Crowder has a lot to celebrate these days. His brand-new studio album, Milk & Honey, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Christian Albums Chart for the third time in his career and clinched the Top 5 All-Genre spot on the Billboard Digital Albums Chart. The project’s lead single, “Good God Almighty,” also topped a whopping total of five charts: Billboard’s Christian Airplay, Christian AC Monitored and Christian AC Indicator charts, and Mediabase’s Christian AC and Christian Audience charts.
To add to those laudable accomplishments, his debut LP, Neon Steeple—which spawned hits such as “Come As You Are” and “I Am”—was recently RIAA-certified Gold, with over 500,000 units sold. This Wednesday (Nov. 10), the celebrated, three-time GRAMMY-nominated artist will take the stage of the historic Ryman Auditorium stage in Nashville, TN. to play to a sold-out crowd for his headlining Milk & Honey Tour.
Sounds Like Nashville spoke with Crowder just days before his stop in Music City to take a look back on his career, talk about Milk & Honey, and what fans can expect from his upcoming church worship-like show at the Mother Church of Country Music. Check it out!
SLN: Firstly, congratulations on your debut album Neon Steeple achieving RIAA Gold certification!
C: That’s awesome, right? So many people are making great music right now. To be a part of something else that people are digging on is pretty awesome and fantastic! I love it.
Now, you’ve been doing this for over 20 years now, starting with the David Crowder Band, before establishing yourself as a household name and solo Christian music artist. What’s your secret to the longevity of your career, which really, transcends generations?
It’s always been more of a utilitarian-like function: what can help people, through such a gift as music, attach to Theology and a Divine narrative in a way that is authentic and personal in the present tense. That present tense has changed because as I’ve grown older, the people that have been a part of what I’ve been doing have aged as well. Now they have kids and they’re bringing kids to the deal and it’s like, “Can I say something on behalf of all of us?” It gets more vast as I’ve gotten along. This summarizes your question completely. My wife says it this way: “surely they’ll stop calling at some point for you to come do stuff.” She believes in me that much! [laughs] But they don’t, and here we are doing our deal. This was never a job. This was always about trying to help [however] I can.
I reckon you still play one of your biggest songs, “Come As You Are,” live out on the road? Do you ever get tired of performing it?
Man, there are a couple of songs for myself over the last few years, as you can imagine, if we don’t do [them], we’re going to leave people super mad. Especially if they went through everything to get to the show and I didn’t play their favorite song. Luckily for me, there’s not a song I have on an album that I don’t want to play. Any of those songs that I feel like I have to have in my setlist, I’m happy to do. Why? Because every room I walk into feels like a totally different space. After doing this for so long, I know that every one of those songs are going to hit me differently than it did last night. That’s just for me. Now, factor in the venue feeling different and the crowd walking in with a different vibe. There are things that happen where it’s undeniable that a song was meant for that moment, that crowd, me and this room at the same time. That’s why I do what I do. Those moments are magic.
Let’s talk about your fourth studio album, Milk & Honey, which came out in June of this year. Where did you draw inspiration from, and what was the recording process like?
Most of my inspiration on the Milk & Honey album had to do with choral stuff. I really felt like in the concept of Milk & Honey, we’re headed to the Promised Land, it’s the communal excursion. We’re headed to some place as a community better than where we are right now. I wanted choral stuff to be very present on the album. Well, when you’re socially distant, it’s very difficult to record a choir! [chuckles] What happened was we ended up recording everyone in different locations, and it sounded in a way that’s very specific to the technology available to us at that time, given what we were going through then. The audio that you experience is a time capsule in a sense of what we had to do. We had to adapt. Zoom had to turn into something that was more pliable and applicable to our functionality than it was the adjectives we could use. We had to pivot, and we pivoted and recorded choral stuff that may sound like future choral stuff because it was what we had to do at the time. I love it.
Were the collaborations with Dante Brown and Maverick City (“God Really Loves Us,” “Sweet Jesus”) recorded separately as well?
