For well over three decades, Gary Chapman has seamlessly blurred the lines of contemporary pop, country, Christian and southern gospel, racking up one of the most impressive resumes any of those scenes have ever encountered. The Texas native turned Nashville transplant is a multiple GRAMMY nominee, multiple Dove Award winner (including “Male Vocalist of the Year” and "Songwriter of the Year"), source of several landmark albums on RCA Records, Reunion Records and Word Records, writer for songs recorded by Kenny Rogers, Alabama and Wynonna, four year host of TNN’s hit show “Prime Time Country,” six year host of the “Sam’s Place” concert series/syndicated radio show at the famed Ryman Auditorium and founder of the record label that launched current Disney music mainstays Everlife, amongst many others.
And even though it’s been a decade since we’ve last heard new tunes from the singer, songwriter and multi-media personality, the man who’s turned ADD into an art form has certainly stayed active. In between 2002’s Circles and Seasons and 2013’s The Truth, Chapman wrote, produced and directed the full-length documentary “The 8th of November” for country duo Big & Rich (screened to tremendous acclaim at the Country Music Hall of Fame), successfully transferred to the National Football League foray as the Chief of Content Development for the “School of the Legends” mentoring program, all while simultaneously launching the “A Hymn A Week” online song and stories series, inspired after singing many of the timeless standards at his ailing father’s bedside (who’s since went on to be with the Lord alongside Chapman’s mother).
“Singing those old time hymns helped me remember what music is really for,” recalls the troubadour of the season that initially prompted him to put pen to paper again, which eventually found their way onto The Truth. “This project has nothing to do with money, but everything to do with genuinely touching someone’s heart and offering healing. I have no delusions of grandeur at this point in my life and I am pleasantly embracing a place where it really doesn’t matter a whole lot to me what anybody thinks, and I say that with zero arrogance or perceived distance.”
While some of Chapman’s new found freedom comes in his independence from major record labels (he has partnered with Music Row’s Merf Music Group and Elevate Entertainment for distribution), the veteran artist is also reveling behind the scenes when it comes to family life. He and wife Cassie just welcomed the birth of their adopted baby daughter, Eva Rose, earlier this year (all of whom will take part in a reality series chronicling six familiar Nashville families in early 2014 on TNT), while the proud father continues to beam with pride over his son Matt and daughters Sarah and Millie, who’ve since spread their wings for school and successful careers respectively. Indeed, reflecting on the many seasons and stages of life has made for tremendous songwriting fodder, as has Chapman’s firm reliance on his lifelong faith that’s sustained him throughout the triumphs and trials of his entire journey thus far.
“The Truth is a slightly general title to go over all these songs, but it’s the only phrase that made sense,” he assures. "It appears in more than one of the songs and it’s my attempt to say exactly what I believe- the good, bad and the potentially ugly side of complete honesty. I don’t have any options anymore and sincerely don't want any. I have, mostly by choice, maybe initially by pain, transformed from being somebody who might be trying to impress others, to someone who simply wants to know you and to be known. Once you truly embrace being vulnerable, there’s just no other way to write or even live life.”
Take for instance the incredibly emotive “Everything I Know,” an entirely autobiographical account of Chapman’s bittersweet but redemptive testimony, channeled through three-and-a-half minutes of pure poignancy. Then there’s the metaphor-laden “Ain’t Got a Prayer Without Jesus,” which may initially seem like a spiritually-directed political statement, but is actually anchored in the theme of staying committed to family, friends and community.
Continues Chapman: “I also found some wonderful songs like ‘How Great A God,’ a straight up confessional worship song that is not the norm for me, but something that just really hit me. Another one of my favorites is ‘The Rough Crowd,’ which basically addresses the beautiful truth that when God chose to come to earth as a man, He hung out with the rowdy ones more than church folks. Thank God for that!”
In addition to this blend of bold and thought-provoking lyrical statements, The Truth is hands down Chapman’s most diverse and ambitious musical exploration to date. “I’m not sure if it’s a weakness or a strength, but I’ve always been a man without a genre,” he adds with a laugh. “On one hand, I think the Christian market could embrace this because there are plenty of songs that are overtly spiritual without any apologies whatsoever. In that sense, it’s probably more spiritual than anything I’ve ever done before, and sonically, it’s probably leaning more country than anything I’ve done before, which is where my roots lie. A lot of the songs are pop country, but there are three or four songs that could definitely be called aggressive pop music, not unlike ‘Sweet Glow of Mercy,’ but with a little more seasoning.”
Even with all the time he’s spent diving in other directions, Chapman undoubtedly fires on all cylinders throughout The Truth, sounding much richer vocally and seeming even more comfortable in his own skin than he did while topping the charts countless times throughout the 1990s and 2000s. The fact that affirmations have poured in like lightening on social media have only confirmed his calling to continue making music and even begin writing his highly anticipated memoirs (slated to hit shelves next year).
“People are so supportive it’s ridiculous, and they’re also curious about what it will sound like and what I have to say,” he observes. “I would say my audience appreciates family, abhors pretense and posturing, loves to laugh alongside ‘Duck Dynasty’, likes to dance during a fast song, wants to cry during a sad song and doesn’t mind failure as long as you’re honest about it. They are forgivers because they are forgiven. I think probably to my detriment, I sort of chose to embrace the rebel or bad boy moniker many years ago for reasons that will come out in the book I’m working on. I don't regret the choice because it has put me in a position to help a lot of hurting people, but it does have a downside. People assume you’re darker than you actually are, and I really want this particular musical statement to set the record straight in that regard.”
While The Truth is without a doubt the most transparent window into Chapman’s heart and soul in his entire career thus far, he simply hopes it will show listeners his true self. “My family and friends are my life, they’re everything to me really, and my local church is also a primary focus where I serve as an elder,” he asserts. “I’m excited for people to hear what I have to say about it all and I’m also very anxious to get back on the road, not only to play, but also to connect with everyone again after all this time.”