Q&A: David Crowder talks Baylor, being on tour and his upcoming show

Baylor alumnus David Crowder will return to Waco for a concert April 8 in Waco Hall.  Courtesy photo
Baylor alumnus David Crowder will return to Waco for a concert April 8 in Waco Hall.
Courtesy photo

“Neon Steeple” tour
7 p.m. April 8
Tickets: $10 for students, $15 public presale
Purchase tickets at baylor.edu/studentactivities/ticketoffice

By Allie Matherne

Texarkana native David Crowder formed the David Crowder*Band as a reaction to the stagnant state of church life at Baylor in the late ’90s. Statistics showed only half of Baylor’s population went to church, so Crowder, along with fellow student and friend Chris Seay, created University Baptist Church to help mend the traditions of the church and the growing pains of the millennial culture.

Crowder wrote new, innovative music for students to connect with. After 11 years, the band members went their separate ways in 2012. Crowder has since been nominated for a Grammy and released his first solo album, “Neon Steeple.” Crowder will play Saturday at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion in The Woodlands, and will also play on campus April 8 in Waco Hall.

What was your favorite Baylor tradition as a student?

I was never in it, but I loved Sing and Pigskin. It’s just so — I just don’t think there’s anything like it on the planet. My parents coming down, us getting all gussied up to go watch the goodness — that’s an interesting thing that I’ve not seen any place in all my travels. It’s a special deal.

That’s awesome. But you were never it in?

No, it was a frat thing, so no. I would just go watch my buddies and friends and that was always a treat. After, you know, all the rehearsals that they had to go to. It’s a heck of a lot of work, absolutely. But it makes for a great night.

How do you think your presence at Baylor helped you to get where you are today?

Well, for sure my experience there, you know, in the music school learning all the church history and the music history — all that stuff has been incredibly important to me being able to articulate and make music, for one.

But then two, just the opportunity to lead at UBC — that just was such a unique atmosphere where you’re surrounded by your friends, your peers, trying to say something on behalf of these people you knew and lived life with every day and were going through all the same struggles with.

I think [it’s an artist’s] job to just pay attention to little stuff maybe other people aren’t watching, having to say something week after week that was new and expressed through music at church. Man, that’s it right there, I’m just happy about that.

It’s been a little over three years since the members of the David Crowder*Band went their separate ways. How do you feel you’ve handled the transition from band member to solo artist?

Well, I tell you what, there’s a lot more pressure because now it’s all your fault. We had blame to share when it was a band. Even though we got stuck with my name on the thing, it was definitely a band deal where everybody had a voice and so the end product was real reflection of six individuals. Here it’s a little more intense.

But I just found a bunch of other really great folks that were, I guess, drinking the same Kool- Aid I was and had just a blast making music together trying to go through something that was completely authentic to me, sound-wise, music-wise, and finding the right people to help me articulate that was a blast. Made a lot of really great friends from getting to do that.

I read on your website that your newest album, “Neon Steeple,” is a “collection of songs and sounds looking forward to the past and counting the present as sacred.” How exactly do you feel your music encapsulates this idea?

Beautiful. Well I think there are a lot of roots in it. Just growing up in Texarkana I was around gospel-bluegrass-country thing. Then two, I’m a product of the ’80s, so too much time spent in front of television playing an Atari Nintendo with those 8 bit noises coming at you. So I fell in love with making music on the computer really early on and it’s such a part of the music-making process and such a part of what the Crowder Band was doing. So trying to squish those things together.

And with media movement so big, that stuff always feels like it’s pressing ahead trying to figure out how to create new sounds, new experiences — that feels like it’s leaning forward, and at the same time, the lyrics and content of the record, I was wanting to hold onto the past and love the moment currently, language-wise.

And also, it feels like there’s been a big movement of more colloquial type language outside of the church culture that’s been made more acceptable by folks writing songs that say something that feels more current and future leaning. Both the sound and the lyrics and the language used, I feel like I’m trying to do that.

How do you feel different seasons or events in your life influenced the themes of your album?

For sure the transition out of Texas — out of Waco, away from these people that I’ve known and loved for years and have been such a pivotal part of my life, and very much relationships that were transformative — to a new state, a new city, and wind up making all kinds of new neighbors and new friends that I couldn’t have seen coming that are just some of the best friends I’ve had, ever. And all of that tension — longing for home, acceptance, a place — I think that’s such a major drive in us as humans and to experience that and then be able to say out loud with music what that experience is. All of the journey I’ve had in the past three, four years is definitely present in the music.

As much as I was trying to be authentic with the sound of the thing, I was also trying to be authentic in what I was saying. I think people respond to authenticity more, I think more so than they do perfection. And we’re all in the same boat.

What are your favorite things to do while you’re on the road touring?

Well, it’s actually play music. I mean there’s just so many great players. The funny thing is — I don’t know how this happened — but the David Crowder*Band, we didn’t pick up instruments throughout the day, but with this new outfit it’s hard to put them down for some reason. Most of the time you’ll find us in the green room or on the bus with guitar in hand and a pen writing and playing — dumb stuff, too — just having a good time because it’s available and I love music. It makes the day pass quickly. As well as a good book, a good book will do it too.

And walking to Subway, I love walking to subway. I don’t know what it is, but just a hankering for a turkey sandwich and you gotta find where the Subway is and before you know it you’ve wasted a couple of hours and had a good sandwich.

Out of all the cities you’ve played for the Neon Steeple tour, which has been your favorite and why?

Gosh, that’s so hard. I would say Chicago, because I love Chicago. We were at the House of Blues downtown there, and it’s such a fun room and the people that showed up were just a blast. I think that might be one of the most intense nights of music and energy, as far as a crowd goes, that I’ve had. So Chicago.

Plus the food, the food is amazing. I could do without the cold. I don’t have the right clothes for that. I don’t understand layering properly.

Lastly, is there anything you hope fans will take away from the Waco show?

Yeah, I think definitely. I hope that —and music is great at this, so I hope it happens that night — but we have such a hard time living in the awareness that we spend every second in the presence of God and every moment’s sacred, and a night like that can just shift our view to that reality.

So, that would be it. That you leave with an awareness that we are in the very presence of God, and this is sacred and beautiful and worth the journey. We can’t wait to get there. I’m wound up. Probably the most excitement I’ve had for a show coming up in a long time. I can’t wait to see that front porch at Waco Hall.