that’s the line between death and life. These are songs about the divides found on our behalf, and I pray they are subversive and healing and insistence on that reality.” Those are deep thoughts for a boy from Waco, Texas (laughter from David). Tell us more about that.
[Crowder] Well, when I signed to do the records for my latest contract, I signed for a three record deal. So I started working with a concept and trying to think about how they will all fit together, and how there could be a thread and a progression both to the content and the approach to the music. It may be loose some of the time, but there’s an idea there. So when I moved from Neon Steeple to American Prodigal, I started reflecting on how, with the David Crowder Band, we started dabbling with the Bluegrass sound. It was fun, and it’s a part of my roots, so we thought, “Why not?” Let’s see if we can insert it into the scene that we were in and see how it played. And it really took off. People responded and it was a blast, and everyone was having a great time. It’s kind of like ‘porch music’.
So in between the David Crowder Band and this new solo endeavor, I started to think about what I was going to do, and I was a little bit scared. I thought to myself, “Oh no! It’s all going to be my fault.” If humans are good at anything, then blame displacement has to be one of the things we’re best at. Remember Adam? “She gave me the fruit! It’s all on her!” So as I thought about a solo project, I started thinking about what it was going to sound like and what my concept was going to be. And also at this time I was stepping down from 16 years of being on staff at University Baptist Church in Waco. That had been a lot to balance during those years, with the way the David Crowder Band grew and what was on our plate also with being a part of a local church community. And it wasn’t just music responsibilities at the church. I was very heavily involved in the leadership side of things as well. We were just a bunch of college kids, and we never had much money. We got this old grocery store, and the renovations were mostly done by volunteers and the 3 of us on staff. I was setting up scaffolding to repaint the ceilings, or scraping the old concrete floors so that we could refinish them. You know, you just gotta do what you gotta do. But I was just going full speed all the time.
And the weight of responsibility in my local church and community was actually heavier than the platform that I had with the David Crowder Band. I had relationships with the college kids in my church (about 1500 of them), and I knew when someone’s mom died, or when someone’s brother had cancer. Plus, trying to figure out how to make community happen and how do you help teach that community how to love and support and carry the burdens of the other’s in the community?
So there was a lot going on! And when I left the DC Band and stepped down from being on staff, I felt like, “This is going to be a breath of air. I’ve been working so hard for 16 years.” I was excited about that, and I really didn’t even know if I would do music. But I quickly discovered that I was going to keep doing music, because the songs kept coming, and I thought, “Okay, I guess this doesn’t go away.” So I decided to keep doing music. I felt like this is what I get to do, and what I’m called to do.
I struggle with the word “calling”. My dad is “called”. He’s an insurance agent, but he’s called to carry the story of God. His job is actually more complicated because he has to navigate commerce and culture and also insert the story of Jesus in the middle of the relationships that he’s developing. And. . . nobody likes their insurance agent! (laughter) But his calling is no less than mine; his platform just looks different. And he’s actually in people’s lives in some of their worst moments. He has an ability to do things in people’s lives that I only had a chance to do when I was on staff at the church.
From the platform, I just throw stuff out there that God has put on my chest and hope that the Holy Spirit can do something through it.