Interview By Brandon Jones/Indie Vision Music
I first met Stephen back in 2001 when his old band played a Church I was
going to at the time. We hit it off and I was impressed with his humble
demeanor. He is a passionate guy with a lot to say. It’s that same passion
that leads him to front one of the most amazing rock bands of today,
Anberlin. With that said, I’ll be conducting a little interview here with
the man behind the mic.
Brandon/IVM: So first off, tell me a little bit about yourself. Where you
grew up what your hometown is like. Just the simple essentials.
Stephen Christian/Anberlin: I consider my hometown st joeseph, michigan. even though i have spent the majority of my years in winter haven, florida my heart is elsewhere. st joe has such an innocence about it. childhood memories attached. the pier, the beach, the sand dunes, peerless canvas, my grandparents, etc. the fall, leaves burning, a slight chill in the air, that is where the heart is.
Brandon/IVM: You’re going to hate me for asking these questions but I’m
going to do it anyway. What recollections do you have of your time with
you old band. Any good or bad things to spill? What have you learned since those
Stephen Christian/Anberlin: I loved those days. Naive, hopeful, everything was exhilarating. the
music was a cross between hot water music and stevie vai. it was
God-awful music. rather embarrassing if you ask me, but we all have to
come from somewhere. Those were crimeless moments. It taught me about finding a firm
foundation and humility… though that was easy when your as horrid as
Brandon/IVM: Anberlin signed to T&N in 2002 and you released one of the most
incredible debut records I’d heard in a long time. What was that debut like
for you to accomplish? Any comments?
Stephen Christian/Anberlin: Truly an accomplishment. We had no idea what we were getting into. We had walked into the studio with only 10 songs. We had no more no less.
and even one of those was not ours. Aaron taught us a lot (the
producer) about the industry ins and outs. which ended up to be more of an impact than his production.
Brandon/IVM: How has your relationship with T&N been? Have they treated you
well? Are you pleased with your current position?
Stephen Christian/Anberlin: I am sure that there are good and bad things about every record
label. Working with Tooth and Nail has been brilliant. I have made
some invaluable friendships* that will far outlast this band.
The disadvantage of any indie is that they do not have the money to
throw at clear channel or mtv to make the band happen (whether the
band has talent or not.) the positive to indie labels is that they
have the heart and soul. If you eat, they eat. they are along side you
through the good or bad. Major labels have the money, but if your not putting up the numbers they want they have no passion or vision for your band. So which is more important… money or passion; and that’s how we made our decision. There is a light that never goes out.
*one side note: another negative attribute to an indie label is that
there is a lot of idle chatter, rumors, and talking behind peoples
back that happens @ smaller labels. ours is no exception. sometimes it
feels more like a high school than a label.
Brandon/IVM: Never Take Friendship Personal was a natural progression from Blueprints for the Blackmarket, what is your take on the subtle differences between records? How have you guys improved?
Stephen Christian/Anberlin: I think when you tour 10.5 months a year it is inevitable that you
are going to put on a better and better show. With that much touring
you also learn your instrument exceedingly so. I think walking into
the studio the second time we had obtained one major thing that is
clearly lacking on our first record: confidence.
We knew who we were and what we were setting out to achieve. Aaron
manipulated our sound on the first record and on the second record he
was much more hands off. We grew as people, had seen more places, experienced more failures and more success’s. Life had been good to us, i had a lot to draw
from. i think this third album may be our pinnacle record,. it’s who we
always knew we had inside us, it just took us 2 records of
experimentation to finally get it down on paper and eventually record.
Brandon/IVM: What was the recording process like the second time around?
Stephen Christian/Anberlin: For drums nate was comfortable. He had turned from a prodigy to a
professional in the matter of one album. Deon experimented more with
playing on his own then following the lowest note of the guitar. Joey and I pretty much did our own production. Aaron was absent for a
good majority of my vocals, but it turned out great. It pushed me to
do it on my own, get better at my weakness’s instead of relying on
Aaron to come up with something. I want to continue that on this next
record and do the vocal production completely by myself… since
‘friendship’ was pretty much just that.
Brandon/IVM: You’ve dropped small hints of a future writing session for the
new record. When shall we expect to see Anberlin in the studio again? Will
an album drop this year?
