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Catching Up With ...Paul Alan

Andy Argyrakis
It's been more than ten years—what are your fondest memories of the Nouveaux period?Paul Alan I have a lot of great memories for a variety of reasons. Some of them make me laugh about all the crazy things you see and the folks you meet on the road. But probably one of best memories was playing Jesus Northwest Festival in Oregon, in front of about 10,000 people. The people in the crowd didn't really know too much about us at the time, but there was still something awesome about that moment. We sang our songs and the audience responded. During the same show, I felt compelled for whatever reason to quote John 3:16 and say, "We're not here to see Newsboys or Nouveaux, but to glorify you." And the entire crowd just put their hands in the air—it was a moment that transcended us. It was such a humbling feeling knowing we were involved in something that pointed a group of people to something much greater and more worthy of attention than we were.You had several singles with the group throughout the '90s. In your opinion, what elements helped radio embrace the material?Quick takes:

Where are you from originally?
Grand Rapids, Michigan

Favorite place you've traveled to?
The Pacific coast of Oregon

Best meal you prepare?
I don't—you wouldn't want to eat what I cook!

Pet peeve?
People who throw cigarettes out the car window

Your most annoying habit?
Being fidgety and chewing my fingernails

What makes you laugh?
Clever, dry humor

Last good book you read?
The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning

Last good movie you saw?
I don't recall the last movie I watched!

Band/artist you're listening to the most right now?
U2, the greatest band ever!

Band/artist that comes closest to your sound?
Matchbox Twenty, Jars of Clay

Age you became a Christian?
5

Your favorite Bible verse?
Proverbs 22:1

Last lesson God taught you?
Don't wait until you have a platform to make a difference in someone else's life.

Alan I think we were pretty honest with what we wrote, and I think people liked the vocal harmonies. The lyrics were infused with a certain amount of realism and empathy for the average person out there who might not be a "super Christian"—who might have problems, asking questions like, "Where is God?" and "Am I the only one who feels God is angry with me?"And then there was "Maybe Tomorrow," which was about being ready to someday meet the girl we would marry and spend our lives with. When we wrote that song, we weren't trying to write a hit single and had no idea it would connect with people so much. To this day, people still say, "Thank you for writing that song. We played that at our wedding!" or "I cried because I was lonely, but when I heard that on the radio, I felt encouraged because my future husband or wife may still be out there waiting for me." What I learned is you cannot manufacture hits—they just happen in spite of us! Why did Nouveaux connect? We weren't trying to write hits, we were just trying to connect with people's hearts.What was the transition like to start your solo career in 2001?Alan It was a pretty easy transition. I love the guys in the band and there were no feuds—we're all still friendly. But [in my solo career], I don't have to expend any energy on trying to get somebody to play this part and then have hurt feelings if one of their parts wasn't accepted. Now I just do what's in my heart and tell [my studio band] where to play the drum part or how soft to play something. I didn't have to expend energy on logistics, and of course, the personality differences are the hardest part of being in a band. Being married to one person is hard enough, but being married to four—someone is always having a bad day every day and we had to deal with that!What sound were you going for on your sophomore CD?Alan I honestly wasn't going for a sound. I just called some friends [who were session players] and awesome musicians that have [collectively] played with Brian Littrell and [country artists] Julie Roberts and Sugarland. I had some songs, so we got together in the studio to see what would happen. They did their thing and I'd say it turned out to be edgier pop/rock, maybe more like Matchbox Twenty or Jars of Clay.Do you have a favorite track on the project, and if so, what stands out?Alan "To Bring You Back" is the single that's out right now. [It's currently] #18 on the country/CHR charts, which is unheard of for an indie artist! We've got no [marketing plan]—just some friends at radio saying, "Yes, Paul's back!" with listeners lighting up the phones and responding to it. But by all laws of Music Business 101, I should have no chance. The message talks about the big defining difference between our God and anyone else who calls themselves god. Everyone else seems to have some other protocol like clean up your act or achieving something—it's all about their god being in someplace unreachable and then trying to achieve that connection. But it's completely flipped in the world of Christianity. God came to us through Jesus, and we can have a relationship with him.What inspired you to name the project Drive It Home?Alan That's maybe my second favorite song on the album because of how intensely personal it is. It comes from God's perspective and it's about a person who has gone into the process of trying to find themselves, asking the questions but still lost. "Drive It Home" is a figurative vehicle for the point of [coming back] after that period of wandering. Let's bring faith back to the simplicity of "home." It's basically the John 3:16 message. Let's cut through all the Christian subculture stuff—the religion, the Christianese and some of that veneer people feel the need to put on to be accepted by others. Let's come home to the basics of being dependent on his grace and love. We can come to Jesus no matter what we've done—he's not waiting for us to first clean up our act, he asks us to simply come home.Click here to read our review of Paul Alan's Drive It Home. You can listen to sound clips and buy the music at Christianbook.com© Andy Argyrakis, subject to licensing agreement with Christianity Today International. All rights reserved. Click for reprint information.