Tony Cummings quizzed Nashville-based singer/songwriter GARY CHAPMAN about his troubled past and creative present
56 year old Gary Chapman has achieved much in his long career in music, being a multiple Grammy nominee, multiple Dove Award winner and a six-year host of the Sam's Place concert radio series broadcast from Nashville's famed Ryman Auditorium. Back in 1999 though the singer/songwriter shook the Christian music world when his highly publicised marriage to CCM biggest star Amy Grant ended in divorce. After a second marriage failed in 2007 Chapman finally found personal and spiritual equilibrium and his marriage to Cassie Piersol has been a very happy one with the couple involved in many charities including the Nashville Rescue Mission and Make A Wish Foundation. The songsmith had, however, not recorded an album of his own since 2002's 'Circles And Seasons'. At the end of last year the long wait was finally broken with the release through the Merf Music Group of Chapman's 'The Truth'. The project has received glowing reviews, Music News calling it "a testament to the human spirit that offers hope to us all" while The Sound Opinion referred to it as "one fine collection of music and lyrics." Cross Rhythms spoke to Gary about his latest album and his life in music.
Tony: How would you say 'The Truth' compares with your previous work?
Gary: Well, it's almost impossible to be objective about things you have any part in creating. I tend to always think that what I just did was the best thing ever. If I back away from it a little bit, I actually have the same conclusion; I'm really proud of it.
Tony: Over the years you seem to have moved from what you could call a pop/rock artist to a country artist. Now I know most musicians hate being pigeonholed at all, but how would you describe your music at the moment?
Gary: You know; it's really interesting. Back when I was doing what was called pop/rock in the Christian genre, it was actually considered country to some degree. You know, that whole thing cycles around and I actually decided long ago to not get lost in the circle. Just do what I do and I actually don't care very much what people call it. In my mind this is more country, or even more Americana. These days country music is nothing at all like the country music that I grew up with; it actually is pop music.
Tony: Did it take a long time to put 'The Truth' together?
Gary: There are great memories and honestly for me it's not a long, drawn-out process. I tend to shoot pretty much from the hip and I don't change my mind a whole lot once I'm committed to something. In the studio I'm open to shift things if required but most of the time I get through the process fairly quickly. In terms of the memories - honestly, they're all good. I'm at a point in my life that I simply don't work with people who aren't fun. We laughed a lot.
Tony: What was it like working with Alison Krauss?
Gary: Alison and I have been friends for many years, I think this is our third endeavour to blend our voices in a solo sense. She's like an alien, she is amazing. She is very, very hard on herself in the studio, which is laughable because for everything she does my response is 'that's it, we've got it!' and she's like 'I don't know, I really think we can do that again' and it's just funny. It turns into a hilarious back and forth. She's really, really smart and very, very funny and dry as the Sahara. So it's very enjoyable, we have a good time.
Tony: What about Tanya Tucker? I didn't realise that Tanya was a Christian. Is she a believer?
Gary: Very, very much so. She has had a well publicised rocky past and she owns up to all of it. She isn't hiding from anything at this point in her life. She has very, very much embraced the truth of the grace of Christ and she walks it out, she is an amazing woman. Because of her, shall we say storied, past it just made complete sense for her to sing the verse about the woman at the well and she embraced the character. She is so, so honest with her voice, it reminds me of the last Johnny Cash recordings. You can just hear the road in his voice; she does the same thing. As a result of that collaboration we're talking about me producing a full project for her. I'm looking forward to it.
Tony: Would that be all Christian songs, or a mix? What sort of songs would that be?
Gary: I've got to say, again we're back to the genre dilemma. I know that Tanya will only record songs that are blatantly honest and I know that it will be impossible to subtract God from the conversation, not that I would want to. It's so difficult to pigeonhole. What was Johnny Cash's last record? The corporate machines tend to favour things that fit into predefined spaces. I've noticed along the way that the artists, for whatever reason, whether they just stubbornly refuse or they have enough success that their opinion can't be denied, but the ones that don't fit into those spaces seem to be the ones with the longest lives.
Tony: What's your favourite song on the album?
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