October 22, 1996
Copyright 1996 by Shout Magazine
Those cruising the Christian Fellowship chat room on America Online are often treated to inspired philosophical discussions: Great theologians like Aquinas and Merton. Election-year politics. Singer/songwriter Rich Mullins.
No, really. Mullins is the kind of artist whose music roots around in the mire of head and heart: His lyrics prompt deep contemplation, his melodies and arrangements evoke far away places and long ago times. They beg for commentary and discourse.
What inspires such artistry is a fearless approach to living. "Like Thoreau, I love to suck the marrow out of the bones of life," the Indiana native says. "People want to know God's will for them. In one of His most explicit statements on the subject, Christ said, 'Come, that you might have life and have it abundantly.' Christianity is about living out the will of God and living abundantly," Mullins explains.
Abundant life for Mullins has included a much-touted move to the Southwest to teach music at a Native American school. It has also meant an ambitious European concert tour and the release of Songs, a greatest-hits package that is a veritable ledger sheet of more than a decade's songcrafting. The collection also includes one new recording, "We Are Not as Strong as We Think We are."
"It's a breakup song," he says of the composition. "I don't know anyone who hasn't gone through the experience of a friendship or romance that ended on a sour note. This song tries to look at that honestly."
No sour notes for Mullins: During the GMA convention in April, he was feted by such peers as Amy Grant, who had a hit with his "Sing Your Praise to the Lord." But Mullins insists on brushing aside such music-industry glitter aside.
"I try not to let my career become the central element of my identity. If you go through life just worrying about how to make more money or become a bigger deal on the radio, you end up living pretty close to the surface," he reflects.
For one who has chosen to balance a recording career with a job teaching the Navajo, there should be little risk of that.