Even his happiest, most heartwarming music has been fueled by tragedy and pain.
With five Grammys, dozens of Dove Awards, and over 11 million records sold, Steven Curtis Chapman is one of the most decorated artists in Christian music history. Now, 30 years since the release of his first album, the songwriter has published a memoir, Between Heaven and the Real World (Revell), in which he opens up about marital difficulties, the death of his 5-year-old daughter, and other painful experiences. Music journalist Steve Turner, author of Imagine: A Vision for Christians in the Arts (InterVarsity Press), spoke with Chapman about times of discouragement that have fueled his faith and music.
You’re candid about your shortcomings in the book. Did you worry about sharing too much?
I didn’t want to skim the surface. Often, in the church, we’re very good at presenting a story that shows us in a favorable light. We’re supposed to have it together—particularly someone like me, who has been making albums and doing shows for years.
It’s always been a commitment of mine to say, “Don’t miss the point. Don’t hear my songs—like ‘I Will Be Here,’ that I wrote for my wife—and think, ‘I wish my husband would write a song like that for me. Those guys must have an almost-perfect relationship.’ ” That song wouldn’t exist but for the fact that we have struggled, and it’s been really painful.
I’m not telling these stories just to shock people or to wear my heart on my sleeve. The two words that guided me were “honesty” and “honor.” I wanted to be transparent while at the same time honoring my wife, my parents, and my family. I hope and pray I’ve achieved that.