Phil Callaway: My daughter is pretty impressed that her dad gets to talk with you.

Paul Brandt: Well, I just finished your book Making Life Rich Without Any Money. Iím a big fan.

Itís great to finally meet. Tell me, how did a Christian guy become a country star. You were raised in the church, werenít you?

I was raised in a place called The Gospel Hall and it was very legalistic with lots of rules and regulations. There were no instruments allowed in the church, just a cappella singing. When I was 13 I started playing the guitar and, hey; I was a teenager, I wanted to rock. But my mom really pushed me more toward country music because as that time at least there was some morality attached to it.

There was? Did I miss something?

Some morality.

How did your parents encounter Christ?

When I was about six their marriage was on the rocks thanks in part to alcohol. They went to a gospel meeting one night. My aunt was a crazy, ďborn-againerĒ who kept asking them to come and after the meeting she asked my dad, ďWhat is it in this world thatís worth holding onto? Worth giving up knowing that you will have eternity with God?Ē It really got him thinking. My mom came out to rescue my dad from his sister and she asked my mother, ďWhat is God to you?Ē Mom said, ďGod is love.Ē My aunt said, ďWhat does that really mean to you?Ē And she told her a story. She said, ďImagine you had to go across the street and get some bread and milk at the store and you left the kids home alone for ten minutes. While you were gone someone broke into the house and killed both of your daughters. But Paul escaped. He was underneath the bed and the guy didnít find him. Two years later they find the guy and try him and convict him and sentence him to death. And the judge is about to strike the gavel and you say, ďDonít kill him. Take my son instead.Ē My mom said, ďWhy on earth would I do that? Thatís crazy!Ē And my aunt said, ďThatís what it means when it says God is love. Thatís what Christ did for you.Ē It rocked her world. My parents didnít talk about it that night but they couldnít sleep. In the morning my mom got down on her knees in the laundry without knowing my dad was doing the same thing upstairs and they asked the Lord into their hearts. They met in the living room half-way in between and found out what theyíd done.

How did your spiritual journey begin?

I was six when I heard about Jesus. More than anything he was my ticket out of hell. But as I got older and got into the music business, suddenly I wasnít going to church because Mom and Dad wanted me to. I had to decide what I believed and what I thought. And I found that my relationship with the Lord really deepened a lot after getting into the music business and moving to Nashville.

When did an a cappela boy know he wanted to play music?

When we were finally able to listen to outside music, even Steven Curtis Chapman was risquť. It was pretty much Sandi Patti and the Gaithers. I remember praying at 13 or 14 years old and saying to the Lord, ďI really love music and I want to play music, but because Iím a Christian does that mean I have to do music that doesnít really sound very good?Ē I remember wondering if I be in the secular music industry and still be an influence on peopleís lives? When I finally signed a record deal it started to become the catch phrase of ďmaking a differenceĒ and being positive. And I found I was making music that was really nice but it really didnít offend anybody. Morally, it was like a cream puff. I ended up leaving the record label I was with and starting my own company.

I realized that unless I was making music and taking a stand both in interviews, that it just wasnít going to matter?

What do you mean by taking a stand?

When it seemed appropriate and when it was Spirit-led, I began to take a stand in the name of Jesus Christ specifically. All it was if I didnít do that was just really nice music that was providing people with a sound track while theyíre on their way to hell. So on this last album we just really took a stand with that on tour, Liz was on the road with me as well and we put a song on this album called ďThatís What I Love About Jesus.Ē Itís a very simple testimonial of why I love Him for what Heís done for me. Weíve never had more oppression during the tour. It seemed like a confirmation that we were doing something important because it was brutalóthe things that would go wrong.

How do you mean?

Nitpicky things that would wear us down and make us more tired. Little annoyances throughout the day, production problems, issues with things that we never had issues with before. Iím not a mystic. It was obvious that something was trying to thwart our effectiveness, which gave us even more resolve and made us lean on the Lord for strength.