Stephen Christian/Anberlin: We are going to end our Canadian run in Seattle @ the end of July and
that is where we will begin this next project. We will be in the
studio for about 6 weeks which will take us well into august.
we are not sure when the album will drop but it will probably fall
somewhere between dec.-feb.
Brandon/IVM: How do you feel about a major label? Do you seen Anberlin
moving in that direction any time soon? Any comments on the matter?
Stephen Christian/Anberlin: I want to go where my heart leads. Tooth and Nail is bending backwards for us right now. if this continues and they and us feel that working
together would be in both our best interest, then we would love to
stick around. Underoath just resigned to Tooth. It was incredibly
smart. They knew that Tooth could push them to the level exactly where
they needed to be. if we feel the same, we will stay as well.
Honestly as of late i have been reclusing from the idea of
business and fame so i let our management handle all that stuff. I just
want to write music.
Brandon/IVM: Switching gears here for a second….
You’re a Christian playing in a rock band. How do you feel your role (and
purpose) as a Christian is affected by rock n’ roll. What place does
Christianity play in the making of music?
Stephen Christian/Anberlin: My purpose as a human is to love the Lord my God with all my heart,
soul, and mind. my purpose as a musician it is to make the best
possible music and entertainment for the listener. The amalgamation of
the two is the controversy. We seem to be too Christian for the
general market and not Christian enough for the Christians. Conundrum.
The other day a youth pastor wrote me how he felt we “wasted an
opportunity to preach @ our sold out house of blues show, though (he)
can see Christ in our actions, lyrics, and lifestyle.” I asked him “if you saw Christ in our actions, lyrics, and lifestyle ,did we not preach?” The thing is people bring into the music an expectation, if we do not fill that than we are not following Christ as they see fit.
The summation of my argument is thus…I have an audience of One.
one day i will have to stand in front of that audience of One and
keep an account of every action, word, (or lack of actions or words)
when i die.
I am not called to be an evangelist, pastor, or teacher @ this stage
in my life. Right now i am called to a band called Anberlin. If God
does call me to that in the future i am sure he will let me know
through other ways than a youth pastor writing me on Myspace.
I hope this does not come off as bitter, I am not bitter at all, just
stating an ongoing explanation of particular actions.
I write my songs based on personal experience, the overflow of the
heart so the mouth speaks. God is intertwined with my life in every
facet, and those facets of my life he is not intertwined with, I wish he
would rid me of. So it is natural for God to appear in so many of my
songs, whether ambiguous, in spirit, or by name.
I have NEVER sat down and said,”how can i make my religion a part of
this song… how can i market my faith so i can break in the christian
For those who market Christ as a product, there is a special place in
hell for them. Christ can not be bought and sold. People taint
something so sacred and beautiful and holy with a price tag.
i am sure that there are a lot of good souls (as starsailor would
say) in the Christian music business (jeremy camp being one) but as a
whole, my God in heaven, i believe that if Christ were to walk through
their temple (GMA) that there would be whips and tables flying in
Conundrum. me. the first part of this question i was asking people
not to judge my actions, and here i am judging others. oh well.
there is my humanity coming out.
Brandon/IVM: Your band is openly embraced by Christians worldwide. How do you feel about this acceptance and what would you say to your Christian
Stephen Christian/Anberlin: I do not distinguish between listeners really. i would hope that the entire world, no matter what race, creed, religion, or sexual orientation,
could listen and appreciate anberlin.
but i do understand that many of you reading this are Christians so
let me direct my attention briefly on those with similar faith. do not forget that you are a wretch. let me explain. in the hymn, amazing grace, we sing ‘amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.’ what (christians) forget is that
we are still the wretch and the only thing that separates us from
others that pass in and out of our lives each day is grace.
somewhere along the line we thought this priceless grace was owed to
us. we feel in some way that this grace puts us above others. we are
better than the homosexual or the prostitute. you are not. our
righteousness is as filthy rags. our good deeds or paying tithe don’t
mean poop. as soon as you believe that you some how have earned this,
or worked hard enough for this grace, you have lost the point
entirely. it is not by works that you are saved…lest any man should boast.
realize that we are still that wretch, and you should treat those
around you as above you.the more i sin, the more i fail, the deeper within my selfish nature i give into, the more i empathize with the prostitute who washed Christ’s feet with the expensive perfume. i have that whore. i am that homosexual. i am that beggar. i am the widow and orphan.
you are that whore. homosexual. begger. widow and orphan.
when you forget that, you are no better than the Pharisees and
saducees that Christ himself rebuked repeatedly.
grace. it is for everyone. act like it.
