Steven Curtis Chapman is quite arguably the most regarded and esteemed singer, songwriter and even musician in Christian music today and is certainly the most awarded. With five Grammy awards and fifty-four Dove awards (more than any other artist in the industry) under his belt, Chapman is the essence of success. His albums have sold over ten million copies in the U.S. and around the world and garnered forty-four Number One singles.
He was born in Paducah, Kentucky, on November 21, 1962 to Herb and Judy Chapman. Judy was a stay-at-home mom, caring for Steven and his three-year-old brother Herb Jr. Herb Sr., Steven’s dad, was an amateur country singer and songwriter who turned down a career in country music to be a “present and accounted for” husband and dad. Herb Sr. was told he could be a star by career advisers who had worked with Elvis, but unfortunately, the number of concert dates and amount of travel involved would mean giving up his job as family man. He said no.
Herb Sr. ran his own music store, which originally started out in the garage of the Chapman home, in town during the day and continued writing his own songs in the evenings. He remembers Steven being interested in the sounds coming from the guitar, even as a toddler. Herb Sr. and several of his musician friends began performing folk and bluegrass music around Paducah, the sounds of which would later influence much of Steven’s early career in contemporary Christian music. He was given his first guitar at the young age of six, after spending several hours in his father’s store. After showing family and friends he was a natural with the instrument, Steven began playing with his brother Herb, who enjoyed singing popular Christian songs of the day, at school talent shows, musicals and church events. Wherever they went, the Chapman Boys made a huge impression.
Steven’s parents rededicated their lives to Christ after a few months of marriage trouble and Steven accepted Christ into his heart at the age of eight. “I remember being in church one Sunday morning and just knowing that the Lord was calling me,” Steven said. “I went forward and accepted Christ and it was a very real commitment.”
Throughout their middle and high school years, the Chapman brothers continued to perform their original songs, with titles such as “I Believe in Music” and “Try A Little Kindness”, both of which were said to be crowd favorites. During this time, Steven began to teach himself piano, in addition to his continuing guitar practice, as he was heavily influenced by the popular music of Dallas Holm, the Doobie Brothers and Jim Croce. The Chapman Brothers duo came to a crashing end when Herb went off to college, leaving Steven to perform solo gigs, the first of which came in the form of a high school luau party. Steven remembers being a nervous wreck and running off stage as soon as he was finished.
After landing a summer job at Opryland U.S.A., in Nashville, Tennessee, just before his freshman year at Georgetown College, Steven met Danny Daniels, talented piano player for Danny Gaither, brother to the renowned Bill Gaither. Steven and Danny became close friends and began practicing together on weekends. These practice and rehearsal sessions would have a lasting impact upon Steven’s musical career. Steven’s songs soon got into the hands of Danny’s contacts and, after much prayer and encouragement from family and friends, Steven transferred schools to Anderson University (home of the Gaithers), declaring a major in music business (he was previously a pre-medicine major).
While at Anderson College, Steven shared a mailbox with a girl named Mary Beth, whose last name, oddly enough, was also Chapman. The two eventually began to date casually, with escorted walks to class and those famous “accidental” meetings, all ingeniously planned by Steven. Their first, “official” date was almost a disaster, as Steven was two hours late. Perhaps this was God’s way of preparing them for the life they would soon have together. Mary Beth said she was constantly listening to Steven sing and write songs in the music rehearsal rooms on campus, often until the wee hours of the morning.
Needless to say, the two quickly fell in love and, as Steven says, “Marrying Mary Beth was never a question of if, but when . . . I wasn’t Steven Curtis Chapman then. I wasn’t a star. I was just Steve Chapman, a kid who sat in college rehearsal rooms and wrote songs. And she loved me for who I was, not what I did. And that was how I loved her too.” They were married on October 10, 1984.
