WCBW 104.9 FM Interview
by Sandi Brown
Nashville, TN April 1993
Sandi (to listeners): I had the chance to sit down with many artists [during GMA week]. Rich Mullins was just one of them, but one that I was really looking forward to, because we've been hearing a lot about him going back to school, and that he's not gonna be in Christian music anymore. And I really wanted to find out what was going on, and had the chance to do just that.
He is a full-fledged college student now. He actually had to skip school to come, and he was talking how his professor said, "Now, you do this too much, you're gonna get in trouble." So, he said he's kind of regressing back to days of school. He is getting some degrees because his aspiration now is to become a teacher. He said he wants to teach elementary school on an Indian reservation, or, if not somewhere in the States, then perhaps overseas. He just has a real burden for young children, and thinks he can make a great impact on them.
I asked him what that meant to his music career; and he said, well, basically, it was over. He was saying "goodbye." He said, whereas the last several years he has been primarily focusing on music, and doing other things as hobbies, it's just going to be in reverse. He wants to focus on teaching, and doing music as a hobby. So, whether he will actually completely disappear from the scene or not, I don't know. My estimation and guess would be that he would continue to do projects here and there, as far as recordings, but he'll not do the touring and be at the forefront of the industry. But, I hope anyway, that he doesn't completely say goodbye.
He is very excited. I saw him and felt him to be very focused, very settled, and just a real peace that I had not seen in him for quite some time. So, I think, he knows what he wants. He's going to pursue it. And he's very excited about the possibilities of how God is gonna use him in the future. So, we'll continue to pray for him. So, here are a few minutes, in fact, the entire interview from Rich Mullins, and it's a little longer than some of the other excerpts that we've been running, but it was so insightful that I thought you may enjoy hearing it all. So, here are some words from Rich Mullins.
Sandi (to Rich): It is good to see you and talk to you again.
Rich: Um, it's good to see you [Sandi] again, and talk to you, too... (he is already laughing, then she begins laughing) ...even though I can only see you. And there might be people listening that I can't see, but it's good to talk to those people that I can't see, too. And I'm glad you [Sandi] are there to give me the opportunity to do that.
Sandi: He does not need me at all! You know what I'm sayin'? I mean, like, he could just go off by himself. I am just, more or less, here for the fun of it...
Rich: Well, and it is fun. I mean, I'm glad you're here for the fun of it, 'cause you are a lot of fun. (You can hear someone in the background laughing.)
Sandi: (Long pause. Sandi sounds dumbfounded, like he's completely gotten her off-track.) Rich, we saw each other down in the lobby a few minutes ago, and you were talking about the transition from touring and being a Christian artist, and then all of a sudden being back in the classroom and doing the homework scene. I mean, you're a full-fledged college student now...
Rich: Yeah, full time. (He laughs.) It really is weird to go, "Oh wow! I can't go out now because I have to do my theory assignment." (She laughs.) You know, it just feels really weird. And we're doin' all this analysis stuff. It's really interesting. I mean, really fun. I really do enjoy it, but it is definitely different than... you know, I think it's been good for me because it's nice to be on a schedule. And I actually eat approximately two meals a day, and have time to snack and stuff. And I eat about the same time all the time. And I pretty much go to bed at the same time, pretty much get up at the same time every morning. And when you're on the road, when you're touring, you never have any idea when you're gonna eat next, what you're gonna have to eat, 'cause you're always at the mercy of whoever is doing the concert. Whatever they bring in for you is kinda what you eat. And sleeping, you know, you may do the concert and then you drive. Or you may do the concert and then go to bed, and then you may have to get up the next morning at five or six, sometime like that, to drive to the next place. So I think it's been really good for me to be in a situation where I can have some kind of a routine.
Sandi: I was thinking about that. I was thinking of some possible questions, the whole idea of normalcy, getting back to that. You know, some people aren't gonna understand that. They're gonna say, "Boy, if I could have one dream, it would be to do what you do, and here, you're goin' back to school!" You know, for some I imagine that's pretty hard to understand. How do you respond to that?
Rich: Well, I think being able to do what I've had the opportunity to do is kinda like a dream. I mean, it really was a blast. But you kinda get to a place in your life where you go, "Yeah, this is fun, and this is somethin' that I'll be thankful for the rest of my life, but this isn't what my life is about. And this isn't who I really am." I mean, it's a part of who I am, I suppose. And I kinda see the whole music career thing as being God's mercy to students... 'cause I think I'm gonna be a much better teacher at forty than I would have been at twenty. And so, I think He sent me down this little detour, gave me twenty years to grow up a little bit more. And I think, now I'm a little more mature. I think I'll be able to handle being in a classroom. (He chuckles.)
