A quick look at Texas native David Crowder, with his lanky frame, shocked out hair, long authorial goatee, and thick rimmed glasses, gives insight into his band's music and the message it carries. An equally earthy and electric debut album, Can You Hear Us?, pursues God without inhibition; asking tough questions and turning over gritty theological rocks, to find pictures of God with room for wonder.
Origins of the David Crowder band are just as unique as their sound. While studying at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, Crowder learned that 9,000 of the 14,000 students enrolled at the religious school were not attending church. This sparked a series of diligent conversations between David and a friend about what church would look like to connect these disenchanted students to the heart of God. And so it began. Since its inception in 1996, University Baptist Church has grown with an enrollment nearing 1,000, almost all of which are college students. And so Crowder began writing in earnest, "out of necessity," he says, to give voice to this community sharing his journey to know God. To wit, one of his first originals co-written with bandmate jack parker, "You Alone," appeared on a Passion CD and was soon embraced by countless churches across the country. Concert requests followed, as did festival appearances and large-scale worship leading at national conferences such as Passion, DC/LA, and Youth Specialties' National Youth Workers Convention.
Fast forward a half-decade and Crowder's bursting-at-the-seams fan is beyond hoarse after clamoring for a proper CD.
Enter Can You Hear Us?
The musicianship, creativity, and production--courtesy of behind-the-scenes maestro Brent Milligan--are world class. Can You Hear Us? unabashedly aspires to a new standard of worship music, destined to move the church while attracting the un-churched as well.
"We feel it is a good, positive thing to bring quality musicianship to the forefront of worship leading," Crowder notes regarding what's made UBC different and attractive to young people. "It was like, 'Let's bring creativity and art into it.' Because for me and the guys in the band, music is a wonderful, transcendent language of worship--the playing and singing and innovation are all part of an absolute expression of worship."
"I've never forced anything," he notes. "I'm not very intentional about songwriting. For me, it's whenever the inspiration comes. Most of the songs I wrote in my head while driving in the country with my wife, and they can be traced back to a trip here or there."
Speaking of trips, now that Crowder and band are on the road far more than recent years, one of Crowder's newest fave pastimes is soaking in the flavors of other worship communities, especially those who have adopted his tunes as part of their worship. "It's great to see these songs transplanted to a different place," Crowder notes. "The DNA of where you are makes every song come out differently."
Still, exactly what has drwan listeners to Crowder's words and melodies isn't crystal clear to him, but he's fine with that unsolved mystery.
"I think for a long time my inspiration came from a harder place, from the difficult things I was going through," he acknowledges. "And when I started out, the more painful subjects seemed to be missing from congregational worship, so I think I reacted against that. But what's really cool is that, all of a sudden, whole new groups of people are given a voice in worship that they didn't have before."
"Can You Hear Us? has a couple of themes that seem a thread running through a lot of my writing," Crowder says. "First, there is the fact that often we all feel disconnected from God, so we confron that condition several times. Second, there is the breakthrough realization of the truth: that we are living in the absolutely constant very presence of God. And when we realize that, we can't help but find rescue."
Though the band plans to tour extensively in support of their upcoming release, they have not forgotten where and why it all began. Nearly every Sunday morning will find them leading worship in Waco, TX, the now and future home of U.B.C. "I just started writing out of necessity to reach those 9,000 people at my school and others like them everywhere else. Today, I don't write a song without an audience in mind."
The David Crowder Band is now just happpy to be along for the ride that God so clearly started and has already amplified from a college town to the world at large.
"Part of jumping into the stream, for us, is to let go of something as personal as music," Crowder says. "It's a tender letting go. But after all, these songs aren't ours to begin with. The point here is for the message of God's great love to spread even further."