Steve Taylor - Crosswalk Syndicated Radio Interview

Q2(?) 1985
Thanks to Shari Lloyd

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Mark Fisher: ... You're listening to Crosswalk with your hosts Mark Fisher and Cathy Lockwood. Steve Taylor grew up in Denver, Colorado as the son of a Baptist minister. His early training was in musical theater and he uses those skills to good advantage in his stage performances and music videos.

Cathy Lockwood: Steve did directed the Christian comedy group "Jeremiah People," and he also wrote humorous articles for various Christian publications.

MF: With the 1983 release of his debut record I Want To Be A Clone, Taylor gained national popularity as a singer and songwriter. Since then he's completed two more albums and he's toured extensively in North America and Europe.

CL: Today, in the first of a two-part series, Steve Taylor talks about his latest album On The Fritz. Recorded in New York, On The Fritz utilizes the talents of some of the east coast's top session musicians along with producer Ian McDonald.

Steve Taylor: I wanted a different sound. I wanted something that I thought was more immediate, had a bit more of an edge to it, and both rocked and grooved a little better. So that's why I went to the east coast, because I think the best musicians are out there.

I originally thought about doing the album in London, but I ended up doing the album in New York city with an English producer, Ian McDonald, who had started off--he founded King Crimson back in the late 60s, then went out to found Foreigner with Mick Jones and was with them for five or six years I guess. So it all just kind of fell together for him to do the album. He wasn't a Christian when he first was approached with the idea of doing a gospel album. He said, "well I'm not too into tambourines." [laughter] So from those humble beginnings, our relationship ended up being really pretty good.

["I Just Wanna Know" song clip]

ST: I wanted to bring people along on this next album in the same way as Meltdown was a pretty big step from the first album I Want To Be A Clone. I wanted this next album to be different enough so that it would challenge the listener. So I kept in a number of issue-oriented songs, a song like "Lifeboat" or "This Disco" or "It's A Personal Thing," that were dealing with specific issues. But I also wanted to let people know that the struggles--oftentimes even though we look at different issues and say "this is right and wrong"--it all comes down to personal choices. Every person has a decision to choose between good and evil, and that includes people who claim to believe in Jesus as well.

So a lot of the songs have to do with pride--with compromise. It's just like all those things that are constantly glaring at me all the time on the road, and the choice whether to, you know, give in or to stand firm. In the past I've tend to write songs anticipating things that might come up, and that way if I've already made a stand with a song, it's like double incentive to not fall into something, because I'd feel I couldn't sing the song anymore on stage. In some ways I think this was the same kind of thing with this album. On a more personal level, I was writing about things I had seen on the road, and questions and compromises that might come up in the future, and taking a stand now and saying, "no."

["On The Fritz" song clip]

ST: You take a song like "On The Fritz," which is about compromise, and in general the song is about this person who leads a double life between doing religious music and what their personal life is like. Being on the road--I mean, ask anyone who's in Christian music--we see that stuff all the time. We wish that we could cover it up and that the general public didn't know about certain performers in Christian music that are singing one thing and doing another, but eventually it comes out, you know.

So I think that a song like is first of all spelling out the truth, and saying that the root of the problem is actually pride. Over and over again the Bible talks about pride going before a fall--God exalts the humble. Different areas where pride ends up being the root of the problem. That's the one thing that always sneaks up and blindsides you, you know? You think you can get a grip on other areas that are more visible, but as soon as you think you've got them all under control, then spiritual prides comes up and says, "I've got it together," and that's when we're at our most vulnerable. So some of those songs aren't easy songs, but I didn't want them to be.

["You Don't Owe Me Nothing" song clip]

["I Just Wanna Know" song clip]

MF: Today Crosswalk talks with Sparrow recording artist Steve Taylor. Steve's earned popular and critical acclaim for his irreverent satire leveled at hypocrisy within the church, as evidenced by such songs as "Whatever Happened To Sin?" and "We Don't Need No Colour Code." Having earned this reputation for slaughtering, quote, "sacred cows," did he feel the need with this latest album to skewer a sacred cow by the name of Steve Taylor?

ST: I'm not trying to build up some kind of mythology or something like that around Steve Taylor. Yeah, I wanted to--for the songs to be real honest. If there was a criticism that was valid about the first two albums, it's that they were too distant, you know? Steve's pointing the finger at this or pointing the finger at that or whatever. So, yeah, I wanted to open up a little bit more on this album. But there was still plenty of stuff to fuel the other songs as well.

I think something that I'm particular proud of this on this new album is that I decided to do one song that would just be totally unique and different and something radically of a change for me and write a positive song. So that song "To Forgive" on the album actually had a positive message to it, and that was kind of a new thing for me.

["To Forgive" song clip]

ST: That one image really struck me, and it said so much to the world. It occurred to me that in many cases--I mean you've got this cycle of violence in Lebanon, in India, in northern Ireland, and when it comes down to it, the only possible solution for that is forgiveness, because otherwise the retribution and the cycle of revenge just keeps going. And here was a picture of the Pope shaking hands with a guy who tried to kill him. Regardless of who the Pope is--and some cynical people would say, you know, "well that's his job" or something like that--it was a very, very powerful image.

[Amy Grant song clip]

CL: Considering Amy Grant's recent survival among the lions of the Top 40 arena, Steve Taylor commented on what effect this new public awareness might have on his work.

ST: I had decided that there probably wasn't going to be such a thing as crossover, especially for me, because my experiences with I Want To Be A Clone are that radio programmers told me point-blank, "your music fits with our format, but your lyrics would offend our listeners." So it's like you can sing about anything, but if you got something with some kind of Christian content, forget it, that's obscene. So I had decided it wasn't going to happen.

Now, yeah, there's some interesting developments taking place, and I think it's great. The thing that impressed me about Amy Grant's album is, when I first heard about the A&M deal I thought, "she'll probably be toning down the lyrics, trying to kind of sneak things in, or something like that." I was really refreshed to find a great album musically that I thought was very up-front about who she is. And even the single was right up-front about the reason for love, and "God his Son not sparing" and stuff like that, so that's great.

If we can get the message out to people without compromising our integrity, then that's wonderful. I think that was my fear before, but maybe it's unfounded. The more people I talk to, they seem to think now that radio programmers and record companies are ready to accept Christian music on our terms and not on someone else's terms.

MF: I would think your new album would have that same potential.

ST: Yeah, well, we'll see. [laughter] I'm not...

MF: Real optimism from Steve Taylor! [laughter]

ST: We'll see. The new album is, in some ways, to me, it's even more up-front than Meltdown in some ways. So I don't know. Again, it's a matter of, if it's going to happen, fine, but it's not something--I didn't record the album to cross over. I wanted it to be as good as possible, but I wasn't writing lyrics with that in mind. So if it happens, that'll be great. I think God honors those who honor Him, so if we see success with Amy's record and Petra's record and whoever's record, I think it will be, hopefully, because they're putting God first.

["I Just Wanna Know" song clip]

MF: Steve Taylor on Crosswalk.