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Fri 2:40:32 PM

In 11, Arts & Culture, 10 @ 1:28 am

By Jillian Snyder

Mars’ Hill: What are you listening to these days?

Derek Webb: I don’t listen to a lot of new records. I listen to a lot of old records. I love Bob Dylan and I love The Beatles. Until someone who is making music now can make me a record that is as good as those older records I just don’t have a real good reason to stop listening to those. I’m a huge Wilco fan. They are arguably the best American rock ’n’ roll band. Thom York of Radiohead just put out a solo album called The Eraser. I’ve never been into Radiohead but this record really freaked me out—totally inspirational. And then thirdly, there’s this singer/songwriter from the U.K., Lily Allen, who is this mash-up of reggae, and hip-hop. It’s really fun—straight-up pop music.

MH: On your first album, She Must and Shall Go Free, you looked at the different aspects of the Church. How do you see your views changing throughout your subsequent work?

DW: My first record is essentially about someone who is keeping the law on my behalf and setting me free. My third record is about what I’m set free unto, but I feel like there has been a progression and the next record’s going to be another step.

MH: Tell us about FreeDerekWebb.com.

DW: I felt proud of Mockingbird, but I felt that the kind of people who would appreciate it are people like me who aren’t paying attention to what happens in Christian culture and if they hear that something is branded as Christian, they probably will not pay attention to it. But I think there is a real awakening of people who are concerned with spiritual things as it pertains to the government and social issues.

We had sold all of Mockingbird we were going to sell and so we thought, let’s make something up where I will give you my record [for free] if you give me something I want—friends who have never heard of my record. We did this for three months and at the end we gave away 80,000 records, which is great, considering I sell only about 20,000 records. In some cities, my shows doubled.

It was a total experiment and it’s been tremendous. All of my records have sold a lot better since we first started doing that, [and] the shows have been better. It’s been win/win for everyone because a lot of people got free records and I get to make my living.

MH: Tell us about your new album—The Ringing Bell. What kind of things are your going to be looking at in there?

DW: The Ringing Bell is a rock ’n’ roll album about peace, and I’m really happy about it. It’s the anti-Mockingbird; it’s a really different kind of record. Almost all of my songs come from the idea of living peaceably with people at every kind of angle: relationally, spiritually, nationally, and globally. We are also going to have a graphic novel that’s going to have all the lyrics in it. It’s going to be this packaging on steroids that is a visual counter piece.

MH: You explored themes in Mockingbird that touch on patriotism and social topics. Why did you choose those themes?

DW: I see those kinds of topics as the big elephants in the room, at least in the American church. Every time an election comes around the church rears its ugly head into it. Politicians have to just come in and say three words and everybody follows them regardless of whatever else is on their agenda.

Politics is a necessary system by which social things happen, so we should engage, but it’s a broken system. It’s not perfect and the right man in the White House is not going to solve all of America’s problems, but the right politician will convince [us] that it’s true. They will get you to vote for them and all the other things on their agenda other than the two things they used to get you on board.

I think it goes completely against what we should be as the church, which is diverse members of one body. If what Jesus said is true about who we are, not only is it not necessary, but it might be sinful if we all vote exactly the same way, that we would all totally agree. Wealth, poverty, faith and politics are big issues for me and for the American church. That’s what I went for in my last record because I felt that it was important at that moment to do it.

MH: Some of your songs are viewed as controversial. What kind of response has come from the Christian community towards your music.

DW: The Christian community has been pretty supportive. Most of the opposition that I have gotten has been from Christian retail. A lot of chains, especially in the South[ern] [United States], won’t carry some of my records, and that’s good. A wise man once told me that if you’re telling the truth to people and they love you for it then you’re probably not telling the truth to people.

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