A Little Stomp & Clap

Over the course of a career that includes 16 years fronting The David Crowder Band—a Grammy-nominated and GMA Dove award-winning group—and, now, dropping two albums as a solo artist (released under the name Crowder), multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter David Crowder has earned a reputation throughout the music industry and among the general listening public as one of the more musically adventurous artists of 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 do. He will allow, though, 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 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 … servicing the [Christian] consumer, their intent is to legitimately serve the church at large. They want to provide something that’s spiritually sustaining for them. So they’ve got to really narrow down who their consumer is.”

That’s not the case in the overall music scene, Crowder said. It has room for artists who break stylistic ground and push various styles of music forward. What makes Crowder unusual is that his music has become bolder yet still accessible.

The David Crowder Band’s four final albums topped 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 current solo album, American Prodigal, have hit the apex of Billboard’s Christian album chart while debuting in the top 15 of Billboard’s Top 200 album chart.

Those two works connected, even though there’s more happening within Crowder’s solo work than may meet the ear of a typical music fan. In a nutshell, Crowder seeks to bring together and blur the lines between what are usually considered some white or black music forms, plus traditional and modern sounds.

“I wanted to put bluegrass and EDM in the same place at the same time [on Neon Steeple],” he said. “This one, I want to keep that lineage going.”

He elaborated on the contrasts between the two albums.

“I’ve twisted the very white bluegrass and EDM scenes 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 [American Prodigal] is very slave/spiritual/black gospel church. It’s a slight twist of the dial. It’s almost the same. It’s all foot-and-hand music, so stomp & clap, but there’s a different tonality. It’s a little more raw. It’s not electronic-driven. The beat stuff you’re hearing [on American Prodigal] is all sampled stuff. It was organic. That’s [my version of an] urban nod to a hip hop/R&B-type approach rather than a more electro side of things.”

The collision of old and modern music is readily apparent on American Prodigal. On songs like “Prove It,” “Keep Me” and “All Your Burdens,” Crowder pits banjo against stomping beats and other modern instrumental textures. “Run Devil Run” mixes acoustic slide guitar and fuzzy electric tones. These up-tempo songs are in with a healthy number of epic ballads like “My Victory,” “Forgiven” and “Back to the Garden” that aren’t as adventurous sonically, but give the new album a nice balance.

That’s just as well, considering Crowder’s focus is still on touring. In fact, this fall, he’s on a headlining tour, so he’ll be playing about 90 minutes. He’s focusing almost wholly on material from solo works—though he’ll leave a little room to switch things up in his show.

“We [often] do ‘How He Loves,’ of the David Crowder Band era,” he said. “Everything else is from the solo records. And we usually do a cover. Sometimes I’m off-script.”