Ironically, after a year and a half at Anderson, Steven transferred again to Belmont College (Nashville), with the goal of engaging himself in their acclaimed music program. Steven was soon performing on the stages at Opryland, allowing him to sharpen his performance skills in front of larger crowds than he had ever seen.
Less than a year into their marriage, Mary Beth became pregnant with Emily, the first of three children they would have together. Steven’s music career was just beginning to take off. As if balancing a marriage, a newborn and a blossoming career wasn’t enough, a fire soon destroyed the couple’s tiny, one-bedroom apartment, consuming all their possessions. They had no insurance and were forced to stay with friends for three months, sleeping on floors and couches. Their second child, Caleb, was born in 1989, and at five weeks old, “was diagnosed with a life-threatening medical problem that required surgery.” Caleb recovered well and in 1991, Will Franklin was born. Close friends and family of Steven have testified for years of Steven’s determination to juggle his professional calendar with his family calendar and remain strongly connected to his church.
One of Steven’s first concerts was at Tennessee Technological University, where he performed for the Baptist Student Union, before a crowd of fifteen. Steven began using his full name, as Steve & Annie Chapman were a well known act of the day. He would drive from town to town, school to school, toting his borrowed sound equipment in the back of his Ford van, music instruments in tow in a rented U-Haul trailer behind. Steven endured several instances of technical difficulties and last minute problems, all of which would only sharpen his performing skills for the future fame that was to come.
Chapman’s first three albums, First Hand, Real Life Conversations and More to This Life resulted in twelve Top Ten radio hits, six of which became number one hit singles. “I Will Be Here”, a song written about his love and commitment for Mary Beth, soon became a classic song throughout the nation and was used by countless couples for weddings and anniversary parties. His album sales went through the roof, coupled with booming concert attendance, both of which established him as a dominating force in contemporary Christian music. Steven received a Grammy nomination after two years of recording, for his Real Life Conversations album. In addition, he received his first Dove Award for Songwriter of the Year and Contemporary Song of the Year. (“His Eyes”) His six Dove nominations subsequently tied with popular singer Amy Grant.
In 1992, Steven’s For the Sake of the Call album, greatly influenced by The Cost of Discipleship, written by author Dietrich Bonhoeffer, won a Grammy award for Best Pop Album. Because of the success of the album, Steven began touring with a full band and stage crew. He went on to release The Great Adventure album, during which he collaborated with Toby “Mac” McKeeham of renowned Christian group D.C. Talk, as well as BeBe Winans and Ricky Skaggs. This album also allowed Steven to enter the world of music videos, where his signature Christian rock ‘n’ roll style became a fan favorite.
Aside from immense success with music, Chapman has dedicated much of his life to addressing seemingly hopeless issues in society. He is known for early, extensive work with Chuck Colson, head of the Prison Fellowship Ministry. Steven’s interactions with prisoners inspired his song “Free”, which was recorded on his Signs of Life album (1996, produced by Brown Bannister). He has supported their Angel Tree Program, which has given over 10,000 Christmas gifts to the children of incarcerated parents. In 1995, Chapman released a Christmas album entitled The Music of Christmas, which received yet another Grammy nomination. His Signs of Life 90-city tour brought in over a half million people and allowed the album to reach gold status. Chapman won two more Grammy Awards in 1993 and 1994 and eighteen Dove Awards between 1991 and 1996.
In 1997, a Greatest Hits album was released, during which time Chapman began to “question his role in Christian music.” In a 1999 interview with CCM Magazine, Steven said, “It’s an ugly, weird thing mixing celebrity with the gospel. I’ve wondered many times if God really wired us to do what we’re doing, the whole Christian celebrity thing. It’s supposed to be about being a servant.” He took some personal time off to rest and reflect. Chapman’s song “I Will Not Go Quietly” was selected for the soundtrack to The Apostle. The entire Chapman family soon traveled to South Africa for mission work. Little did Steven know, two tragic events were just around the corner, ready to shake the foundations of his faith.