That's the TruthHow do you live effectively as a believer in the entertainment industry?

I love people to have fun with my music. But weíve become cultural gluttons really. Itís like people just listen to stuff and say, ďOh, thatís nice.Ē Theyíll watch a movie and say itís great. But they donít realize there are certain worldviews that are being sold to them and theyíre like sponges, absorbing those views. I decided to go out there boldly and let people know about my worldview. I was playing a small acoustic set one night and a lady stopped the concert right in the middle of the show. There are 2,000 people in the audience and sheís down front yelling at me. She said, ďMy son is sick, I have to take him to the hospital and you still havenít played ĎConvoy.íĒ I said, ďWeíd love to do that song for you. And the crowd kind of goes crazy, a bunch of country rednecks. But I said, ďBefore we play, would you mind if we just prayed for your little boy?Ē And you should have all these cowboy hats coming off. I just prayed a really simple prayer and asked that God would bless this woman, that her son would get better and God would keep them safe. I said, ďWe donít know why bad things happen in this world, but Lord, itís not the way You designed it.Ē And just left it at that and went into the song. But everyone of those people left there knowing exactly where I stood. More than anything, thatís what I want. So this album has that particular song on it. Itís been an incredible album for us. Even the ballads reflect Christian values. The Bible says God has written eternity on the hearts of men. We need to present unbelievers with the truth. And if they get it, it gives you an open door to explain to them why it filled the hole, why that mattered to them. Movies like ďStar WarsĒ translate because thereís the epic battle between good and evil. Movies like Titanic work because he sacrifices himself for the girl. Unconditional love, it fills the hole. People donít understand why itís doing that, but when we can open their eyes it can be a great vehicle.

Wonít it be amazing in eternity to see how God weaved all these influences together?

I feel this movement of tolerance has just overtaken our culture so much. Logic isnít even a basis to start from any more. I think itís up to us as Christians to take that way of thinking and put it back in peopleís faces again. If you do tolerate, then why it is that you canít tolerate Jesus? Why is He the one figure that people canít seem to quite tolerate? And to do it with boldness, not in an in your face apologetic kind of way, but really itís only logic. And Iíve found that getting into those discussions with non-Christians is a lot easier than I dreamed it would be because for a lot of them, their tolerance is reflecting a lack of conviction with anything. If you can kind of get inside of that a little bit, itís a great opportunity to share what you believe. I feel like I want to that through my music and through this art of performing.

Donít you think people are tired of emptiness? That theyíre hungry to know that somebody stands for something? Have you found it difficult at times to keep your testimony in the music business?

Since leaving the label and starting my own itís been easier. I remember being with a major label and at that time labels were investing so much money in artists, theyíd spend a million dollars on the artist before they were even on the radio, theyíd spend so much just getting everything set up and for that they expect complete loyalty. I canít count the number of times I heard, It doesnít matter if you donít like the song or agree with it; youíre an actor, go sell it. As a Christian I realized I was a slave to something I wasnít supposed to be enslaved to. The only thing Iím supposed to be a slave to is Christ. And here were these people trying to exert control over what I thought He wanted me to do. I was only 23 years old, I didnít understand a lot of this stuff, I didnít have any background in business or being in public. So it was a real learning curve and God gave a lot of grace and protected me from so many things when I look back on it now. But itís a bit of a tight rope walk because youíre constantly evaluating, how am I coming across to the public. When I say this, what does it say to people? Whereís the line between good humor and taking it a little too far? Those are difficult things to try and figure out and I think the only way Iíve been able to get through that is with the support of my wifeósheís an extremely logical person and sheís great at seeing things for what they are and sheís helped me through a lot of those things. And having friends I can be accountable to and throw ideas past them and say what do you think of this? If I want to sing this song, what issues do you see coming from it? Anyone who wants to do something without compromise is going to run into times when itís difficult. Youíve decided youíre going to do things a certain way and that costs you. You give up certain things for having principles a lot of the time. We came out in 1996 with the top selling new male artist album in Billboard Magazineóa top 5 and a number one single, the first Canadian male artist to top the chart since Hank Snow. I was at the top of the game. I understand what it takes to be there and after experiencing it and seeing it I realized as a Christian there are certain things I donít want to do and that pulls me out of the game sometimes. And thatís scary because thatís your livelihood. But the Lord has always been faithful and Heís proven to me time and time again that He doesnít need manís ways to make things happen. Even after leaving the label I stood on the stage at the Canadian Country Music Awards as the host in front of 70 million people and won Album of the Year for a live acoustic record. Thatís not the way it happens. I stood there waiting to go out and receive this award and I never felt so humbled in my life because I knew I had nothing to do with it. What a freeing thing to be able to walk out there and thank Jesus for the provision and for the grace that He gave that project and my career. Itís just amazing!

