- 'When we started singing our songs in church, we felt like it wasn't connecting.'
For some teens, a tough parental powwow might revolve around the revelation of getting kicked out of college, a drug or alcohol addiction, perhaps even all three. But for guitarist/vocalist Caleb Chapman and his percussionist brother Will, the situation was more unusual. At a crucial point in their nascent career, they had to break the news to their father Steven Curtis Chapman — the renowned Christian rock artist and winner of 58 Dove Awards — that they would no longer be continuing in his reverent footsteps. Instead, they'd decided to pursue a more secular path with their ebullient rock outfit Colony House, a band that's earned comparisons to The Black Keys and Arctic Monkeys.
"For me and my brother, we played music in the church — and played with my dad in church — our whole lives growing up," recalls Caleb of his formative years. "But when we started singing our songs in church, we felt like it wasn't connecting. So we thought, 'All right, let's try something else.'"
As it turned out, their father was pleased with the new direction, and offered only one caveat: Whatever you're singing, be honest and mean every last word of it. "So I have no memory of my dad ever going, 'Wait, wait, wait — back up. Are you sure you know what you're doing, you heathen?' He was very supportive."
Prior to that, the siblings had gotten to see, up close and personal, the magnitude of their dad's stardom. In fact, they toured in his backing group while they were still in high school.
"We were very unqualified, but somehow my father looked past that and gave us our shot," Caleb recalls. Playing huge arenas as a family band, they caught the performing bug. And soon, given their noble lineage (mom is a vocalist in her own right, Mary Beth Chapman), a Christian label came calling, as did Steven Curtis' management.
"We had a road all paved for us with my dad's career, when we were only kids," says Caleb. Instead, they hired an indie booking agent and took any small club gig they could get, building a secular audience from the ground up.
As a composer, Chapman found out he could have it both ways. On the cover of the band's new sophomore set, Only the Lonely, the frontman still resembles a wide-eyed, fresh-faced naïf. But he's actually a wise old 27 and a family man, with a wife and child in Tennessee.
Within coliseum-rousing anthems like "Remembered For," "This Beautiful Life," "Cannot Do This Alone" and the aptly dubbed "Where Your Father's Been," there are uplifting spiritual messages that would not sound out of place in a Sunday morning sermon. Chapman points to the song "This Beautiful Life," which opens with the lines "What in the world are we doing here, what is the meaning of it all?"
"Every time we hop in a tour van and have to drive through the night — we go, 'What am I doing here? Why am I spending all this time going out, sometimes playing for only 50 people, when I know there's a family back home that I could be spending time with? So what is the point of all this?' And what I'm most proud of about that song is that there is no answer in it — there's just the question."