MusicReviews

Why I Love Derek Webb

(and why you should listen to his album “Fingers Crossed“)
Jump to Finger’s Crossed Album

 

So, I just wanted to explain how great I think this guy is (as an artist, and a human), and to share his art, because, it’s really meant a lot to me, and I thought maybe it would appeal to you, so…

Here’s an introduction to Derek Webb, and my experience with how his music, and perspective has changed over time, oddly much as mine has…

So, I was first introduced to Derek Webb, via the song “Center Aisle”, when he was a member of the CCM band “Caedoms Call”.  This song was HEAVY.  He wrote it driving home after being at the funeral of his good friend’s sister in high school (she’d committed suicide).  I like it musically, and I like what it has to say.  Cool song.

Center Aisle:

 

So then I was a casual Caedmon’s call fan.  The last album that they did with Derek Webb still in the band, had a few cool songs, one that I really liked a lot called “Mistake of My Life”.  It tells the story of… he was in Nashville recording this Caedmon’s Call album, and simultaneously recording his first solo record, and he went to grab a coffee order for everyone at the studio and he saw this girl there (she was a singer/songwriter performing at the coffeehouse at the time), and he remembers thinking, “I’m gonna marry this Chick”.  He literally moved to Nashville to “chase” her after just meeting her.  They did marry.  ‘Cool story now, but I really just liked the production and music.

Mistake of my Life:

 

So then, Derek Webb went Solo.  I lost touch with him a lot and only recently started looking back at his career, but I was impressed as I could possibly be (given my current set of beliefs) looking back at a Christian artist.  He seemed to just… not be an idiot.  Not be an asshole.  And really, REALLY called Christians on their shit.

During his super “Christian Artist” phase, he put this song on his most popular early record.  It’s called “A New Law”.  The lyrics start:

“Don’t Teach Me About Politics & Government, just tell me who to vote for…”  “Don’t teach me about truth and beauty, just label my music…”  “Don’t teach me how, to live like a free man, just give me a new law… I don’t want to know if the answers aren’t easy…”

He talks about how Christians dumb things down, and making up their own “laws” to prevent really thinking things through and being confronted with the real messages of Jesus…

A New Law:

 

‘Not crazy, but… as Christian Music goes, he at least seemed intellectually honest, and cool.  Then, his career started changing.  He became super controversial.  He toured with Jennifer Knapp (another CCM artist who came out as Lesbian), and he cursed in his music and talked about drinking.

He even started saying he wasn’t a “Christian Artist”, just a Christian.  Talking about how words matter.

Define Christian:

He started talking about Homosexuality a lot (apparently his best friend and a family member are gay) and really calling the Church out on their shit.  Arguing that, even though he’s not commenting on the morality of it, saying that IF homosexuality is a sin (and he definitely wasn’t conceding that it was), but IF it was, then the job of Christians would be to “Love their neighbor…”.  It would be the job of Christians to love them.  To care about them.  That’s it.  Conviction is the Holy Spirit’s job, Christians should just be friends, allies, and welcoming them into the community.  Obviously, that’s NOT what’s happening.

Things really heated up when the album that he delivered to his record label, they removed a song before releasing it.  Because it was “pro-gay” and used the word “shit” in it.  He sold copies of the album that had the song on it from his website despite the label’s protests.  He’s getting a lot cooler.  Here’s that song:

What Matters More:

He starts getting more active in secular “pop culture”.  He even got into a Twitter fight accidentally with QuestLove of The Roots and got blocked.  He then made this silly little song trying to get unblocked:

#UNBLOKME:

 

But everything changed recently.  He cheated on his wife and got divorced (she left him).  He became much more open about his drinking and cursing.  He was on a lot of Podcasts talking about spiritual “De- and Re- construction”.  About not necessarily being comfortable with the label “Christian”.

Then finally, with the release of his latest album, he just came out publically.  He’s an Athiest.  He doesn’t believe in God.  And because it was such a HUGE part of his life for so long, his entire recent record is about this whole topic.  This is a guy who was in one of the biggest CCM bands for decades and has been a “Christian Artist” whose records sold in Christian Book Stores, and who would tour churches.  Then, with this Album release (he’s been indie, and super successful with an indie music marketing company as his side job for a while actually) he’s just straight up “I don’t believe there’s a God, it’s bullshit.”Fucking awesome.

