Chris Sligh: Christian, Rocker, and Christian Rocker
The former 'American Idol' finalist talks about why he simultaneously is and isn't a Christian musician.
BY: Interview by Lilit Marcus
Yes. No, 4Him and FFH [two other Contemporary Christian bands]. Not dc Talk. I had seven credits left to graduate, got called up the last day of the semester, and was asked not to return to Bob Jones University. I was a little upset at first. But, I just went and finished up at a different college called North Greenville College. It was kind of a healing experience. Coming out of Bob Jones and spending the next two and a half years at a great college that understood my view of who Christ is, was really kind of interesting and very cool.
Every year as there's a new season, there are dozens more "Idol" contestants trying to get record deals and trying to become famous. How do you make yourself different from them and stand out?
I think the difference between me and every other "Idol" that I know of—I've done a lot of research on this— is that I was the first to come in and have had a successful indie career before "Idol." I sold about 35,000 records completely independently. I played 75 to 100 shows for the last four or five years straight. I traveled around for years as an artist and had actually built up a following, had developed my songwriting more than I think any other "Idol" has. I'd actually won national songwriting contests. I have always thought of myself more as a songwriter than I have as a singer.
I think that that's one of the things that will set [my album] apart. It doesn't mean that I'm going to sell millions and millions of records. In fact, I don't know that my goal is to sell millions and millions of records, although that would be nice. My goal is just simply to be successful enough that I can make a second record and then to be successful enough to make a third record and to be able to tour most of the year.
I received phone calls or e-mails from 11 labels the day that I got voted off. It's because I had cultivated relationships within the industry. The way that I viewed "American Idol" is this: It was not an end all, it was just a means to an end.
And that's the difference between me and almost every other "American Idol" competitor. I was using it for a PR tool so that I could get a record deal and put out great music and hopefully the music finds its way to the people. All "American Idol" does is put me in front of 35 million people. I never wanted to win it. I never was in it to win it. I wanted to do well enough that I could get a record deal and sell 200,000 records because with the deal that I'm in right now, 200,000 records is going to pay me more than if I'd sold two million with a major label deal.
Why did you ultimately decide to sign to this label [Brash Music]?
I actually didn't sign with a Christian label. I signed with a mainstream label that happens to do Christian music also. Our main distribution is through ADA, which is a Warner Brothers independent label distribution. I had three Christian-based labels that were fighting over me, but I just didn't feel like that that's where I wanted to be. I did want to be able to make music that would go to the church. I feel like the church is my home. I've been a worship leader my whole life. I grew up in the church, and I really felt like I wanted the church be my home base, but I wanted the option to do more things.