On a spring afternoon last year I hid in my closet and interviewed Steven Curtis Chapman over the phone while my children napped. He was humble about his success and honest about his tragedies. The interview appeared in the April, 2011 edition of Desert Christian News.
Steven Curtis Chapman; Desert Christian News; April, 2011
Steven Curtis Chapman has graced the music charts for nearly 25 years. He’s sold 10 million records, received 56 Dove Awards, 5 Grammy’s, an American Music Award and has had 45 No. 1 singles.
Chapman recently took time out of his world tour to speak with Desert Christian News; he spoke candidly about his career, his next album, the tragic passing of his daughter, Maria, and how his family is doing three years later.
Tell us about your current tour and your show at the McCallum Theatre in April.
The tour has been awesome so far. Right now we’re in Canada. It’s been 15 years since I’ve been here. After Canada, we travel to the U.S., to Jerusalem and back to the U.S. Geoff Moore, my song writing partner, and his wife Jan are with us. It’s on our bucket lists to take a historical tour through the Holy Lands, so we are really excited and honored to go.
As for the McCallum, I’m excited to be back in California. It’s been a while. California audiences are always wonderful; they listen to music in a different way and engage in a different way. An added bonus is that, when we’re in California, we can go to In N’Out.
Your tour is taking you around the world. Does your family travel with you?
My sons, Caleb and Will Franklin, and my wife, are with me. They have been a part of my band for the past five or six years. Will, who is 20 now, was 16 when he toured with me for the first time. My sons are amazing musicians. Caleb is a great writer and both boys are in their own band called “Caleb.” They’re beginning to have their own opportunities and offers. Anyway, they opened on this tour and the last tour. My days are numbered; I will be excited when the boys go off on their own, but I will be sad as well. I love having them with me.
You’re releasing re:creation, your newest album, this summer. How is work on the album going? Can you tell us a little bit about it?
I have wanted to recreate some of my music for quite a few years. With the death of our daughter Maria, the last three years have been about walking through the loss. All of the songs that I’ve written that are particularly special to my family have now taken on a whole new meaning.
Artistically, spiritually and creatively, I see things with a new understanding. The majority of the album is a reflection of that. There are new songs as well. This album sort of represents a new beginning for our family. Much of the last few years we’ve been in a very dark forest, we’re beginning to take steps out of that. The songs on this album are the beginning of those steps.
Christian music has changed so much in the last 25 years, how do you think you’ve been able to stay at the forefront of the industry?
All I know is that I’m really thankful. I’m like the nerd at the prom who is just glad to be there. It’s encouraging and humbling to hear that my music has been a soundtrack to people’s journeys. I really do feel so blessed and fortunate that not only has God allowed me the gift to write songs, but that I’ve had the incredible gift of doing that for many years and having people listen.
It’s due to God’s grace. I’ve been honest with people through the years, people say I really connect because of that. I am amazed and grateful.
As the three-year anniversary of Maria’s passing nears, do you and your family have plans to celebrate her life?
Her birthday is May 13, just a few days before she went to be with Jesus. We celebrate her birthday as a family. We obviously remember; not a moment or day goes by that we’re not thinking of her or remembering what we’ve walked through. Three years later, it’s not necessarily easier. It’s probably more bearable, but in some ways more difficult. Some of the numbness wears off and the clouds lift; you see some of the devastation and process that in a different way.
As a family, on May 21, we gather at her gravesite. We gather there to remember her life and remember that the day is coming when we’ll see Maria again. We don’t try to put on a happy face; we sit and cry, we sing worship songs and remind ourselves that we are trusting God and we are going to bless His name when He gives and when He takes away.
We’ll continue to gather at her gravesite until we’re with her in heaven. May 21 is a day that we hold sacred and make sure we’re available to each other; we just need to be close.
A lot of fans are wondering how your son Will Franklin is.
Will is a walking miracle for us as a family. We look at him and are amazed. God entrusted so much pain to him and it’s been amazing to watch him take one step at a time and trust God. He just knows to keep moving forward and trust that he’ll see his little sister again.
Until then, he wants to use the time and gifts God’s given him to honor Maria’s memory and honor God. I believe Will’s life tells that story. He feels very strongly that it’s his mission to fight through that darkness and trust God. I see him as an amazing, mighty warrior.
Music has been such an important part of how he’s been able to carry the burden. He’s seen how our story encourages others who are hurting. With him, there is a profound sense of letting God use our story. Will wanted a permanent physical reminder of Maria and had an “M” tattooed above his heart. Recently, he had Hosea 6:1 tattooed on his arm along with the flower that Maria drew the night before she went to heaven.
Tell us a little bit about Show Hope, the nonprofit you and your wife Mary Beth, started.
We started the organization ten years ago. Through the organization, families trying to adopt receive financial assistance. We do orphan care work in China and Africa. Through Show Hope, 2,600 families have adopted children from 45 different countries. Maria’s Big House of Hope in China is a place where orphans who need medical assistance can go. Long-term care for those who are terminal or can’t be adopted due to illness is available there. We want to communicate to these orphans that there’s a God who loves them.
Maria’s Big House of Hope is the beauty that has come from our tragedy. Every spring, near her birthday and Home-going, we do a show in Nashville that raises awareness for adoption. The National Symphony, along with musicians, Broadway performers and celebrities perform the musical “Cinderella.” It’s a really special thing we do in memory of our daughter and is a way to bring more awareness to orphans.
Anderson University is awarding you with an honorary Doctorate in Music in May. How do you feel about that?
It is really, really crazy because I didn’t even finish school there. I do credit Anderson University as the place where I really grew and learned a lot about music and song writing. It was there that I began to understand what God was calling me into and began to hone the craft. It’s so neat that they would ask me back.
They did ask me to speak at their commencement though; I’d do better if I could sing the speech. I am humbled and honored. I don’t feel like I’ve earned it. It’s another reminder of what grace looks like. God doesn’t give us what we deserve, instead He pours blessings out on us.