David Crowder Band: The full history from 'Can You Hear Us' to 'Remedy'

Thursday 21st June 2007

Tony Cummings chronicles the fascinating musical and spiritual journey of Texas radicals the DAVID CROWDER BAND.

David Crowder Band
David Crowder Band

Although some fans were initially slow to realise it, the 2005 release of 'A Collision' by the David Crowder Band proved to be one of the most important releases in post war Christian music history. Composed and produced by the worship leader who had become an unlikely CCM best seller through the pioneering American student ministry Passion, in one fell swoop 'A Collision' expanded the musical and production parameters of what could be heard on a "praise and worship" album. With its dazzling segueing of styles taking in howling rock guitars one second, David whistling the next, a choral rendition of an old spiritual and a knee slapping piece of bluegrass, it was not only an artistic triumph but sold extremely well too. Now Crowder and band members Jack Parker (guitar), Mark Waldrop (guitar), Jeremy Bush (drums), Mike Dodson (bass) and Mike Hogan (electric violin) are hard at work in the studio (called appropriately The Barn Behind Crowder's House) recording their new album 'Remedy' for Sixstepsrecords, due to be released in the US on 25th September. Said Crowder, "We [concluded] the last record, A Collision, by telling you what was coming next. We gave this sort of apologetic for what we had just taken you through as a listener. We knew it was going to require something of folks. And, then, we just had this little song tag at the end saying, 'We're just trying to make you sing.' So this next record is hopefully just simple songs that should get in the mouth and heart really easily."

Already there are some surprise contributors to 'Remedy'. Explained Crowder in CCM magazine, "It seems like every record, we have some random thing happen. And the amazing thing is, this time The Nuge [legendary hard rock guitarist Ted Nugent' stopped by. The Motor City Madman makes an appearance on the record."

Like the groundbreaking 'A Collision', 'Remedy' won't be a formulaic worship project. Said the singer/composer, "It feels like 'David Crowder Band concentrated.' We've had our feet in a lot of different places and it's like we put it in one small, little package. So it's a sound you'll be really familiar with, but, at the same time, it feels like it's condensed all in one place."

The worship visionary went on to explain the relevance of Remedy's title. "We're in a unique place culturally. We have Sprint and the Red Campaign and large corporations being concerned and wanting to project responsibility [about fighting extreme poverty and HIV/AIDS]. This is a moment that we could change everything. There's no more global entity than the Church, and, while we have everybody's attention, there's this moment of hope that we could do this. With these songs, we're trying to say to the Church, 'You've got remedy inside of you. And that's what needs to be transported.' Yes, we need to eradicate AIDS, and, yes, we need to eradicate poverty..., but there's a greater fix that is eternal, and we need to be transporting that just as much as the other stuff."

David is keen to acknowledge Louie Giglio's Passion events for envisioning tens of thousands of American students to the power of contemporary worship. He told CCM magazine, "There's such uniqueness with Passion. I try to put my finger on the difference between this and every other conference, and I truly believe it's the invisible thing that you can't see. We all want students to absorb the reality of God's centrality. I think our motivation has kept Passion on top of water - floating - and people find relief and rescue in it."

David has great admiration for Louie Giglio. "Here's this guy [Giglio] in the driver's seat for these events and he's just been really generous with the speaking platform. He's carried this whole deal very delicately and respectfully and he continues to give the thing to God. The way he communicates is art. He had a real grasp of oration and it's always an event in my head because it is just like watching somebody paint. You don't really know what it is going to be until the end of it."

Despite the gruelling demands of the Passion tours David continues to make himself available. He said, "There's always busyness within scheduling, so I think it's something pretty deep that keeps us carving out space. We're doing our own stuff for most of the year and just have these small windows of being together. Yet, that's what we look forward to most - being with the other bands and Louie and their whole gang. It's really this little family that has erupted. You get to be in the same space as these people that you really love a lot."

David grew up in Texas though admits his upbringing was a tad unusual. He told Clive Price in Worship Together magazine, "We'd go to the Baptist church on Sunday morning and then a very charismatic Assemblies Of God church on Sunday night. So I got the polar opposites every week. It was a schizophrenic Christianity." Growing up, he did what many of his peers tried to do, and re-examined his beliefs. "When you get to school (college), you kind of just trash everything you have been given and think, 'What is it that I value and what is it that I cling to?' You know God exists and is relevant and you want that relationship. But you just don't know the words to put into it."

David became friendly with a fellow student who was leading a small country church. They began to have earnest discussions as to what "church" should actually be like. "When I was growing up, my best friend was a minister's kid and I had written this off, because I saw what ministers go through. It felt so far from what my Christian faith was supposed to be about. I just didn't want that baggage. So to have this new fresh dialogue about what could be was just so free, it ignited something in me." That was summer 1995. His friend approached him a few months later and came out with that most stunning of invitations, "Do you want to start a church?"

David was studying at Baylor, a Christian university in Waco, Texas, and looking at statistics things didn't look good for a church plant. Out of Baylor's 14,000 students a staggering 9,000 never stepped foot inside a church. "It blew my mind," said David. They thought they should do something about it - and reach out to these homeless souls. As it was a Baptist-run college, they approached the Baptist Convention of Texas for assistance. "We walked into a room full of 65 year olds and I thought, 'We are so far from what they think.' We started sharing a bit about it and they just broke down and started weeping, saying, 'That's my grandkids. There's nothing at my church they would connect with. Please, please, would you do something? Here's the funds, here's people to be around you guys and to give you help in whatever way you need it, and to be your pastors.'"

University Baptist Church held its first service in January 1996 and from the off it was a runaway success. David had his suspicions about the church's instant popularity. "It didn't feel right - even though we saw a lot of numbers. So we spent the next year running off all those people who'd gravitated to it. We didn't want to be duplicating what so many other good churches were doing. We didn't want to rob them."

David Crowder Band: The full history from 'Can You Hear Us' to 'Remedy'

Pivotal in the church's growth was the self-penned worship songs that Crowder began to write. "We saw a response from people who were outside of that church culture. They would respond to different lyrics. It was interesting how we spent a whole year running off everybody we'd initially got - to give space for those that weren't involved."

For a musician, David had radical ideas about the true nature of worship. He admitted, "I was very frustrated that worship was associated with music and that was it. Music does have context in the corporate setting - but what is that and what does it exist for? I didn't hear people talking about the fact that worship is life. So now I feel violated because I hear so much about that. Initially, too, I had a lot of thoughts about the presence of God. Where is the presence of God and where is our proximity to his presence? A lot of the language I heard at the time was all about, 'Let's just go into the throne room of God.' Yet in my experience, every second of our day is lived in the presence of God. One thing we wanted to do and say in this new thing was that we realise how dorked-up Christianity has been and how wrong we have been with it many times throughout our history. But rather than trash the whole system, let's enter into dialogue about it. There is a lot of stuff that the Church as a whole has really messed up and distorted. All those thoughts were circulating in my head."

His musical studies were opening his eyes to the stunning power of music. "All I was doing at school was talking about music and what music could do - how one note of C could evoke a thousand different emotions in you. That one note could bring you to tears or make you smile. And so that power of music, plus the power of being in front of people, plus the power of a sub-culture vocabulary that we have in Christianity, just scared me to death. What is it that is in God's heart to lead his people towards - and what's just in mine? In a sense the part I wanted to rebel against was just the cheerleaderism. There's enough power in music that scares me. There's enough power in putting music in front of people and choosing which music to do, much less for me to then verbalise all this stuff."

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