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Clay Crosse Bibliography: (click on each album cover to view tracks and Clay Crosse lyrics)
Clay Crosse Biography
It was six years ago that Clay Crosse began a musical journey that quickly propelled him into the spotlight. Clay's debut album, My Place Is With You, introduced his extraordinary voice to an eager audience, and garnered the attention of the entire Christian music industry. It was not long into his career before Clay captured a Dove Award for New Artist of the Year, and subsequent nominations for Male Vocalist of the Year. While songs like "I Surrender All" and "My Place Is With You" provided a solid base for Clay's success, his first four albums produced no less than eight #1 singles. Included in that roster are CCM's 1997 Adult Contemporary Song of the Year, "He Walked A Mile," and last summer's "I Will Follow Christ," the powerful collaboration between Clay, Bob Carlisle and BeBe Winans.
Yet even amidst all of the public achievements and success, Clay shares now of a personal war that he battled internally for years. It's a struggle that he says took him to the lowest point in his life, and culminated in 1998 on an airplane ride that changed his life forever. The experience led him to the title of his new album, A Different Man, a project that has become a powerfully true testimonial of this segment of Clay's journey.
Clay Crosse grew up in Memphis, Tennessee in a Christian home. He came to know Christ at the age of 13, and was active in his church all through high school and college. He married his high school sweetheart, Renna, at the age of 23, and they now have two daughters. For all apparent reasons, everything was picture perfect on the outside-a perfect wife, a perfect family, a perfect career. But as he looks back in retrospect, Clay says there has been a consistent stain buried beneath the outer layers of his life. Clay recalls being in the fourth or fifth grade when he was first exposed to pornographic magazines at a friend's house. He recollects how those images were burned into his mind forever. Over the course of the next few years in junior high, high school and college, Clay remembers occasions here and there where he again came in contact with similar materials. There weren't many times, but even the small amount of exposure was enough, Clay says, to leave lasting images that ultimately became damaging.
"It began to affect the way I looked at women, and lust began to spill over into my everyday life," Clay shares. "When I got married, pornography was not a part of my life, but lust was. I remained outwardly faithful to Renna, but my thought life was a problem."
Clay remembers how he began to let harmful things into his marriage. "I was allowing myself to entertain certain TV shows, movies, magazine articles, music, comedians-not pornography, but I was certainly pushing the limits. I was proud to be what I considered an 'open-minded Christian.' As Christians, we should have some sort of filter system in our lives, and I had just shut mine off altogether. I got to a point where these influences, and the lasting images I had from my past, began to manifest themselves in real ways in my life." During this time, Clay also began to struggle with vocal problems. He was not happy with how he'd been singing, and it was beginning to take its toll. "I had always thought if all else fails, at least I can sing. I used to really find strength in my voice, and it had always been my security. So these problems suddenly grabbed my attention, and I know now that it was really God trying to speak to me."
In 1998, on a flight home from Seattle, Washington, Clay was overcome with conviction about his life. Having just performed at a chapel service with other industry peers, Clay felt a true sense of failure. "I was pretty sure that I'd sung terribly, and it was really hard for me. I was losing control of my voice, but I realized that I had lost control of my life as well. My voice had already been taken from me, and I knew that if I didn't change, my life as I knew it would also be taken from me. Looking down from that plane at that moment, I was in complete misery and regret. I realized I was at my lowest point. I was a complete failure. At that exact moment, I wouldn't have cared at all if that plane had crashed right then and there."
Clay recalls his lyrics to "Sinner's Prayer," a song on the new album. "Where I've been, I tell you, you don't want to be. I really mean that," Clay says. "I wouldn't wish that on anybody. I just wasn't at a peace with my life."
It was while he was cutting a demo of "Sinner's Prayer" one night in Nashville that Clay struggled again with his voice in the studio. When he finally left the session later in the evening to meet some friends, he broke down in the car. "Renna and my friends were there, and they just all just sat in the car with me to support me. They knew I was upset about my voice, but I think they all knew that I just was so disappointed with my life and my morals. I was weak, and I finally had nowhere else to reach but to reach for Jesus."
