Many know Steve Crawford for his worship-leading role at Houston’s mega congregation, Lakewood Church, alongside author and Pastor Joel Osteen. Others are familiar with him as a member of the seven- time Dove Award winning, double Stellar Award winning and triple Grammy nominated group Anointed. However up until now, no one’s gotten the opportunity to hear or know the solo side of the singer/songwriter/producer. But that’s all about the change as the multiple-generation spanning praise purveyor and gospel great gears up for his self-titled debut disc, which most certainly retains elements of that celebrated history, but also showcases a newfound personal side over production that’s just as cutting edge as it is classic.
“I have loved recording in a group and duo over the years and still do, however, I’m realizing that there is a place of expression that I had not tapped into that could only come forth by stretching myself and doing this project,” explains Crawford. “What greatly influenced my embrace for this new venture was, unfortunately, the untimely passing away of a couple really close friends, who were also unbelievable musicians and songwriters who were like brothers to me. It really showed me that tomorrow’s not really promised and you never know how long you’re going to be here, so it’s important to live life to the fullest while on this earth. My wife and my children are also my inspiration and my number one supporters, plus I have an unbelievable amount of support from my church and the churches I have served in the past. I believe it’s all about seasons and times and I know it’s time for me to share my heart and story through my music.”
Indeed, Crawford’s stayed consistently immersed in music, whether writing for the sake of art or engaging in the worshipful perspective at Lakewood Church (deemed as the largest church in America). Although his writing initially was without a specific project in mind, the constant encouraging of family, friends and fans, coupled with catching a special on CNN about the crowd funding website Kickstarter, initiated the aligning of purposed steps revealing God’s perfect plan.
“Everyone kept telling me they wanted to hear new music and I kept wondering how this would come about,” he relates, citing the music industry’s changes over the past decade. “The more I thought of it, the more I realized I can’t allow myself to be limited to what I’ve done so far or the methods by which I’ve done it. I just needed to step out in faith. So I initiated my Kickstarter campaign and we successfully met our goal. I am so appreciative of everyone that contributed to make this happen. They have helped fund this project, which will be launched on my new independent label, SLC Music Group LLC. They have also contributed creatively by requesting that I record songs that they’ve heard me sing live and I’ve honored them by including many of those selections. This particular project is like a buffet- a real combination of styles, which is one of the joys and freedoms of doing this independently. The approach patterns the first project that started my career, which was simply doing what is true to the heart.”
All the while, Crawford made sure to retain an ear-pleasing balance between modern gospel and contemporary Christian pop sounds throughout the self-titled release. Of course, there are also plenty of praises he lifts up to the Lord that reflect his ongoing role at Lakewood, plus several additional dimensions as diverse as timeless Motown flavorings through chart-ready, John Legend-like neo-soul.
The Motor City soul vibe of “I’m A Believer”, serves as the first single from the project, which is especially fitting given Crawford’s real life reliance on the Lord as his self-titled sessions got underway. “Thematically it’s meant a lot to me because it’s really been a faith journey,” he continues “This was one of those songs I didn’t just write, but it also kept me believing through the whole process that something better was around the corner. In spite of whatever it is you’re going through, always hold on to hope and don’t ever give up too soon.”
The choir-enhanced “He Is Amazing,” co-written with Daryl Wicker, definitely leans in the more intentionally vertical direction. And though it was first conceived for another project recorded in Crawford’s home state of Ohio, the anthem of adoration fits right in with this solo collection. The powerhouse vocalist also puts his velvety stamp on the inspirational standard “You Raise Me Up” and the ageless gospel favorite “I Am,” two regularly requested tracks from his congregation (even including visitors Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry in the case of the latter).
There are also several more compelling originals such as “Uniquely Me,” which features Crawford’s entire family stepping up the microphone while painting a picture of the Christ-centered legacy he is passionate to establish. And perhaps even more impact-worthy is the encouraging “Love Will Lead The Way,” which was birthed out of various scenarios where some of Crawford’s friends felt like they were trapped in hopeless situations.
“Sometimes the normal response to people who haven’t made the wisest choices is to criticize or look down at them, but the reality is, none of us are perfect,” he justifies. “I know that one of the greatest things we could ever do for people is to simply love them and encourage them. I think sometimes we underestimate the power of God’s love. The song simply says, “Be the hope to those who need it; to those who’ve gone astray.” None of us are exempt from tests, trials and difficult situations, but we have to support and love each other through them. I may not wear the same shoes you’re wearing, but I still wear my own shoes. Showing true heartfelt compassion, I believe, will make all the difference in the world.”
Another integral element on this self-titled collection is Crawford’s decision to shine a spotlight on several burgeoning talents, which is one of the many creative luxuries of self-producing this diverse project. Houston’s rising star William Garcia, who’s also the musical director at Lakewood, sits in the co-production chair, while Nashville’s Dwan Hill, also a member of bluesman Jonny Lang’s band, co-wrote both “I’m A Believer” and “Uniquely Me.”
“Another passion I have is providing opportunities for other amazing singers, musicians, engineers, etc., that are in or new to the industry,” confides Crawford. “It’s been really exciting to help support gifted and talented artists. I’ve enjoyed collaborating, and in some cases, mentoring along the way.
Add it all up, and Steve Crawford is indeed a heartfelt compilation of the many interlocking facets that summarize who the man behind the music is these days. In addition to continuing his leadership at Lakewood and “Night Of Hope” tour dates with Osteen, he’ll also be featuring songs past and present in solo engagements, though regardless of the format, his goals remain the same.
“To be honest with you, my number one goal is to reach the people I’m purposed to reach,” he sums up. “This started out very home grown from the initial motivation of people who believed in me and my gift. My gift to them is to not limit its reach and potential impact in the world. I want people to experience hope in my music and allow it to help them no matter who they are or their circumstance.”