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Lincoln Brewster: The Musician Interview

  • 1999 6 Jun
  • COMMENTS
Lincoln Brewster: The Musician Interview
Lincoln Brewster Is Turning Up The Volume On Modern Praise & Worship
By Bruce Adolph, courtesy of %%Christian Musician%% Magazine

"It got to the point where I would be playing and fans would be screaming and grabbing at me, and I felt like I needed to apologize to God while I was on stage. I knew that I was not cut out for this. One night after the concert a woman approached me and I was thinking, "Please just go away." The Lord spoke to me right then and said, "If you don't want to deal with just her, why would you play for ten thousand others who are just like her?"" --Lincoln Brewster

{{Lincoln Brewster}} most likely isn't what you have in mind when you envision a worship leader. If you understand that he is aiming his musical talents at the population of youth instead of the more mature (and sedate) adults, that does help soften the blow, but not as much as you might think. Lincoln is pretty much Lincoln. He's passionate about worshipping God (and of course that's where all of us should be) but he's more comfortable with his Fender Strat in hand and his Marshall amp turned up to 10 (or actually to 11 if you remember who the underground film-star rocker Nigel is).

Lincoln plays guitar and sings his songs all-out, guitar pedals to the metal. We know you don't usually describe a worship leader as a pure rock 'n' roller, but Lincoln's guitar playing is more akin to Eddie Van Halen than to... well there just isn't anyone playing guitar like him on any P&W album we've heard yet. We've noticed that a few of the Australian praise albums and more and more of the English albums are more electric guitar driven. For years, American praise and worship has painfully pushed the guitars so far in the back of the mix, the guitarist might as well have stayed home that day. But {{Lincoln Brewster}} is one guitarist whose classic rock sensibilities hit head-on with a desire to lead youth into God's presence through modern praise and worship.

CM: Tell us a bit about your background.

LB: I haven't had any formal training, but I've got a picture of myself playing drums when I was in diapers. I started playing the mandolin when I was five. My Mom is a really talented musician, and when I was seven we'd play together in bars in Alaska where we were living. She taught me to play the mandolin behind my head, so I'd entertain bar crowds. When I was almost nine, a friend of my Mom's gave me a Fender guitar amp-my mandolin had a pick up in it-and I cranked it up and played this one chord on my mandolin over and over again. My Mom got me a Gibson SG when I was about nine and a half, and that was it.

My older stepbrothers were really into KISS, and I didn't know anything about what makes a good or bad guitar player. I was told that Ace Frehley was the best guitar player in the world, so that's what I used to proclaim. I ended up getting into Heart. Roger Fisher was my first guitar hero. I learned how to play "Barracuda" and thought I was really cool. In that tune he hits some harmonics, and I didn't have a tremolo bar, so I couldn't figure out what he was doing. Then someone showed me how he bent the neck, so, of course, I got into that. Years later I went to Seattle to do a record and the producer was a friend of Roger's, so I got to meet him and ask him about that haromonic, and he told me it was a tape edit.

I got into a lot of rock bands. I picked up a lot of different guitars along the way. When I was eleven I got a Chiquita, and that was my main guitar for awhile. I had a band then called Lincoln and the Missing Links. My Mom was in it; she played bass and sang. My stepbrother Andy played the drums, and we played in my Grandma's restaurant, The Porpoise Room. The restaurant manager paid me, and then I'd pay the band members. I did my best rendition of "Eruption" on that little guitar.

After that I got a Baby Dean ML, which my mom has now. It was a great guitar because it had a regular scale neck, but the body was smaller. Playing a Strat was tough because it was so big, but I started playing those. Next was a Kramer Baretta, and I got really into Van Halen. I always had Fair Warning in my Walkman and heard "Mean Street," and Eddie Van Halen became my guitar hero. When I heard it, I knew that was the sound I wanted. I saw an ad with Eddie and his Baretta, so I decided I had to have that guitar.

When I was ready to buy an amp I called to order one and when the salesman asked me what I wanted, I said, "Whatever will give me that Van Halen tone." He started laughing. "Don't we all," he said. I learned over the years that that's not really possible.

When I was fifteen we moved to Modesto, California. That was pretty tough at first. I didn't know anyone. In the high school there I took a guitar class, and ended up making some good friends. Then when I was sixteen, I got into a lot of speed metal stuff, and started playing really fast, and I felt like I really improved and learned a lot at the time.

I was thinking about putting down the guitar to go to college, but I got into another band and one of the other members who had a record deal helped me to get a demo together. So I sent off this three-song demo to a small label, and two days later the president of the label called me at home. He told me they wanted to sign me, but I ended up turning them down.

Right around this time I went to church with my girlfriend's family, and the pastor was preaching exactly what was going on in my life. So that got me thinking about the Lord, and what was going on in my life. Awhile later we went to a drama at her church on a Wednesday night, and after it was all over a little kid who had been in the drama came up to me and asked, "Is there anything you want to tell me?" So that really freaked me out. After that I started hanging out with this guy in LA who turned out to be a Christian, and so one night I was sitting on his couch by myself and I asked the Lord into my heart. It was the best night of sleep I ever had. That totally changed my life.

About that time Def Leppard and Poison were both looking for guitarists, but I didn't feel comfortable auditioning for them. A friend of mine ended up getting my demo tape to Steve Perry, and one night he called me and we talked for about four hours, and I ended up touring with him.

CM: What was that experience like? Did you do Journey songs in the set?

LB: Probably half the songs we played were old Journey songs. We did "Don't Stop Believing," and that guitar solo was a lot of fun. But just before the tour I got married, and so my wife was back in Modesto and I was doing this tour. It got to the point where I would be playing and fans would be screaming and grabbing at me, and I felt like I needed to apologize to God while I was on stage. I knew that I was not cut out for this.

One night after the concert a woman approached me and I was thinking, "Please just go away." The Lord spoke to me right then and said, "If you don't want to deal with just her, why would you play for ten thousand others who are just like her?" It made me realize I'd been trying to validate my playing through the size of the audience. How many people are important to God? One at a time. You could play for one person or a million people, and in God's eyes there isn't any difference. As Christian musicians, our focus should not be on numbers.

CM: Is that about the time you started working with youth?

LB: When I got off the road, there was an opening for an assistant music leader at my church. At the same time, I had the opportunity to play with Air Supply, and to audition for KD Lang and Night Ranger. So I prayed about it, and felt like the Lord was telling me that His Word was sufficient.

I knew then that I was supposed to take the job at the church, and about a month later I was in charge of the praise and worship for the youth. I had a lot of support and got more and more comfortable with it. When I put together my song lists I felt like God was giving me things to share with the youth. During that time I was learning to flow in the Spirit.

When I first started at the church the Lord told me, "No writing." So it was a long time before I wrote any music, but then when I felt released, I had never written so much so easily.

CM: You have a record out on Integrity. Tell us about that.

LB: There are a variety of styles on this album. There's a couple that is kind of crazy and up-tempo. Another is called "Broken," and it's got a really bluesy feel. One day I felt the Lord saying, "It takes strength to be broken," and the song came out of that. The chorus says, "I pray that I'll be broken/a spirit that's usable to you/I lay my pride at the altar/I sacrifice my life to you." Praise and worship isn't a type of music, but a lifestyle.