Phil Keaggy: Making Music, Glorifying God
- Wednesday, January 10, 2001
Crosswalk.com Music Editor Matt Turner recently interviewed guitarist Phil Keaggy.
Matt: When you look back on the year 2000, what makes you grin the most?
Phil: Probably just how this "Uncle Duke" album happened. I just kind of created these songs as a gift to my uncle. My dad passed away 19 years ago, and Uncle Duke is very healthy, 74 years old, that's how old my dad was when he passed away. Uncle Duke just goes for it. He started writing these poems and stories and sent them to me in the mail the first time. I made a CD for him, and I'd say, "Here you go, Uncle Duke." Then he started faxing me more words and the heading of the songs. Say for instance, Too Much Green. It would say, "Music by Phil Keaggy, Words by Dave Keaggy." So he would send these songs, and head the top as if I'd already written the music for it. He sent about 23 poems and stories, and I ended up putting 11 of them to music. When he got a shipment of about 60 of them a few weeks ago, he just couldn't believe it. It was an honorary thing; I just wanted to bless him.
Matt: Has your uncle been a poet all of his life?
Phil: Actually, some of the words, such as Connie's Song, Poem Without a Name, and Hut City, those were all written in 1945. Then he wrote many of the other ones this year and in the past years.
Matt: Has this been good for you, working with your uncle and getting in touch with your roots?
Phil: It's been cool. It's also put me in touch with my uncle in a way that I hadn't made a connection with him before. I've always admired him, always looked up to him. He was involved in training Olympian archers. He's a pool shark, tournament pro pool player and all that sort of stuff, and he's my only living uncle. I think when it comes down to it, what really gave me a grin this year was seeing this album come together. Inseparable was an album with a lot of mood to it.
Matt: There is an intensity on Inseparable that is not as evident on other albums. Is that showing where you are now?
Phil: It's probably where I was in the midst of writing this. It's not so much that every song is a direct correlation to what I'm going through. I was reading a lot about events in the world and people and, of course, if you let it happen to you, the news can get to you and you start grieving for people and their heartaches and their hardships, and people that you know and love who've perhaps lost a loved one, and just heaviness in general. The Bible talks about how God wants to give us the mantle of praise instead of the spirit of heaviness. That's why the song Heavy Heart contains the message, "Children whatever you go through, remember I'm with you" and those kinds of things, and, "I'll always love you." When it come down to it, at the end of the day, the most important thing to remember is that there is a God who is real and who loves us, and that's what I wanted to bring out.
Matt: Some of your songs on this record have Scripture in them and are quoting Jesus.
Phil: Absolutely. I think the project I want to do next is going to have even more Scripture in it. I know that entertainment is entertainment and Christian music is Christian music, but Christian music doesn't save souls. It can encourage a heart and be a signpost pointing someone in the right direction, but it's the Word of God that has the power to save and change us and that's what I was hoping to do with the project in the future. I don't know exactly when and how it will begin, but I know that it's going to come. I think that Inseparable is a hard album for people who have a busy, fast-paced life. It's hard to sit down and take in a project like that.
Matt: Why the instrumental album on top of the regular album of Lights of Madrid?
Phil: The Lights of Madrid album was originally a 10-song album that I completed about two years ago, because I was wrapping up Inseparable about January last year. The year before, in January, I recorded the album that was originally called Touch of Spain and it had 10 songs. Then Word created this new label, Word Artisan. They said, "Let's take the Unison (which was a small company owned by Word) album that never came out and let's add five more songs to it. So I took Allegria and remixed it and added more instruments to it and strings, that and Inspiration both came from the Still Life album. Then I created Caliente, which is new, and Lady Slippers, which is new, and an excerpt from the Brushstrokes album, called Hungarian Suite, it's the last part of that which had a Spanish flavor to it, so I ended up doing that. I ended up calling Hungarian Suite Candlelight.
Matt: What's your favorite song on Inseparable?
Phil: I think it might be a tie. There's something about Chalice that moves me, because I think that's where a lot of people are at, and I tried to create something that would encourage people and realize that suffering is not completely pointless, God can use it in our lives. Not that anyone wants to embrace it, and it's going to happen to everyone at some point in their life, whether it's physical, emotional, or spiritual suffering of some sort. I was inspired by C.S. Lewis and Oswald Chambers. The content of that song really wouldn't have come into being without the influence of those men and their writings. I also like Inseparable a lot, which is why I did a reprise of it. I think it's a very interesting melody; Inseparable and Litany to the Spirit are the other ones that are neck and neck. I think those are the songs that mean the most to me.
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