As a member of the well-loved and highly respected Christian music group the Crabb Family, Adam Crabb spent a great part of his life on the road with his siblings, performing onstage and sharing the Word before thousands of people. Together, they won 11 Dove awards, charted nearly 20 No. 1 songs, and garnered numerous Grammy nominations. In 2007, the siblings parted ways to pursue individual careers in music and worship, although they still work together onstage and in the studio when schedules permit.
Adam Crabb is on the road for close to 200 worship and revival dates per year. He’s been called “the face of youth” in Southern gospel, and that’s no surprise. His wit, energy and exuberance inject new life into the genre, and his passionate for sharing the Word translates across generations.
What do your revivals entail?
I do all the worship. I think the thing that’s kind of different with me is I do a variety of things, where a lot of groups or singers are into one style. I do some worship, I go back and do old Crabb Family stuff, churchy stuff, and mix it up so I can reach all ages. It seems to be working well. It’s a great experience because those people that you normally wouldn’t think would like the worship, like it, and it turns out to be a great night of seeing people’s lives change. It’s a great experience.
Has the demographic changed?
For sure. Through the years, music ultimately changes, and it’s harder for the older folks to accept because they’re so used to their worship and their way of doing things, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It definitely changed my life. But I think we’re seeing a younger generation that’s coming along, and the worship has changed, that’s for sure. I think it’s good to combine both. We’ve always done the old songs but made them more current, and the younger people accept it more. Since we’ve been on the road the last two years, we’ve seen it change a lot. We’re seeing younger crowds and middle-aged crowds. The older folks are still coming too, but it seems that it is changing and to me that’s a good thing, because when you can get the wisdom of the older people with the younger generation, man, we could do some great things! You look at kids nowadays — when I was growing up, for me to pick up a guitar and learn to play it was tough because we didn’t have the tools we have today. There are kids playing incredible music because they’ve got YouTube and all this stuff they can learn from. We’re seeing great singers rise up. We just live in a different time. But it’s very cool, and I think it’s good that kids are learning faster and picking up faster.
You’re working on a new album. When and where are you recording and who is producing?
We’ve been picking songs, which has been a slow process, but I want this album to be really different. I traveled with a band for three or four years and we had a sound. This album is completely me. It’s my first solo album, and I’m trying to find great songs with great lyrics and create my sound, as you would say. I’m excited about it. Jason, my oldest brother, is going to help me produce it. He’s been on the road, so it’s been slow, but we’re very excited. We have picked a studio. Jay DeMarcus, who sings with Rascal Flatts, has a home studio and we’re going to work there. Jay loves gospel music and really has a heart for it and he talked about that a lot with us. He gave me permission to use his place and I’m very excited about recording there. Probably within the next month or so we’ll get tracking sessions set, and from there we’ll find a vocal room and go after it. You don’t want to rush something you know God has a plan for, so we’re taking our time and making sure everything is right.
What is your sound?
I was raised on Southern gospel music, that’s where my whole family started, but I’ve always had a heart for worship and ministry. This album is going to be more of what my heart is. There will be some Southern in there because you can’t take that out of me, that’s where I started, but there’s also going to be a heart of worship. There are songs that talk about life experiences and how we’re all singing for the same purpose. Even though we have different backgrounds and we may sing a different style, we’re all singing about one man. I’m really going after the church and the lost person with this record.
Have you ever been that lost person?
Oh yeah. I struggled through life. I was having some issues, like we all deal with. We’re all flesh and human, none of us are perfect, we all have things that we wrestle with, and I found myself drifting and doing things that I normally wouldn’t do. I was a miserable individual. I had to get my orders checked, look myself in the eye in the mirror and say, “This isn’t me.” God has truly changed me. I feel like God is doing, even now, such a work in my life and He’s changing me every day. We’re the clay and He’s molding us and shaping us. I’m definitely not where I want to be, but I’m on the right road. I want to uplift Him, do all I can to win souls for Him, do what’s good in His eyes and be more like Him every day. It’s a struggle sometimes because we are flesh, but we must wake up every day and crucify our flesh and try to be more like Him every day.
Are you interested in crossing over to the country radio market?
