Christian music pioneer Crystal Lewis is gearing up to release her new compilation album, 25, tomorrow, which takes 25 of the singer's best songs over each of her albums over the last 25 years and puts them on two discs. Lewis chatted with BreatheCast on the phone about her latest project, her career, and the Christian music industry.
This is part one of three articles we will be posting on Crystal Lewis this week in honor of her album.
Lewis was asked what the difference between 25 and a typical greatest hits or best of album is, and how she came up with the idea.
"Over the years, we have created and put out a small handful of compilations or greatest hits albums along the way. I think this one was significant for me because it does represent 25 years of ministry," she said, "I think in the beginning of a career at least for me, I wasn't looking ahead like, 'Some day I will be in the same industry a quarter of a century doing the same thing.' I didn't think that far ahead, so to be at this kind of milestone was kind of not necessarily surprising...but surprising in a weird way. 'How did we get here? This is crazy.'"
Lewis said narrowing down what would be on the album was tricky, and said if she had to make an album of her favorite songs the collection would be a lot longer. These songs are mostly the hits people would know, and songs that received play on the radio, not necessarily what she deems her favorites.
"We had way more material than we had space for of course, on two discs. We weren't prepared to do a lifelong anthology of multiple discs worth of music. 'So What could we do, what can we fit on two discs?' So I tried to just go chronological and just pick like one, maybe two songs off of each album that were kind of the significant hits if you will that radio played or people were familiar with. 10 years ago I put out a greatest hits. I've had four albums since then. So it's just a good representation of a good long career," she said.
Lewis' greatest of hits is "People Get Ready...Jesus is Coming" which was released in 1996. The song has a strong and powerful message that warns people to get themselves ready for the return of the Savior. Even 18 years later the song is still well known and has received an updated remix for the new album. The song was remixed by Peace 586, and Propaganda contributed a rap verse.
Hear the version of the track with Propaganda below:
"I think the message itself is the kind of thing that will never be dated. It is the same message that Jesus gave in the Bible and the Bible never goes out of style. It doesn't get irrelevant, it kind of just stays real and applicable to our lives. The message itself remains current," Lewis said.
She continued, "There are some songs that the music just needed an update. I was introduced to Propaganda a couple of years ago by my friend Peace. Peace I've known for at least 25 years. it was such a cool combination for me musically using a friend I've known forever and then using Propaganda, a new friend. Just making the music sound updated which then yes, it makes the message updated. I could not be more thrilled. It's so much fun and I'll probably never be able to do the old version again."
Christian rock band Spoken did their own remix of "People Get Ready...Jesus is Coming" in 1999 on their album ...What Remains. The sound matched their Nu Metal, rap/rock style a the time, "Spoken was on our label as well, Metro 1. I got to hear the recording and got to see them perform it live a couple of times. Yeah, love those guys." Lewis mentioned
The new remix is not the first time Lewis has worked with a rapper. She did a track with Christian hip-hop legend T-Bone on her song "Little Jackie."
"Initially T-Bone and I both were doing some work with a church based out of San Jose, and T-Bone is from that area of Northern California, and I'm from Southern California, and eventually T-Bone was actually signed to our label Metro 1. Since we were label mates and we had become friends, that just was a natural connection there."
Although "Little Jackie" did not make the compilation cut, Lewis said the song is one of her favorite tracks to perform.
Crystal Lewis' 25 will be released tomorrow and can purchased at the Metro 1 Music page. Remember to check back tomorrow for part two of the interview where Lewis discusses Christian music's growth and evolution throughout the years, and artists straying away from the "Christian label."