The days and months that followed were hard. Clay sat down with Renna and confessed everything to her. "That's when I truly, completely and wholeheartedly rededicated my life to Christ. I was on my face sobbing the sinner's prayer. I remember wondering if I had ever been saved in the first place, but I knew I had. I had just never really lived my life completely for Him."
"The past is sad to think about," Clay admits, "but I do have a real joy now. I have a peace that I didn't have before. I am really at a broken place, and that's a good thing. My focus has certainly changed. I used to deal with real issues of pride, and the whole industry thing was very important to me. But that has all changed. I feel like God has made me a little more lowly, but I feel His power in my life like I never have before. I want His will in my life-in my career and in my marriage. I feel such a freedom now. Do I want to sell more records? Yeah. But is that why I'm excited? No. I'm excited because I really have something to say and I want people to hear it. The title of this album even challenges me to continue to ask myself, 'Am I really a different man?' I want to be able to say, 'Yeah, that's me!'"
A Different Man introduces a Clay Crosse that we have never seen before. There is certainly a depth to this project that reaches into the soul of a man who has come full circle into a new life of grace and mercy. His songwriting efforts have grown by leaps and bounds, as showcased in his lyrical contributions to nearly every song on this album.
Testimonial songs like "98," "Sinner's Prayer" and "Arms of Jesus" are insights into Clay's journey out of defeat and into hope. "98" is reflective of lessons learned in that life-changing year. "I've been taught what's right-the truth-all my life," Clay says. "I've seen it lived out in front of me. But the days I'd really lived it and really panted after God-those days were rare. The lyrics to this song say, 'for all I've learned the days I lived it were so rare / The dust of innocence I scattered who knows where / And when I turned my back on you, you stood right there / And you never left me.'"
"Arms of Jesus" is a poignant look at God's unfailing mercy in the midst of our own failure. "I start climbing mountains / To stand so tall / Thinking I belong there / Above it all / And my pride gets the best of me / I stumble on reality and fall / But when I fall / Let me fall / Into the arms of Jesus." Clay explains, "There's such a spirit running through this song. The interesting twist is how it says I fell into the arms of Jesus. We usually think of reaching up to Him, but this is about falling into Jesus when I'm at my lowest place. It's not about Him always being my safety net, but more about how I fall into His grace."
Clay reunited with long-time friend and producer Regie Hamm on this new project. "Regie and I worked on the melodies together, but my main involvement was with the lyrics," Clay says. "Regie has blown me away with what he's done with this album musically. I'm just thrilled with the marriage of the music and the lyrics. I'm very proud of these songs."
With Regie at the production helm, the songs on A Different Man truly do reflect a continuing musical evolution for Clay Crosse that began on his last full-length studio album, Stained Glass. Clay's soulful voice is a perfect match to the more aggressive, grittier sound that weaves itself throughout this album. Songs like "No Fear" (with a perfect message for the millennium), "Til The End of the World" and "Memphis" feature a musical edge that unveils stylistic inflections of pop, R&B, world beat and Memphis rock. Creating a musical balance, while adding to the album's diversity, are songs like the uniquely crafted "What Would You Do for a King," the heart-felt "Walk With Me," and the praise-oriented "More Like You."
There is a rich texture to this new album that is only the result of a changed heart, a changed life and a changed man. "A different man means someone who is seeking God wholeheartedly," Clay says. "God's word to me has been to just let go of all of these other distractions, and to follow him completely. We have to take an aggressive stance and commit our lives wholeheartedly to Christ. I want my daughters to have a good life on this earth, but more importantly, I want them to know how real Jesus is and how real God's love is. I want it to be a part of our household. I want it to be manifested into their daily lives."
"I thank God for the pain he brought me through and for the realization of what I was, and now the realization of what he has in store for me. My career is still important, but it's not all consuming. Everything is different. I'm not just touring anymore, I'm crusading. I'm so excited-not because I have a new album, but because I have a lot to say."
"The book of Romans says, 'In all things God works for the good of those who love him.' I want to tell my story because I hope it will give others the courage to change. They just need to let go of that security they hold on to that's not founded in Christ. I know that I am a different man now, and I want to encourage others to be different, too."