Mark Lowry and Jason Crabb are two of the most well-known artists working in Christian music today. Lowry has long been known for his stand up comedy and his role singing for years with the Gaither Vocal Band and Crabb has wowed audiences since his teenage years singing with The Crabb Family to more recent days as he’s stepped out solo. And when the two rolled into Soul-Audio’s hometown for a tour stop on “The Music and Madness Tour,” we were fortunate enough to sit down with these two and to be a fly on the wall as they shared a conversation about the tour and life on the road, the passing of Mark’s mother, the dangers of hero worship, and much, much more. So sit back and dig into this great conversation with these two wonderful artists. And be sure to check back on Monday for Part Two of the conversation!
Soul-Audio: Well, let’s begin by talking about this “Music and Madness Tour.” I had the chance to interview The Martins earlier this year and heard a little bit about how it came to be but, are you guys having a blast?
Mark Lowry: Oh yes! I am.
Jason Crabb: Lots of fun.
Mark: It’s the most fun thing I’ve done in a long time.
SA: Now Jason, you’re kind of a late edition to the tour, right?
Jason: Yeah, I’m added on later. (Smiles). But it’s kind of overwhelming to sit up there on stage and hear what Mark does because he’s the best at what he does, the storytelling and talking about so much. And then to hear The Martins. Truthfully, I can honestly say that I really don’t know anybody that can sing any better than them. I think they’re the best.
Mark: And I would say the same to you, as far as the soul, white singer. He’s the best. And it’s just fun for me. Y’know, Bill Gaither, I learned from him, and this may sound like a putdown to him but it’s not. Truly everyone should do this. He surrounds himself with people more talented than him and he will tell you that. I mean, nobody’s ever gone to a Gaither concert to hear him sing solo! That’s just the facts.
And high water raises all ships and if you surround yourself in life with people who know more, who can do things that you’re not the best at, then what a fun thing that is! And that I get to be the Bill Gaither of the night, the old guy, who just kind of calls the shots. But then, I leave it open to them too, for if the Lord leads. Like the other night, Joyce leaned over to me and said, “I want to say something” and I said, “Go.” That was right toward the end.
Jason: It was toward the end and she quoted a statement that you were talking about the leaves, about how the unimportant things fall off…
Mark: Like old leaves from a tree.
Jason: Like old leaves from a tree. But you remember the things that are rooted in, the things like Jesus and like that. I’m telling you, that was brilliant! Have you used that before?
Mark: I don’t know if I’ve said it before but I’ve thought it before but it’s the truth. Mama, back before she lost her mind to dementia, drinking wine was just equal to adultery. There was no gray; it was black and white. And yet, with dementia, all of that fell away. She danced with me! She would never dance; that’s something Baptists don’t do because, what’s the old joke? That they don’t have premarital sex because it could lead to dancing?
Jason: It could lead to dancing? (Laughs)
Mark: But she forgot. So I did this love song CD before she passed away and we danced all over the house. And she smiled and laughed and had the best time. And sometimes she wouldn’t remember me but…She didn’t get far enough to forget Jesus. I’m not saying some people get that far but… Some people with dementia, they forget everything. They forget how to talk, the eventually forget how to swallow and breathe but she didn’t get that far. And I’m glad.
Jason: My wife’s grandmother had the same thing. And it was so funny. I remember coming in for Thanksgiving and she did not remember hardly anybody in the room and then my father-in-law, always he picks the worst times, “Jason, why don’t you sing a song for us?” And I’m like, I don’t want to sing for my family! (Laughs) I’d rather sing for anybody other than family!
Mark: Isn’t that true?
Jason: Especially the in-laws!
Jason: So I started singing “Please Forgive Me” and she sang every word with me.
Mark: Wow. Isn’t that something?
Jason: Yeah, it’s the wildest thing.
Mark: Music is the last thing to go. I held up my iPhone, I may play that tonight if I think of it, of Mama singing her song called “I Thirst.” I was singing the lead, she was singing the harmony, and she nailed every note, still on pitch a week from dying. It was a week away from dying. To the day. And then at the end of it I said, “Do you know who wrote that?” She said, “No.” I said, “Yes, you do” and she gave me that look like, “No, I don’t! Are you crazy?”
Jason: Yeah! (Laughs)
Mark: And I said, “You wrote it.” And you could see it on her face like, “I did?” And then she goes, and I wish I would’ve shut up there because I kind of got to talking and sometimes I catch myself, she says, “That’s pretty good.”
Mark: I love that.
Jason: That’s my favorite part of that! I love that!
Mark: And a week later she was sitting at the nursing home and she had a heart attack and they revived her just long enough for her to say “I’m going to the light on the other side.” So that was a good exit. I do love a good exit.
Jason: Now that is just so powerful. What a message to leave behind to you, to us, to the world that you share it with on these tours because you share it everywhere.
Mark: And this is horrible because I am horrible. See, there’s a side of me that’s so unredeemed.
Mark: I will tell you and I wouldn’t tell this publicly and hopefully no one goes to your website but I told a friend of mine I hope that was the light and not the flames! Isn’t that awful?
Jason: Mark Lowry!
