I'm pretty sure that almost all of us have heard of the Christian music artist Steven Curtis Chapman. He's an absolute legend, and he recently released a song with country singers Brad Paisley and Lauren Alaina, and gospel music artist Tasha Cobbs Leonard called "Together (We'll Get Through This)." I got to chat with him about that song, and also caught up with him on quarantine life, his SCC Solo Tours, and more.
First off, you've been involved in music for decades now and you're continuing to sing to new audiences. How did you get started in music?
I grew up in a musical family, and as a little boy, I started playing guitar. My dad is a great musician, and I grew up in Kentucky, so I had a lot of bluegrass and folk music influences in my early days.
A real change happened in our lives when I was seven years old, and we began to go to church together as a family and started playing music and singing together. So music has always just been a part of my life. I started writing songs in high school, then when I graduated I came to Nashville with my brother to try to get a summer job at an amusement park called Opryland USA. It was built around the Grand Ole Opry, and we got a job there the summer before I went to college. Later I got a chance to sing at the Grand Ole Opry.
Songwriting was my main thing and my first love. It was primarily Christian music and gospel music that I was writing, and that led to me getting a publishing opportunity with none other than Bill Gaither. He wrote many of the songs I grew up singing with my family. I wrote songs for other artists for a while, then I got a chance to make my first album. I recorded my first record with Sparrow Records about 33 years ago. That's what has led me to do what I've been blessed to do all these years.
How have you and your family been doing during this quarantine?
Like everybody else, we've been feeling a sense of unsettledness and nervousness if I'm being completely honest. My two sons are traveling musicians with their band Colony House, and my daughter-in-law, Jillian Edwards is also a singer/songwriter. This has affected all of us in a lot of ways. We're just wondering what the future is going to look like, and when are we going to get a chance to go and do what we love to do.
But at the same time, this is giving us an opportunity to do things together. My wife and I planted a garden (well, she's mainly the planter. I'm the dirt digger guy or the heavy stuff carrier). We got a puppy (which I didn't see coming at all. I blame the COVID-19 pandemic fully on the fact that we now have a puppy that I didn't really ever want). The puppy actually turned out to be a good thing for my two daughters who are at home. One is a college student who came home because of the pandemic, and my other daughter Stevey Joy is a junior in high school. She's been doing her schooling from home, so we've all been here together. It's been a wonderful thing, and a hard thing, but it's been a good offset. It's given us a great opportunity to practice 1 Corinthians 13, where the Bible talks about how love is patient, love is kind, love doesn't keep a record of wrongs, etc.
We sat and played cards last night together, which is something we normally don't have much time to do to. So a lot of great things have come from this.
You recently released a new song with Brad Paisley, Lauren Alaina, and Tasha Cobbs Leonard called "Together (We'll Get Through This)." What's the story behind that song, and how did that collaboration come about?
I'm always one who processes things with a song when something's going on in my world, so I knew a song would come from this.
Walking past my television, I heard words coming out that was unusual. I heard words like "Together," "We have to come together," "We need to find common ground," and "We'll get through this together." As of the last few months and years, that hasn't been something that has come out of our television screens. It was so refreshing and inspiring to hear. I started to see commercials and other things that kept bringing that message back around. The best way to put it is that it felt like a little crack of light was coming into a pretty dark time. There's a darkness that has been there, so I felt like maybe I could kick the door open a little bit more with that light coming through. Maybe I could make it shine a little more. I saw a little spark, so I thought maybe I could fan the flame.
The truth is, we are made for relationship. We forget that in our world a lot. We look at each other as the enemy because we see things differently and we have different opinions about things. But that's what they are. They're opinions. None of us fully know exactly how things ought to be, and what's best. We have our ideas, but I felt like, this suddenly was at least making us talk about the fact that we need each other, and that we need to work together. I wrote the song with that thought in mind. Even in my own home, I can see the panic in the eyes of my family, and they can see it in mine. You can see it in the eyes of people you pass in the grocery store behind their masks. They look panicked thinking, "Is there enough food? Is there enough toilet paper? Are we all staying six feet apart?" Some of that's necessary and important, but it's so important that we don't start to look suspiciously at each other, but that we realize we are all in this together. As a believer, that resonates with the truth of God's word. We were all made for relationship with Him and with each other. Ecclesiastes tells us that two are better than one. If one falls into the ditch, someone's there to lift you out. Three is even better. I wrote the song with that in mind, hoping to encourage it. Then I thought that it only makes sense to bring other people on this song with me if it's a song about "together." So I reached out to some friends and people that I haven't worked with before.
