Preaching To the Choir... All the Way Up the Charts

By Deborah Evans Price | senior editor,
Posted: Mon, 10/31/2011 - 14:40

Casting Crowns

 For anyone doubting the power of the Christian consumer, Come to the Well, the new release from Casting Crowns is providing food for thought. The album debuted at No. 2 on the all genre Billboard 200 and has generated buzz in such unlikely places as celebrity blogger Perez Hilton’s website. Released on October 18, Come to the Well sold over 99,000 units the first week nearly keeping British songstress Adele from claiming the top spot for the 13th week.  There was speculation that Casting Crowns might be the first Christian act to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, but alas Adele bested them by just 7,000 units.

Casting Crowns’ hit single, “Courageous,” can be seen on gmc’s morning music video block, Uplifting Pop, weekdays from 7am-9am. Click here for more details.

Though Adele might be riding high with the year’s best-selling record, Casting Crowns can also claim some pretty impressive statistics. They have been the top selling act in Christian music for the past four years, topping Billboard’s year-end Christian chart since 2007. This week, Come to the Well, the Georgia-based band’s fourth studio album, debuts at No. 1 on the Top Christian Albums chart. The lead single, “Courageous”—which is featured in the film of the same name—is also at No. 1 on the Hot Christian Songs chart. Casting Crowns’ November 2009 release, Until the Whole World Hears, also charted at No. 4 on the Top Christian Albums chart.

There was a time when the entertainment community discounted the Christian consumer, but in recent years, such success stories as “The Passion of the Christ,” “Fireproof,” “Courageous” and, of course, the music of Casting Crowns have changed that and the powers that be are realizing Christian fans are ready to vote with their dollars when the product is quality entertainment.

Come to the Well may be Casting Crowns strongest record yet. It’s a lyrically diverse collection that ranges from the poignant “So Far to Find You,” written about lead vocalist Mark Hall’s adopted daughter Hope, “Jesus, Friend of Sinners,” a challenge to the church to be more compassionate and “Angel,” a song Hall wrote for his wife Melanie. “I’ve been writing that song for about six years,” says Hall, who has been married 21 years.  “I’ve been rewriting and rewriting and rewriting. I take a lot of time on songs. The goal is that the music would not run away with the song, but that the lyric would stand out and just frame it. So there’s been all different styles and versions of the ‘Angel’ song, but none of them were good enough, and this had to be perfect because it was for Melanie. It’s the first official love song I’ve written for her and I could probably make an album worth of ‘Angel’ songs. They are all about half done and none of them are good, but to me, this is the one. It says everything I wanted to say and musically it’s just right.”

The centerpiece of the album is “The Well,” a song that was inspired by Hall teaching his youth group at Eagles Landing Baptist Church In Atlanta.  “God blesses with people in our lives and he blesses us with talent and he blesses us with family and skills and all this sort of stuff, but at the end of the day those things and those people were not meant to complete us,” Hall says. “There’s a famous line in the movie Jerry McGuire where he [Tom Cruise] tells Renee Zellweger, ‘You complete me.’ It’s a great thought, but if you look at the statistics of marriage, you see that people aren’t completing each other very well and there’s something else missing. What God is showing me is that Jesus is supposed to complete me and I’m supposed to pour into my marriage instead of trying to draw out of a person. You need to draw life out of Him and pour into people. . . I have gifts, but those talents and gifts sooner or later are going to leave me thirsty and I can’t draw my worth as a person out of my talents and gifts and my career, I’ve got to draw that from a relationship with Jesus and then pour into my career.”

Hall says that became the theme for the new album, the tour and his new book, “The Well: Why Are So Many Still Thirsty?” “Teaching through the story of the woman at the well with my teenagers and my families is where it all came from,” he tells gmc. “I really felt that everything that I would teach kept going back to that thought.  Jesus is the well. Your friends aren’t the well. They aren’t always going to do the right thing or be there for you.  You draw from Jesus, you pour into your friends.  Your scholarship can’t be the well. If your knee goes out, your well is dry.  You need to draw from Jesus. I knew before any other songs were written that this album had to be called that because that is at the central theme of everything we’re going to talk about.”

Another of the album’s most powerful tracks, “Just Another Birthday,” was inspired by a conversation with a girl in his youth group. “It was her birthday. She turned 16 and her father wasn’t going to be coming,” Hall remembers. “She just found out and she was dealing with that. She was trying to reassure me, and herself, that she was going to be okay, but I could tell that she wasn’t. All she wanted was for him to be there and she knew he was going to send presents and send things, but she didn’t want any of it. Just watching this girl long for a father’s love, broke my heart.”

Megan Garrett sings lead on “Just Another Birthday” and on Casting Crowns’ current “Come to the Well” tour, the performance is accompanied by an emotionally riveting video that follows the story in the song.

Though most Christian acts who have hit the upper echelon of Billboard’s Top 200 have benefited from crossover success at mainstream radio (MercyMe’s “I Can Only Imagine,” Jars of Clay’s “Flood”), Casting Crowns has amassed their sales by catering to their core market, and Hall has no problem preaching to the choir in songs like “Jesus, Friend of Sinners.’ “The church has painted a confusing picture of Jesus,” he says. “The church has painted an angry picture of him, a judgmental picture of him, a protesting picture of him. The world is quite aware of what the church is against, but they’re really not sure what the church is for. Sometimes it takes someone from within the church to stand up in love and speak truth to the church. I’ve always felt like that’s what our job is with Casting Crowns to not throw rocks at the church, but to stand up within the church and point out some things.”

“Jesus, Friend of Sinners,” is one of the many highlights of the current tour. Casting Crowns members Hall, Garrett, Hector Cervantes, Juan and Melodee DeVevo, Chris Huffman and Brian Scoggin have been performing sold out shows all across the country this fall and reaction to the new songs has been extremely positive.

Of course, this week’s chart debut is a testament to the band’s impact. “God has blessed us. I don’t think we’re doing anything better or stronger than anyone else is,” Hall says humbly. “I don’t understand why he’s allowing our music to do this well and I’m really grateful. I’m also really humbled. I want to make sure that I don’t try to take control of it and run off with it, that we make sure that even though we’re doing really well, we’re still willing to say the things that are kind of hard to hear sometimes.”

Click here to read gmc's review of Casting Crowns’ "Come To The Well".

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