There have been many opportunities for us to do that. Two years before the Crabb Family went their separate ways, we were offered a country deal. We told them that we wouldn’t compromise our message, that we would sing positive songs about life, but we wouldn’t compromise singing about Him. We went down that road for about a year and talked with producers and managers. A producer was listening to us and he said, “You’re going to have to change your lyrics a little bit to make this work.” We felt in our guts that it wasn’t the right move because we know where God has brought us and what He has done in our lives. To take Him out of the equation, it would all crumble beneath us. This is a gift that God has given us and He can very easily take it away. The secular market definitely brings in a lot more income for family, and if you’re singing a positive lyric, I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with that. So if my songs did cross over, it would just open more doors for me and that would be a great thing for everybody. I wouldn’t be opposed to it, and I wouldn’t mind doing some of that.
Is it difficult to balance promoting the music and promoting the message and one not getting lost behind the other?
Yes, it is, at times, and I will tell you why. When I had my band a few years ago, we had a great sound. It was very youthful. The cool thing about it is it was different, it was unique, but sometimes the lyrics got lost a little bit because we loved playing. You don’t ever want to take away from what the lyrics are saying, because that’s what hits the heart of people. The older I get, the more I realize that. I love to play, but at the end of the day, the ultimate result is changing a life, and the only way to do that is if they hear what you’re singing about. So it’s hard to combine the two and make it work, but when you do, it’s magic, and when it comes together, it’s a great experience.
Was it a given that you would follow this path?
No. My dad was an ordained minister, he preached at the Church of God, so I grew up in church my whole life. Me and my twin and my sister didn’t do a lot of singing. We were not really involved in the music side. Jason has always been involved in music. He started off playing the drums and the bass and other things; he was one of those guys that could pick up by ear and go with it. We were never really pushed in music in our childhood, but as I got older, in my teens, my dad started a church called Grace Chapel and we started leading worship. I played drums most Sundays at church and leading Sunday school, things that nobody else was there to do so we had to take up the slack. From there, ministry became what I was about. When I was about 16 years old, I was sitting in a class at school and I felt the voice of the Lord telling me that it was my time. My family, at this time, most of them were already traveling and singing. It was just starting into the full-time ministry on the road. I thought, This is crazy, this is me. I got home and my mother was sitting on the couch and crying. She said, “You don’t have to tell me. I already know. You need to go do what God’s called you to do and minister.” I didn’t know what that was or what I was supposed to do, but I knew it was with my family. That day, I accepted the call and started traveling with my family. I tried several different instruments and found that harmonica was the one God chose for me. I started singing a little bit, and from that day forward I knew that this was the path that God had put me on. It’s been an incredible journey and I know it’s just going to get better, so definitely it changed my life that day in the classroom.
Working with family is not always easy. What’s the key to making it work?
I will tell you this: I don’t think there’s ever been much of an argument or a fight between us siblings. We have always gotten along really well and we genuinely, truly love each other. We have grown together. My brothers and sisters are my best friends. On the road, you don’t get to have that life of having a lot of friends at the house and best friends and stuff like that, so my best friends were my family. Through the years, we’ve grown so much together. Another cool thing about my family is there’s not a jealous bone in any of them. No matter who is up front doing whatever, we’re behind them, pushing them. That really works for us and has helped us stay together. Of course, praying together as well.
Was it challenging to (a) take on the frontman role and (b) step out on your own?
Oh my Lord! Very difficult at first for me to accept leadership and step into that role, because I was always the one that kind of stood in the back, played my harp, sang harmony and I loved it. It was where I was most comfortable and what I knew. When that changed, for the first few months I was very insecure, very shy and very nervous about everything. After five or six months, a switch turned on that said, “You can do this.” God started anointing my voice and my singing started changing quite a bit. It started growing from there. It definitely wasn’t easy. There were a lot of challenges. Still today there are challenges and it’s fun when I conquer them, so it’s definitely been a learning process for me and I’m still learning.
What are some of the challenges and how do you overcome them?
I love to sing. Even if my voice is not fully there, I know God’s anointing is there and it’s going to carry me through. But I’ve always been insecure about speaking, and that has been the biggest challenge for me through the years. You learn, and I’ve gotten better. Some people know exactly what they’re going to say, but I just let it flow. That can be a good thing and a bad thing! I’ve learned that it works when you put God first and allow Him to use you as a vessel, because then you can’t fail. I allow Him to speak through me and it’s working.
How are the stage and the studio similar and different?