Sandi: Two questions off of what you just said. And the first, you are talking about music as, "It was fun," and, "It has been." Is it really in the past now, or how do you view it where the future is concerned? And Michelle from Reunion just walked in, and so you have to respond now to her ears, too. (She chuckles.) I'm just kidding.
Rich: Well, in terms of career choices, it's kind of a past thing. There was a time when I chose to work real hard at being a musician, which meant that I spent most of my time either touring, or doing an album, or something like that. And the whole time I was doing that, I was... a lot of times, one of the things that I really enjoyed doing when we were on tour was... you know, you'd meet people after a concert, and they'd say, "Hey, we have a Bible study. Could you come to the Bible study tomorrow morning?" It was always a blast to go to some little college, or some little high school... and I don't mean 'little' like some 'dinky, insignificant', I just mean, just some high school or some college and meet with a group of, maybe half a dozen to a dozen people and do a little Bible study thing. That was always kinda fun. And I think it's just gonna flip-flop. I think I'm going to be teaching as a career, and doing music kind of as a little bit of spice, you know, when you get a little too bored. 'Cause I think it will be boring to live in the same place all the time, and see the same people every day, and all that. I think people who are able to live years and years and years in a routine deserve some kind of a big medal for some kind of courage that I don't have.
Sandi: Well, I think we can gather from that, then, that your musical epitaph isn't being written here, that we'll continue to hear from you. And that's our hope if it's what God's will is for your life. You also said something about, "That's not what life is about." How would you sum up what life is about?
Rich: Well, (You can tell Rich is smiling.) I...
Sandi: Is that deep? That sounds deep
Rich: (Really laughing now.) See, and people say... this cracks me up about interviewers, 'cause they always go, "Wow, you're so heavy, we don't know if we can play this on the radio!" And then they ask me, "Well, what is life all about?" (He laughs again.) You know, I kinda go, "Gee, I don't know. What do you want me to say? Popcorn?" (Someone in background is laughing.) I think life is about living. And this elder - one of the elders at my church, and I, have just started this big study on the word 'meekness.' And, not only the word, but the whole idea of meekness.
And one of the things we've come across is the whole idea that a meek person is a person who accepts what God sends to them, and doesn't grumble about it, doesn't complain. And I think that life is a terrific gift that God gives us. And that, in this big, cool package, there are all kinds of little details, that, when you first pull 'em out and look at 'em you're not sure what to make of 'em. And I think that a meek person is a person who accepts what God sends their way, accepts their calling in life, accepts the opportunities that they're given, accepts the, you know, physical realities of getting older and their knees going bad and their gaining weight and all of that, (He laughs) that sort of thing... [A meek person] accepts this and makes the most of it, and goes ahead, and realizes that God is doing something in our lives that we don't understand. And so, I think life is about living.
Sandi: I know that you write a lot. You've been referred to as a modern poet, who just happens to, you know, then put those words into song. I know you won't stop writing, will you? I mean, you write as, more or less of a hobby, in addition to the music, don't you?
Rich: Yeah. I think writing is a blast. And I think it's something that you either do or you don't do. And being published was an accident for me, you know, I never intended to be published. And I don't intend to quit writing. (He laughs.) You know, it's fun. It's fun to be published. It's fun to see your name in print and stuff like that. But, that's not the real fun. I mean, the real fun is... I wish everyone could experience what it's like to be hanging out with, like... we, in fact, wrote "Boy Like Me, Man Like You" there in St. Louis. And Beaker and I were sittin' on the side of this hill at this hostel where we were staying, and our dogs are wrestling, and we're talkin' about how, if we were kids, we would be wrestling too. And, just that whole vitality, you know, all that stuff. And then we were talking about Christ being a kid, and we just had this terrific conversation. And a lot of that conversation had to do with being thankful to be alive, with being thankful that God has given us the gift of life. And that, for me, is a million times more fun than even the terrific stuff that has come about as a result of what we did. The process is, for me, more satisfying than the product.
Sandi: Where will you be teaching, Christian college, secular college? And what kind of coursework will you hope to teach?
