WCBW St. Louis, MO Interview

by Sandi Brown

Nashville, TN April 1990



Sandi: (to radio audience) Again we're broadcasting live from GMA week in Nashville, Tennessee, and we've gone from an empty studio to one that's quite full now. Let me put my headphones on here. We've got with us Rich Mullins and also the members, a few, three of the members of Whiteheart. We'll get to them in just a minute, but...

Sandi: (to Rich Mullins) Rich, hi!

Rich: Hi, how are you?

Sandi: (laughs) We're across the room, just about, from each other, and I'm glad you've joined us today. It was good to see you yesterday at the reception, and again today. And, uh, it just seems kinda like we keep running into each other; but it's always good to see you. I'm glad...

Rich (nterrupting): I think that's the whole point of everybody staying in one hotel, just so you can run into each other...

Sandi: Yeah, well, I know what it's like from the radio perspective, what's it like for the artists to be here for a whole week?

Rich: It's... well, I think that you probably go into Christian music because you really want to say something about.. you know, what it might mean to be a Christian. And I think that being able to do a lot of radio stuff, and all that, just gives you more opportunity to do more of what you got into this in the first place for. And so this part of it is actually my favorite part. I mean, there's a lot of stuff that is uncomfortable for everybody, I think, but this is the good part. (Sandi laughs) So I'm glad to be here.

Sandi: Another part of what's been in your schedule is that of going into the studio. I don't know where that ranks as far as best, least favorite, worst, whatever, but you've spent, you tell me, how much of the last few months have you been in the studio?

Rich: A lot. (They laugh) Way more... see, I don't like the way I sound, you know? I don't like to sing. And, I...

Sandi: You don't like to sing?

Rich: No. (Sandi continues to laugh.) I like to write. I mean writing is really what I like to do. And I'm, I'm such a... I'm a real booger. I don't like other people to sing my songs 'cause I never like the way they do it. (Sandi still laughing.) So I figure I may as well.

Sandi: You're in quite a quandary there - you don't like to sing, you don't like when other people sing (Sandi's laughing)!

Rich: Right. So I may as well botch 'em as someone else. But I mean, it's nice after you've sung, and after they've doctored your voice up and made you sound like you know what you're doing. You know, you hear the finished product and you go, "Wow! What did you do?" (Rich is laughing) You know? But then, you know, when you're recording... I remember the first album that we were doing, and I was real nervous, real nervous about singing then. At some point you just finally say, "You know what, it doesn't really matter if you're a great singer." I mean there are only so many great singers out there, and there are plenty of 'em, and I'm not one of them. But the thing is, I just think that what you have to say is probably more important than how good you sound when you're saying it. We were working on the first album and I hadn't yet developed that. I had this idea that everyone that recorded was supposed to be a great singer. So I was tryin' so hard to sing (Sandy laughs) and everyone's goin', "Stop bein' so conscientious. Stop bein' so nervous about it and loosen up a little bit." And so I had stepped out [of the sound booth] and they turned my voice on, the recording with no reverb, and there was no accompaniment. And I heard this terrible voice (Sandi is laughing) and I stuck my head back in the thing, and I said, "See, that's just exactly it! I step back outside the room and you guys make fun of the way I sound" (Sandi is really laughing) and they all just sat there looking at each other and went, "We weren't making fun of you or anything, we were just playing you."

Sandi: Oh, no! (They both laugh.)

Rich: So, it's just really... but you know, you get over it. (Sandi is still laughing.) You get over it, and you kinda go, "Gee, I could be selling shoes." So, this isn't so bad.

Sandi: You talked about, writing music was your favorite part. And yet, last night you made a comment at the showcase that it's hard work. What do you mean it's hard work to write a song?

Rich: I just mean that, well, I think when you look at Genesis, when God created man, that there are some really significant little snips there. And one is that God created man in His own image. And I don't know what that means exactly, but I'm sure it's significant - that God breathed the breath of life into him, and he became a living soul, and I think that's something, that. And that God gave man sexuality, that He created male and female, and that our sexuality is a part of who we are. And that He told man to work. And I think that when we work, we're doing what we were made to do. And we are actualizing our identity here. Does that sound heavy, or what? (Sandi laughs.) I mean, does it sound like I've been reading those self-help books? Which... I don't read them (Sandi is really laughing here) because I think it's... I think self-help is the most ridiculous idea ever. So how can you write a book about a stupid idea? (Sandi continues laughing.) It's kind of foolish.

Sandi: This editorial comment brought to you by Rich Mullins...

Rich: Yes, these views are not necessarily those of WCBW (both laughing.) But, you know... so I kinda go, "Everybody works." It's like when you put out a garden. You don't absolutely love the idea of standing out there in the middle of a hot, sweltering day and hoeing, and puttin' your beans up, and gettin' everything fixed. But, at the end of the day, you sit down on your porch and you have a glass of tea, and you go, "Ah! This feels good." Or you exercise, and you feel your muscles are kinda achy, and you go, "Ah, this is a nice kind of ache."

Sandi: So, the nice kind of work... you didn't mean that it's laborious all the time, that there's never enjoyment out of it. I think that was the point that you were trying to make.

Rich: Right. That it is... and I think a lot of people do think that people who write music are these real... I would say that we are very fortunate people. Because I'm glad that my gifts don't lie in foundry work. You know, 'cause... but if it did I would probably feel some kind of fulfillment from working in a foundry.

But I think writers are just like everybody else. They're just other people... work with other kinds of tools and other kinds of materials. We work with literary tools, and we work with words, and we work with music... it's all very much the same.

Sandi: And it's fulfilling work for you, and it has to be... maybe it is or isn't... but even more fulfilling when it's appreciated by someone else.

