Only a guitar, a microphone and the distance between the stage and the seats will separate Steven Curtis Chapman from his audience in Wisconsin Dells when he performs Oct. 13 at Crystal Grand Music Theatre.
Chapman, one of Christian contemporary music’s most successful recording artists, will bring his guitar, a microphone and his ability to play and sing some of his 48 No. 1 hits and other favorite songs, marking one of the first of his “unplugged” performances on a tour that will last into 2018.
In other words, it will be Steven Curtis Chapman “unplugged,” as Generation X used to call it. Or, to hear Chapman tell it, unadorned yet honest.
“You can’t hide behind a great sideman or a great groove when you’re playing by yourself,” Chapman told Wisconsin Dells Events by telephone from his home in Tennessee. “You have to create it all right there, and there’s something really honest about that.”
Hearing Chapman’s songs accompanied by only a guitar will allow fans to experience the songs in their original habitat. The prolific songwriter does all of his creating either with the guitar or a piano and his own voice, he said.
“My songs have been written mostly with a guitar and singing, sitting in a room by myself,” he said. “It’s the most organic, honest way.”
But Chapman also will take the time during his appearance to tell a few of the stories behind his songs, and his one-man approach also allows him to respond spontaneously to audience requests as well as his own inspirational whims.
Such was the case during one recent performance, he said, when an audience member suggested he perform the first song he ever learned on guitar. He complied, and out came “Folsom Prison Blues” by Johnny Cash, Steven Curtis Chapman-style.
Such spontaneity wouldn’t be as possible were a full band accompanying the artist, and he says that’s another reason performing by himself makes such appearances so special for both him and his audience.
“It just gives me that freedom to go where the wind blows me,” he said. “It’s really unique, and I think people enjoy hearing these songs in that unique way.”
The stories also will come from his life and career, the latter of which has lasted more than 30 years and has seen him become one of the dominant performers in his genre.
As for the former, Chapman’s life story is now in print, in his recently released memoir, “Between Heaven and The Real World: My Story,” written by him with Ken Abraham.
Chapman’s is a life that encompasses “incredible highs and faith-shaking lows,” according to the book’s overview in barnesandnoble.com. The highs, of course, include the 11 million records he has sold and the five Grammy’s and 58 Gospel Music Association Dove Awards he has won.
The “faith-shaking lows” include a challenging childhood and the devastating loss of his five-year-old daughter Maria in 2008.
Throughout all of these experiences is the faith that got him through that childhood and brought him into the Christian music world, then brought him and his family through their tragic loss and continues to come through in his music.
“I’m in the same world everybody is living in,” he said. “Holding on to that one thing that’s been true in my life has held me together, it’s been my anchor. I don’t have all the answers, I don’t understand it all. I don’t have it all figured out — and it’s why I write these songs.”