Brandon/IVM: What purpose do you feel we as Christians should fill for those of us working in the music market?
Stephen Christian/Anberlin: I believe that a great example of this is my dear friend Chad Johnson
that works with tooth and nail records. he has one hand in the
workplace and one hand working for furtherance of his faith. yet his
hands are connected onto the same body, and that’s how we should be. Just because we are followers of The Way does not mean that we can not be connected to the world and its happenings. We can not be naive to what is happening around us. (james
1:27 says ‘unspotted’ but there is a difference between connected and
unspotted)to a jew we become a jew, to the greek a greek, i become all things
to all people that i may help others find what i have found
(paraphrase to keep the christian -ese to a minimal).
we need to set the example and the bar. we need to be the hardest
working and complain the least. we need to bring hope in a very dark
industry. we need to show the love and grace that was extended to us
to those who view ‘sex, drugs, and rock and roll’ as a requirement on
the job application. we need to set our self’s apart and not above. im
going to write that again. we need to set our self’s apart and not
above.*thanks chad for being a wonderful example
Brandon/IVM: How has your faith affected your presence on tour and on stage as a performer. What is like going out on tour with big time rock bands and still holding on to your faith, sharing with others around you?
Stephen Christian/Anberlin: This a tricky question because i am not here to pat myself on the back by running down the list of who’s, and where’s, and how’s . so i will say this; i try my best to preach the gospel at all times and when necessary using words. as far as those of you who are pursuing music as a career and will one day go out with general market bands: know what you believe, know why you believe. concentrate on a strong foundation between you and God. that is what is going to keep the momentum of faith pushing you through the hardest and most temptation filled moments of this
Brandon/IVM: How do you feel about Christian individuals who choose to share their Faith through the music they compose. If we are to encourage freedom of expression and thought, should Christian artistry be accepted? Do you feel there is a certain level of intolerance in the music scene at large for Christian Artists?
Stephen Christian/Anberlin: Honestly christian music as a whole isn’t that good. its not that the
‘outside’ world is intolerant its that christian music is not talented
in the least. we follow whatever the rest of the world is doing, but
about five years to late. if they have a boy band… we will start a
boy band a couple years later. ‘they’ have a creed band, well we will
start one. for God being the creative force perpetuating this universe
we sure are unoriginal!
Christians who do come up with something new and are TALENTED still
shine in the general market regardless of belief system. look at
underoath, zao, mae, further seems forever, juliana theory, etc.
i think the christian church stifles creativity. we have labeled art
and the arts and psuedo-homosexual so pastors/priests shy away. which
is ridiculous. david danced naked before the alter, but if someone
wanted to simply show God how in love with him they were by dancing
(fully clothed) they would be excommunicated. paul shaved his head as
a vow to God, but if we have a tattoo with the same meaning we are
ostracized. in other words there needs to be a revolution of creativity in the church and maybe in a couple of generations we wont be copies* of
everything we see in the music industry, but leaders paving the way in
experimentation. *side note. this is complete proof of our ‘copy’ mentality. if you go to a “christian bookstore” they have lists of which christian bands sound like what “secular” bands. sad. but true.
Brandon/IVM: What are your thoughts on young bands of Christians wanting to
play both markets just out of their love for their Faith? I know we can get
a bit jaded with age but some of the young at heart are really passionate
about their newfound faith. What is your opinion on the matter?
Stephen Christian/Anberlin: Purity of heart. if you really want to play both markets for love of
their faith than pursue it. but maintain the purity of heart not just
today, but in five years from now. there is a lot of money in the
Christian music business right now (it is the fastest growing segment
of the music industry currently) but don’t sell out.
but here is my enigma… if you are sold out to your faith why are
you playing the Christian market at all? does that make you a better
Christian by playing Jam for the Lamb fest ’07?
actually i think if you want to be truly sold out for Christ than be
the doctor to those who are not well. did not Christ say “go into all
the world and preach the gospel”? then why are you playing first
assembly of Christ in God’s youth group? you should be playing the bar
down the street. sure i there is need of edification of the Church,
but edify it then get out! for some reason we feel if one is sold out to Christ then they are a christian band and travel with only other christian bands and sign on
to victory in Jesus record label. how horribly warped.
but this is what it breaks down to… go where the peace is. trust in
the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto your own understanding.
in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.
