Using the message of each of the new songs, the inspirational-pop band is releasing 11 video segments to tell a through-the-generations story covering five decades in a family's life.
"We thought, let's create a movie that builds around the songs," said lead singer-songwriter Mark Hall. "Not a music video, but about people just living their lives with the songs simply in the background."
The tunes on their "Only Jesus" release offer backdrops for the video segments.
One recently issued video features the song "In the Hands of the Potter." In the storyline, a granddaughter follows in her ill grandmother's footsteps by taking up pottery and art (watch online). It continues the family story established in the previous six episodes.
"The point (of the series) is the journey that this family has been on, and the essence of the songs is that God is hope and only Jesus can save you," added Hall from his suburban Atlanta office.
Hall and his band bring their "Only Jesus" tour to Grand Rapids at Van Andel Arena April 25 with special guest Zach Williams (details below).
MESSAGE AND MUSIC
Casting Crowns (the name comes from an act of worship depicted in the book of Revelation) is one of Christian music's most popular inspirational bands. Several of its albums have sold more than a million copies (10 million total sales) and the band has garnered numerous awards. Twenty-six of their songs have reached the top ten on Christian radio. It's also one of the few Christian bands ever to perform in North Korea.
Yet Hall's chief role is still as a pastor to students at a Georgia church. He and all of his band members are active in church ministry roles.
Most of his songs are written based on things he is teaching his church youth.
"Only Jesus," the new album's title song, is an example of a theme in his youth curriculum.
"Remember John the Baptist?" asked Hall about the wilderness prophet who was the forerunner to Jesus. "Everyone came to see him and were dropping rock-star names about who he might be, like Elijah. But John said they didn't need to know him, he was just a voice in the wilderness. He told them, 'You need to know Jesus.'"
BUILDING THE MUSIC
Hall says he never sets out to write a certain kind of record. "I go a song at a time and then at the end look back and say...'Oh, it's this kind (of album),'" he remarked.
Neither does he purposely write songs that are "congregational," that is, ready-made for worship singing – although "Glorious Day," based on the old hymn, is an exception.
"But there is a vertical element to most of our songs, like 'Who Am I?' or "Voice of Truth" which are sung vertically to God," he added.
Hall's wife Melanie is road manager for the band, and the couple travels together with their four kids whenever possible. Their oldest, 20-year old John, helps with band merchandise and their 19-year daughter is Melanie's assistant. Both are taking college courses online. The family has done home schooling for many years. "We've done home school, plane school, bus school, road school... anything you can think of," Hall said.
This Casting Crowns tour has already played major venues such as the Target Center in Minneapolis and Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Two years ago they drew more than 5,000 to Van Andel.
"There's lots of video elements on this tour and lyrics are up (on screen) because some people might not know the songs," Hall said. At most stops opening act Zach Williams joins the band on stage for several selections, including the encore.
"We're gonna be doing four or five of the news songs, but 70% of them will be favorites (such as 'East to West' and 'Praise You in the Storm') that people expect to hear," said the artist.
Casting Crowns, with special guests Zach Williams and Austin French
7pm Thurs. April 25 at Van Andel Arena, downtown Grand Rapids
Tickets begin at $24, available at Ticketmaster outlets. Phone 800-745-3000 or online.