After more than a decade of writing songs that have become anthems in the contemporary Christian music community, Steven Curtis Chapman admits his evolution as a songwriter has taken him to a new place in his artistry, a place where he feels more freedom than ever to share what's on his heart and mind.
"I think that you learn more and more how to be more honest," says Chapman. "There's more freedom to be honest as you develop a relationship with the listeners. I'm one of the extremely fortunate guys. There's a whole history. People have walked through that journey with me so many times."
Chapman is Christian music's most-awarded artist, with a lengthy list of accolades that numbers four Grammy awards and 44 Dove Awards - including seven wins in the male vocalist category and an unprecedented nine Songwriter of the Year honors. He was also named the 2001 BMI Christian Music Songwriter of the Year (an honor he shared with Toby McKeehan). On his 12th Sparrow album, Declaration, Chapman delivers his most vulnerable work to date. Admitting that the last couple of years have been an emotional roller coaster that included such euphoric highs as adopting an infant daughter, Shaohannah, from China and such heartbreaking lows as the death of a family friend, the songs he wrote for the project reflect the myriad of emotions he experienced.
"The one declaration that kind of encapsulates all the rest of them on this record says 'God is God and I am not'," comments Chapman on the song "God is God." "As a lifetime recovering control freak, I think that's the huge lesson of faith for me in the process of this: God is God and I'm not. I can either just really stay frustrated with that and be angry or I can say: 'You know what, there's a freedom in that, knowing that I don't have to have the answers'." Chapman says he wept while writing "When Love Takes You In" for his new daughter Shaohannah. On "See The Glory," he collaborated with his son Caleb, a budding songwriter.
Among the album's most intriguing cuts is "No Greater Love," inspired by Elisabeth Elliott's book "Through the Gates of Splendor," the story of five missionaries killed by a tribe in Ecuador. Several family members of the slain men returned to Ecuador and many of the natives are now Christians. Chapman met Steve Saint, whose father Nate was among those killed. Saint now lives in Ecuador and introduced Chapman to Mincay. Now a friend of Saint's family, Mincay was among the men who killed Steve's father. Mincay can be heard chanting in his native language at the end of "No Greater Love."
"You can't believe his story when it's told in his own tongue and in his own words with Steve, the son of one of the men he killed, translating the story, standing there with his arm around him," says Chapman of his encounter with the two men. "It's an incredible thing and probably one of the clearest pictures I've ever seen of the redeeming, healing, forgiving powers of God's love."
Songwriting provides Chapman the forum to share such emotions and experiences. "With time you begin to trust your instincts a little more and get a little more daring in the process," says Chapman, who has been recovering from a partially paralyzed vocal chord as a result of a viral infection. "I'm still learning. Every time I write songs I can't wait to write again because I'm going to keep learning, going to keep growing."