November 24, 2009

"5 Questions" with Steven Curtis Chapman

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? 

Steven Curtis Chapman

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, click here: 

Filed under: 5 Questions • Larry King Live

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jennifer provow   November 24th, 2009 2:46 pm ET

I do not believe u bout that viedo on michael jackson. that is his ghost walking neverland. i believing that stuff.

Anthony Samy   November 25th, 2009 2:34 am ET

Dear LK & Stevan..@ Larry thank you for airing this because it makes to believe your show is relevant for today's world...@Stevan...God Bless You & We are as Christians our prayers and thoughts always abide with you and whenever your songs plays at morning while I preparing to office...its blessing indeed and I can says you are moving mountains!

Twinkle Paul   November 25th, 2009 2:11 pm ET

LK, Thank you so much for posting this interview. Steven, we all are praying for you. I have only this to tell you and that is something which you have given to all of us. "His strength is perfect when our strength is gone" He is your 'Hiding Place' and there is no 'Better Place' to hide in other than the cleft of the Rock of Ages.

Denise N   November 26th, 2009 12:16 am ET

I have been so touched by your song. It does help others out there that you are willing to let us in your personal pain. It has given me much encouragement. My prayers have been with you since this has happened. God has been so present in your life, Thanks

Leasia Karto   November 26th, 2009 10:03 pm ET

Thank you for posting this interview Larry King.
Steven, you may not know how much God has use your pain to reach to others. Your love for your daughter is the truth image of the God you serve. May He continue to heal you and bless you for the comfort you always give to those in need.
Again, thanks Larry.

Paul Smith   November 27th, 2009 4:27 am ET

Steven Chapman walked into his first college music audition at Anderson University when he was just 18. As one of the people he was auditioning for I remember him so well being intimidated by all those "opera" voices he had heard on the other side of the wall. With a guitar on his back he slowly walked into the room took a seat in front of us and told us he wasn't sure whether he was in the right place or not. We looked at each other shrugged our shoulders and figured this was just another dumb kid thinking he could be a "real" music major with just a guitar and song to sing. I encouraged him to play something he had written, falsely assuming he would play some sort of boring little piece, we'd smile and say thanks and he would be out the door making room for the next auditionee. The next few moments are whole attitude quickly changed as we realize that this young boy really had something to say and was already a very impressive music maker. He sang in my choir for a bit, tried on the music major idea but quickly learned that the idea of composing and singing was just too strong a pull to resist. He showed up on my TV some years later on the Dove Awards and I just sat there dumbfounded. He's followed God's true call in his life and we are all the richer for it. His strength and faith this last year and half have strengthened me as I face my own realities of the impending death of some people I love. Thanks Steven for sharing your life with me even it was just for a little bit.

Betty   November 28th, 2009 5:46 am ET

Steven you have inspired me to keep my faith in times of difficulty and adversity. God bless to you and yours....thanks Larry for this wonderful inspiring interview

Kay   November 30th, 2009 2:02 pm ET

someone told me they heard an interview where Steven Curis chapman was now questioning his faith and beliefs...since the death of his litte daughter. I lost my 16 year old son, Nathan, 4 years ago in a car accident...and my faith has been shaken so bad....I came here to read the interview. I see that God has used this tragedy in his life to touch a new group of people...people like me, who hurt and don't understand...who question....who will never be the same again because of the loss...yet the season continuie to come and go and change....and we must survive. I can't wait to listen to these songs. I hope it will give me a peace that I have not found in 4 years

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