Callaway: My daughter is pretty impressed that her dad gets to talk with
Brandt: Well, I just
finished your book Making Life Rich Without Any Money. Iím a big
great to finally meet. Tell me, how did a Christian guy become a country
star. You were raised in the church, werenít you?
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.
was? Did I miss something?
did your parents encounter Christ?
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.
did your spiritual journey begin?
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.
did an a cappela boy know he wanted to play music?
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.
realized that unless I was making music and taking a stand both in
interviews, that it just wasnít going to matter?
do you mean by taking a stand?
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.
do you mean?
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.
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
it be amazing in eternity to see how God weaved all these influences
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?
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!
do the big labels respond to that?
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?
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?
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.
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.
have your priorities changed since you started in this?
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?
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?
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
you ever see yourself doing a gospel album?
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.
called my books 10-ounce missionaries. How do you see your CDs?
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
What is it that you love about Him?
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?
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?
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.
Visit Paul online.
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