Gary Chapman Bibliography: (click on each album cover to view tracks and Gary Chapman lyrics)
Gary Chapman Biography
Preachers preach. Builders build. Plumbers plumb. They use the tools they've got to do the work at hand. For some, it's a living; for others, it's a way of life. Those who do not preach or build or plumb don't always see the simple beauty of the work. But it is there nonetheless.
Songwriters write songs in much the same way. They do what they do because it's the work at hand. Life compels them. Words are their tools.
For Gary Chapman, whose career spans more than 20 years and includes eight Dove Awards, four #1 songs on multiple charts, three GRAMMY Award nominations, and a successful run of three years as host of TNN's Prime Time Country, writing songs has always been his favorite tool, most enjoyed when songs come together simply because the words have come to life and must be shared. An old Shaker hymn sums it up nicely: "'Tis a gift to be simple, 'tis a gift to be free - "
The simplicity and truth of the work is the sole motivation behind Circles and Seasons, Chapman's first truly solo project, one in which he single-handedly recorded, produced, and engineered, along with writing all the songs, playing all the instruments and singing all the vocals.
What began as a simple test drive - Chapman had been given a new Yamaha processor board for hosting at a music technology convention - took flight as a whole new musical adventure. The process of diving into the manual and getting his hands around the machine lit a fuse of creativity and became an album, fueled solely by his passion for the music and for the message.
"I have always had the good sense to hire people more gifted than I was, but when you record in the studio, with hired engineers, producers and players, you always wind up with their version of what you heard in your head. When they're better than you and they just played something great, it's hard to say - 'no that's not it'." Gary says of the recording process. "I've never done a record like this before, but from the moment I started, I knew I had stumbled onto something I probably should have done long ago. I think because I'm not some virtuoso musician, the simplicity allowed the songs to speak."
But make no mistake, simplicity need not imply 'less than.' In fact, Gary says, less can be much more. "There were a lot of things I did that, had I been in the studio with the clock ticking, I never would've taken the time to do. It was so much fun just to get lost in the process with no one else there and just let the song take you where it wanted you to go. Most of the time the players drive the song. In this case, the song drove the player."
The same can be said of the message behind the music - simple, transparent, organic and definitive. You've never heard more honest, more personal lyrics than these.
The album opener,"Nothing to Hide," Gary says,"was a purely spiritual experience. My oldest niece and my wife's sister had recently given birth to new family and I was struck once again with one of the glaring reasons I believe Jesus loved children so much. They have absolutely nothing to hide. As I was recording this song, I listened to it over and over, and I wept and I laughed at the sheer hilarity of the notion that we would attempt to hide from God in any way. This song is my way of coming face to face with and proclaiming the ridiculousness of that idea. When we discover that there really is nothing to hide, nothing we've done that God would run from, it's so freeing."
"Walk On" and "24/7" continue the theme of honesty, drawing parallel pictures of where we live and where we need to live, Chapman says. "Regardless of our successes or failures, our failures always talk louder. Doubt comes so much easier than faith. But God calls us to ignore those voices and just keep walking, one step at a time," he says. "'24/7' is how I know God wants me to live. It's a pure worship song - How great it would be to live in that place, to be wrapped in that cloth, where everything has that tone of worship to it. I don't always pull it off, but I get closer and closer to it. That's definitely where I want to be."
"He Thinks I Hung the Moon," a song between a father and a son Gary wrote for his son when Matt was six years old, is also included along with "All I Ever Have to Be." Both songs have been performance staples of Gary's for years, he says, but "of all the stuff I've ever been a part of writing, 'All I Ever Have to Be' is the one song people have told me was there for them at a critical time in their life. I wrote that song 20 years ago,"he continues, "and it's still exactly what I need to hear today." That song was the most requested of those who visit Gary's website, so he included it on Circles and Seasons.
These songs, Gary says, are the most personal songs he's ever recorded. So it make sense that the love song he wrote for his wedding day,"Like I Love You Now" found its way on the album. Another song, "Jackson and Jesus" commemorates the life of Jackson Berry, a teenager and family friend who died in a car accident and is a reminder that life is precious. And "Leave What's Left" - inspired by a church sign and written as an inspiration for his children - challenges us all to live the truth, do what's right and leave what's left up to God.
But it is in "I Need Jesus," the first single and the "simplest song I've ever written in my life," where Chapman distills all of life's complications, disappointments and distractions down to one crucial, one very fine point. "When you can put the entire lyric in the palm of your hand and still be moved by it," he says of the song, "It's a powerful and wonderful thing."
In Circles and Seasons, Gary Chapman writes songs that speak of life in simple realities - that the life Jesus called us to is one of simple dependence on him. In our weakness, in our doubt, in our struggle - He is everything.
"Just like everyone else I know, I struggle with coming to terms with all that life deals me with and wanting to know just exactly where God is when bad things happen," he says. "I've been so knocked out by how true it is that God uses our lowest moments to lift Himself up, and if we're really connected to Him, we are lifted up in the process. I know the way is 'straight and narrow' but having been around on this spinning earth for a while now, I have seen a few things come back around."
"Might as well push the merry-go-round a little faster, hold onto Daddy's hand and laugh out loud."