How do the big labels respond to that?

I donít know. The music business right now is kind of the wild west in a lot of ways. Since the Internet itís really decentralized a lot of the labels and the control they had. So I think that they were scrambling a bit too much to notice little old me. It was pretty cool to go out there blindly in faith with no idea what I was going to do or how I was going to do it, but I said, ďLord, I know you created me to influence people. They listen to me when I talk and they listen to me when I sing, and you gave me the ability to make music, so Iím going to go do that to the best of my ability and you need to take care of the details.Ē So that was the prayer that Liz and I prayed and He answered. On a major label on the first album I sold about a million albums worldwide. On my first record on my own label I only sold 40,000 copies. But I made more money. And I got to do what I wanted to do and I got to say what I wanted to say and Heís freed me to do that.

How have you dealt on a practical level with some of the pitfalls of success that come along with this? What has really helped you in that regard?

My wife and friends from church are really good at keeping that in check for me and letting me know when Iím taking too much of the credit for myself. I donít like to hear that message, but theyíre faithful in giving it to me. The other thing is that things get really complicated really quick and start to stress me out a lot when Iím not being focused on being in the Word. Even ten minutes a day, as slack as that sounds to a lot of people itís an opportunity for the Lord to speak to you and for you to be in relationship with him. And you canít trust him if you donít know him. We need to get to know who he is as much as our finite minds can. After he came back from the grave Jesus purposefully left and sent his Spirit so that he could heal us when weíre sick through our brothers and sisters because he resides in us. Thatís why we need to be community as Christians and thatís been a big part of it to me, letting my brothers and sisters in Christ be Jesus to me and ministering to me.

How hard is it to be part of a local body when youíre on the road a lot?

Really difficult. We recently moved back to Calgary, Alberta. But we found it more difficult in Nashville where we lived for 9 years. It was a very isolating place. The Lord taught us some really important lessons about community while we were there and I think the way he did it was we got so isolated there both because of my job and because we just found it difficult to get plugged in to the culture there. And he withdrew community from us so much so that we hungered after it and really resolved that whatever it took, we would get involved in a small group and have a core group of people that we were accountable to and could just hang out with. Now that we have moved back here we are getting involved with a group at our church. We just had our first meeting the other day. Itís about setting that time aside and saying this is important to me so I canít work that night. Iíve got to be in town. Thatís very hard to do in this business and Iím constantly struggling to find balance.

You have a line in the song ďThis Time Around,Ē that says ďlike an hour glass that can never be turned again.Ē Explain why you wrote that.

I was a registered nurse for a couple of years before I started in the music business. I cared for a young girl who had cystic fibrosis and died right around the time I stopped working at the hospital and started into my music career. And because she knew that her time was limited, she just had such a passion to experience life and experience it deeply and richly. That really influenced me because I realized when I was taking care of her that I really was no different. We all only have a small amount of time and we never know when itís going to be done. Being in that profession brought that to the forefront with me. Time is so precious. The world takes that to mean you go out and live recklessly. But there is something to getting out there and experiencing this wonderful opportunity that God has given all of us. That little girl taught me that lesson really well.