The first track of the Record is called “Stop Listening”.  It’s a song to all his Christian fans.  Saying how much he truly appreciates their support.  And they can still be friends… if they just stop listening now.  Cause after track 1, fuck it.

Track 2 “The Devil You Know”.

“The Devil You Know…  is calling to ask for one more chance to break, your heart…

God’s the Devil You Know”.

Track 3 “The Spirit Bears The Curse”.  He was a Christian Artist, these are Christian type words, right?  It sounds sorta like that all through the song, with vague wording, then at the bridge, an emotional rise, with the words:

“I am calling out, to the only thing, that delivers me, from my guilt and shame…   …alcohol…  …alcohol…  alcohol.

Holy shit man.  I fucking love this guy.

There are songs about the grief of losing his wife.  Songs about the whole struggle with, deconstruction (literally taking everything you thought you knew and believed and tearing it down, to see what’s left and what he really believes…  likens it to burning a house down.  Really heartfelt.  The whole record is super heartfelt.  Grief… but not of someone who just died, but.. grief, just the same.  Super relatable for me at least.

There’s a song called “Chasing Empty Mangers”.  The lyrics paint a picture:

“…a Christmas tree, a quiet house…  daddy’s getting drunk…”  “the baby god returning… bringing peace to every house, but mine…”.  

“Like a dirty God damned trick, I either sin as I resist you, or I do it as I’m doing my part…  

“So tonight I watch the sky, for a sleigh and saints appearing, like a great star running out of space… On this drunken Christmas Eve, I’ve gotta say that feels as likely as any one of you three showing your face…”

“So a toaste to all my friends, who are lost and beat, and bleeding, still chasing empty mangers out of faith.”

Maybe it’s just me, but I LOVE hearing him say these things because this is not just some guy talking shit about religion.  This is a guy who was a passionate Christian.  Now he just can’t believe it anymore…  sound familiar?

The album title track, Fingers Crossed:

“Let’s not meet, for a drink, unless you come, to take an oathe, brother please, don’t pray for me, unless you pray for us both.. just because I fucked up, doesn’t make me a cross, on which you, can hang your sin, and expect to be forgiven…”  “Don’t believe everything you read, from ancient books, to enemies, the devil too, deserves some boundaries…”

“If there’s no sin, then there’s no cross, there’s no THEM, and there’s no US.  There’s just you, and what you do, and how you pay, for what you choose…  Fingers Crossed…Fingers Crossed… so much loss

The last song really gets me.  It’s called “Goodbye for Now”.  It’s a goodbye song to “god” basically.

“The reason it’s been so long since we talked, I’m not ready to show up, and feel nothing…  I don’t even feel sad anymore, ‘just always looking for, your replacement…  I still believe in love…  ‘like I believe in just war…  I think it’s possible… just maybe not anymore…” 

“So I Say, Goodbye for Now…  Goodbye for Now… Goodbye for Now…”

“You left me here to document the slow unraveling, of a man who burnt the house down where, he kept everything… excommunication never made much sense to me… like abandomnment to deomonstrate how you’ll never leave… 

At the end of the song, he’s repeating the chorus several times, and one of the times instead of saying “and I say, goodbye for now”, he says “and you say…” and then it’s just silence (instrumental) for the whole chorus, then back to, “so I say, goodbye for now”…  that’s a small little thing.  But it was really powerful to me.  Like, talking directly to “God”, and just saying “and you say…  fucking nothing”…  Jesus.  Literally.  So… Goodbye.

Fingers Crossed (Album):

Listen on YouTube
Listen on Apple Music
Listen on Spotify

 

I’ve “gotten to know him” after listening to that record a lot, and then, he actually put out a Podcast called “The Airing of Grief“.  And it’s about people going through religious de and re-construction.  Growing up Christian.  Then growing up.  Re-evaluating what you believe.  And it’s really amazing how real and honest it is.  It’s SUPER accepting of people who still believe, and not at ALL a “religion is dumb” proselytizing for atheism thing.

It uses instrumentals of his album behind skype calls where he talks to people about this whole thing.  Comparing losing your faith to grief.  ‘Just a really cool perspective.  And a cool podcast.

Anyway.  Enough of my man crush.  I just wanted to share something that I really, really, liked.

 

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