We appreciate Charlie’s willingness to graciously take time out of his busy touring schedule for this “Take 5.”
The title of your new album, The Bright Sadness, is intriguing. What’s the significance of the title and its encompassing message?
The title comes from an old Christian orthodox phrase that is used during the season of Lent. Several of the guys from the band were walking through Lent, and we had heard this phrase. It hit me in a way that felt really alive in my heart. At that time especially, it had felt like the phrase defined many parts of my life. The phrase looks at the horrific act of the cross and the beauty that comes behind it in the Resurrection. Life also has seasons in it that go anywhere from annoyances to horrific breathless moments to peace and beauty flowing. As we walk the gamut of the journey, the consistent thing is Christ walking us through each moment. I walk with Him because I have learned I am an ordinary broken human who simply needs Him, not because it is a cultural thing or because of my job or any title I could attain on earth. He, Christ, is my hope in this life. He is the bright in sadness.
How has your involvement with Passion Conferences impacted you personally?
It has impacted me deeply. On a larger scale, the people, ideas, theology, and music that you get to interact with in the Passion movement has altered many viewpoints for me. These people and ideas inspire me on so many different levels, and each time I leave a gathering with them I can see in a new way. On a more personal level, I consider Louie and Shelley and all the boys (Chris Tomlin, David Crowder*Band, Matt Redman) on sixsteps friends, and they have poured into my heart over the years in various ways.
If you had to pick a work beyond The Holy Bible that has changed your life the most, what would it be and why?
I’d have to say there are many books that have opened my heart and impacted me. Both Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer and What Should I Do with My Life? by Po Bronson are books that showed me peeks into human stories that were enlightening. Books by Henri Nouwen and C. S. Lewis have been beautiful works for me as well, but I’d say Soul Survivor by Phillip Yancey was the biggest work for me. It has the stories of many men and women that the kingdom of God came through. The stories are about all kinds of people from well-known works to hidden works, but the bottom line for me was the work of God through simple people.
“Mystery” seems to include multiple messages—not just the lyrics but the intentional choice of sound. What was your process in writing this song?
“Mystery” was built musically and sonically as the epic journey into truth that ignites hope. Lyrically, it starts with statements of truth about God and honesty about the human feelings of insanity and the lack of clarity. I was standing comprehending my brokenness during one noonday communion at an Episcopal church near our office in Oklahoma City. We were praying through the communion rites, and in the remembrance of Jesus, His work on the earth and His present stance toward us now, I sensed the power of His life in me and was reminded of the freeing gospel. I realized in a new way that the message of forgiveness, renovation, and salvation was not just for the church people who had discovered it, but that it was for the messy ones who are barely hanging on as well. The whole song changed the way I experienced the gospel and how I share it with people around me. As much as we know about Jesus historically and Scripturally, He is still a mystery, but a mystery that we embrace to bring us life.
Christ-following is a daily struggle, and The Bright Sadness seems to be a reflection of life—its rawness, its pain, its hope. How has this record enabled you to process personally?
The record was my personal process, spiritually-speaking. The prayers that are on this were the prayers that were slowly coming back after a time of me losing prayers. I prayed for faith, hope, and love from Jesus Christ for about a year. The rest was just awareness of God. Looking back, that may have been the point; to be quieted by God. With the loss of my words and ideas, He was able to pour into me. So as the prayers would suddenly come back in different, unorganized, surprising moments, I would jot them down and figure out how to rhyme them and put them into songs. My family and I have walked through, and still are walking through, really outlandish things. But through it, I have learned to be human and continue to cling to the one who made me, which is where I am my best. I live in Christ and He in me. As I walk the earth and journey through life I can feel the whirl around me, twisting things. But I keep stepping forward, and it is Christ’s life in me that keeps me walking and shining each step.