Born in Paducah, KY; married; wife's name, Mary Beth; children: Emily, Caleb, Will Franklin, Shaohannah, Stevey Joy. Education: Attended Georgetown College, KY, and Anderson College, IN; received bachelor's degree from Belmont College, Nashville, TN. Addresses: Record company--Sparrow Records, P.O. Box 5010, Brentwood, TN 37024-5010, website: http://www.sparrowrecords.com. Management--Creative Trust, 1910 Acklen Ave., Nashville, TN 37212. Website--Steven Curtis Chapman Official Website: http://www.stevencurtischapman.com.
The fast-growing popularity of contemporary Christian music has been greatly helped along by the songs and albums of Steven Curtis Chapman. The winner of four Grammy awards and numerous Gospel Music Association Dove awards, Chapman has gathered a large following of listeners, sometimes attracting more than 360,000 people to a concert. Although he has become a popular singer and performer, his songwriting skills have greatly contributed to his success; he has written most of the songs on his albums. In addition, other well-known Christian and country singers, including Billy Dean, Charlie Daniels, Sandi Patti, and Glen Campbell, have recorded his songs.
A musician from an early age, Chapman began playing the guitar when he was six years old. In his first-grade singing debut, he took the stage with his brother Fred in a school show that featured the boys' versions of Glen Campbell's "Try a Little Kindness" and Mac Davis's "I Believe in Music." The performance established a singing partnership that would last until Fred left for college. Chapman did not concentrate solely on singing, however; he took advantage of being the son of a music store owner by learning to play most of the instruments available to him.
When Chapman graduated from high school he planned on a career in medicine, not because he passionately wanted to be a doctor but because he felt he should pursue something practical. Before embarking on this conventional course, though, he spent the summer performing at the Opryland theater in Nashville, Tennessee. He enjoyed the experience, and during his first semester at Georgetown College in Kentucky, he decided to abandon his premed studies for a musical education. He transferred to Anderson College in Indiana to major in music, tempering the risky move by concentrating on songwriting. Chapman performed each summer at Opryland during his college years, but he continued to feel his best chance at a career in music was as a songwriter. He stuck with that decision after transferring to Belmont College in Nashville.
Gradually, Chapman was persuaded to attempt a performance career. During his college years, several publishing company and record label representatives suggested he could succeed as a recording artist and songwriter. Sparrow Records then confirmed those suggestions by signing the contract that led to Chapman's debut album, First Hand. Released in 1987, the LP was the first in a steady string of popular contemporary Christian albums for Chapman. A combination of country, rock, pop, and folk music, First Hand contains three songs that made it into the top three of the contemporary Christian music (CCM), or inspirational, charts.
The following year, Sparrow released Chapman's second album, Real Life Conversations, which carried the sudden success of the first even further. Several songs rose to the top five of the CCM charts, with two songs, "His Eyes" and "My Turn Now," reaching number one. "His Eyes" won the Dove Award for Contemporary Recorded Song of the Year. In addition, the album earned him another Dove Award, for Songwriter of the Year, and a Grammy nomination for Best Male Gospel Performance.
From the beginning of his recording career, Chapman has upheld a serious commitment to ministering to people through his music. "Since the fall of certain religious leaders," Chapman commented in Billboard, "a lot of people are viewing Christianity with a certain amount of skepticism. How I personally respond to that, how I handle that is important. 'For Who He Really Is' [from the album Real Life Conversations] is my heart's cry."
Billboard said of Chapman's 1990 release, For the Sake of the Call: "Like previous releases, [it] contains plain-spoken spiritual insights, set to pleasant, hummable AC/pop music. Chapman is an affable and appealing artist, but his lyrics are never lightweight." The musician has explained that his lyrics are developed only after serious research and preparation; for the 1990 album, for example, he acknowledges the influence of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's book The Cost of Discipleship.
Although some reviews accused For the Sake of the Call of following a Christian-radio formula, listeners made it Chapman's most popular release yet. Five songs rose to number one on the CCM chart, and the LP itself hit the very top of the CCM Top 50 albums chart. The album led once again to his recognition at the Grammys--this time for Best Pop Gospel Album--and at the Dove awards ceremony for songwriter of the year. In addition, For the Sake of the Call became Chapman's first LP to win the Dove Award for contemporary album of the year.
The sweep of awards continued for Chapman's next two albums, The Great Adventure and Heaven in the Real World. Not only did new Grammy awards and Dove awards attest to his popularity, but he received numerous American Songwriter Magazine Awards, CCM Reader Awards, and recognition in the Campus Life Readers' Choice Poll. His Great Adventure tour covered 70 cities, and in some places, he played before crowds of more than 360,000. His mid-1990s Heaven in the Real World tour covered 70 cities in the United States and took him to 30 cities around the world, including ones in South Africa, South America, Europe, and Asia.