Steven’s alma mater, Heath High School of Paducah, Kentucky, was the scene of a violent school shooting on December 1, 1997, one which subsequently gained national media attention. Just over a month later, the eight-year old daughter of a close friend of the Chapman family was killed in a horrible automobile accident. As a result of the brokenness Steven says he felt inside, he wrote his Speechless album in 1999 - an artistic expression of his pain and restlessness. The project was said to be, “one of the most innovative and confident projects” of Chapman’s career. In addition to the album, Steven co-authored a book with his pastor Scotty Smith (the first of two to date), called Speechless: Living In Awe of God’s Disruptive Grace (Zondervan Publishers). The book was an example of Chapman’s amazing ability to branch out beyond the realms of songwriting and performing music.
Chapman’s continued success over the years is obvious. He has gone on to release several groundbreaking, award-winning albums, including The Great Adventure (1992), Heaven in The Real World (1994), Declaration (2001), All About Love (2002), All Things New (2004), All I Really Want for Christmas (2005), The Abbey Road Sessions (2005) and This Moment (2007), as well as Beauty will Rise, a 2009 collection of twelve new and profound songs. Created in the past 18 months in the walk through the darkness of the loss of his daughter Maria, and while God continues to meet him there on the journey. Part lament, part praise, part grief, part hope, part wrestling, part pondering; these tracks resonate as Steven's personal Psalms. It is a desperately hopeful, raw, personal, and honest recording that is likely the most important of his already incredible 20-plus year ministry. He boasts several music video DVDs and has co-authored a second book with Pastor Scotty Smith, Restoring Broken Things, a book released with his All Things New album.
Recently, Steven and his wife Mary Beth have become profound supporters and advocates for adoption, establishing their own agency Shaohannah’s Hope, named after their first adopted daughter from China. The couple has gone on to adopt two other girls from China, Stevey-Joy and five-year-old Maria, the latter of which was recently and tragically killed in a home accident, in which one of Steven’s teenage sons accidentally struck the girl in the driveway of their Tennessee home, while driving the family SUV. Friends, family and fans all over the world have made their condolences known through e-mails and countless comments left on Chapman’s MySpace page. Steven’s oldest biological daughter, Emily, who is also recently engaged, played an instrumental role in encouraging her parents to adopt children from China. Caleb Chapman has also just completed high school, as his graduation was scheduled close to the time of Maria’s fatal accident.
Without a doubt, Steven Curtis Chapman has and continues to be tested by fire, as is true with so many of those who labor for the Lord Jesus Christ. He has withstood more than his fair share of tribulations, but has emerged as a solid man of faith and an example for Christians around the world. His music continues to inspire countless listeners and appeals to audiences in ways unprecedented in the history of Christian music. His life will leave a lasting impression and legacy upon the industry and this Earth long after he has passed from it.
Steven Curtis Chapman returns with his new album re:creation. The new album features five new songs from Steven including the first single “Do Everything”, and all-new recordings of his eight biggest hits. The entire album has a progressive and fresh acoustic sound, which reflects the energy and life found in the songs. The title speaks to the actual re:creation of these songs, which are re-imagined and re-recorded in a new musical space. More and most importantly though, the word re:creation speaks to the new life God is creating . . . re-creating . . . for Steven and his family as they walk forward in their lives.
“I wrote the song “Do Everything” really to remind myself and also to encourage others that everything matters; everything we do can be done as an act of worship,” says Steven. “I Corinthians 10 says, “Whatever you do, do it for the glory of God.” There’s this tendency it seems to think of life with this line drawn down the middle where there’s the spiritual stuff on one side and then just the stuff of life on the other. Really though, I think God wants us to remember, and I’m trying to learn, that whether it’s walking the dog, washing the dishes, taking out the trash . . . to the really big spiritual moments, that all of that can be done as an act of worship and everything can be done to bring glory to the God who made us for that very purpose.”