Exclusive Interview with Wayne Watson

Wayne Watson
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With 23 No.1 Christian hits, a dozen Dove Award wins and 2 Grammy nominations, Wayne Watson is one of Christian music's leading artists.  His song "For Such a Time Like This" was the centerpiece theme for the popular TV series "Touched by an Angel." And to this date, some of his songs such as "Another Time, Another Place," "Touch of the Master's Hand," "Friend of a Wounded Heart" and "Watercolor Ponies" are already classics. We are honored to be able to catch up with Wayne for this exclusive Hallels' interview:

Hallels:  Wayne, greetings to you!!!!  Thank you for your time.  Being a fan of yours for many years, I find myself returning to your albums from time to time.  I especially adore "The Way Home."  Do you listen to your older albums?  And do you have a favorite?

Every once in a great while, I'll go back and listen to older albums for a few reasons.  The first thing that always comes to mind as I hear them (most of them . . . there are some that are a little uncomfortable to listen to!) is how thankful I am that I have gotten to spend my life doing this and record this music.  I've worked with some world-class musicians, producers and engineers and, while I enjoyed having their hands on my work, I enjoyed just as much getting to be friends with some of them.  I remember some tremendous "snap shot" moments from every project.  It's always hard to answer the "do you have a favorite" question.  I loved the "Home Free" project and "The Way Home".

Hallels:  Of all your albums, singles, awards, tours, performances, and videos, what are two of your most memorable moments in your career?  And why?

Wow, it would be nearly impossible to pick two moments.  I remember highly spiritual moments and some silly moments.  Of the latter, the first time I went to the Grammys, the artist, Prince, had his people pass out cards instructing everyone to "avoid eye contact, do not speak to Prince, and do not touch him".  Uh . . . OK.  I remember getting the opportunity to sing and speak at a Promise Keepers conference in the Minneapolis Metrodome, filled with 80,000 people.  It was actually not as hard as addressing a Sunday School class.  Out of all the positive comments and reactions to that talk, I got one very negative one (out of 80,000!) and it just floored me. It was a good lesson in pressing on and not being too concerned with getting everyone to like what I do. Once God lays something on your heart, and your convinced it's from Him, you just have to go for it.  There was one night I was walking off the stage in front of 6,000 people in Houston and the stage exit wasn't marked very well. I stepped into a four foot drop and pounded my guitar into the marble floor doing significant damage.  The lights came up and all eyes were on me on the floor - uninjured but very, very upset that I'd crushed my fav guitar.   

Hallels:  Last year, you released a single "Heal Our Land" which was excellent.  It was your first single in a long while.  What inspired the release of this song?

I woke up one morning a few weeks before the last presidential election with three words and a melody on my mind and heart.  It occurred to me that the problems our nation faces have very little to do with who occupies the White House, who your Senator or Representative might be, who the Governor is, etc.  What hurts us the most is this slow leak, that started in the late 50s and 60s as I see it, draining our reverence for God, our awe of Him and consequently our respect and concern for each other.  It's impossible to measure the distance that's been created between us as people and us as His creations.  I'm not really surprised, given that realization, that we're on a moral slip and slide. 

Hallels:  On your website you mentioned about new music, when can we expect your new album to drop?  And what musical direction will it be?  Christian pop?  Live worship?

I'm not sure about the overall direction of a complete new project and, honestly, that''s part of the problem.  I've written all kinds of things in the last few years and I'm trying to find some common musical setting that would make a full project have some context.  But, really, that's not as important as it used to be.  I mean, how long has it been since you've sat down and listened to a CD from start to finish?  The way people listen to music these days makes it less of a big deal.  The Beatles "Sgt. Pepper" album was a "start-to-finish" kind of project. I'm not sure there are many of those around anymore.  We used to sit down, after a project was recorded, and agonize over the order of the songs, which one was the best to open the album, which ones go better back to back, making sure the key of one song is compatible with the next song.   So, right now, we're contemplating releasing a series of singles - maybe one a month - for a while and seeing how people respond.  And the truth is, the well of material is so deep these days.  There are lots of great writers and artists doing this right now and it's a little more difficult to get people's attention.  I don't worry about that.  It's out of my hands and into His. 

Hallels:  Who are you working with for this new record in terms of song writers and producer(s)?  Will there be any duets?

If a song calls out for a duet, it'll happen. I love doing them.  Honestly, I like singing harmonies as much as lead - finding weird parts that aren't normal that work is really fun for me.  I've got a pretty good group of artists/friends that I'm sure I could call on to join in on the right song.  Michael Omartian (if you're not sure who he is . . . just google his name.  Seriously, it'll take a while to read his credits!) produced the "Heal Our Land" track and I thought it was just magnificent. He's a true artistic genius and has influenced the way a lot of music (pop and Christian) has sounded since the late 70s.  I'm probably going to do more with him, but again, I'll try and find compatible help that fits with the demands of a given song. 

Hallels:  When you are not touring or performing somewhere, how are you involved in your local church?

Very!  I lead worship at what is called "the contemporary" service at our church when I'm not on the road.  It's really not that contemporary as far as production and instrumentation.  I'd call it "the relaxed" service!  Sometimes, it's just me or I have an upright bass and another guitar or mandolin.  Really very nice situation that majors more on the worship than the "vibe".  We're not trying to recreate the wheel and I'm really not interested in doing the latest worship song every week that nobody's ever heard. Honestly, I'm trying to create an environment where people can turn their phones off for an hour (yes, that's a problem sometimes!) and set their worries aside or even better, lay them at the Feet and walk out without them.  There's a fine line between "performing" and leading worship these days.  You want it to be special and I want it to be the best quality presentation without creating a scenario where people become spectators and not participants.  And, it's not up to me to determine if people worship. My evaluation of a "successful" worship experience might be really different from God's or someone else's.  Maybe what an individual needs on any given Sunday to worship is to sit still, listen, pray,  not sing.  That's not my call. 

Hallels:  Over your lengthy career, what are some of the most valuable lessons God has taught you?

That I"m still getting to know Him.  I've sung the word "grace" all my life but never knew what it was until I walked through the darkest period of my life, a period where some people told me "God is done with you". After hearing that, when God does use you, it's startling.  I remember the first time God moved over a crowd and spoke to them through a song or a spoken word that elicited a response from them . . . I remember thinking "Hey, wait a minute.  God was "done" with me.  What's going on?"  And then the next time, you say, "Hmmm . . . Now wait just another minute.  God is working in and He's working through me. I thought He was done with me. Someone has been telling me lies . . . and I think it might be me!"  All I know is this . . . I don't know what He's up to.  I need grace and mercy and cannot stand without it.  I don't have to know everything that's down the road.  It's a more peaceful and contented place than I've ever been.

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