The Heaven in the Real World album marked a transition for Chapman into a new level of musical and marketing sophistication. The artist recorded the LP in Los Angeles rather than in Nashville and was joined by veteran studio musicians. Ed Cherney, who has worked with pop stars Bonnie Raitt and Don Was, handled the recording and mixing. With Heaven in the Real World, Chapman became one of the first contemporary Christian musicians to benefit from industry-wide SoundScan retail tracking and wider viewing of contemporary Christian videos. Such factors prompted Billboard's Bob Darden to declare that "Chapman is poised to do what [country superstar] Garth Brooks did a few years ago, only in a different genre of music."
Chapman's immense popularity in the contemporary Christian music realm was further cemented in 1995, when he won six Dove awards. The year 1995 also saw the release of Chapman's Music of Christmas album. He quickly followed this with Signs of Life in 1996. More Dove awards followed, and he landed his fourth Grammy for Best Contemporary Gospel Album in 1999 for Speechless. Chapman picked up several more Dove awards for Speechless, including the Dove award for Contemporary Album of the Year, Artist of the Year, and Male Vocalist of the Year. His 2001 album, Declaration, also won him a Dove award for Contemporary Album of the Year award. In 2003, Chapman took home his first American Music Award, for Favorite Artist in Contemporary Inspirational Music.
Through all of his successes, Chapman has kept sight of his priorities. "My goal isn't just to share what I believe," Chapman proclaimed in a Sparrow Records press biography, "it is to show that belief is important, that it can make a difference, that there can be meaning to all of this we're going through."
Despite the increased sophistication in his production and marketing methods and some speculation over whether he will attempt to "cross over" to the mainstream pop market, Chapman continues to dedicate his musical talent to sharing his religious ideas. In addition to composing and performing music, Chapman has also found time to start a charitable organization with his wife, Mary Beth Chapman. Shaohannah's Hope, named after the couple's adopted daughter, helps orphaned children find homes.
by Susan Windisch Brown and Michael Belfiore
Steven Curtis Chapman's Career
Signed contract with Sparrow Records, mid-1980s; released debut album, First Hand, 1987; released Real Life Conversations, 1988; released More to This Life, 1989; released For the Sake of the Call, 1990; released The Great Adventure, 1993; released Heaven in the Real World, 1994; released Music of Christmas, 1995; released Signs of Life, 1996; released Greatest Hits, 1997; released Speechless, 1999; released Declaration, 2001; released All About Love, 2002.
Steven Curtis Chapman's Awards
Grammy Awards, Best Pop Gospel Album for For the Sake of the Call, 1992, The Great Adventure, 1993, The Live Adventure, 1994, and Speechless, 1999; Dove Awards, Songwriter of the Year, 1989-95 and 1997-98; Contemporary Recorded Song of the Year for "His Eyes," 1989, "Go There with You," 1994, "Heaven in the Real World," 1995, and "Let Us Pray," 1998; Artist of the Year, 1990, 1991, 1993, 1995, 1997, and 2000; Inspirational Recorded Song of the Year for "His Strength Is Perfect," 1990; Southern Gospel Recorded Song of the Year for "I Can See the Hand," 1990; Male Vocalist of the Year, 1990, 1991, 1995, 1997-98, and 2000-01; Contemporary Album of the Year, 1992, 1993, 1995, 1997, 2000, and 2002; Song of the Year for "The Great Adventure," 1993; American Music Award, Favorite Artist in Contemporary Inspirational Music, 2003.
- Selected discography
- First Hand Sparrow, 1987.
- Real Life Conversations Sparrow, 1988.
- More to This Life Sparrow, 1989.
- For the Sake of the Call Sparrow, 1990.
- The Great Adventure Sparrow, 1992.
- The Live Adventure Sparrow, 1993.
- Heaven in the Real World Sparrow, 1994.
- Music of Christmas Sparrow, 1995.
- Signs of Life Sparrow, 1996.
- Greatest Hits Sparrow, 1997.
- Speechless Sparrow, 1999.
- Declaration Sparrow, 2001.
- All About Love Sparrow, 2002.
- Billboard, December 10, 1988; December 17, 1988; March 23, 1991; October 31, 1992; April 17, 1993; July 30, 1994; August 6, 1994; February 25, 1995; May 6, 1995.
- Cash Box, August 1994.
- Detroit Free Press, November 11, 1994.
- "Dove Awards History," Dove Awards, http://www.doveawards.com/history/ (January 21, 2004).
- Recording Academy Grammy Awards, http://www.grammy.com/awards/search/index.aspx (January 21, 2004).
- Shaohannah's Hope, http://www.shaohannahshope.org (January 21, 2004).
- "Steven Curtis Chapman," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (January 21, 2004).
- Steven Curtis Chapman Official Website, http://www.stevencurtischapman.com (January 21, 2004).
- Additional information for this profile was obtained from Sparrow Records publicity materials.