Brad Paisley and I have done a few events together and found ourselves a few years ago at a Glen Campbell memorial concert where both of us were there to honor one of our heroes Glen Campbell. We bonded over our mutual love for Glen and his music, and after that, we said: "Let's do something together someday." Fast forward, and I had this song "Together (We'll Get Through This)," and thought, "Man, I could hear Brad Paisley singing and crushing some cool guitar on the song." So I reached out, not having any idea if he would do it or would be able to, but he immediately responded and said, "This is a great song and an important message. We need to say this together. I'd love to join you." He did, and that led to the next person.
There was a discussion of who would be a great female artist, maybe from a different genre other than Christian music. Maybe country music, but someone who's a believer, who would get this message and resonate with it. Lauren's name came up as someone to consider. I thought, "Well, I've never spent any time with her, but I sure was a fan watching her on American Idol." She's always been vocal about her faith as a Christian, and I thought, "That would be awesome. I wonder if she would be interested." She's a great singer, and she was very interested and very excited about it. She did her part in her little studio, and Brad did his in his studio.
I really wanted to bring a gospel choir onto this song and thought that it would be so cool to have the power that a gospel choir brings. But since I couldn't do that with social distancing, I did the next best thing and brought one of the great gospel choir leaders, Tasha Cobbs Leonard. Again, same story. I didn't know if she would be interested or would be able, but she responded immediately with, "I would love to and would be honored." She and her husband Kenneth were gracious and went into the studio the same day. She recorded her parts, sent them to me, then we put all of the pieces of the puzzle together. They actually fit, and it worked. That was kind of confirmation that maybe God's fingerprints were on this thing. So that's how it came to be!
With the release of this new song, can we be expecting more new music from you soon?
Hopefully! We'll see. I'm not sure yet when that will happen, I'm taking it one song at a time right now. But I do have some ideas and things that I've been writing during this quiet time. This has given me some good time to reflect. Planting a garden that my wife and I have done always helps. For some reason, I wrote The Great Adventure album pretty much from planting a garden years ago, so I thought maybe that'll help get some creativity going.
I have no immediate plans, but I feel certain that something will probably show up within the next 12 months.
You're hitting the road again this summer (or fall if need be) for another run of the SCC Solo Tour. What have those tours been like?
It's been one of my favorite tours ever because it's just been me and my guitar or piano, telling my story and singing my songs in an intimate setting. It's kind of like sitting in a living room with some of my best friends, some that I've never met face to face, but my music has connected our lives and stories for over 30 years. It's been really special, and it's something that I enjoy the more I do it. It feels like old friends getting together and remembering not only where we've been, but where we're headed.
Since you've been making music for so long, where do you keep finding inspiration for your songs?
I keep listening with my heart open, and my ears and eyes open. Just like with this song that I just released, I write things that move me and inspire me. Like I said earlier, I process things with a song. So I think as long as I'm breathing, there's going to be a song to be written.
Finally, how can we be praying for you?
It's hard to even want to ask for prayer because there are so many that need it, and so many that need it even more desperately than we do.
I'd say just pray for our work with our organization Show Hope. There are new opportunities with that. We assist families with adoption, and we also advocate for orphans and children without families. There are going to be more of those as a result of this COVID-19 pandemic, not only from those who have passed away but also, interestingly, there will be many babies that will come as a result of this. There are babies and new lives coming, and new challenges with those lives. We stand ready as an organization to try to be a resource and be an answer to that. So pray that we know how to respond to that.
Also pray that from the position God has given me, that I'll be able to encourage people in the right ways and continue to use the gifts He has given me, even if I can't, for the meantime, be on the road.
Grace Chaves is a fan of all things Christian music, and is one of NRT's youngest writers. She's homeschooled, and loves concerts, Jesus, and songwriting.
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