Preview by Joshua Maloni
At this point in his career, multi-award-winning singer David Crowder could perform just about anywhere he wants. With Billboard hits - both on mainstream and Christian charts - and song placement on "Sunday Night Football," he's an in-demand artist.
While some musicians in his position would opt for large arenas or hip clubs, Crowder has decided to take his "American Prodigal" Tour to college campuses.
"I love the collegiate moment," he said in a recent phone interview. "That's how I got into this whole thing. I was at school in Waco, at Baylor, and ... Baylor is a Christian school in the Bible belt, in the south. Right in the middle of the heart of Texas. And they did a survey of their student population and found that over half of their students didn't step foot in church their entire stay in school - which is kind of like a mind-blow. And so, this friend of mine started a church to try and make a dent in that, and somehow convinced me to do the music."
"I was having a lot of trouble finding songs that fit the collegiate environment. So I started writing," Crowder added. "I was like, 'Man, maybe this isn't rocket science? I know me, I know my friends, maybe I can try and say something on behalf of us?' "
Today, Crowder is still trying to speak to - and for - the youth of America.
"There's a good energy," he said. "The ideas are big, and I like that. It causes you to need to respond, or at least give those ideas an ear and be an expression, and I think that's the simplest thing that probably most of us are wanting, as well.
"College kids, what they respond to, is given the opportunity to live for something bigger than self. To leverage what breath we have to do something that's beyond me, and my story. And that's really cool to see."
The former David Crowder Band frontman will perform Sunday in the Kerr Pegula Athletic Complex at Houghton College. The Kingdom Bound-organized concert begins at 6:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased HERE
Crowder is touring in front of his 2016 release, "American Prodigal," which is a record encouraging people to become more united, and to remember "There's only one definitive line, and that's the one between death and life."
An edited Q&A follows.
Q: In your bio, you talk about your feelings of uncomfortableness in going solo. Are you more at ease in that role these days?
Crowder: Oh, for sure. It was probably mostly just before that first record dropped (2014's "Neon Steeple"). I had a great time making the music, and then you're like, "Oh, no, I hope people like it. (Laughs) This stuff is all my fault" is how I say it. The big difference is in the past you had guys to spread the blame around. Now it's just all on you.
After that first one went out and people responded to what I was feeling and the music that I was putting together, and the content was similar to what I was doing in the past, but all of the songs were a little more personal since there was just me to set the content, (it was OK).
I've loved it, man. I've had more fun than I've ever had with it. Obviously, when you're carrying what's truth for you, it feels very meaningful to get to do.
Q: That you're still adding legs to the "American Prodigal" Tour a year later speaks to its popularity. Obviously, you had a lot of success with "Neon Steeple." You continue to chart on the Billboard mainstream lists, which is still pretty rare for a Christian artist. How do you evaluate your solo career to this point?
Crowder: I don't know exactly how to describe how we've pulled it off, so to speak. (Laughs) But I think that some people on the round, for one, the guys that are playing with me are just phenomenal musicians and super-great people that inspire me to be a better human. And that sure does help things. It sure does create a nice atmosphere and environment for what we're doing after. And I think the main thing I was trying to do was say what was true for me, (and) what the sounds were - like, 'Hey, what's the most real, authentic music that would move me?" And I think that's a lot of what people respond to. I think authenticity wins every time.
Q: PR makes it a point to note you're a crossover artist whose songs are both unpredictable and played at clubs just as often as at church. Does any of that thinking come into the creative process, or is it, like you said, all about authenticity? What is your songwriting goal and what is your songwriting process?
Crowder: With the collaborations, I've gotten to write with a lot of really great writers on these last two records. Man, I love the moment a song gets life in it. It also is like, "Ah, that's where this whole thing is going. This is so cool." It feels like it unfolds in front of you, and you get to see something come to life in front of your eyes. That part is a blast.
The other thing is I think in cycles of three records, because that's what the contract is! (Laughs) I don't want to be presumptuous. But I think in cycles of three, and so there's always a theme that they're all related to. And so that helps, as well, to narrow the focus and scope and sort of get boundaries for what you're trying to put into the next record. And the ones that come before it helps dictate what's coming after it.
Q: Do you think, "I have to do X, Y and Z if I want to reach the mainstream," or do you think it's just a case of, "If I put together the best album, the best sound, the rest will take care of itself?"
Crowder: I think it's more the latter. I think the other side is I'm just naturally more comfortable with folks that aren't church folks. Those are the friends I have. I mean, I have a great church community that I'm a part of. ... (But) I just feel like, one, that's where the story is most effective and needed and feels most helpful. I guess I'm just writing for where my environment is. I'm trying to say something for where my feet are, physically, for the people that I'm living around.
And then sometimes I go out and about. I sure do like to keep a balance between how often we're in a church environment and how often we're in a regular venue situation or a neutral-type venue. Because I think different people are inclined to participate in different spaces.
Q: Tell me about the "American Prodigal" fall tour. What can we expect to see from you on stage?
Crowder: We're just trying to take what we've been doing. I guess the sets do evolve, but it's going to be mostly music from the latest, "American Prodigal" record. I think we'll probably play the whole thing. ... And then throw some of the classics in there that I've been carrying for a while
The other side is, man, the two openers - I'm thrilled to have people that are paying attention to what I'm up to, but that's one of my favorite things when I get to do my own tour and invite people to come out with me. These folks need a bigger platform!
Jimi Cravity is actually a labelmate and goes to the same church as I do. I've been around him and known him for ages. He's a smooth dude. If you're ever going to use the words "smooth cat," he's probably the only human I know in real life that that seems appropriate for.
And then The Young Escape, they're like a little family band. I came across - they had like a demo; they weren't even signed or anything. But I heard this demo and it's real fun, upbeat - kind of like Haim. A little dance-y. It's a little bit more electro than that. But, man, I flipped. ... I'm excited for people to get to meet them. That's going to be fun.