Artist Interviews
Casting Crown's Mark Hall - Jan 7th 2008

This is from a phone interview with Mark. The bold text are questions/comments. Some unnecessary text has been removed, and some sentences have been tweaked to make them more readable.

As a band, who are some of your influences?

Well, I’ve been listening exclusively to Christian music for probably fourteen years so I would say it started with people like Steven Curtis Chapman and DC Talk, groups like that. We, right now, we’re really into groups like Third Day, Delirious, Toby Mac. Now there are groups like Leeland. If it’s got Jesus in it we listen to it. We like a lot of hip hop. There’s a group called Red I listen to a lot.

Do you see a large cross section of people at your shows?

At our concerts you have from 70 to 7 there. That’s pretty cool.

How have you made the transition from being strictly a worship band?

Well, we still are. We lead every Wednesday night with our youth group. I’m a youth pastor at Eagle’s Landing in Atlanta. To me, worship songs integrate with ministry songs. It’s all the same thing so we never made a distinction between the two. I think songs do a lot of things. They exhort the body and encourage us in our walk with Jesus and walking with Jesus is worship.

How do you balance on the ministry side with being just on the entertainment side?

I think that if people listen to the songs they can’t think that (for) too long, you know? They’re gonna start realizing that we have a pretty strong purpose in what we’re doing. In concerts we really talk a lot and try to be as transparent as possible and wipe away any thought that you might have that these guys are like super Christians or rock stars or something. We’re just, if anything, less than ordinary and God’s letting us be a part of ministry anyway. That’s the ultimate goal. It’s not for you to like us and buy or CD. The ultimate goal is for you to not only walk with Jesus but to have a ministry yourself and understand that you have value in the body of Christ and that it (ministry) ought to be something you’re doing. You’re not a fan of ministry. You are ministry. So the best way to do that is to constantly remind people that we’re just ordinary Joes and it doesn’t take them long to see that. (laugh)

Your lyrics tackle some deep issues. Have you gotten any flak or encouragement for that?

We never had anybody come to us and say, “You have to lighten up,” or “Don’t be preachy,” or anything like that. We’ve always been like; we walk in and say, “Here’s what we feel God is leading us to do.” And like with Lifesong, the very first song, I had finished with the song Lifesong and I went to the label and said, “Here’s where I feel like we’re going with the next record and I feel like this is what it’s gonna be called.” And they were like, “Let’s rock.” You know? There may be that (criticism) somewhere in Nashville but I’ve not been around it.

Are your lyrics born out of real life experiences?

Yeah, these are the things that are going on in our lives right now. That’s what happens. The danger in being in a band is that you get signed and you go out on the road and all the things that inspired your songs aren’t around you any more. You’re just living on a bus, singing ten songs and telling ten stories and then going on to the next town. We spend the majority of our week in the body of Christ working with people and being a part of their lives, so there’s always the accountability to keep growing them but at the same time there’s real life stuff going on. So the songs that we sing, you know, they come from the ministry. They’re more a product of the ministry that we’re in every week.

How do you balance it? Do you just tour at certain times?

We tour mainly on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. So we’ll leave like, we’re not on the road this weekend but normally, like tonight, we’ll have Refuge with my teenagers and then meet back up here at Midnight, load on the buses and head out. We’ll roll in Sunday morning right before small groups start. We actually lead worship now a good bit here on Sunday mornings at Eagle’s Landing. So, my family travels with me, we do it together. That’s been great.

You obviously have a heart for ministry. Do you find it challenging or difficult to have to go out and promote an album?

Well you know, I don’t know. I think the team at Provident that we work with is so good. I never feel like I’m having to promote anything. They are really good at what they do. They are the best in the business as far as I’m concerned and they have a ministry mindset. Their ministry is taking that out of my hands so I just go out and minister to people at concerts. I wouldn’t know a promotion if it walked up to me…(laughter)…actually to a fault because we have a book that just came out (Lifestories) and they always, my wife always says, “You’ve had five interviews this morning and you never mentioned the book.” I’m like, “Well we didn’t talk about that.”

Well that’ll be my next question. (laughter on both ends)

Yeah…well I’m just not a good, I’m not a good self-promoter because I don’t think about it. But at the same time, things are going as well as they are and God has His hand on it and He’s surrounded us with people at Provident that do awesome jobs.

Do you want to tell everyone about the new book?

Yeah, it just came out, I believe, last month (August 2006) and it’s the stories behind all the songs form both records.

So, there songs are people you really know? They’re not just a figment of your imagination?

This was what was happening and this is the person that it was affecting in the song. The song is about this moment or this event. It sort of brings the song back down to earth. Sometimes songs can kinda get caught up in the clouds for you and then when you hear, oh, it’s just about an ordinary guy on an ordinary day trying to trust God with his life, it sort of brings it back down to earth. We’re getting tons of e-mails now, just on the book, the stories are really connecting with people and that’s pretty cool.

Name one band or musician, past or present, that you love

One would be Steven Curtis Chapman. I think his songwriting and the things that he has to say are just as vibrant now as when he first started. I think he still has a lot to say. There’s a new band called Leeland that we talked about. I feel like these guys are very fresh, very honest; a group of guys that love the Lord and I really appreciate their hearts. That makes it even easier to listen to the music. I’m more into the hearts than the music most of the time though. You know, you can have talent be hollow. They’re (Leeland) pretty awesome.

Do you listen to new music for possible influences or just enjoyment?

I just listen to whatever is around. The label sends us a lot of stuff. We get different stuff, like Interlink sends us a bunch of things since I’m a youth pastor and the Christian music that comes around us. We like all different kinds of styles.

What advice do you have for worship leaders?

A lot of times we get questions from musicians and their questions are always, “How do we take our band to the next level?” You know, we get things like that. That’s a question that really spooks me a little bit because I don’t really believe that there is a next level. I think that there’s the body of Christ and that’s it. Our talents and our gifts belong in the church and not just on a stage; but pouring your gifts into somebody else and recreating yourself, replacing yourself. To me, I think the body of Christ and pouring into the church is the ministry. If God calls you into something and you go around the world singing songs that’s fine. But that’s not the next level. A lot of the time we have this picture in our heads of what ministry is and unless you have an official title or you’re getting a check every week or you’re on the radio, then you’re not really in ministry. You know what? That’s just not in the Bible. I feel that God’s calling in your life is now and His gifts that He has given you are for ministry now, not for an audience and a platform. Pour into the body and draw out of the body more people to do what you’re doing. I think a lot of times we’re so focused on what could happen in a year that we’re tripping all over what God has for us today. So for me, man, it’s just walking with Jesus today and pouring into the people where you are and blooming where you’re planted.

If you had to pick one verse to serve as your life verse for this particular point in your life, what would it be?

I’m bad about having one. (Laughs) Psalm 1 is very precious to me because it shows two kinds of people. It talks about, says, “Blessed is the man who is not walking in the counsel of the wicked, who is not standing in the way of sinners and who is not sitting in the seat of scoffers.” And it says, “But his delight is in the law of the Lord and on it he meditates day and night.” The importance of spending time with God every day is huge and so is guarding your time with God. I’m a different person when I’m spending time with God on my own then when I’m not. So that’s a big deal. But the picture in those first verses is when you don’t and it’s a slow fade man. It starts when you’re walking in the counsel of the wicked. First you’re walking, then you’re standing and then you’re just sitting. And it starts with the people you spend your time with. It’s just a slow shut down. So that’s a special verse to me.

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