Bryan Duncan: The veteran soloist and Sweet Comfort Band singer returns

Wednesday 3rd July 2013

Mike Rimmer spoke to BRYAN DUNCAN about his return to the CD racks

Bryan Duncan
Bryan Duncan

To those long-in-the-tooth followers of Christian music, Bryan Duncan will be known as one of the finest vocalists ever to work in Nashville's CCM scene. His powerfully emotive blue-eyed soul stylings have down the years made him something of a fixture on US Christian radio while even further back his fronting of seminal Jesus music unit the Sweet Comfort Band brought him a legion of fans. However in recent years this most gifted of singers seems to have maintained a very low profile. So it is with considerable enthusiasm that we received the news that not only has Bryan Duncan returned with a solo album, 'Conversations', but the Sweet Comfort Band have reconvened and in April this year released a new album, 'The Waiting Is Over'. Broadcaster Mike Rimmer spoke to Bryan about his decades-long career in Christian music.

Mike: Did getting the Sweet Comfort Band back together again make you feel old?

Bryan: Sweet Comfort Band started 40 years ago. I started playing and singing when I was 16; Sweet Comfort Band came along when I was 19 or 20. Do I feel old? No, not as long as I have a new song. You just never stop playing, and that's what keeps you young. There's other things that make me feel old, but Sweet Comfort Band is not it.

Mike: You've been working in Christian music for decades. If you could go back to the beginning of your career and give yourself some advice, what would you say?

Bryan: I don't think there's any advice that I could give my younger self, because I'm pretty sure my younger self wouldn't listen to advice. I don't think it's possible to go at any kind of career or endeavour without making mistakes. If you're not making mistakes, you're probably not improving. I would tell my younger self that determination is stronger than talent in getting something accomplished.

Mike: What has been your biggest disappointment?

Bryan: Of course the music business has its disappointments. The biggest one for me is the understanding. Like the Scripture says, 'With much knowledge comes much sorrow.' One of the things that's been the biggest disappointment is that with regard to marketing, you can't be everything you are and market all of that. It has to be narrowed down to a specific thing, and it's really hard to make a choice about how you're going to be marketed. And once you've been marketed in a particular direction, there's this stifling of creativity that happens because you're typecast. You can't step outside of your zone much without offending the people that bought the first record. There's some disappointments: you have to overcome that and be who you are. Every marketing attempt is going to be a risk of some kind, and you've got to decide which way you want to go.

Mike: When you started out with the Sweet Comfort Band were you trying to be a rock star?

Bryan: I don't think, even in my earliest recollections, did I attempt to be a rock star. I think when you're young and you're playing screaming music, it could come off like that, I suppose. Our intentions were to reach people that had never heard the Gospel before, and how we did that was to mimic what rock and roll was doing at the time - but it was not our intention to be rock stars. At some point we all have a certain amount of entitlement that looks like rock stardom.

Mike: What lessons has God taught you down the years?

Bryan: If I've learned anything in the last couple of years it's that if you're just depending on the talents that God has given you, you're acting out of your own strengths. Somebody told me once that the edge of your comfort is the centre of God's will. I think that sometimes we just do what we're good at: the path of least resistance. In the long run, God's purposes require you to depend on him in a lot of directions that are really uncomfortable. In the new music world these days it's a level playing field in the way that you go about everything. I'm doing things now with regard to production and songwriting and co-labouring with others that I couldn't do without other people's help. That's probably the centre of God's will. He doesn't give you a lot of validation in the meantime, so there's trust needed. Now I show up wherever God puts me, give whatever I can to the circumstance, and look for ways to be of service. That goes beyond your gifts.

Bryan Duncan: The veteran soloist and Sweet Comfort Band singer returns

Mike: I understand you've been through a recovery programme.

Bryan: I went into a recovery programme in 1990. People automatically assumed I was an alcoholic. That's not the case. I've chosen not to share the story of my addictions with the general public: I'm only required to share that with God, myself, and at least one other person - and that would be somebody I trust. I would rather that people hear what I've learned in recovery, rather than what I've done in the past in the way of bad behaviour. I was playing a concert at a recovery programme when they read the 12 Steps Of Recovery aloud; step one says, 'We admitted that we were powerless over our dependencies, and that our life had become unmanageable.' I can't imagine who that wouldn't apply to at some point in your life. For me, it was a matter of straightening out the way that I think, and the obsessions and the compulsions that made my life unmanageable. I've managed to get on track - the way I think, the way I behave - in a way that is more constructive to me. That's the important aspect of recovery: recovery is for you.

Mike: Would you say that you're now recovered?

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