There’s a fine line that separates good recording artists from great ones.
Good artists deliver blockbuster albums and hit songs. But once they peak, they start to lose their wide appeal.
The great ones continually find new ways to reinvent themselves. And through this, they remain on top of their respective genres. In contemporary Christian music, Steven Curtis Chapman is a great artist.
After a decade of hits and gold albums (500,000 copies sold) with the same fluffy-pop formula, Chapman has veered onto a new road musically on his new album, “Signs of Life,” all the while preserving the integrity of his Christian message.
Next to Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith, Chapman is among the most popular Christian artists today. Chapman, who plays the Arena on Monday, could have coasted creatively for the rest of his career and still been toward the front of the pack, but he chose not to.
“I don’t pretend that I’m always going to be here,” Chapman recently told a reporter. “Someone else will come along with fresher, newer ideas and they will lead for a while.
“But part of the responsibility I have now is to keep encouraging this industry to grow and change, to move with the times in ways that never lose the purity of the message, but become more relevant to what the youth culture is listening to and the language that it is speaking.”
Chapman flaunts an assortment of styles on the pop-oriented “Signs of Life.” Strains of country, blues, rock and even classic rock turn up throughout the album’s 12 songs.
Chapman has been recognized for expanding the boundaries of Christian music before.
“I don’t pat myself on the back, but when ‘The Great Adventure’ came along (his 1992 album), that stretched Christian radio a lot,” he said. “It was a lot more rock ‘n’ roll than anything they had ever really played. And it went to No. 1.”
Chapman, 34, released his first album, “First Hand,” in 1987. To date, the Nashville-based singer has put his nasally tenor to nine albums, three of which have gone gold. He has spawned 22 No. 1 hit singles and won 28 Gospel Music Association Dove Awards (the equivalent of a Grammy).
His impressive track record has afforded him quite a bit of artistic freedom, and it’s not surprising that “Signs of Life” marks the album he’s always wanted to record.
But his creative strides weren’t met without a challenge.
“Every time I found myself traveling down a creative lane and seeing too-familiar sights and landscaping, I would stop, back up and find the detour,” Chapman said in an recent issue of Billboard. “I would force myself to musically try something different.”
Lately, Steven Curtis Chapman has been struggling with a whole new challenge - fatigued vocal chords. According to his publicist, Carol Anderson, he has sought medical attention for his raspy voice during his current national tour.
His performances haven’t suffered because of it. No shows have been cancelled, and Anderson doesn’t foresee any.
“He hasn’t missed any (concerts) yet,” she said. “As far as I know, everything’s fine.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 Color Photos
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: CONCERT Steven Curtis Chapman will perform at 7:30 p.m. Monday at the Spokane Arena. Tickets are $23.50, $17.50 and $13.50, available at G&B; Select-a-Seat outlets or call (800) 325-SEAT.
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter.