Casting Crowns: A quick chat with the CCM hitmakers

Wednesday 19th July 2017

Tony Cummings talked to Juan and Melodee DeVevo of Christian pop rockers CASTING CROWNS

Casting Crowns
Casting Crowns

There can be few Cross Rhythms readers, if any, who don't know some of the music created by Casting Crowns. Since their inception by youth pastor extraordinaire Mark Hall in 1999 the band have sold in excess of 10 million records and year in, year out have had their songs played on Christian radio around the world, like the title track of their 2006 Grammy-winning album 'Lifesong' to a particular Cross Rhythms radio favourite "Courageous". For a few fleeting moments I quizzed guitarist Juan DeVevo and his wife singer/violinist Melodee at a hotel in Manchester.

Tony: How many times have Casting Crowns been to the UK?

Melodee: Five, I think.

Juan: Yeah, because we've played at Stoke-on-Trent, then we've played at Big Church Day Out twice, we played in London once at the Forum Theatre. Every time has been great.

Tony: How would you say Casting Crowns has changed musically down the years?

Juan: The way it works is Mark will go and write songs - there's seven of us, we all have different influences, and we try to make a song where the lyrics can sit on top. We don't want a song. . .

Melodee: . . .where the music runs away with it.

Juan: Mark's got a unique ability to be able to knit a melody and words together. He hears a melody and the words at the same time. He can really work those. "Who Am I" went through four or five different phases until we settled on the one that we have. Sometimes we've come up with good solutions but we decided that just isn't right, maybe we weren't catching all the words. The music is the plate that it sits on. We've definitely grown as musicians. When we started out, for me it was a hobby. We were just a worship band. So I've gotten to hang around studio musicians, and I've gotten better at choosing things.

Tony: It seems the raw rock has gone and your sound has mellowed out.

Juan and Melodee DeVevo
Juan and Melodee DeVevo

Juan: We're following trends too. When we first made records - they call it the wall of guitars. You keep tracking guitars on top of guitars. Another thing that's happened is Mark has started co-writing with a guy named Bernie Herms; he's a musical genius, but a lot of things he does comes out a piano thing. It seems like the piano's a little more versatile when you come up with melodies. We've backed off having eight guitars on a studio track to just two or three. So you could say it's calmed down. Also, I think a little more style's gone into it, rather than it just coming at you full force.

Tony: Are you perhaps trying to reach a slightly older audience now?

Melodee: I think when Mark writes a song it happens to turn out a different way every time. I don't think he means to do it a certain way, it's just how the songs come out. He doesn't come up with a riff and say, 'I want to write some words to this,' it's, 'How should these words sound?' I feel like every song sounds different.

Juan: We never go, 'We want to reach this age group.' It comes from our ministry at the church. We work primarily with students, and student ministry is very much a family ministry. We've noticed the things students are dealing with are the same things adults are dealing with. Through that, Mark writes a song, God blesses it, and it turns out we all feel that way. He'll come in with it, we'll play a thing, and if it works with that song then good; and if it doesn't, we'll throw it away. It's just good we have so many musical influences; there's so many people helping out that are very talented, like Bernie, and Mark Miller, our producer.

Tony: Time for two personal questions. Picking up something from an old biography of yours Melodee, are you still "a little too much" as your school report said?

Melodee: No. I clammed up in middle school and stopped talking. In elementary school I got my name on the board with a check-mark by it every day.

Juan: We made up for it by having kids.

Tony: Secondly, why did you name one of your dogs after Louis Armstrong?

Melodee: And it was the girl dog too.

Juan: The first dog we named Duke after Duke Ellington. I really like the older jazz stuff. I don't know. We were trying to come up with names, and I was just like, 'What about Duke Ellington?' So once we had a Duke, the next dog we were like, 'Why not just name her Satchmo?' That was his nickname. CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.
About Tony Cummings
Tony CummingsTony Cummings is the music editor for Cross Rhythms website and attends Grace Church in Stoke-on-Trent.


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