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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews

Wayne Kirkpatrick - Inside The Maple Room

  • 2000 9 May
Wayne Kirkpatrick - Inside The Maple Room

{{Wayne Kirkpatrick}}'s recording studio, where we meet to conduct this particular interview, is inconspicuously tucked away down a winding dirt road in the midst of the Franklin, Tennessee countryside. It's mid-morning, before most of Nashville's music industry creative types have started their day, and this house-turned-recording-studio seems appropriately quiet, comfortable and unassuming. A few gold and platinum records hang on a wall or two, and if you look closely you might get a glimpse of a framed photo of Wayne with the likes of Eric Clapton or Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds. But all in all, there isn't nearly the display of awards and accolades that have in fact been bestowed upon this revered Nashville songwriter over the past decade or so.

Click to hear a clip from "It's Me Again"

In many ways, you might say that this humble locale, with its inner musical sanctum known as The Maple Room, is very much like Wayne Kirkpatrick himself.

If for some reason you don't recognize his name, don't worry you've heard his songs. His solo and collaborative songwriting efforts have birthed such hits as "Baby, Baby," "Every Heartbeat" and "Lead Me On" for {{Amy Grant}}; "Place In This World," "Rocketown" and "Secret Ambition" for {{Michael W. Smith}}; "Lost In You" for Garth Brooks (as Chris Gaines); and the 1996 Song of the Year recorded by Eric Clapton, "Change The World." In addition to his other numerous works with Grant and Smith, Wayne's songs have been recorded by a virtual Who's Who of the music industry. Trisha Yearwood, Joe Cocker, Faith Hill, Martina McBride, Wynonna Judd, {{Susan Ashton}}, {{Rich Mullins}}, {{Kathy Troccoli}}, {{Gary Chapman}}, and many other artists have drawn from the wellspring of songs in Wayne's catalog. Country songs, pop songs, contemporary Christian songs, R&B songs you name it, he's done it.

Click to hear a clip from "That's Not New Age"

Did this kind of success and perfecting of one's craft come easily to a once-upon-a-time, wet-behind-the-ears songwriter who now seems to have all the right connections, and an impressive resume to boot?

"It amazes me that I've been able to do some of the things I've been able to do," Wayne shares. "There have always been challenges, but I do feel like my career has taken on a life of its own that I've had absolutely no control over. A lot of times I look back and think, 'Wow. That just kind of happened, and I had nothing to do with it.' But I was always motivated by music more than anything. Ultimately, that's what drives me."

That drive began for Wayne at the age of 14 when he had just made a major move with his family from Alexandria, Louisiana to Baton Rouge, and found himself the new kid in school. During a weeklong Bible camp, Wayne and his younger brother learned to play "Just A Closer Walk With Thee" on a counselor's guitar. Not long afterward, Wayne confiscated his brother's Sears acoustic, and began to forge his new-found life as a teenage songwriter. A few years, a few miles, and a few songs later, Wayne found himself at Belmont College in Nashville, Tennessee, and the rest is musical history.

So after all these years and all of the success, Wayne's newest musical endeavor is a much more personal one. A new collection of songs has made its way onto a brand new solo album recorded by Wayne - his very first. The project was recorded in you guessed it The Maple Room at Wayne's studio. Since all of the songs were written and recorded there, it only made sense that the project should be titled ==The Maple Room==.

Click to hear a clip from "Hanging By A Thread"

Of course, we had to ask the obvious question about this much-anticipated solo project - what took you so long?

"It's something I've wanted to do ever since I came to town," Wayne explains. "I've always felt like there was a part of me that had an artist buried down in there. I was approached about it several times over the years, but I really wanted to concentrate on my songwriting. I wanted to really focus on getting better at that - getting as good as I could get. Fortunately, I was able to make a career out of songwriting, which led into production. The more I got into those things, the more the artist thing took a back seat.

"But over the past few years, I really started feeling the urge to pursue the artist thing, but there were a lot of decisions I had to make. Who was I as an artist? I was writing a variety of different types of music, and it's easy to lose yourself a little bit."

Wayne's questions didn't stop there. He knew he had to try to choose a stylistic direction, and then find a record label that would support that choice. Because of his long-time relationship with Michael W. Smith, Wayne discovered a comfortable fit with Smith's own record label, Rocketown Records.

"By definition, this record is not a contemporary Christian record," Wayne says, "and it's probably not, by definition, a pop record, either. But it's the record I wanted to do. I've had trouble describing it, so I think I won't define it. I'll let somebody else do that. For me, it was just songs that I felt strongly about, that moved me at some level.

"I have felt like I've had to write in certain 'boxes' before, and I'm fine with that for the most part. But when it came to my own thing, now there were no rules that I had to abide by if I didn't want to. Now, I may pay the price for that, but ultimately, I wanted to get on record what I felt was in me to do."

Click to hear a clip from "Blame It On Your Mother"

And no one will be disappointed. ==The Maple Room== features a collection of melodies and lyrics that resonate a quality and craftsmanship we've come to expect from this songwriter. There is a depth to these songs that reflects a true gift, one that has certainly become a powerful tool in the hands and heart of a humble artist.

"The people who are used to moving other people are sometimes the most unlikely candidates for that role," Wayne concludes. "My hope is that this album will have some substance, but not be so out of reach that a lot of people can't relate to it. I really think I am the common man. I don't think I experience anything any differently than anyone else. We all have all of the same problems; they just have a different backdrop. Music has always been a powerful thing. I try to realize that there's a certain responsibility that comes with songwriting that I take with me. It's nice to know that something you've had a part in has touched someone else in some way."