Rich: I'm hopin' to teach on an Indian reservation, K thru 12. Or, if that doesn't work out, maybe go to Central America or something. And I just want to teach... you know, I have no idea actually, where I'm gonna end up. I think I'm just gonna go wherever I get a big chance to go, 'cause that's... I don't think I want to teach college though, because I don't think I'm... I mean, I think I'm smart enough, but I don't think I take it seriously enough to be a college professor. I think you have to be really, you know, serious about your subject. And I don't think many people have an attitude about music like what I have, that are teaching in colleges. (He chuckles.)
Sandi: (Sandy chuckles, too.) As a wrap-up question, then, I know we need to run... if we asked a lot of listeners what they have gained, or been able to receive from your music, I think we could come up with some pretty wonderful answers. What do you think you have gained, or will take with you, from your songs, or just being in the music industry and ministry?
Rich: (A pause) Oh, boy, I... (pause again) I don't even know how to answer that. 'Cause I'm... the last, you know, seven or eight years that I've been doin' this, have been the kind of thing I never expected. And have been terrifically more rewarding than I ever would have... I mean, if I would have known how cool it was gonna be when I got into it, I would have... (pause) I don't know what I would have done different, but it's consistently hit me as a surprise.
One of the things I think that has been wonderful about being involved in the Christian music industry is just the people that I've got to meet. I've got to meet some really... it's been really fun. I like to meet people before and after concerts. I like to know who I'm singing to, or whatever, and I've met some amazing people, just kinda hanging out afterwards and stuff. There are... I've always been kind of hyper-critical of the Christian music industry, and probably rightfully so. I think there are a lot of weird things about the industry, but within that industry, I've met so many people who have taught me such a great lesson in saying, "I am not responsible for the industry. I am responsible to answer the call that God has put on my life. And God has called me to be a D.J. in this station, at this time, and that's what I'm gonna be. And yes, I have problems with the industry, as well as you do, but I can only be faithful here.
I have to answer for myself." So, I'm very thankful for the people that I've got to meet. Especially radio people, I tend to especially like, 'cause they tend to be real extroverts, and they are a lot of fun. I've got to work with some amazing people. I've got to see some very talented and very dedicated people, and that's all been very fun. There's something amazing, like watching Billy Crockett play a guitar. There's something amazing about seeing a guy who has developed a skill that far, that he can sit down and do what he does, is truly an amazing thing. And not many people ever get to see that. I mean, they get to hear it on the record, but when you see somebody, you go, "This is what makes that happen!!!?" You go, "Wow!!! This guy's doin' that by flicking strings and puttin' his fingers in certain places." So, that's kind of been a wonderful thing.
Possibly the thing that I think has been the most rewarding has been my relationship with Compassion International. One of the things that I think are somewhat tangible for me, are the people who have signed up to sponsor children after our concerts. And there are times when I get kind of, when I go, "What is this about?" You know, wow, I'm gonna go out and show off for another three hours here, and sometimes I feel embarrassed at how much I enjoy it. And then I feel kind of bad afterwards. And then, sometimes when I feel really bad, I just get out those sheets, and I go, "Well look, here is, you know, a few hundred kids that maybe are going to eat tonight. And I don't... I'm not responsible for that, but what I was able to do was give people an opportunity to respond to a real need and people have responded. And for me, that's possibly the most, like I said, "tangible", the most immediately tangible, reward for what I've been able to do.
So, there are many, many more rewards than I can count. And I think I'm not even smart enough to know how blessed I've really been by all this. But I think, someday when I'm an old, some nasty old curmudgeon rottin' away in a nursing home, I'll probably look back and remember this and see it more accurately than I'm able to see it now. And I'll probably be more thankful.
Sandi: Rich, it's been good sharing with you again today. And just as maybe a way of wrapping up, you seem real focused today, real at peace, and that's tough after all these interviews, I know. But, you know what I'm saying? Just in our conversation, just the sense of real... I don't know if you even know what I'm talking about or not, but just a real vision and a sense of focused-ness that maybe has not been as evident as it is right now.
Rich: Yeah, I think I'm growing up a bit. I mean, like I said, I was given twenty extra years of kid-hood by being a musician. And so, I think I'm ready to get to some serious work now. And that feels good to me.
(Sandi plays "Growing Young")
Sandi (to listeners): Rich Mullins' "Growing Young", on the new 104.9. I think he may be growing up some, as he said in his interview, as well. Hope you enjoyed that time with him. Let's hear another song from Rich Mullins.
(Sandi plays "Sometimes By Step")
Interview transcibed by Robin Woodson,
used with permission from
A Tribute to the music
and message of Rich Mullins
used with permission from
A Tribute to the music
and message of Rich Mullins