Cliff Young wears many hats in Caedmon's Call: songwriter, guitarist, vocalist, bandleader. And when he puts on his thinking cap, Young has a penchant for cutting to the heart of an issue, whether it is musical, social, political, spiritual--or all of the above. In a free-spirited conversation with Lou Carlozo, Young discussed his band's place in the Christian music world, his thoughts on the religious right, and the making of the band's latest album, "Long Line of Leavers."

You're in a "Christian" band, yet the Christian music industry largely represents one stripe of Christianity, evangelical Protestantism. What makes Caedmon's Call a "Christian music" band?
I don't even know what Christian music is. To say "Christian" is a genre of music is just the dumbest thing ever. The bad thing is, Christian is a genre of music to some people. It's sad that Christians created this industry separated by ideology, where music is separated everywhere else by its artistry.

If you find Christian music annoying, why not explore mainstream music? There's a "Roaring Lambs" movement going on, and bands like Jars of Clay and Sixpence None The Richer are trying to reach non-Christians with their music and message, as opposed to "preaching to the choir."
Jars of Clay did really well with "Flood" [in 1996], but they haven't done anything in the mainstream charts for a long time. If you ask them, they would say that it's a hard world. Look at Sixpence. Are they going to have a song that really does anything after the success of "Kiss Me"? It's hard. We would love to get mainstream airplay happening, but we're not using the Christian industry to get to the mainstream.

So how do you see your role within the Christian music world?
We're musicians; that's our job and that's how we make money. We're Christians all the time. Our ministry is our lives, 24/7. We don't separate our ministry or our music from the rest of our lives. At the same time, we're directly called to do our music, to hopefully challenge the church, and people who are listening to Christian CDs and going to Christian concerts. Ninety-seven percent of them are likely Christians, and hopefully we are able to challenge them to see that God is bigger than they are and to get out of their comfort zones.

How do you get out of your comfort zone?
It's all about knowing God for who He is, and me for who I am. In Christian subculture, people spend a little too much time trying to figure out what we can do for God, or trying to gain acceptance. But there's absolutely nothing that we can do that's good enough for God, or to make the slightest bit of arc for Him to recognize it. It's all about His grace. And if it were left up to me, I'd screw up every time.

You have a well-established following that loves your acoustic-rock sound. Was it intimidating to venture beyond that on "Long Line of Leavers"?
The only person I was scared for was me. I started the band. I'm the guy who calls all the shots, and I always limited our producers in the past, saying, "No, we're a folk band, keep us inside that world." I knew a lot of our hardcore fans would be freaking out and say, "Oh no, they sold out." But we have seven band members, and all of their influences--and most of their influences--are not acoustic guitar. [Drummer] Todd [Bragg] grew up loving the Police and Sting, and [percussionist] Garett [Buell] is into all this world music. [Keyboardist] Josh [Moore], our high-school guy, he's so amazing and has absorbed all of this music from the 1920s until now. And Danielle loves Jonatha Brooke and Sarah McLachlan.

But it's one thing to site those influences, and another to get them to seep onto the canvas.
I'm probably a little too much of an overbearing control freak that I'd be able to say, "OK, go for it." But all of these people had these influences, and it just happened. It took us a month to do this record, and "Forty Acres" took us seven months. And the reason was it was way more natural for us to do. On "Forty Acres," we had everything on a script--every guitar lick, every fill. This time, we all started playing, and there it is. The fact is, this is more Caedmon's Call than anything we're ever done.

It sounds exciting.
It was fun. Once the door was open, everyone knew it was going to happen. We had two drum kits in the room, and Garett and Todd would play at the same time. It was wild. You'd look at Josh in his huge keyboard world, and these two drum kits on either side of him, and [producer] Monroe Jones in his purple-tinted sunglasses and dreadlocks jumping around. It was all going on live, and it was wild. On "The Only One," Garett started playing this groove on car exhaust pipes, and Todd started playing with him on drums to the click track. We never thought it would get on the record, but Monroe said, "OK, get in there and play over top of that, that's the song."

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