Warren Barfield: Songsmith saying marriage is 'Worth Fighting For'

Wednesday 30th April 2008

Tony Cummings plots the career and trials of North Carolina's songsmith WARREN BARFIELD

Warren Barfield
Warren Barfield

In many ways the latest album by American singer/songwriter Warren Barfield, 'Worth Fighting For', is an open letter to the Church. The disturbing fact that the divorce rate amongst evangelical Christians is the same as it is for non-believers is one of the hard issues taken on by this 28 year old crafter of pop, country and rock tunes and with exemplary production from Charlie Peacock (Switchfoot, Nichole Nordeman), Mark A Miller (Casting Crowns) and Jason Ingram and Rusty Varenkamp (Bebo Norman, Rush Of Fools) critics are already acknowledging 'Worth Fighting For' (out in the UK in June) as Warren's finest. About the theme of the record Barfield commented, "True Christianity is about being Christ to others. If we really believe in the whole thing, if we really believe he came all that distance and gave his life because he loved us, it'd change the way we love each other. That kind of love really could change the world."

One of the songs on 'Worth Fighting For' already creating a buzz in the US is the pop-country track "Love Is Not A Fight". On it Barfield sings, "Love is not a place to come and go as we please/It's a house we enter in, then commit to never leave/So lock the door behind you, throw away the key/Work it out together, let it bring us to our knees." The song is about the temptation to opt out of marriage when it gets difficult. Barfield has been married for seven years but during that time has seen many people who are close to him and many figures in Christian music and ministry, plump for divorce.

"Love Is Not A Fight" was born out of compassion for those in marital struggles. Barfield, the son of a preacher and who grew up in rural North Carolina, told Christian Retailing magazine, "I remember when I was a kid not being able to understand why someone was getting divorced. But the fact that I'm someone who loves my wife and loves the Lord, and that there are still days where I want to walk out, I get it. None of us are above this." Such a perspective is very different from Barfield's fire-and-brimstone childhood when answers were so clear that fellow churchgoers wouldn't hesitate to tell people that they were going to hell for their mistakes - especially the divorced. "I grew up in a very legalistic environment where marriage couldn't be broken for any reason. You didn't have to question it. But as time goes by, the world becomes something else. The world gets bigger." For Barfield, a bigger world means more emphasis on love and grace. He said, "Is loving my neighbour as myself looking someone in the eye and telling them they're going to hell for their past mistakes?"

But Barfield believes that some things are worth fighting for, one of them being marriage - a commitment so serious that he encourages people to "exhaust all options" before dissolving the union. Still, this thoughtful and compassionate songsmith always comes back to love and grace. "The biggest part of this record is my feeling about the need to be compassionate to people. I'm submerged in the church - I do it for a living - and if you ask me what the church's biggest flaw is, I'd say 'love'. There's not this compassion in us to walk up and put our arms around people." Barfield's songs are most enjoyed by Christians, but, he said, "No one needs to hear about love more than the Church. Why are there so many broken people? Why are so many people falling apart? Because people aren't being loved."

Warren Barfield: Songsmith saying marriage is 'Worth Fighting For'

"Love Is Not A Fight" will play an integral musical role in the upcoming feature film Fireproof, the new movie from the creators of the hugely successful Christian film and DVD Facing The Giants. Fireproof is an action-packed love story, set to open in US cinemas this autumn. The film tells the story of a firefighter, his wife and a marriage worth rescuing.

Warren Harding Barfield Jr was born in Spivey's Corner, North Carolina. He told CCM magazine about his hometown. "I have always said [Spivey's Corner] is 'The Hollering Capital of the World', but when I was home recently, I looked at the sign, and we're actually 'The Hollering Capital of the Universe'! We're pretty sure there are no people who can holler as loud as we can. They have a big carnival at the high school where they hold a hollering contest. It's not about the loudest holler but the one that's the most unique. Every year, the winner gets to be on the David Letterman Show."

Singing rather than hollering proved to be Barfield's forte and by the age of 15 he was already dreaming of the Christian music bigtime. "When I was 15 I knew that music was what I'm designed to do, but I kept my mouth shut. I thought if I told people, 'One day I'm going to work with [producer] Brown Bannister,' they'd say I was an idiot. Some kid might be reading this, thinking it's not possible, so I want him or her to know that it is. God is faithful to finish what he starts in us."

