David Crowder, Neon Steeple

David Crowder Neon Steeple

In my interview with David Crowder below, we discussed his first solo album (Neon Steeple), songwriting, and more...

David Crowder, Neon Steeple

Nate: Hey David. Thanks so much for taking time to do this interview with me. Let’s just dive right in.

The new record has 17 tracks. It seems this has been your M.O. even going back to the DCB records. With so many folks doing shorter EPs these days, why the longer recording format?

Crowder: I'm rebellious. Maybe. Or, I just find it really hard to say everything I want to say in a season of life in an EP type format.

It's probably not the smartest thing to do, but I love when there is an album that is released that I get lost in for a while.

I like trying to discover everything that might have been banging around in the creators of the thing, what themes they may or may not be reaching for. I think it's as simple as that.

I want to make something I would find joy in consuming. Personally, I enjoy those projects that are worth me investing time and energy and thought into, to find a work that has more to say than will fit in a 4 minute song. I do love listening to singles casually, but that moment, the thing I'm mining the singles for, is something that makes me dig deeper and find a layered offering that allows for discovery after discovery.

Nate: Tell us about the title. Why Neon Steeple?

Crowder: It's past and future in one place. Neon is an inert gas that is most associated with the announcement of a product that is diversionary. A thing that allows escape. We don't build a lot of churches with steeples any more, but it used to be the case that if your eyes were downcast you could look up and in the center of town was this edifice pointing to the truth that there was something more. That things are not right, and there is better intention for life than what we often experience.

Both of these things, neon and a steeple, acknowledge our condition and promise something better. One is the stuff of science and is most often misdirected or misplaced hope. Another has more subtle flaws but does intentionally point to the story of redemption. I think my music is that. Flawed for sure, given my depravity and human misguidedness. But I hope it, in an undeniable way, points to grace and rescue.

David Crowder New Solo AlbumNate: You’ve done an amazing job blending electronic music with bluegrass. What is it about these two very different genres that you’re drawn to?

Crowder: I think the underlying foundation of both of these genres is community. One, EDM, has the individual moment of creation and execution spotlighted, but its intent is to be a catalytic event that is communally based.

Bluegrass is obvious to point to, you just grab some instruments and start playing and singing and community forms. With the players and with the people present. It's meant to sing along to, and tap your foot to, and clap your hands to. Players trade off solos, connected in the root system to improvisational jazz, everyone having their piece to say in the conversation.

Electronic dance music typically has more of an individual approach on the front end, as in some dude like me sitting in a room by themselves somewhere creating a track whose sole purpose is to get a large group of people feeling the same thing. Great DJs take a crowd on a journey, they control flow. They bring people together for a common ecstatic experience. Music is a powerful thing and they wield it in a way that is very pied piper. In Vegas, the djs get a cut on the bar. So they move people, they move them together and then they shove them to the bar and then move them back to the floor.

It's crazy. It's science. And it also has big implications for music in the church.

Nate: This is really clear in the track “Come Alive”. Tell us more about how that song was written.

Crowder: That song was written with a bouzouki. This weird mandolin type instrument. So, it started in a very analogue way. Just myself and a couple of my friends on a bus. We formed the outline of the song but didn't land on the full arrangement until we took it into computer land. I had myself and two other programmers working on it. I sent a rough to the first guy and he spit something back.

I grabbed what I liked from him and sent it off to another guy and he spit it back to me and then I fiddled with it a bit. For a lot of the songs in this record we would track a full band unplugged type thing and then tear it apart and put it back together in a more typical electronic production approach. We looked at the initial tracking as an attempt to capture that magical bit of community that happens when people start playing music with each other in a room and then use that as ammo to make the final track being very careful to keep that elusive communal thing intact.

Nate: “My Sweet Lord”. Beautiful song. What was it like working with Emmylou Harris?

Crowder: What a genuinely sweet, sweet lady! She really was so kind and I don't even know where to start, in terms of a mind blow of a thing to get to work with her, and have her sing on a track. Unreal!!! I've loved her voice and her music for a long time. She's just a legend with the voice of an angel. And I love meeting folks whom I have admired and then have my mind blown with how kind and personable and caring they are. She exceeded expectation and is for me the highlight sonically of the album.

Nate: What about your current band? After 12 years and several releases with DCB can you speak to what it’s like working with other musicians on your first solo record?

Crowder: One of the things I was most nervous about in this new venture was losing the comfortability I had with my band mates. It was a special thing to get to play music with your friends for so many years. Music came out of friendship and it was a special thing.

