David Crowder, the Christian musician, songwriter and singer, is off on a new path these days.
He played his last concert with the David Crowder Band in January. After a dozen years together, he and his bandmates, all good friends, agreed their time together had played out and they were ready to go in different directions.
That was only one of the big changes Crowder made. He also stepped down as worship leader of University Baptist Church in Waco, Texas, a church that he helped found 16 years ago when he was a college student at Baylor University.
Crowder, 40, in a new season of life, is taking out this time to figure out his next moves.
“This year almost is like a sabbatical,” Crowder said Monday during a telephone interview. “There are only a handful of dates on the calendar.”
Luckily for Billings fans, the Magic City is one of his stops. Crowder will play a 7 p.m. concert on Wednesday at Faith Chapel.
Crowder divides his time now between Waco, Atlanta and Nashville. He wife is back in school in Nashville, and in Atlanta, he’s enjoying being part of Passion City Church, spending time with two close friends, pastor Louie Giglio and worship leader Chris Tomlin.
During the service, he’s “down in the seats with all the people.” Sitting on the other side of the stage is refreshing, Crowder said, and gives him a different perspective.
“I think that will help me lead better in the future,” he said.
Crowder calls leaving a successful band both “thrilling and terrifying.” He was comfortable, in a band with great friends, and it all worked well together.
Musically, it was also completely fulfilling, he said.
“But when you feel like you’re supposed to go someplace different, you take that risk and see God doing something pretty spectacular with you and you see growth,” Crowder said.
These days, he’s playing with musicians he’s never played with before.
“It’s been a blast, but kind of strange, trying to collect a handful of folks to play well with and relationally work well with,” he said.
As he figures out what his new band will look like, he’s also trying a new sound, with much more traditional instrumentation. Where the David Crowder Band was heavy on electronics, Crowder is now leaning toward a bluegrass sound, with violin, banjo, upright bass, mandolin, cello and fiddle.
The sound, he said, is suited for group singing in a worship setting, which is what he’s after.
“It’s really more about the crowd’s participation and building community with music as the centerpiece, blending voices,” Crowder said. “It’s like being on the porch singing together.”
For Crowder, it goes even deeper to the origins of that style of music. He points to the Scots who moved from oppression to freedom in the Appalachian Mountains, and created the bluegrass sound, and the enslaved blacks who found something hopeful in the spirituals they sang.
It can be that same way for people of faith, Crowder said.
“To use those instruments to do that, whether your situation is bleak or wonderful, it reminds us that the other side is better than we can comprehend,” he said, talking about heaven. “It gives us a glimpse of what’s coming.”
As for writing new material, Crowder said “songs keep popping out all the time,” but he’s waiting until he’s got the right players in place and the right sound.
In concert, he plays music from his previous catalogs, although they feel new to him with the new arrangements. He also throws in a few hymns.
“I get to relive these songs in a way that feels new,” he said. “The lyrics fit me differently. It feels like brand-new songs.”