By the age of 18 he'd started along the long, hard road of Christian music ministry and his rich, soulfully expressive baritone voice was already catching audiences' ears. After two years Warren recorded an independent album 'Beyond Me' followed a year later by another, 'My Heart Is Quiet'. But it was in 2003 when he was signed to CCM label Creative Trust Workshop that his songs first started to receive exposure on US Christian radio. Warren's "My Heart Goes Out" and "Mistaken" from the 'Warren Barfield' project became Top 10 Christian radio hits while major tours of the US with Third Day and FFH established him in the Nashville fast lane. But suddenly all went pear-shaped. His record contract disappeared when label CTW folded and a family friend died and his sister was seriously hurt in an appalling car accident. Warren told Christian Music Today about this darkest of times. "When I went to my sister's hospital room, I wanted so badly to say something to make it all make sense. There was nothing. Even the best spiritual clichés didn't help. All I could do was cry with her. I was going through the thing with the record label at the same time. We were both asking how we could ever sing again. Everything was stripped away to the point of my asking who I was and why I was here. I questioned everything about myself, not only if I was meant to be a Christian singer, but if I even was a Christian. I thought about quitting. I didn't want to make music anymore. Music is my heart, but I wondered if God meant for me to be in the music business. The grace of God made me not give up."

Warren Barfield: Songsmith saying marriage is 'Worth Fighting For'

The singer/songwriter is candid about how the traumas of his life brought him to a new beginning. "For too long, I was doing it my way. I was trying to be successful. I was becoming a bitter person and not handling the industry well. I was becoming someone who always felt I deserved better. All this stuff happened and broke me. I now want to do things the way Christ would do things. I realize now that I don't deserve anything. Every good thing is a gift from God for which I am grateful. I now care less about people's definition of success. This has affected my message on stage in a huge way. I want people to understand that faith is the only thing that is real. God has reprioritized my life and changed my heart. I try my best not to control things or be consumed by things. I realize that God is the only thing that is secure. I'm on a journey to know Christ and everything else is just icing on that."

In 2006 Reunion Records released Warren's 'Reach' album. He said at the time, "Three years passed between the time of my first [record label album] and 'Reach'. The change in musical direction is a result of me getting older, learning and growing stronger from the journey of life and hopefully becoming a better singer, songwriter and musician."

To promote 'Reach' Barfield undertook a 30-city tour playing intimate venues with Shawn McDonald. But it's 'Worth Fighting For', released on Essential Records, that seems set to re-establish Barfield as one of Christendom's most powerful singer/songwriters. Having Charlie Peacock in the producer's seat has brought all the soulful passion out of Barfield's rich baritone voice. Said Peacock, "The most unique thing about Warren is his voice. All of the songs and the production are meant to highlight his unique gift. Warren is gracefully human as a person and an artist, with a heart bent toward Jesus."

But over and above the clear aesthetic qualities contained in 'Worth Fighting For' and that stunning radio single "Love Is Not A Fight" is its deep potential of Barfield's music to touch lives. Bob Thornton, the programme director of radio station KXOJ in Tulsa, Oklahoma, spelt it out succinctly: "'Love Is Not A Fight' is going to save some marriages, at the very least. Not too many songs actually carry power, but this one is loaded." 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.


Reader Comments

Posted by Heather in Tuscaloosa, AL @ 12:05 on Sep 21 2008

This song has been playing over and over in my head and I haven't heard it in quite sometime. My mother married a man she hardly knew and I must admit, after she left for the 2nd time recently, we have ALL wanted her to give up. God has shown me that regardless of this man's shortcomings he deserves a shot too. Thank you for such powerful words.

Posted by Cat in North @ 23:18 on Apr 30 2008

Someone who's saying it like it is! Marriage is hard. I didn't believe it no matter how many times I was told but now I know. It's a promise to keep. Sometimes it takes every last thread of hope and strength to stay. Sometimes the best thing in your whole week with someone is a brief smile or a polite word. It's worth fighting for because Jesus tells us to live it through.

The opinions expressed in the Reader Comments are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms.

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