Mark: I know, I know! My brain is not redeemed! I’m telling you, my brain is not redeemed. I mean, that’s the stuff that I edit! My Daddy used to say, “Mark, you’ve gotta watch what you say!” And I told him, “Daddy, if you knew what I was editing, you’d be proud.”
Mark: I know my brain’s not redeemed. I wait for the redemption of the flesh because I know my brain is not redeemed.
Jason: Lord, could you imagine if our brain was put on display for everyone to see?
Mark: See, that’s what people think is going to happen on the last day, that God is going to play back your life. Well I think He is, but He’s going to play it back to show you all the times that He was there when you didn’t see it. All the times He rescued you. All the times He was guiding your steps, when you thought you were sinning. Y’know, I’m not a Calvinist, but I believe that even my sin has created who I am, that God has used my sin, my weakness, my failures to be glorified through the brokenness.
Jason: I think the Scripture even kind of tells us that. As the Bible says, it says that what the enemy meant for harm. And a lot of times we, of course it was a roadblock or a set up for us, a temptation for us, because that’s the enemy. That’s what he wants for us. But truthfully, I believe the very same thing; I believe I would not be who I am today, the more gracious, I wouldn’t be this gracious, if I hadn’t…of whom much is given, much is required.
Mark: Now I tell audiences a lot, when I think of it (I don’t say the same thing every night because I can’t think of it all) but, if you knew me like I know me, you’d have never bought a ticket. But you know what, it’s just some people who put you on a pedestal. That’s the reason that if anyone puts me on a pedestal, I do what I can to offend them. Because I’ll have a lot less far to fall if I jump off the pedestal quickly. Because if you let people lift you up too high, you’re coming down. Especially if you believe it. That’s the key.
Jason: That’s the deal, if you believe it.
Mark: But do you like hanging around people who have you on that high of a pedestal?
Jason: I’ll tell them first thing. I’ll say, “Hey, if you hang around me long enough, you’re going to find a lot of junk.
Mark: I just don’t let them hang around me. I mean, I don’t have a lot of friends.
Jason: I don’t either! And my wife has a hard time with that. She’s like, “We have no social life!” And I’m like, “Honey!”
Mark: Your life is social.
Jason: And she loves to go out with friends and that’s one of the things that you wrestle with.
Mark: When you’re out on the road, she can.
Jason: (Laughs) Yeah, have a good time! But she likes that couple time and I think it’s important. And I try but I am just like, “Boy, I am not getting close to anybody.”
SA: So how do you manage to keep others from putting you on that pedestal, of thinking of you in that bigger way?
Mark: Tell if from the stage as much as you can. Reveal as many scars as you can, on stage. You don’t become an exhibitionist but you try to level the playing field the best way you can. To let others know, we are just beggars telling other beggars where the food is. I think that’s a C.S. Lewis quote. But it’s the truth. We all, Judy won’t mind me telling you, she’s on medicine because she deals with depression. I take a prescription, a little bit every day, which I’ve never admitted publicly but I might as well, so I won’t make mountains out of molehills.
Jason: I take sleeping pills.
SA: I take blood pressure meds.
Mark: And I take my little baby aspirin, my Lipitor, my Thyroxin (I don’t have a thyroid); there are certain things as you age that you take. But let me tell you something, those are God. God allowed men to learn that so we can live. And I believe that’s important for people who deal with depression to bring out into the light and talk about it. Don’t be ashamed about it! You can’t help it any more than you can if you’ve got a bad heart. Your brain is just like your heart; it’s a piece of equipment. It can malfunction, and if there’s a little pill that can help the connectors connect, that’s why bipolar people should stay on their medicines! Just stay on them! It makes you normal like the rest of us or, y’know, close to it. And for your family’s sake, stay on it! For goodness sake, don’t think, “Well, God’s healed me” and all that. Yes, God healed you; it’s in a pill!
It’s like that old story you may have heard where the flood hits this guy’s town. He’s up on the roof and he’s waiting for a boat to come by. A boat comes by and says “Get in!” “No, I’m waiting on God to deliver me.” A helicopter comes by. “Get in!” “No, I’m waiting on God to deliver me.” And the guy drowns. He gets to Heaven and says “Why didn’t you deliver me?” And God says, “I sent a boat and a helicopter; what do you need?”
Jason: (Laughs) Exactly! And I think too that sharing it on stage is so powerful because it gives other people hope, that they’re going through this and God’s using them and they face this. And you don’t have to spill your whole deal…
Mark: You don’t do your therapy on stage.
Jason: Right. But to just say, okay, they’re wrestling with things too. I think the number one key that, I’ll just say, Satan, uses is to put us in a place where we feel all alone. Like nobody’s facing what Mark Lowry’s facing. Nobody’s facing what I’m facing. Nobody’s going through the depression. Y’know, it makes you feel singled out and by yourself. But the more we open up to that, the more everybody else goes “Well gosh, okay.” And that’s God. I think that’s why He said we are overcomers from our testimony, where God is helping us but is also helping someone else through you, going through these things.
Mark: That is great, Jason! By the blood of the Lamb and the word of your testimony. That is so true! Because the more I talk about these things, the more I believe them.
[Don’t forget to come back Monday for Part 2 of this great conversation!]