Crystal Lewis released her career spanning compilation album 25 today, and BreatheCast decided her 25 years in music was something to talk about! The singer spoke to us last week about her top hits, the Christian music industry, and "labels."
This article features Lewis speaking about how Christian music has evolved since she began and about artists trying to escape the label of "Christian." Read part one of our interview with Crystal where she talks about 25, "People Get Ready," and working with rappers.
25 features 25 of Lewis' top songs over her 25 year career. BC asked her how she has watched Christian music evolve since year one when she was just a teenager.
"It's interesting starting in a music industry so young. I was 16-years-old when I first began recording professionally and traveling. At 16, 17 years-old you just don't have the depth of understanding. So it's hard even for me to look back and make a really great general summary of that," she said, "Back then I was like, 'Oh this is great!' I wasn't thinking as clearly as I am now at 44, and that of course is the hope, that you think a little clearly as you did at 16."
She then pondered for a bit and dug deep at music's overall transformation in the 90's.
"I would say having watched the industry grow and change, the beauty that I've seen is that I think it's grown in scope. I think that more of the world, especially with the addition of different genres like rap, even R&B and hip-hop, and course gospel. All the different genres that are within the umbrella of Christian music. That's grown, and the appreciation of that music has grown," said Lewis.
The singer looked back to the years when anything that was not gospel music or hymns was frowned upon and rock & roll was from the "Devil." She noticed as music began to change, so did the people and their willingness to see that genre does not define the intent and soul behind the music.
"Years and years ago, oh boy, we got flack for being a little bit to rock or too much of this or too much of that. Now today I think we can say, 'Thank God for that, thank God for the different variations of genre,'" she said.
Lewis added, "What is the point of this music that we do if it's not to reach and build each other up as believers? Also to reach the lost. We can not reach the lost if we are just staying in a little box. We have to be able to branch out musically and that opens the door to conversation to places that maybe that my music wouldn't go, or maybe a country Christian thing wouldn't translate in a rap neighborhood. I love that about the way that Christian music evolved."
Lewis was asked about bands and artists abandoning the label of "Christian" artist, or even avoiding Christian labels altogether. Lewis had an interesting perspective on it, and did not think it was necessarily a bad thing, but rather an opportunity for growth.
"I totally get it, I really do. I think that the CCM industry... a lot of the music gets made out of Nashville, and I'm not dogging Nashville at all, I love it and the people there, but sometimes the music that comes out of there all tends to sound really similar," she shared.
She continued, "I think today with the growing ease of making your own music on your laptop and distributing it on your own via whatever, Soundcloud or Spotify – Social media becomes a help to many independent artists and it's easier to move away from that."
Lewis went on to speak about Christian music finding the opportunity to shed light in the secular music world. By artists stepping out of their inner circle of the Christian music genre, they are able to fit in with other types of music and infiltrate the gospel there.
"Getting into other places that maybe, like secular places that are like, 'Ew CCM music or that CCM country Christian sound, we don't do that,'" she said, "Then to hear something really legit sounding with beautiful God centered, actually maybe moral lyrics, that can appeal to people. I applaud them honestly. I don't look at that necessarily as a negative as long as we remain brothers and sisters at the heart and not bashing any one genre or any one part of the industry just to say, 'Oh they're lame.'"
She continued, "That's not cool, I don't subscribe to that theology at all. I'm not 100% negative where that is concerned. As an independent artist, we've owned our own label for 22 years I think. There's been great moments, there's been hills to climb that are really really difficult. So I understand the difficulty in maintaining independence or even creating and finding independence. It is an uphill battle often. It's not the easy road."
Crystal Lewis' 25 was released today and can be purchased at the Metro 1 Music page. Remember to check back tomorrow for part three of the interview where Lewis discusses Christian music's power, staying genuine, and looking back at the moment she knew she was called to music.