Brandon/IVM: I’m not big on the Nashville Christian Music meat Market but how do you feel about the independent Christian scene or artists who are Christians making music directed at the entire world rather than a sub genre culture?
Stephen Christian/Anberlin: Good for them!
Brandon/IVM: What are your thoughts on social and world issues? Any certainissue that touches your heart and tugs on your soul that you’d like to touch on? What are you most passionate about?
Stephen Christian/Anberlin: Right now i am really reverting back to james 1:27. pure religion. i
leave in one week to haiti for two weeks where i will help build an
orphanage in a remote part of the country. i want to begin to get out
of this country at least twice a year from here out to help those in
need. but as far as causes i am impassioned about, World Vision is an
amazing organization that anberlin has been working with for some time.
invisible children has really touched me, if i could help them more i
would. mercy ships is phenomenal. but the most moving thing as of late
has been the killing and genocide that is happening right now in
Defar. it hurts. i feel so powerless in the situation. i never wanted
Rwanda (hutu and tutsi) to happen again and it is happening and i
can’t do anything about it. my hopes would be that everyone helps in whatever capacity to makethis world a better place.
“become the change you wish to see in the world”
Brandon/IVM: Okay enough of these questions, on to the fun stuff (and sorry for twisting your mind for a moment
Brandon/IVM: We now know that the great and wonderful Stephen Christian has a side project called the Stephen Christian Side Show Circus. Want to
Stephen Christian/Anberlin: wow is that the name of it? hahaha great. well there it is ladies and gentlemen.no i am not sure the name of it just yet. but there is one song that aaron marsh (copeland) and myself have worked on up on
stephenchristian.us . *it is not mixed or mastered, but you get the
direction. i am really really excited. it is just another outlet. it
doesn’t have the energy that anberlin has but i believe its more
ardent and apparent.
Brandon/IVM: You’re recording your solo (or have recorded) stuff soon, how has that process evolved? What’s it been like going out on your own?
Stephen Christian/Anberlin: I love being on my own in the writing process. it has expanded my
horizons and taught me how to be a better song writer, i also play a
lot of piano and guitar on this project, something i have played
around with but not had much chance until now to do.
i have no idea what its going to do, or even where its going to come
out. but i don’t care. its one of those things in life i just wanted
to accomplish. so even if no one else hears it or likes it, i will
have the sense of accomplishment.
Brandon/IVM: About how many songs do you have prepared for the record (Solo record)? Who is recording with you (on instruments)? Will you tour solo?
piano/guitars/production- aaron marsh (copeland)
drums-john bucklew (copeland)
bass- louis d. (gasoline heart/the kick)
vocals- ana becker
violins- racheal p.
We have about 4 songs done. 3 unfinished and 4 that still need to be recorded.
i would love to tour on it but right now anberlin is on tour about ten
months a year. which leaves little time to expand my side project.
Brandon/IVM: Please don’t tell me that Anberlin will break up anytime soon?
Stephen Christian/Anberlin: No way. that won’t happen. anberlin is my priority.
Brandon/IVM: What label is planning on releasing your solo record and when
can we expect it to street?
Stephen Christian/Anberlin: I have no idea. i would love something like burnt toast or secretly
canadian, because i want this record to be more like art than a
Brandon/IVM: What is rockin’ your stereo lately? Any new bands that you’re
Stephen Christian/Anberlin: Wow. this could be a long one.
just went to an OURS show last night. it was a spiritual experience. i
felt closer to God than any church service i had been to in some time.
im really in to blues lately. buddy guy, muddy waters, johnson, etc.
im in a state of musical reclusion. we are about to record so i try to
steer away from anything that might influence a melody/vocal/lyric
line. so jazz/classical/ or blues are apart of the purification process.
Brandon/IVM: What bands have been most enjoyable to tour with?
Stephen Christian/Anberlin: All.
I cant think of one tour i regret. well one. but still.
everything is a learning process. we are about to go out with
jonzetta again. they are a new band on tooth and nail and are a lot of
fun to hang out with.after that we are out with the most relaxed guys in the business,hawthorne heights. then out in canada with the most adhd people in the business, story of the year. so its going to be an interesting couple
Brandon/IVM: Have you ever considered guest spotting on one of your favorite band’s records? Has anyone asked you to lend your vocals to a track or two?
