November 24, 2009
Posted: 11:40 AM ET
Christian music singer Steven Curtis Chapman’s 5-year-old daughter, Maria, was killed in an accident involving the family car 18 months ago. Cutris sits down with us to answer “5 Questions” about his faith, family and new album, “Beauty Will Rise,” a collection of songs that helped him cope with the tragedy.
Chapman will be one of Larry's guests on a special "Heroes" themed show at 8pm ET on Thanksgiving night.
LKL Blog: When you write, you draw on your faith, your experiences and your struggles - but how difficult was it to do this one in light of what you've been through in the past year and a half?
Chapman: Emotionally, it was the most difficult songs to ever write. But at the same time, they were - because I wasn't writing songs, really - all of the rules, all of the normal processes that I think through when I’m writing a song, I'm always thinking about the listener, I’m always thinking about the general rule – is this going to connect to someone who's driving down the road, will it connect to their life? What are the commonalities in all of that? But honestly, these songs were me literally just sitting down, writing in my journal, pouring my heart out. I’m not trying to think about how is anybody going to hear this. In that way, they were some of the easiest songs that I’ve ever written. But emotionally, the hardest for sure, because what it cost for these songs to come to be. But in terms of just pouring out my heart – they just kind of happened. They just came out.
LKL Blog: Was this the first time you were writing for yourself instead of for your audience?
Chapman: You know, that's a great way to put it. I haven't really thought of it in those terms but probably so. Definitely the first time I've ever written a collection of songs this way. I'd say there have been songs over the years that I've written that have been pretty selfish - like I'm just going to write this, probably nobody will ever hear it. I'm a terrible journaler. I've probably got 20 or 30 journals I've started just laying around the house somewhere. Every Christmas I get another one and say, "Ok, this is the year I'm going to be a good journaler." I'm just not good at that. I think these are – as I say – my musical journals. So definitely these are the ones just written the most for myself in this journey, and my family.
LKL Blog: You said you weren't sure after this if you'd be able to write or sing again. In terms of the catharsis of doing this album, explain that process.
Chapman: Yeah, the reason I said that – and I wasn't being dramatic or anything – when something like this happens, this epic of a life-changing thing, the last thing I can think about is my job. My job is writing songs. And while it's always come out of my faith and my life and the deepest places of my life, it's still kind of what I do. And when you lose a child, there's so much tragedy and trauma around this. And somebody would suggest, "Man you're going to write a lot of powerful songs out of this." I was really appalled at the idea. I thought I would never turn this into a four-minute song. So in that sense, I just didn't know. And as far as singing, it was like will it ever be right to leave home again? You just don't know - it's going to reshape everything about our existence. And I really refer to them as my psalms - like in the scripture, in the bible, the psalms of David. Because those were just him crying out to God and just pouring out his heart. And I feel like in that process these were incredibly cathartic and very healing. Almost even more than that, they were survival for me. It was a way for me to just some days be sustained by pouring out my heart. And something really powerful happens in that. I found sometimes it was the doorway into the hope that I needed. By crying out and pouring my heart out, I would end up in a hopeful place. Even though I couldn't imagine how I was going to get there.
LKL Blog: How difficult was it to reconcile what happened with your beliefs?
Chapman: Incredibly difficult. In fact, you know, to reconcile that is probably a word that I will ever be able to use in full confidence. There is somewhat of what you'd call a reconcile – but it's learning to live with all the questions. That's what faith is. You know? These are my deepest songs of faith because I’m having to acknowledge that I can't reconcile, I can't answer this. I want to demand answers and yet these songs were really a process of me surrendering to a place of saying with or without the answers, what am I going to do with it? I can stand here and shake my fist and pound my fist to God and say I demand you give me the answer. Or am I going to surrender myself and say, “God, you don't have to explain yourself to me.” As long as I demanding that, there's this desperate hope I feel like, but when as I surrender myself, and say I’m going to ask these questions – and the amazing thing is what I’ve come to understand on a deeper level is that I don't think God ever turns us away, never says, 'Don't you dare ask questions.' I think he's a father who says, “Pour it out, let me have it, let me hear it. This is the safest place you'll ever come with your questions.”
LKL Blog: And for people who listen to the album or read the lyrics, what's the take away? What do you hope they get out of it?
Chapman: Well the title of the record is "Beauty will rise" - part of the reason I’m doing this today, part of the reason my family and I let these songs be released and recorded, because it's such a private, personal pain, is that we have already seen others who have been able to find hope in our story. And say, “You know, I didn't think I could survive but I looked at you guys survive this and it gives me hope. And you talk about a comfort – if you can find comfort in the middle of this, in losing a child in this way, with your other child being involved in it and your daughters there watching it happen – if there's comfort for that, then maybe there's something in this that I can find to comfort me.” And that's part of what's bringing purpose in this for us. Again it's part of what’s sustained us and a part of what we're supposed to do with our story.
Editor’s note: To read more about the album and to read Steven’s interview with CNN.com, click here:
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