Music is a powerful thing and I knew and believed that friendship, or relationship, that is deep and meaningful, could come from music, but that wasn't the starting point for DCB. It had been the inverse. So I was both excited and terrified, because honestly, it was relationship that I was after.

There are so many great players walking the planet but it is rare to find musicians that can live life together in a way that isn't ego centric. For whatever reason, musicians are just bizarrely composed humans. I think I'm living in the middle of a miracle.

Every single person that I'm currently playing with have the strangest story to tell about how we wound up together but honestly, in any setting, I've never been around kinder, more intentionally loving people. Each of them are monster players, like pinch yourself I'm on stage with this guy or gal type good, but the way they love one another and me, I'm just happy to call them friends.

david crowder new solo album

Nate: At the recent “LIFT” conference for worship leaders, you did a workshop on creativity called “How To Drink Water”. Would love to hear you talk about your own creative process. What ingredients are always present?

Crowder: I think, to summarize my approach best, is that I am a collector. I am constantly listening and reading and paying attention to small moments of life as well as the big cultural moments that we all feel, and storing them. I'm hoping to filter them well when that fleeting moment of inspiration hits. For me, moments of creation are like the wind moving over a field, you can see it coming, the wave over the grass a long way off, but you can't control it and you have to wait for it to get here. You just have to be ready.

I feel like most of my work is done so that I'm ready when it starts to blow. I often say songwriting is like trying to climb down a ladder at night. You put your foot on the next rung and test it out and make sure it holds and then you reach for the next one.

Nate: Let’s talk “worship music”. The “worship industry” has blown up in the last 10 to 15 years. What encourages you about this?

Crowder: I think a very large part of it is that there is less an apparent divide between the sacred and the secular. To rewind not too many years ago, there was a need for a sound-alike Blink182 because it would be considered less than righteous to be listening to the real Blink182. That line has dissolved for the most part. And yet, there is still the need in the human to respond to God in a way that goes to the deepest parts of a person. Music does this. It brings us into relationship with each other and in the same way, it brings us into relationship with the creator.

Just as music is not to be trusted in relationship with other humans - meaning you may have a phenomenal session with a great drummer but it would be a terrible idea to let him watch your dog while you're on vacation - it is also suspect when gauging where we are in relationship to the divine. It can create false expectations. I think that stuff sorts itself out.

I'm grateful to have industry lean further into this need, to have funds to find more songs and artists for the church to be allowed to participate with and through. In the balance of things I think it is a very happy thing.

david crowder new solo album

Nate: You’ve obviously been through some big changes in the last couple of years. One being a move across the country to Atlanta with Louie and the Passion crew. How has this impacted your new music?

The Passion gang have been such great friends since the beginning of my musical journey. They have had impact on me in a way that is incalculable since before we even signed as a band. What I love most is that everyone values each other as uniquely composed individuals with various gifts that add to the whole.

That approach frees up people to be who they were created to be rather than striving to be something other than that. It's so easy to get into comparative thought and from the very beginning of Passion Conferences, and the subsequent Sixstepsrecords label, that proclivity in the human has been intentionally diminished. The relationships have such history now, with so many twists and turns of life that there is a safety and comfortability that allows for everyone to flourish in very different ways. It's truly beautiful.

With the move from a church I helped start in Waco, to this new upstart of a thing in Atlanta called Passion City Church, I have been exposed week after week to songs and an approach to leading that I have only gotten to be around in conference settings where I was sharing responsibilities as well. It has been amazing and reforming to be sitting week after week in the congregation. I feel like I've been learning how to use music in a corporate setting all over again. I don't know that I can quantify the impact just yet but for sure in the writing of this latest album I had a larger demographic of the church in mind.

Nate: Thanks so much again for your time today. One final question….

In regards to future music coming from the church, what do you hope to see?

Crowder: I would love to see leaders who invest their time and energy into theological education and theory training. It's a really beautiful moment in the history of the church, to be able to learn a few chords and get up and lead a band on a Sunday morning, but if I am looking at church history correctly, we are heading into another pendulum swing with the next generation of folks coming.

There is a simplicity to song structure and arrangement now that is just a dream for a church music leader. But there will, I believe, be the want for more complexity coming. This takes education. I want to see the church be ready.


Links For David Crowder



CMB Spotlight #13 : Jonas Park and David Bollman

I'm always stoked to interview artists from my subscriber list.

In today's 13th CMB Spotlight, I had a conversation with songwriters Jonas Park and David Bollman. We talked about their songwriting process, their influences, and their new EP released on Forerunner Music called Forward.


CMB: How did you get started in music?

