A few months before Steven Curtis Chapman's The Glorious Unfolding released, a group of music writers gathered inside the cozy Boiler Room Theater to get a sneak peek of the new album. The location, in scenic Franklin, Tennessee, is part of a converted stove factory that now houses gift shops, office space and restaurants, but it also oozes history. Just a few miles away, one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War was fought.
Franklin, just 20 minutes south of downtown Nashville, has been Chapman's home for most of his career in Christian music. Despite his elfin appearance and youthful good looks, at 50, he's an elder statesman now. In earning that title, he's become part of history, too.
The Christian music industry was still getting it's footing when he came to town in the early 1980s, leaving Paducah, Kentucky, to make it big in Music City. In those early days, Chapman worked at the Opryland USA theme park and attended Belmont University for a time, writing songs on the side. Then he signed a deal with Sparrow Records, and his second album, 1988's Real Life Conversations, resulted in his first No. 1 single, "His Eyes." SCC was on his way.
More to This Life and For the Sake of the Call cemented his position as the one to beat, and the latter earned him his first Grammy. Then Chapman aimed his 1992 release, The Great Adventure, at a broader, mainstream radio audience. It paid off. Two more Grammys followed and the album was certified gold. Overall, the '90s were good to Chapman, including releases like Heaven In the Real World and Signs of Life, and being named Songwriter of the Year by American Songwriter magazine.
The new millennium brought new challenges. Chapman struggled with vocal issues, chronicled on the album Speechless. And he became an adoption advocate, welcoming three daughters from China into his family. Declaration, All About Love and All Things New continued to generate hits and introduce Chapman to new audiences. Through it all, he managed to walk the line between remaining current and staying true to his original sound.
This Moment included the hit song "Cinderella," a tearjerker ode to daughters and dads. Tragedy struck in 2008, when Chapman's youngest daughter was accidentally struck and killed by her teenage brother in the family's driveway. The family spoke honestly about their grief, even appearing on national morning shows to talk about how the accident affected their faith. Chapman's wife, Mary Beth, wrote a book about the experience, while Chapman turned to his music to process his feelings. The result was 2009's Beauty Will Rise. The album re:creation followed in 2011 and now The Glorious Unfolding continues a career that has already included 47 No. 1 singles and nearly 11 million albums sold.
That afternoon at The Boiler Room Theater, Chapman put it all in perspective, saying, "The prayer through the course of my life, before I even knew what I was doing or had any clue, [was] 'God, I want to know you and make you known.'" His way of doing that has always been with a guitar and his songs, but he was telling his own story, too. Who knew it would turn out to be such an epic tale of life, love, faith, loss and redemption?