How have your priorities changed since you started in this?

Iíve never done anything that has challenged what I believe more than this job. When you go out there to live your life youíre doing it in front of a camera. Everyoneís watching you and seeing if you are who you say you are. That can be a huge load but it also makes you take what you believe very seriously because when you go out there everyone sees what youíre doing. I didnít understand that as much when I was 23, but as time has gone itís been impressed on me more and more just how responsible I am for how Iím influencing people and thatís become a huge  priority for me.

Are there Christians who are critical of you for being a secular musician?

For the most part Iíve had extremely positive reactions from Christians. Once they really stop and take a listen to what it is Iím doing and the spirit Iím doing it in, theyíve been very, very supportive.

Are there things you feel you can do in the so-called secular music industry that you just canít do if you are limited to Christian music?

My wife is a musician as well and she has a real passion for ministering to the church through music. I think that my passion has been more about influencing people in the non-Christian community and show them why my life is different. I think thereís a place for both of them. The Christian music industry primarily ministers to the church and thatís great. But music in general is an incredibly spiritual thing. The first time itís even mentioned in the Bible, it was created for worship. And when I get up on stage and play the first three notes of ďConvoyĒ and walk into the audience, I see a charismatic church in that audience. Theyíre all raising their hands and theyíre worshipping, you know what I mean? And as a Christian I look at that and think, Man, where am I going to point the praise? Because theyíre pointing it at me; I need to figure out a way to turn that around in what Iím doing. So I really think from a grander scheme, being a Christian in the secular music industry is not only a way to influence people; itís a way to reclaim music for what it was created for. The enemy wants to take everything and distort it and twist it, whether itís food or sex, or whatever, all these good things God created he wants to twist and make into something itís not supposed to be. I hope the Lord uses me to redeem something thatís gotten badly off track, whether that is in the Christian industry or the secular industry.

Do you ever see yourself doing a gospel album?

Yeah, it would be really cool to do that. Thatís the music, the traditional hymns, that I grew up on. Historically in secular music artists used to do that all the time and itís become less and less popular. Iíve thought a lot about it and I think it would be really fun.

Iíve called my books 10-ounce missionaries. How do you see your CDs?

Iíll be going to Belize with Samaritanís Purse in December to deliver shoe boxes. My albums are like shoe boxes. Those Christmas gifts are a way to bless people, to give them something that brings joy and fun and excitement to them and it provides an opportunity to tell them why you did it. Thatís what I hope, that when people unwrap this album, theyíll find all the joy and the fun and the goofiness, but when they hear ďWhat I Love About JesusĒ they see the joy thatís in my life and where it comes from.

What is it that you love about Him?

I just kind of take all these misconceptions that people put on someone in my position, like theyíre a self-made man living life to its fullest, and I shatter that. Iíd be nothing without him, without his love. What I love about him is that he loved me so much that he died for me and thatís just the beginning. How do you describe what a best friend means to you? Itís the way He hears my problems and answers my prayers and the way He gives His love unconditionally.

When you strip away the trappings of success, what really matters to Paul?

A semi-religious Jew asked me about my motivation. I think we all have motivations for loving our family better and making a living and supporting them and all those things. I said, well, Iím a Christian and the command that Jesus gave us before he left us to love our neighbor as ourselves and to love him with all our heartsóthatís my motivation. I must keep that at the core of what I do. When I make that the center of what Iím doing my life seems so simple. It all just kind of comes together and the creative juices start to flow and everything happens the way itís supposed to.

What would you like to be remembered for when the last song has been sung?

For a long time I thought that a legacy was about having your name on a room at the Childrenís Hospital or being remembered for the money you raised for some great cause. But the legacy of all Christians should be that they pointed people to the Lord. Thatís how I want to be remembered.

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