Rich: Yeah, and that's the big conflict. Because, I really believe that my greatest joy in doing what I'm doing - the greatest joy that I experience from just being a musician or being a writer - comes when I can set aside whatever other people might think and I write purely for the joy of doing it. And purely with the motive of really trying to communicate something. And when I start getting uptight about what people might say about how I'm communicating, then this other kinda ugly element enters into the whole thing, and it's a lot less purely joyful.

Sandi: Sure, but, well, I'm sure with the critical also comes the appreciation value, you know? When you... it has to be gratifying to know that someone truly enjoys your work. Coming up with something like the Dove Awards, you've got two songs nominated - "Awesome God" Three? That's right, the rock one, too...

Rich: Is that bizarre or what? (Sandi laughs.) I mean, I don't even listen to rock music. (Sandi laughing harder.) I don't understand it. I did when I was a teenager, but I haven't had that angst since I was twenty-five.

Sandi: Now, you're sittin' next to three Whiteheart guys. You better be careful, Rich.

Rich: Well, these guys are strong enough to sustain that youthful thing, you know. (Sandi laughs.) I'm not. I'm a weakie. (Sandi laughing harder.)

Sandi: You've got three songs nominated - "Bound To Come Some Trouble," "Awesome God," and also...

Rich: "Bound To Come Some Trouble," that's bizarre, too, because that's like Inspirational, and I feel like, "Geez, what am I, in the Geriatrics Ward here, or what?"

Sandi: Well, I was going to ask you. You're nominated in three basically different categories. You're in Rock, Inspirational, and Adult Contemporary. You cross the board and you call it surprising? You don't think that you're really one who can satisfy a lot of different categories or groups of people? I think you do quite well.

Rich: Well, see, I feel real good about that. (Sandi laughs.) I mean, when I look at the whole picture I go, it is kinda neat; because I really feel like a good song should be able to be done in any number of different styles. But see, like I put a lot more stock in the song than in the production of it. And I feel like if you... if the writing is done in a good way, then that song can be produced as just about any kind of song you want to produce it as. And the production, hopefully won't get in the way of the song. The song will be strong enough to come out above the production.

Sandi: Okay. Well, I tell you what. We're gonna wrap it up here. I wanna tell the people at the station to get "Awesome God" ready. We're gonna go into that in just a moment. But before we do, as a final question to touch on something that you were talking about again last night. You said, in a joking fashion, something about, "Boy, it's been ten years since I've had a date." Or something like that.

Rich: Yeah.

Sandi: Just on a personal note, is being single something that you struggle with? I mean, your schedule. You're on the road a lot.

Rich: Sure, but I'm sure that being married would be something that I would struggle with, too. Like I figure, if you're not happy single, you won't be happy married. (Sandi laughs.) So, the thing to do is to not worry about it. You know, there are certain advantages to being married, I'm sure. I've heard. (Sandy laughs.) But there are certain advantages in being single, also. Like, like you don't have to worry about your kids, you know? So you can go to bed at midnight and not be going, "Oh my, where are my kids?" And you can take off and go to Thailand or to Guatemala, or wherever you want to go and you don't have to feel like you're cheating your kids out of your primary responsibility to them. So there are advantages and disadvantages in everything.

Sandi: As a final question, you bring up the work of missions. I heard you say that originally, or some time ago, that you didn't want to do this forever. You wanted to do it for a season, and then maybe devote more of your time to missions. What is down the road, do you know?

Rich: Well, I want to be a missionary. (Rich laughs, then Sandy laughs.) You know, I just think, you know, at some point, I just think that we are called to give account for what we've done with the talents we've been given. And I think that... I mean, I feel real good about what's happened for me in terms of what I've been able to do with music. I feel really good about it. I'm very pleased and you know, a lot people have said, "Well, what's wrong? What's wrong?" I'm like, "Man, nothin'." I mean, things are going far better than anyone at my record company certainly thought they would. (Sandy laughs.) And even I'm surprised. Even though I was a little cockier about it all than they. (Sandi is still laughing.) But I just kinda go, I don't know... sometimes I just think that everything has its place. And I think, you know, in another five years I'm gonna start repeating myself even worse than I already do. So what's the point of that, you know? And... time to move on. (Sandy laughs.) And I'm gonna be having my mid-life crisis about that time, so I'm just planning through it.

Sandi: You're gonna go to Guatemala and have your mid-life crisis.

Rich: Well maybe. I'm thinking about other places. (Sandi laughing.) I'm thinking somewhere that speaks English, because I'm very bad at foreign languages. (Sandy is still laughing.) And so, but...

Sandi: Well, bad at foreign languages, good songwriter, a nice guy. What a trade-off!

Rich: Sometimes a nice guy... (Rich laughs.)

Sandi: Somethin' like that.

Sandi: (to radio audience) Rich Mullins, our guest.

Sandi: (to Rich) I appreciate you stopping by, Rich. It's always good to talk to you.

Rich: Well, thanks for giving me the opportunity to do this. This is what I like to do. (Sandi laughs) I love to talk. (Sandi laughs harder) Especially about myself. (Rich and Sandi are hysterical.)

Sandi: (to Rich) Well I tell you what. We're gonna just take off the mike, and you can just kinda stand over in the corner and talk about yourself here...

Sandi (to radio audience): We're gonna have the members of Whiteheart join us in just a second. Rich Mullins, thanks. We're gonna go into "Awesome God," one of the songs nominated for Song of the Year. Thanks for joining us, Rich, from Nashville, TN, GMA Live on 104.9 FM, WCBW.




Interview transcibed by Robin Woodson,
used with permission from

A Tribute to the music
and message of Rich Mullins





Copyright 1996-2015. Eric Townsend All Rights Reserved. Do not reproduce or publish without permission.