Derek Webb always wanted to be that guy — the cool musician who sheds the “Christian” label, plays in clubs and distributes his records through a general-market label. But like the fate of many man-driven ambitions, God revealed a new set of plans.

Over the course of two years, Derek realized he needed to leave the comfort of the band he’d been part of for almost a decade and make a solo album geared exclusively to a Christian audience. But the road to his first solo album, vividly titled "She Must and Shall Go Free," was not an easy one.

“I had thought about doing a solo record someday,” says Derek, “But I’ve never been really ambitious about it. I didn’t want to control the whole thing and have all the responsibility.” But it was his better half, wife and singer/songwriter Sandra McCracken, who helped put his thoughts into perspective.

“When you’re single, you can be a little more reckless with your time, [and] it makes it easier to be on the road for years and years, make records and come and go whenever you want,” Derek explains. “Once I got married, [I had] to determine not only what I was doing specifically with Caedmon’s, but what I was doing in general.”

As he prayerfully weighed his options, he even considered leaving music entirely. “I was ready to come home and work at Krystal up the street,” Derek says, “if that meant I could come home and be with my wife.” But he also knew God had gifted him with playing  and writing music — even though he had no idea what that would look like outside of Caedmon’s Call.

Then, while the band was on a break from touring, Derek and Sandra hit the road together, playing mostly neutral venues where Sandra felt completely at home and where Derek thought he would, too. “I was up in front of folks, and some of these new songs I had written were a little more pointed about issues I saw in the Christian culture [and] in the church,” he remembers. “[The songs] afforded me the opportunity to speak a little about those issues, but it didn’t make any sense to do that in those venues.”

It was a struggle that continued to frustrate him until the tour brought them to a Christian college where Derek was asked to play and speak during chapel. “All of a sudden I felt completely liberated about getting up there and feeling like I could speak to a demographic that I believed to be the church.”

As more songs about the church materialized, Derek tossed out older songs he had planned to record. Even as he was working on the latest Caedmon’s album, he knew God was calling him to relay a very specific message as a solo venture. “I honestly don’t see it as a split with Caedmon’s as much as it is like a church plant,” Derek relates. “It’s like we can do more to build the Kingdom with us splitting into two entities. And I think the Lord’s going to use each of us better and has already used us to support each other.

“I’m so thankful that the Lord showed me this is what I’m supposed to do. I didn’t know where I was going or what I was doing, and now I’m completely resolved.”

The subject matter of the songs is a culmination of being immersed in Christian culture, addressing his own struggles and commenting on what his pastor was teaching from the pulpit. He notes, “We [as Christians] have such a hard time with what’s been given to us freely that we construct ways to earn it.… It can’t just be free. If this hadn’t resonated with me so deeply and the way in which I find my hope everywhere but the gospel … then I wouldn’t be able to do it at all.”


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