Jonas: I have been taken with music since I was very young. My grandma has played the piano and the organ since she was a young girl, as I grew up she would always play old songs and hymns for us kids and teach us. Both of my parents are musical and we'd always have some cassette tape playing in the house. I remember sitting up by the tape player with my ear next to the speakers, I'd keep rewinding and playing the parts of songs that moved me. I began taking guitar lessons when I was about 12 and started leading worship a few years after that.

David: I took piano lessons from my mom when I was about 5. It’s funny though because the lessons didn’t last very long because I was a little A.D.D. and didn’t enjoy reading music.. at all. However, a few years later, when I was about 11, someone from church showed me a couple chords and song progressions on the church’s keyboard. To say the least, I fell in love with music that day.

CMB: Who would be your top three non-musical influences?

Jonas: It's hard to narrow to the top 3! My parents have influenced me with their love and belief. Mike Bickle is a Bible teacher that has influenced me a lot. He teaches about the worth, beauty, and love of God in a way that has greatly influenced me. Also, various mentors throughout my life have greatly influenced me, such as friend and singer-songwriter Adam Cates.

David: My mother and father have been two of the biggest influences in my life. They continue to exemplify love and sacrifice to me and my family. And another great influence in my life is a Bible teacher named Allen Hood who teaches the Word beautifully and unlike anyone I’ve ever heard before.

CMB: How about your top three musical ones?

Jonas: I think one of the best ways someone can be influenced is by being impacted to walk freely and humbly in who they are. Some artists may not be your favorite musically but they can sure powerfully influence you to walk freely and humbly in your gifting. I like surrounding myself with influences like that. Moving on, I do like bands Coldplay and MuteMath, composers such as James Horner or Harry-Gregson Williams, and also authentic worship artists such as Hillsong and Jason Upton.

David: It’s very difficult for me to choose my top three musical influences because I’m such a fan of so many different artists, producers, and composers. I really am inspired by all genres of innovative and beautiful music while also being a fan of classical music and the “oldies”. However, to list a few, I really dig bands like The Black Keys and Hillsong United, while somedays, I’ll just stream composer Hans Zimmer’s music for inspiration.

Candid-2CMB: What would be your general process for writing a song from start to finish?

Jonas: David and I write very similarly. But I'll expound from one angle. As for song beginnings, oftentimes I get an initial idea, like a melody, while I'm driving or walking. I'll usually record that idea and let the theme develop as I figure out I'm actually feeling. I ask myself simple questions like "What do I feel? What is the truth? What do I want to say to God?" From there the song develops. I'm a major feeler with music. Often times when I have the basics of one part, I "hear" what I want to come next, then I develop that next part. Almost always I write by singing gibberish at first to land my melodies then I move on to lyrics.

David: Song writing is an interesting process for me. Most days I’ll just sit behind the piano and start playing around with different chord progressions while singing out whatever melody comes to me. Usually the lyrics are gibberish at first. But subconsciously, there are themes and lyrical ideas that are sometimes captured at the “beginning of a song” that are inspired by either a recent devotion, a film, something beautiful or difficult I’m working through, a sermon, and or life in general. I usually program a beat to the song that’s just begun to develop. And I may finish the song that day, or step away from it for some time. I usually know that I’ve got something good when I come back to a song to finish, and I feel just as inspired as day one of starting to write it.

Album-CoverCMB: Let’s talk about your new EP, Forward. Where did it all start?

Us: We’ve been very close friends since we both were about 15 years old. And being young adventurous teenagers, we bonded through music, mischief, family, church outreach, and Jesus.

Two years ago, we decided to collaborate and work on our own professional music project together.

And in late 2012, we had friends and family support our efforts through Kickstarter to fund the project. While Jonas has been living in Kansas City and David living in Virginia Beach, we would send each other ideas and progress of our songs. We recorded together for only two weeks for the project in December of 2012.

And in 2013, Forerunner Music got behind the project and has really championed us. Forward is simply a dream come true for us being able to work on and release a project together.

CMB: What recording software do you use? Can you tell us a little bit about your studio?

Jonas: We recorded a lot of this EP in a couple different studios in Virginia Beach, such as Thomas Crown and Earth Sound. At home I write with an iMac, piano, midi keyboards, 000-series Martin acoustic, studio monitors, and a couple simple microphones. As for software on my iMac I use Pro-Tools, Logic, and Ableton Live.

David: I have a modest set up. A computer, piano, studio speakers, and a midi keyboard. For recording software I use Logic.

CMB: What would be your biggest piece of advice to us as a believer when writing and creating original music?

