You get no inflated sense of self when you talk with Contemporary Christian superstar David Crowder. In fact, Crowder will go so far as to call you out if you mention his skills as “art.”
“I’ve never thought of myself as an artist,” Crowder, who will perform at Wilkes Community College on Aug. 27, said in a recent conversation. “I’m not one of those people who ‘makes art for art’s sake.’ I’d say I’m more of an artisan, a craftsman. I have a very eclectic, even fluid taste in music. I take sounds that I like, put them together and see what comes out.”
Not what one would expect from a performer who has taken gospel music by storm, but there’s no question that Crowder’s chosen path has worked for him. Since breaking up his David Crowder Band and going solo, Crowder has scored a trio of No. 1 albums (“Neon Steeple,” “American Prodigal,” “Milk and Honey”); has released four chart-topping singles (“Good God Almighty,” “Come as You Are,” “In the House,” “All My Hope”) and received a trio of Dove Awards.
Not bad for a guy who “kinda stumbled into” his musical career.
“I was studying music at Baylor (University) with plans to join my dad’s insurance firm when I graduated,” Crowder said. “I was going to church with some friends, and a guy asked me to help with the music. I figured my part would always be behind the scenes.
“About a year in, though, I decided to try writing some songs. And soon, I started getting some calls. My parents were not musically inclined, but we had a piano in our house, and when my folks started to recognize some of the things I was banging out on the piano, they said, ‘The kid has an ear’ and decided to get me lessons.
“All of that came into play as I got deeper involved in the music at Baylor, and I finally had to call my dad and say, ‘About the insurance business: It’s going to be a while.’”
Church had been an important part of Crowder’s life growing up, but as he matured he said he started to see something in Jesus that was familiar.
“Jesus was really a countercultural figure, and that’s part of who I am,” Crowder said. “I looked at things in a very utilitarian way, and that kind of turned into a career for me.”
Crowder admits to being “as surprised as anybody” by his success, primarily because of his “ADD approach.”
“I figured out a niche for myself early on,” he said. “And it was just all over the place. It was all about discovery for me; like someone saying, ‘Hey, try this bite of steak.’ It’s that playful sense of discovery that people tend to like.”
Also unlike many of his contemporaries, Crowder has no interest in “doing the same song over and over again” at the behest of industry types who are more concerned with the bottom line than the quality and freshness of his music.
“If I get formulaic, I’ll stop selling records,” he said. “I’m like those lab techs; I like discovery. If I did something one way the last time, I won’t do it that way the next time.”
Ask Crowder about musical influences, and the answer will surprise you.
“Here’s what I remember: Driving around with my dad and listening — on his 8-track — to Elvis, Willie Nelson, the Gaithers and Olivia Newton John,” he said.
Talk about eclectic.
Even as his star power rises, Crowder said he is grounded by his faith.
“My faith is so much a part of who I am,” he said. “I had no aspirations; I just wanted to be useful. So I’ve treated my faith and my career of creating music in a delicate way, as gifts.”
As his music proves, the singer/songwriter says inspiration for his songs comes “in all manners.”
“I feel like a collector,” he said. “I may be riding on a road, at an airport, anywhere, and something hits me in that moment. I’ll take all these bits and pieces, pull something from them, and out of that comes a song.”
And a word of advice to those who might try and squeeze the good out of Crowder for personal gain: Don’t even think about it.
“I maintain complete control of what I do,” he said. “If someone tries to put the reins on me, I go in that direction even harder. There’s always a level of suspicion where art and commerce intersect, but there is a mutual respect among the people who are involved in my career. We value one another.”