Stephen Christian/Anberlin: I would love it. not a lot of people ask. though i did sing on a band
that i produced their record, they are called the vow and everyone should
check them out @ www.myspace.com/thevow
Brandon/IVM: Who do you think will produce the next Anberlin record? Any dream production jobs you’d most desire?
Stephen Christian/Anberlin: Aaron sprinkle will be recording the next record.
i am not big into producers, so as long as it sounds good i don’t
care. the rest of the guys are all into that stuff. they have the
stronger opinions when it comes to recording.
Brandon/IVM: What can we expect out of Anberlin in the next two years? Any big changes? Any chance for a cover article in a major music mag?
Next two years.
haiti in may.
headlining 2 weeks june.
hawthorne 2 weeks june/july
story of the year 2 weeks in july
and that’s as far as i know.
as far as me personally i would really like to get my solo record out
and my book published.
Brandon/IVM: Congrats on the recent radio play your single has been
garnering. That’s a huge feat in today’s clouded music climate. Is the
single on the rise, are more stations playing it? Any chance for KROQ here
in Los Angeles to play the tune? I haven’t heard it yet but I’ve sure
Stephen Christian/Anberlin: I am not sure about kroq. they are the top of the top. they can pick
and choose anyone they want. they have been out to a couple shows, but
still no word on them. i hope one day.
Yeah the radio has been quite a success for us. it is cool to see
people in the crowd that look like they should be at a tool or marliyn
manson show singing along.
Brandon/IVM: What has your hometown reception been like to your music? What
is the crowd situation like? Are a lot of people showing up?
Stephen Christian/Anberlin: It has been great. this was our first time playing house of blues
orlando (about a week ago) and it was sold out! it was amazing. the
best part of the entire night was just the smile on my families face.
everything else was extra curricular.
Brandon/IVM: Favorite food?
Stephen Christian/Anberlin: Mexican and Italian
Brandon/IVM: What was the last great film you viewed?
Stephen Christian/Anberlin: Eternal sunshine for the spotless mind.
i know its older but i just watched it again the other night.
Brandon/IVM: How do you feel about Disneyland in your backyard? Ha.
Stephen Christian/Anberlin: Overrated.
Brandon/IVM: Is it true they almost own an entire city in Orlando?
Stephen Christian/Anberlin: Yep. and then some!
Brandon/IVM: Do you guys have side jobs when you’re not on tour? If so,
where do you work and how is it?
Stephen Christian/Anberlin: I used to, but we tour way to much for any employer to give us a job.
but the last job i held was substitute teacher for the polk county
school system. my favorite was teaching 4th grade. old enough to spell
their name, young enough where they haven’t hit puberty.
Brandon/IVM: Last great book you read? What are your favorite mags to read?
Stephen Christian/Anberlin: I read like i am about to go blind.
i am currently reading ‘knowledge of the holy’ by a.w. tozer. it is
mind altering. he is my new blaise pascal.
11 minutes by Paulo Coelho (not for the faint hearted)
freakenomics- a economists perspective on sociology
and tipping point- marketing book
lovely bones* don’t read it. its really boring. drags on forever.
that has all been on this past tour.
but it is either read or play video games. so obviously i am no good at halo.
Brandon/IVM: Do you read Relevant, what do you think of it? I love the mag,
Stephen Christian/Anberlin: They have some great articles and I am a proud subscriber. I think its great. i called them when they came out with their first issue and said “its about time!”
Brandon/IVM: Do you ever read HM?
Stephen Christian/Anberlin: No.
Brandon/IVM: Dude, I am out of questions. Seriously, I have nothing left to say and I’m staring at my ceiling right now drooling for some odd reason.
Stephen Christian/Anberlin: Good because my fingers are plotting a mutiny that was so many questions. but its you brandon. so i’d do it again.
Brandon/IVM: Any parting words? Any prayer requests for us readers and fans of your band. How can we best support you guys when you’re out there working hard? I’ll be praying for you guys for sure. Anyway, take care and best of luck to your future and all that God has in store for you guys. Peace.
Stephen Christian/Anberlin: I think i have said quite enough. maybe too much.
direction. focus. that we may become men of integrity.
safety in our travels.
until we meet again,
Indie Vision Music