Jonas: Just start. Learn to trust what comes out of you and your taste. Be yourself but also don't be afraid to be inspired by others. Let go of your ego, be free to celebrate others and not think you're elite. Submerge yourself in the Word and spend time with God. Writing can be quick and inspired and other times take quite a bit of effort, write either way!

David: Get inspired. Don’t surround yourself with “debbie downers”. Surround yourself with those who believe in you and who want you to succeed. Be yourself and don’t be afraid to grow. Know where your gifting comes from, spend time with Him, and create!

CMB: Can you tell us a little about your local church community where you worship? How does that fit into your ministry as a recording artist?

Jonas: My church In Kansas City, Missouri, challenges me because it has a high value for both authenticity in worship and creativity. It is an encouragement to keep preoccupation on God and excel in our gifting.

David: For many years, I grew up playing on different worship teams in church. Currently, I attend New Life Providence Church in Virginia Beach.

CMB: Thanks again for sharing your music with your fellow CMB-ites. Where should people go to find out more about you online?

Us: Thank you for this interview! We feel honored and blessed to be featured on CMB’s blog. You can follow us at the links below.

CMB 045 : The Songwriting of Sean Carter

Today on the podcast I'm delighted to introduce you to Sean Carter.

No. Not Shawn Carter. But singer/songwriter and worship leader, Sean Carter. If you're not already, you’ll be a fan of his after today’s episode. His heart for Jesus and serving others is contagious, and, not only does it come through in his music, but it also comes through in his everyday life.

Listen to the podcast here, and scroll below for more detailed notes and links....



  • Sean's story of faith
  • Transitioning to becoming a full-time artist
  • Co-writing and insecurity
  • The unity of the Spirit in co-writing
  • Disciplines for songwriters
  • Writing consistently
  • Thinking of the people in the church
  • Becoming a student of other great songs
  • Ask what are people currently listening to?
  • The story behind "The Telling"
  • The Great Divorce
  • Loving the one that you tell, not the the telling of it
  • The story of the song "Passion Song"
  • GMA Immerse 2012 Songwriter of the Year
  • The Emerging Sound - Jennie Lee Riddle
  • Child like creativity that pleases God
  • Heart check

Links for Sean

What Sean Is Currently Listening To

Other Items Mentioned



CMB 037 : Caroline Cobb

Being an indie artist is serious stuff.

Add to that the realities of a full time job and a family, and you have quite the adventure before you. There's never a dull moment in the life of a DIY music maker.

So how does a full-time mom, a volunteer leader with Young Life, and a creative indie artist pull everything off? How does someone with such a full plate find time to write songs, administrate their website, book shows, and pull off the other details that an indie has to figure out?

Just thinking about it makes my head spin, and makes me so thankful for the grace of God.

[alert heading="PODCAST" type="success"]Listen or download the podcast here, and scroll below for more details, notes, and links....   [powerpress][/alert]

Recently on the podcast we've talked a lot about identity, stewardship and dying to self-kingdom-building. When I hear the story of Caroline Cobb, I see a living example of these things. It was a privilege to sit down and talk with her.

We talked about the following things

  • Caroline's story of faith
  • From a serious hobby to a serious indie artist rhythm
  • Coffee with Jill Phillips
  • Caroline's weekly routine
  • Her songwriting process
  • 66 songs in a year
  • The Blood and The Breath
  • How she crushed it on Kickstarter, nearly doubling her campaign goal
  • The tensions that Christian artist face with self promotion
  • The difference between "singer/songwriter" and "worship leader"
  • Writing songs from scripture



CMB 036 : Tim Timmons

Tim Timmons got a wake up call when his doctor told him that he had an incurable cancer with 5 years to live.

12 years later, Tim has been used by God all over the country to see the church embrace the message of God's Kingdom, and what it means to radically follow Jesus. Tim is exemplary in his approach to being joyful and Christ-centered in the midst of suffering.

Tim's current album Cast My Cares was released on Reunion Records last June with the singles "Cast My Cares" and "Starts With Me". His music can pretty much be heard on just about any Christian radio station out there. But even in the midst of his current success, Tim would rather keep it simple and talk about the wonderful adventure of following Jesus.

The recurring theme all over today's podcast is dying to the building of our own kingdoms, and actually believing the things Jesus has said to us in His word about His kingdom.

Here's Some of What We Discussed

  • Tim's Story
  • Letting your kingdom die
  • John 15 and being pruned
  • Actually living as though the Bible was true
  • The children's record, Songs and Daughters
  • Being aware of God's Kingdom
  • How Tim balances touring
  • What Tim would say to his younger self
  • How is resting not burying your talent?