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Paul Brandt
What's it like to take a stand for Christ in the secular music market? If you want to do something without compromise, it'll cost you, says Paul Brandt.


The most awarded male country artist in Canadian music history, Paul Brandt has seen his records climb the charts and his songs recorded by the likes of Johnny Cash and used as a backdrop for a Mel Gibson film. But he'd rather talk about someone else these days. A dedicated Christian, Paul's goal is to bring his music to the masses in an entertaining and thought-provoking way. He talked to Servant from his home near Calgary, Alberta, where he lives with his wife Liz.

Servant (S):How did your spiritual journey begin?

Paul Brandt
Paul Brandt

Paul Brandt (PB): I was six when I heard about Jesus. More than anything He was my ticket out of hell. But as I got older, suddenly I wasn't going to church because Mom and Dad wanted me to. I had to decide what I believed and it seemed like my relationship with the Lord really deepened a lot after getting into the music business and moving to Nashville.

S: How did a Christian boy become a country star?

PB: I was raised in a church that was quite legalistic—no instruments allowed. When I was 13 I started playing the guitar and my mom pushed me toward country music because, at that time at least, there was still some morality attached to it. When we were finally able to listen to outside music, even Steven Curtis Chapman was considered risqué. I remember wondering if I could be in the secular music industry and still have an influence on people's lives. When I finally signed a record deal I determined to make a difference. But one day it hit me that all I was doing was providing people with a nice sound track on their way to hell. Morally, it was like a cream puff. I ended up leaving the label I was with and starting my own company. I knew unless I was going to take a stand it just wasn't going to matter.

S:What did that stand look like?

PB: I wanted specifically to honour the name of Jesus Christ. We put a song on this last album called "That's What I Love About Jesus." It's a very simple testimonial of why I love Him for what He's done for me. When we took the album on tour, Liz and I noticed we were having all kinds of problems with things that had never been issues before, little annoyances, production problems, things that would wear us down. It seemed obvious that something was trying to thwart our effectiveness, which gave us even more resolve and made us lean on the Lord for strength.

S: How do you live effectively as a believer in the entertainment industry?

PB: People listen to songs or watch a movie and don't realize they're being sold certain worldviews. I decided to be bold in letting people know about my worldview. One night a lady stopped us in the middle of the show. She said, "My son is sick, I have to take him to the hospital and you still haven't played 'Convoy.'" So I said, "We'd love to do that song for you, but before we play, would you mind if we prayed for your little boy?" And I just prayed a simple prayer asking God to bless this woman and take care of her son. Then I went into the song, but every one of those people knew exactly where I stood. That's why this album has a song about Jesus on it. Even the ballads reflect Christian values. We need to present people with the truth and when the door opens, explain to them why it filled the hole—why it mattered to them.

S: Have you found it difficult at times to keep your testimony in the music business?

PB: It's been easier since I started my own label. Major labels invest so much money just getting an artist set up that they expect complete loyalty. I can't count the number of times I heard, "It doesn't matter if you don't like the song; you're an actor; go sell it," and I realized I was a slave to something. The only thing I'm supposed to be a slave to is Christ. I was only 23 so it was a real learning curve. Anyone who wants to do something without compromise is going to run into times when it costs you. Sometimes you give up certain things for having principles. I know what it takes to be at the top of the game and after experiencing it, I realized, as a Christian there are certain things I don't want to do. That can pull me out of the game and that's scary because it's your livelihood. But the Lord has always been faithful and He's proven to me time and time again that He doesn't need man's ways to make things happen. I told Him, "Lord, I know people listen to me when I sing and you gave me the ability to make music, so I'm going to go do that to the best of my ability and you need to take care of the details." That was the prayer that Liz and I prayed and He answered. Now I'm free to do what I want to do and to say what I want to say.

S: What are the practical things that help you deal with the pitfalls of success?

During the shooting of the video, Convoy.
During the shooting of the video, Convoy.
For more photos, see the website,
Paul Brandt.

PB: My wife and friends from church are pretty good at letting me know when I'm taking too much of the credit for myself, even if I don't want to hear it. And things start to stress me out pretty quick when I'm not focused on being in the Word. Even ten minutes a day, as slack as that sounds, is an opportunity for the Lord to speak to you and for you to be in relationship with Him. You can't trust Him if you don't know Him. We also need to be in community as Christians. We became so isolated in Nashville that when we moved back to Calgary we resolved to become part of a group of believers that we could be accountable to and spend our time with.

S: The song "This Time Around," says, "Like an hour glass that can never be turned again." Explain that.

PB: I was a registered nurse before I started in the music business. About the time I left the hospital and began my music career I was caring for a young girl who was dying of cystic fibrosis. Because she knew that her time was limited, she had a passion to experience life deeply and richly. And I realized that I was really no different. All of us have only a small amount of time and we never know when it's going to be done. Time is so precious. People take that to mean you go out and live recklessly. It really means we need to get out and experience the wonderful opportunities that God has given us. That little girl taught me that lesson really well.

S: How have your priorities changed?

PB: I've never done anything that has challenged what I believe more than this job. You're living your life in front of a camera. Everyone's watching to see if you are who you say you are. That can be a huge load but it also makes you take what you believe very seriously. I didn't understand that as much when I was younger, but as time goes by I'm impressed more and more just how responsible I am for how I influence people.

S: Are there things you feel you can do in the secular music industry that you can't do in Christian music?

PB: My wife is a musician with a real passion for ministering to the Church. My passion is more about influencing people in the non-Christian community and showing them why my life is different. There's a place for both. Music in general is an incredibly spiritual thing. The first time it's even mentioned in the bible, it was created for worship. And when I get up on stage and play the first three notes of "Convoy" I see a charismatic church in that audience. They're all raising their hands and worshipping and as a Christian I look at that and think, where am I going to point the praise? They're pointing it at me; I need to figure out a way to turn that around. I think being a Christian in the secular music industry is not only a way to influence people; it's a way to reclaim music for what it was created for. The enemy wants to distort every good thing God created and twist it into something it's not supposed to be. I hope the Lord uses me to redeem something that's gotten badly off track.

S: Do you ever see yourself doing a Gospel album?

PB: Historically secular music artists used to do that all the time, but it's become less popular. I grew up on the traditional hymns and I think it would be really fun.

S: How do you view your CDs?

How do you describe what a best friend means to you?

PB: I'll be going to Belize with Samaritan's Purse in December to deliver shoeboxes. These Christmas gifts are a way to bring people joy and excitement, but they also provide an opportunity to tell them why you did it. My CDs are like shoeboxes. I hope that when people unwrap this album, they'll find all the joy and the fun and the goofiness, but when they hear, "That's What I Love About Jesus," they'll see the joy that's in my life and where it comes from.

S: What is it that you love about Him?

PB: People think that someone in my position is a self-made man living life to its fullest. But I'd be nothing without Him. He loved me so much that He died for me and that's just the beginning. How do you describe what a best friend means to you? It's the way He hears my problems and answers my prayers. It's the way He gives His love unconditionally.

S: When you strip away the trappings of success, what really matters to you?

PB: Jesus commanded us to love our neighbour as ourselves and to love Him with all our hearts—as a Christian that's my motivation.

S: What would you like to be remembered for when the last song has been sung?

PB: The legacy of all Christians should be that we pointed people to the Lord. That's how I want to be remembered.

Read the unedited interview at www.prairie.edu/servant.

Originally published in Servant, Issue 74, 2006.

 

 
 
 
 

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