As one of the biggest Christian worship bands in the nation, The David Crowder Band has headlined with the likes of Michael W. Smith and MercyMe. Crowder's hit, "O Praise Him," adapted from a prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, is being sung in college fellowships around the country. Not so bad for someone who got his start as a Baylor University undergrad, playing for college students skipping out on Sunday service. Currently, his band is up for 3 Gospel Music Association (GMA) Dove awards: Modern Rock Song of the Year for "Revolutionary Love," from the album "Illuminate"; Rock/Contemporary Album of the Year for "The Lime CD"; and Special Events Album of the Year for "Passion Hymns Ancient and Modern."

I saw you guys at Radio City with MercyMe. One thing that strikes you right away is that you're not really a Christian rocker. Your songs are different--it's more worship music. Your songs come across almost more like hymns--sort of addressing God directly, as opposed to singing about God.

That's a very fair assessment.

Do you see your concerts differently?

I don't know that I do. We're really trying to write songs that articulate [faith] for a specific group of people here in Waco, in a way that functions in a corporate worship setting. They're just a little bit outside church culture to begin with, and they usually find their way to us due to their disenchantment with what they've experienced thus far within the church.

It gives us the freedom to explore things that perhaps a really well-established act doesn't have the ability to do, just due to the fact that they've established their sound.

Tell me a little bit about the genesis of the [Waco] church and music for the church.

I was still an undergrad when a friend of mine, who was actually the first pastor--we were just chatting on the balcony one night on my apartment about church. He was currently a pastor of a little country church outside of town. He was still an undergrad as well. Somehow the conversation drifts to our peers and Baylor [University] and the environment [at] a Christian university. I had a lot of issues with the establishment of church. I start[ed] talking about ministry and what if ministry came from relationship and was just an extension of life lived? It started stirring things in me and before long, we got our hands on some survey [Baylor] had done with their student population. [They'd] come up with this number that there were about 8,000 students that never set foot in church their entire stay at school, which was very surprising to me, because it's a Christian university. But I knew that you would have people from our apartment complex, they get up on Sunday morning and realize they had woken up late and would dress as if they had gone to church before they would go eat in the cafeteria. That gives us some insight as to the environment.

So before we knew it, we had a band and decided to carve out a space where maybe some of these folks could sort through a lot of the things...

It was actually a small church building right near campus. It exceeded 175 or so on the first Sunday. It was just hysterical because we didn't have any money--what we really had was word of mouth. We went to all the fraternity and sorority organizations and did nothing more than hand out horribly printed cards on bad colored paper: "Hey, we're starting a church for you guys. If you want to come check it out, come check it out." The first Sunday, there was no room; it was just completely packed. At the end of it, we're looking at each other going, this is crazy. So Chris turns to the congregation and says, "OK, well, I think we might need to go to 2 services. What time would you like to have the extra one?" And so a couple hollered out and there we went two services for the second Sunday. I was terrible back then. I had never really led anything, so [my friend the pastor] functioned as the worship leader and I just stood back there playing the keyboard. It was a gradual transfer of that leadership over a number of years. I just dove in and the songwriting thing came as a surprise. It was a struggle to find songs that were different, to articulate faith in a different way.

It was probably the front end of the modern worship music. It was these praise choruses, but real simplistic, repetitively-composed lines that didn't really go anywhere.

Like headache music.

Yeah. And there we were rocking it.

Had you been writing your own songs at all before then?

No, not really. Just things you would never let anyone hear.

What was your musical background at that point?

I had been playing piano for a really long time, since I was a kid plunking around. My mom thought I needed lessons because all of a sudden, things I was plunking started turning into melodies that she recognized. Then when I came to Baylor, I actually was studying music, and piano was my instrument of emphasis.