Once renowned as the composer of such worship classics as 'Hosanna", CARL TUTTLE has now returned after a major spiritual struggle to head up new record label Sovereign Productions. Mike Rimmer quizzed the music biz veteran.
The name Carl Tuttle will ring strong bells for you if you've been a Christian for a while. Originally one of the leading lights of the Vineyard worship scene in the early '80s, seemingly all of us worshipped God with classic Tuttle compositions like "Hosanna". Then it all seemed to go quiet. Today, Carl has returned to head up a new radical worship label, Sovereign Productions, committed to pushing back the boundaries of worship music. Carl describes his vision as "To bless, build up and strengthen the Body of Christ by providing fresh, passionate and relevant resources." As you'll read, his own journey has not been an easy one and yet, having experienced the grace of God, he stands in a place to make a difference.
Mike: What ever happened to Carl Tuttle? We remember you as a worship
leader and songwriter in the '80s. Where have you been?
Carl: "As many people know I followed John Wimber and pastored at the Vineyard Anaheim. Although the church did quite well, I didn't. The bottom line is I failed. That is to say I failed as an elder of the church. I abused alcohol and allowed my marriage to disintegrate, to the point that I stepped down as Senior Pastor. My wife also left me. We were separated for 18 months; I was placed under a disciplinary process by the Vineyard and went through some very trying and difficult times. Everything I had become dependant on was gone, my friends, my wife, my position, my income, all in a matter of days. But guess what? It is the best thing that ever happened to me! I've found out that the discipline of the Lord is an extravagant expression of his mercy. I've come out the other side of it much better off. My wife and I have been restored to a much better relationship than we had before and for the first time in years I'm at peace and content."
Mike: How did you come to set up Sovereign
"Following my stepping down from ministry, I worked in construction for about a year and a half. One day, I was 60 feet in the air, spray painting a large building at the end of a long mobile extension lift and the thought occurred to me that there may be something that remained from my prior life that was redeemable. So I began to explore the idea of starting a new music label. I spoke with friends and pastors and it felt like it was a good way for me to use the experience and skills I had acquired over the years to contribute to the Body of Christ."
Mike: What are you doing that's any different to other worship
"I don't want to get into a big comparison thing in a negative way, but there are some differences that are worth noting. First of all we are new. That gives us the opportunity to experiment and take risks that established labels have a hard time doing. Secondly we don't have any sort of sound or history to try and duplicate, so it's easier to move forward rather than try to recapture the past. And I guess one of the biggest differences that will affirm what a bad businessman I am, is we refuse to own any of our writers' songs. My songs are owned and it's been a painful and difficult experience for me in trying to deal with my publisher. So consequently, I don't want to own anyone else's stuff. So we develop terms with our writers that allow them to gain back control of their music after various periods of time. In affect we lease them."
Mike: What are your observations about the state of the
current worship scene?
"Frankly, for the most part I feel it has flatlined. Because I have been a part of the Vineyard and still attend a Vineyard church, I'll pick on us. With the exception of the two worship albums produced in the UK recently, VMG is by and large in a rut. What are we up to? 'Father's Heart 234'? Once a group establishes their market it is really rare for them to deviate. There are very few labels or artists that are really pushing us or dragging us forward. Prosch did it, Delirious? did it, Matt has followed behind nicely and given us great songs, but none of that is enough. We must continue to move forward. If we quit making new wine, there never will be any old wine."
Mike: Do you feel that the stuff you pioneered with vineyard
simply got stuck in a rut?
"Definitely. That's not to say that Vineyard hasn't already done enough. I don't think any label can boast of the catalogue of songs the Vineyard has. But as an insider, my perspective is that Vineyard has a tendency to be looking back at the way it used to be. But that is typical in the Church, we are tabernacle builders, we worship the past. A wise man once said that "when your memories of the past obscure your vision of the future, it leaves you bankrupt in the present.' That is something we all need to be wary of."
Mike: Tell me about some of the artists you have
"Let me say this first. Sovereign is not about its artists, it's about a philosophy. It's not about personalities and 'acts', it's about attitude. A heart to serve and bless the Body. That said, we are very fortunate to have Kate Miner. She did our first worship album, which we did live from the Roxy Theatre on the Sunset Strip in LA. The album is great, filled with passion and great content. Matt Redman calls it Intimacy with guts.' Kate is a great worship leader, songwriter and musician. She embodies so much of what we want Sovereign to be. We have Micheal Pritzle of Violet Burning who has done two albums for us. One a compilation of the four previous Violet albums and the second an incredible worship album. We have a group called SCSI, who have been reviewed in your magazine. They are from Belfast and have a great sound and message."
Mike: Tell me about British distribution - will we be able to
hear Sovereign artists over here?
" We have signed a deal with Word UK to distribute all our albums. I would imagine that by the time this article's printed we will have two to three albums released."
Mike: England is a bit of a hotbed for worship at the moment,
we have a healthy scene here. Do you think we really need any more
stuff coming over the pond from the USA?
"Of course! There isn't going to be any one nation, any one label that will be able to give expression to worship. It's like the churches I hear of from time to time that only sing songs from their church. It's kind of inbred I think. Because of the proliferation of' modern worship' many congregations are hungry for new music, new ways to express their hearts to God, so we need to continue to resource that. Tell me, would you like to do without songs from Darlene Zschech? By the way, you're right about the 'worship scene' over there, you are providing the Church with really great stuff."
Mike: What plans do you have to make what you're doing in the
UK stand out from the crowd? What about working at grassroots level
with the Church?
"I don't know that 'stand out from the rest' is the right idea. I do believe we have a contribution to make and I think we will prove that over time. I think the creative approach at our events will be pretty cool. I don't want to give things away, but we have plans to do some really great stuff. One of the things will be to hold a worship conference at Westminster Central Hall in London called Worship The Revelation Of Jesus Christ. This will be unique in that over the two-day period people will experience the Word and worship in a way I know they never have before. Oh yeah, the dates are October 12th and13th.
"Either before this or after, we will send out teams to various churches for nights of worship and in that way we will work with the local church. By the way, although I attend a Vineyard, Sovereign isn't part of a denomination, nor are we involved in any efforts to establish a 'ministry of our own.' Our goal is to come along side the established ministries and resource them."
Mike: What about a comeback album from Carl Tuttle?
"I don't think so. At the most we will put out an 'oldies collection' maybe done by some of the younger generation. I do some worship leading and some writing, but frankly I have great joy in seeing others come to the forefront and move us forward."