Me and Dante didn’t get into a room together until a week before the album was due. It’s crazy. On Sunday was when Dante and I got together and the album was turned in later on Friday of that same week. We wrote “God Really Loves Us” on Sunday and recorded it on Monday and Tuesday, and then it was out the door on Friday. Dante sang to my bad piano demo! [laughs] We didn’t even know if the song arrangement was right yet, but we kept believing that there was something there. I remember when he left my house on Sunday, and about an hour and a half later, I was looking through my voice memos and thought, “I think there is something amazing here.” I didn’t know if we could pull it off on time, but we did!
You co-wrote “Good God Almighty,” the lead single off Milk & Honey with Ben Glover and Jeff Sojka. What’s the story behind that one?
When we were in the middle of [the lockdown], a lot of my friends were writing amazing songs about how desperate and disorienting that moment was, and all I could try to write is very hopeful [songs]. I felt like I was misreading the moment and not understanding how heavy this is! And then there was this flip, “No. Acknowledge this moment and project into the future. We’re promised something great.” That’s the human condition, that’s the metanarrative- you’re displaced, Eden is no longer, you’re going to go through this journey that’s heavy and hard but, you’re never left alone. The Divine never leaves you alone. In fact, there’s a metanarrative that has him interjecting himself into the storyline in a way that seems out of hand. He sends His only Son to take cover for where you are. That made me feel freedom, which is what inspired this song. It feels like a defiant song, like “good God almighty!” It’s a soft cuss. I would get in trouble saying that around the dinner table. But it acknowledges, “Good God almighty, You’re above it all. Even though I feel like I should be cussing right now because it doesn’t feel okay, what I’m going to say out loud instead acknowledges that we’re going to be okay because we’re going to some place that’s promised.” So “Good God Almighty” is an exuberant acknowledgment of where we are, but a defiance to where we’re going to be—we’re not going to stop till we get there.
You kicked off your Milk & Honey tour in June. How good did it feel to be back on the road since 2020?
With people in the room? It’s been pretty amazing! Everybody in each location, despite how they got there, are at the same place that night. That’s always been the best part. It’s always felt like a room full of people that have got over whatever they have to get over, to get there that night. It’s amazing to get to sing in a way that goes into the deepest parts of ourselves.
You’re on the final trek of your tour with a show in Nashville’s very own Ryman Auditorium on Wednesday, Nov. 10. It’s officially SOLD OUT the night of the CMA Awards! How awesome is that?
I know! I think everybody thinks it’s a part of the CMA Awards! [laughs] The great thing for me, personally, is that I’ve got to play there a lot of times with friends and the Grand Ole Opry. This is the first time I’ve got to sell tickets there as an artist. Nashville’s a hard town to play, especially if you’re an artist trying to make your way into things. It’s very industry-oriented. Most of the times I’ve played there, it’s a showcase or this or that where everybody’s on the edge of the room with folded arms, trying to decide if what you’re doing is worthwhile or not. So, to have been at it for a while and then open tickets up [feels great]. There’s not a more historic venue for the music I play than the Ryman. The sell-out situation is pretty amazing and I love it. It’s probably mostly my family. [laughs] I’m kidding, I’m kidding! It’s really amazing, and I love this album release, the songs we’re playing and the show and experience. I’m super excited for a lot of my friends and industry partners that have been a part of my life for a long time to see [the show]. I’m super beyond happy they’ll all be there.
What can everyone expect from this upcoming Ryman show?
It’s very inclusive in terms of singers. You better come ready to sing! It’s a group-sing kind of situation. I’ve already got an extensive band, but we’ve added four singers and a dedicated B3 (organ) player because we need to do church more significantly. So, come ready to go to church. It’s a blast! This is the most fun I’ve had making music in a live situation, and I can’t wait to have a room full of people with me. We’ve been doing this for a while, and it’s amazing to see where it’s come to.
Stream Milk & Honey below.