What role does your faith and spirituality play in this effort on behalf of New Orleans?
 
Following Jesus' example
I don't really speak publicly about my particular faith, but I came from a Christian background--my parents are Christians, Methodists--and my people come from Mississippi on my mother's side. The stories that I heard about my great-grandfather and the way he responded to various situations in his life--a man that I never met but I knew through stories--speaks to me volumes about faith and about spirituality and about what's good and what's right. And it's really, really simple. If it's the teachings of Jesus that you're following, it's really easy to cut to the chase and get down to what did this man's life really represent. And how much of that is acknowledged in the Bible? I think a lot. How much of that can get muddied by people's interpretation of the Bible and perhaps not recognizing that a lot of it is allegory.

 

Faith in general--and I am speaking about Christian faith in particular because it's what I'm most familiar with--is an individual thing. But I think it's easy to get lost in it and to maybe allow other people to tell you what is and is not right. I think a true Christian, and I'll use my parents as the shining example in my life, recognizes what the teachings of Jesus represent and what that means to them, and then, in the not-simple day-to-day living and breathing those teachings, what paths do you take, what choices do you make, what do you support, what do you not support?
 
If there's a schism in this country, it might be not between the people who have faith and the people who don't have faith, but people who have faith that is, in my opinion, pure to the teachings of Jesus and people who have taken that and turned it into something for other reasons, be that power, be that intolerance or ignorance. And that's where a schism might have occurred in this country presently.
 
It sounds like you admire your parents greatly.
 
My parents are, in my opinion, the paragon of Christian faith. I also come from a long line of Methodist ministers. My father kicked the traces and joined the army rather than becoming a man of the cloth. And I kicked the traces even further and became a pop star. So there you have it. But that is a fundamental part of my upbringing, and my love for my parents is profound and incredible. To everyone, I think, your parents mean a huge amount, for better or worse. In my case, it's for the better.
 
Do you have a favorite prayer you can share with us?
 
I can't quote directly, but there's a song that I'm thinking of. There's a song that means a huge amount to me, and in a way, I think represents the most profound hope and faith. It's called "Wing." It's written by Patti Smith. There are lines in that song that are about helping someone, and hoping for someone, wishing for the best, trying to support them through your prayers, and your thoughts, and your dreams.
 
Is music spiritual for you? 
 
For me, music is epiphany at its finest. Revelation. There's release that I find in music that I rarely find in other art media. Music is a balm for the soul. It started the trajectory of my life. As it stands now, I've been in a band since I was 19 years old; I'm now 46. That's a long time to focus on one thing. It clearly means a huge amount to me in my life.
 
Which artists out there today do you find particularly spiritual or meaningful?
 
What I find spiritual and meaningful might be a little too subtle or a little too raucous for other people to find the same. The one thing I can think of, because I just downloaded this last week: Brian Eno, of all people, released some of the greatest and some of the most subtle records of all time, and he put out a pop record last year that I finally downloaded, and it's really kind of incredible.
 
There's three records that I can think of if I wanted to recommend to someone who wanted to explore my idea of music as a spiritual force. There's a record that came out in the early '80s by a composer named Arvo Pärt. The name of the record is "Tabula Rasa." It's one of the most stunning pieces of music ever put down on tape. There's another record that's available on iTunes--a friend of mine downloaded it, which was shocking to me because it hasn't been available for years--called "I Will Not Be Sad in This World." And it's by an artist named Djivan Gasparyan. And finally, and this is a really weird one, I know that you just interviewed David Lynch, but the soundtrack to "The Elephant Man" is for me one of the greatest records of all time. There's a beauty there and a spirituality for me that is enormous.
 
Before we finish, can you tell our audience how they can best help the Gulf region?
 
What we all can do to help
I don't even know how to do that. But if there was one thing I hope this little project would achieve it would be to help spotlight, six months later, that the disasters that occurred last year with Katrina and then the response to that disaster is nowhere near over. And if there's anything that Beliefnet viewers and listeners might take from this it would be to find some way to make it clear to people that have been directly impacted by this that we have not forgotten.