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Gospel Soundcheck

derekwebbstockholmsyndrome.jpgI know many of you are waiting patiently to hear about my interview with Derek Webb. We had a lovely, long chat and rather than keep you waiting any longer, I thought I’d share the first part of the interview. You can click the file at the end of this post to hear audio excerpts of this portion of the interview, but for those of you who’d rather read, here are some highlights from our discussion:


I asked Derek to explain the title of the album, Stockholm Syndrome, to me. Stockholm Syndrome is a psycological condition where someone held captive basically becomes enamored with and/or sympathizes with his captor. The press release about this project said, “Webb uses this album as a means of exploring deep issues through the central metaphor of Stockholm Syndrome, illuminating the ways in which a society can fall in love with an oppressive culture and become enslaved by it.” I asked him to explain what that meant.
Webb says that while he was thinking about the songs he’d be writing for this new album in the wake of his last album, The Ringing Bell, the idea of Stockholm Syndrome had been coming up for him, “and I pay attention to that sort of thing,” he says. “I am pure instinct. I don’t make a lot of big plans and I don’t have some kind of an agenda or something I’m trying to prove or something I’m trying to accomplish. I mean, I’m doing nothing more than is my job to do, and that is to look at the world and tell you what I see. I mean, I’m a songwriter.”
He insists, several times during our interview in fact, that he didn’t set out to be controversial when he wrote the songs on this album. I ask him if he thinks the controversy takes away from the art form, or are the two so intricately linked that he can’t have one without the other? He says that’s a “great conclusion.”

“I really do feel like for me making art and the life I live and the way I process the world around me and the way that I try to communicate it, which as I said is my job to do, nothing more, nothing less, it’s all very, very integrated. So here’s the thing. I think people think sometimes misunderstand or misjudge me as some kind of a prophet or somebody who’s trying to say something all the time or somebody who’s got some big message and some kind of a big idea that I’m trying to communicate all the time. And the truth is I’m just a musician, I’m just a singer/songwriter. I’m just looking at the world and telling you what I see.

“I don’t go into records thinking, ‘OK what am I going to go after this time, what big controversy am I going to stir.’ These just happen to be the things that occupy my mind. I don’t know how else to say it. And as an artist, the resources that I have to tell my story, to communicate to people what I see when I look at the world, are melody and lyrics and rhythm. And I try to do that. I don’t do it intentionally to be provocative, I don’t do it intentionally to be a leader or communicate a message. I’m really don’t. I’m literally just a person trying to live my life and do my job.”

He adds, “Lord knows, there are easier ways to sell records than this.”
Which leads to another question: was the controversy surrounding the album created just to sell more records? Webb admits that completely understands why someone would ask the question, but adds:

“I can tell you that if my intention were to try to sell a lot more records and therefore I don’t know what the point of that would be, I guess make more money or have a bigger visibility or bigger popularity, let me tell you, and let me assure your readers, there are much easier ways to it than this. Let me assure you, there are much less problematic ways for my personal life and my family than for me to be going after the particular issues and subjects that I’m going after. I do it only because it’s my instinct to do it. I do it only because I look around the world and that’s what I see and that’s what I tell you. If wanted to sell a lot more records, let me tell you, I live in Nashville. All the streets in this town were paved with money from people figuring out easy ways to sell more records. I know how to do it. I was in a Christian band for over 10 years. I’m very familiar with the tools and the compromises that can be made to sell more records”

In fact, he was prepared for the fact that this record might actually do the opposite. Talking with his partner on the project, Josh Moore, Webb mused, “‘Have I built a career over the last 8 years only to completely ruin it with this record?’ And I was prepared for that.”
You can catch Part 2 of my interview next week, where you can hear from Derek on the use of cursing and the topic homosexuality, and why he wrote a song for Fred Phelps.
Click the link below to hear audio excerpts of Part 1 of my interview with Derek Webb (note that this will not open in a player, but in this window. When you’re finished listening, use your browser’s “back” button to click back to this post):
Interview excerpt with Derek Webb July 2009.mp3
Part 2 Of My Interview with Derek Webb: Cursing In Songs, Homosexuality
For more about Derek Webb, check out these posts:
Part 2 Of My Interview with Derek Webb: Cursing In Songs, Homosexuality
VIDEO: Are Derek Webb’s “What Matters More” Video and Lyrics Explicit? You Decide
Derek Webb’s Stockholm Syndrome To Be Released In Two Versions, “Clean” and “Explict”

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