David Mullin: An exciting new pop rock talent signed to Warner Brothers

Tuesday 1st May 1990

Brian Quincy Newcomb checks out gifted new singer/songwriter DAVID MULLIN

David Mullen
David Mullen

If you want to cross over into the mainstream market, then you better remember to take "the cross over". That's the criticism you often hear of Christian artists who temper the gospel message of their previous work for a larger, more mainstream audience. David Mullen, the newest artist to fall into the "cross over" niche, with a debut release on Warner Bros, and Myrrh, is one artist that will not have that concern raised by his work. "Revival' is a gospel rock album, pure and simple. "Warner Bros, really feels that they need artists that believe in something, because those are the artists that will be in it for the long haul," Mullen says of the label's acceptance of his Christian stance. Expressing some surprise and joy at their interest he adds, "I don't really know why they decided to sign a guy like me. It can only be God because I never would have chosen to go this way on my own.

"And really, I think it is God honouring the fact that if all this ended tomorrow, I'd be just as happy going back to working with inner city ministry and trying to inspire college students to get involved in the work. The very idea that Mullen would "give it all up tomorrow" sounds more like a cliche from a standard Christian artist's humility speech rather than the aggressive self-promotion we're told is necessary to break into the mainstream music business. Still, there is a strong sense from his history and in his voice that he really means it. Born in Alabama and reared in central Florida ("where they made those old Tarzan films") Mullen was raised by creative, but not especially religious, parents. Mullen (25) migrated to Nashville four years ago, not - as we might have expected - to pursue a recording contract in Music City, but rather to find Christian fellowship and discipleship.

"I wanted to be a missionary," say Mullen. "I got involved in this accredited college Bible study and theology program designed to raise up lay leadership in congregations as a way to do that, I also did a bunch of short term mission trips, but all you need there is a strong back and a willingness to serve." Mullen was happily involved in a mission effort in Nashville's inner city with an opportunity to do discipling work among college students, when a friend's laryngitis opened the door to a ministry in music. "He was sick. so I went down to fill in. There was an A&R person there from a record company, she asked for some demo tapes and it just went from there." Although he had played music on his own as a teenager and written songs for his own enjoyment, Mullen turned toward music only after hearing from pastors and several friends (Michael Card, Mark Gersmehl and Chris McHugh) that this was a place to honour God with his natural abilities. "I kept hearing that this is the way I'm most effective. I'm passionate and zealous about the things I believe in, you know, "pure and undefiled religion', and they saw that I was instilling an appreciation and excitement for these things in the people I share with," says Mullen.

Gersmehl and McHugh (both from White Heart) worked with Mullen recording demos of over 20 songs, because "they were the only people I knew". When asked what setting would be most comfortable to shape his all-important debut, Mullen- opted for the continued production guidance of these two Christian music veterans. But the sound of Revival is gutsy, blues-flavoured pop and rock, which Mullen says lends itself to the mainstream acceptance of the gospel. "My music is rooted in folk and blues, and the gospel message and sound has been a part of that whole style. As long as it's what they (the record company bigwigs) would label as "hip', it's okay with them."

Mullen cements this connection with "Live So God Can Use You", a song he credits was inspired by the 1939 Muddy Waters recording of "Why Don't You Live So God Can Use You" If the "Mannish Boy" could inspire the moniker of the Rolling Stones, why not a gospel song? Mullen sees the album's first two singles as an affirmation that Warner Bros, accepts and is willing to market him as a Christian artist. ""Revival' is sort of one of those rock songs that could mean a lot of things to a lot of people I guess, but to me "Hang My Head and Cry' is the most spiritual song on the record. This [WB releasing these two singles] kind of convinced me that it was from the Lord," he said.

While Mullen will not be hiding his light under a bushel, he will be taking that light into the world of mainstream venues when he takes his band, One Blood, on the road this year. "We're doing a lot of clubs now, but we're talking with a couple of major acts that we might open for [Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and Richard Marx have been mentioned as possibilities]. I feel God wants to put me into those kind of venues, because there are probably more Christians in those kinds of concerts than go to most contemporary Christian concerts." But the bottom line, for Mullen and his band - drummer Scott MacLeod and guitarist Kevin Twit - is not making it big. "We're not just doing it for the music. If this is just another record deal, then we don't want it. I want to change the world, and I want to touch people to make them want to change the world."

This article first appeared in America's CCM magazine and is reprinted with permission. 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 Brian Quincy Newcombe
Brian Quincy Newcombe is an American journalist specialising in rock music.


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