Crowder//American Prodigal


Over the course of a career that includes 16 years fronting the David Crowder Band and now two albums as a solo artist (released under the name Crowder), David Crowder has gained a reputation as one of the more musically adventurous artists within the Christian music scene.


Just don’t expect him to brag about being some sort of innovator.


“I don’t know,” Crowder said in a recent phone interview. “I mean, I listen to music every day that sounds way more adventurous than anything I’d go for. I feel like what I’m doing is pretty down the pop line of things.”


Perhaps in the context of the overall music scene, Crowder

may not push the envelope as much as some artists. But he will allow

that he might seem more bold and progressive within the Christian

music scene because the realities of the genre don’t encourage musical

risk taking.


“People within our genre, since it’s a smaller, I guess it’s a smaller pool of consumers,” Crowder explained. “You don’t have the ability to be as adventurous because you’re trying to, I do feel like the intent of the labels that are servicing the (Christian)

consumer, their intent is to legitimately serve the church at large.

They want to provide something that is sustaining spiritually for

them. So they’ve got to really narrow down what their consumer is.”


That’s not the case in the overall music scene, Crowder

said. It has room for artists that break stylistic ground and push

various styles of music forward. He pointed to one artist that has

been both innovative and hugely popular.


“Kanye West makes really, really experimental music, and

he has a few tunes that are approachable in a pop sense,” Crowder said. “But most of his records are incredibly artful. And he’s had the

ability to have a lot of effect there. I think maybe what a lot of

folks in our genre are doing, they’re possibly not using their ability

(to experiment) for the rest of the record, knowing that there’s a

thing that you need to do to give people handles. But then you can

pull things further and push things further. And that is compelling.”


If Crowder doesn’t feel he’s the Kanye West of Christian music, the 44-year-old singer/songwriter has mirrored West in his ability to make music that has proven accessible, while being

multi-faceted. The David Crowder Band saw its final four albums top

“Billboard” magazine’s Christian album chart (with the group’s last album, 2012’s “Give Us Rest,” also reaching No. 2 on “Billboard’s” all-genre Top 200 album chart).


Now, both his 2014 solo debut, “Neon Steeple,” and his recently released solo album, “American Prodigal,” have topped the “Billboard” magazine’s Christian album chart and also debuted in the top 15 of the Top 200 album chart.


Those two albums connected even though there’s more happening within Crowder’s solo work than may meet the eye of the typical music fan.


During this interview, Crowder talked at length about the musical fusion he’s been attempting to create with his first two solo albums. In a nutshell, Crowder is seeking to bring together and blur the lines between what are commonly considered some white and black music forms, as well as traditional and modern sounds.


“I wanted to put bluegrass and EDM in one place at the same time (on “Neon Steeple”), he said. “Then this one, I wanted to keep that lineage going.”


He elaborated on the contrasts between the two albums.


“I’ve twisted the very white bluegrass and EDM scene into a much more urban (context on “American Prodigal”),” Crowder said. “The lyric content, the way the lyrics were structured on ‘Neon Steeple’ was very Southern gospel. This (the “Prodigal American” album) is very slave/spiritual/black gospel church. It’s just a very slight twist of the dial. If you don’t pay attention, it’s almost the same.  It’s all foot and hand music, so stomp, clap, but there’s a different tonality to this. It’s in the music. It’s a little more raw.

It’s not electronic driven. The other one (“Neon Steeple”) was electronic driven…This one is samples. The beat stuff that you’re hearing (on “American Prodigal”) is all sampled stuff. It was organic. It’s more, that’s an urban nod to a hip-hop/R&B-type approach to music rather than the more electro side of things.”


This collision of old and modern music is readily apparent on “American Prodigal.” And if some of the more subtle dimensions to his songs might go unnoticed, Crowder is creating a distinctive sound.


Crowder uses banjo as a primary instrument on several “American Prodigal” songs (“Prove It,” “Keep Me” and “All You Burdens”), pitting that most acoustic of instruments against stomping beats and other modern instrumental textures. “Run Devil Run,” the hardest rocking tune on the album, achieves a similar mix of modern and vintage by employing both acoustic slide guitar and fuzzy electric guitar as key instruments. These uptempo songs sit alongside a healthy number of epic ballads like “My Victory,” “Forgiven” and “Back To The Garden” that aren’t quite so adventurous sonically, but give “American Prodigal” a nice balance.


Crowder, who said he tends to think of creating a musical statement over more than one album, said his third solo album will continue and complete the musical arc of “Neon Steeple” and “American Prodigal.” He declined, though, to offer much detail on his concept for the next album.

That’s just as well, considering it will probably be at least a year before that third solo album gets recorded. For the next year, Crowder’s focus will be on touring.


This winter, he’s headlining Winter Jam, Christian music’s leading package tour. The shows feature about a dozen acts, with a ticket price of just $10.


“To see so many of the people that you’ve been listening to the music of all in one place at the same time for 10 bucks, it’s just crazy,” Crowder said. “I don’t know how they make it work.”


Crowder has been on the bill for several previous Winter Jam tours and said the organizers create a great environment for the performers on the tour.


“It feels like a family thing,” he said. “And they always put the best folks on the road together that it turns into a family like day one. That’s my favorite part about it.”


Crowder’s Winter Jam sets figure to be a shorter version of his headlining shows, which generally run about 90 minutes. In either setting, he is focusing almost entirely on material from his two solo albums – although he’s leaving a little room to switch things up in his show.


“We’ll do ‘How He Loves,’ which is from the David Crowder Band era,” he said. “Everything else is from the two solo records. And then we do, I’m trying to think, we usually throw a cover in. I guess night to night we might have one, but sometimes I go off script.”


About The Author


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.