They are so different. It’s very difficult to bring a live feel into the studio. We have people all the time that come up and say, “We heard you on CD, which was good, but you sound so much better live.” I think the reason for that is there’s so much energy and feeling onstage when you’re playing. In the studio, you’re confined to one room, and of course there’s no audience, so you really have to try to capture that moment. Sometimes, with the stress and hard work, it’s hard to capture. So it’s definitely two different fields, for sure, but I love both of them. I love creating in the studio and I love singing live. I feel that I play better live, but you learn more and you’re more challenged in the studio as far as your playing and your abilities. When somebody says that, it truly means a lot, because there are singers that are big stars and you hear them live and you’re like, “Man, that sounds nothing like the CD,” so when somebody says that, it means a lot to me and it challenges me to try to capture that feel in the studio as well.
Are you still endorsed by Bushman Music Works?
I am still with Bushman. I love playing their harp. It’s got a different tone, a different sound, and they have perfected the harmonica for me. I’m sure there are other players that like different brands and styles, but this has been a good harp for me. The reeds are built better, in my opinion. Bushman is a good brand. I probably travel with fifteen or twenty harmonicas in a case. I need a whole new set. I wore my other ones out. I used to use them all when I had the band, but now with what I do, I use three different ones. With this new record that will probably change and I’ll have more stuff to play with. It’s just me now; I’ve been traveling by myself for about two years and it’s my first time ever singing with tracks and not having a band behind me. That was a challenge at first because I’m so used to flowing with whatever God has in mind next. But it’s been going well. I think the ministry side of me has come out more and challenged me because I don’t have that band to back me up. I have to carry this thing by myself. But it’s been really good for me.
Do harmonica players get short shrift, with people thinking it’s so easy to play?
In today’s music, yeah, you don’t hear a lot of harmonica, and I think the reason is that it is a very challenging instrument. For me, it was a natural thing that God gave me. I tried different things and that one just clicked. I think it’s a very loved instrument live, people seem to really enjoy it, but I’d like to get that sound back in today’s music, however it may be. I know today’s sound is about guitars and piano, but I would like to create a new sound for today’s music for the harp, and that’s what we’re working toward with this record as well.
Who influenced your playing?
My biggest influence was Terry McMillan. He was by far my favorite player. I love watching these guys create music in the studio, it’s just amazing, and before I started playing, he always played on our albums. I got to go in and watch him and it was crazy when you had all these musicians in there together. He was the one that every eye was on because he had so much energy and a feel like nobody else. He was my biggest influence in terms of playing. Also Buddy Greene. He’s just a monster. He’s one that I’m really challenged by and hope to learn from him. The first person I ever heard play was Angelina McKeithan, and I thought, Man, if a girl can play the harmonica, maybe I can!
Wait a minute!
[laughs] In all honesty, I saw something that I knew in my heart I wanted to do when she started playing, and she really was the reason I started playing, for sure.
The road is grueling on the voice, the mind, the spirit and the body. How do you take care of each?
That is probably the hardest thing because now I do all the traveling myself. I have someone with me who helps me set up and who does most of the driving, but I travel in a vehicle, and rest is huge for your voice. When I don’t get much rest, you can tell. So I try to rest as much as possible, which is definitely a challenge. You sing for an hour and a half or two hours, then you’re talking to all these people until the last one leaves, then you’re up until 3 or 4 in the morning and it does a lot of wear and tear on your voice. I do the best I can and I drink a lot of water. Some weeks we’ll be out for ten days straight. In times like that, a lot of rest is key because, as you know, us Crabb boys — we don’t hold anything back! We sing with everything that’s in us. I don’t even know if we sing right, but we give our heart at every performance, that’s for sure.
How do the mind, body and spirit interconnect?
My mind stays messed up! Going into this ministry, you have to have the right mindset. There are challenges and things that come your way and your mind can be very occupied at times. I think that reflects sometimes in your ministry, and your music, so it’s very challenging to keep your mind sound. But it’s very key. Also reading and praying — when you get the three working together, what a powerful, powerful tool it is. One of the most challenging things is combining the three and getting them to work together, but when they do, it’s magic. God shows up and that annointing’s there and it doesn’t matter if you sing three notes off key — the anointing definitely changes everything. So when you get the three working together, it’s definitely a great thing.
It’s rather obvious that you work out. When did you discover fitness? Do you find that it, too, is a component in your faith journey?
Yes, this is very true. The first year of my solo ministry, I was leading worship at a church for several months as I was getting started, which gave me a lot of time to be home, work out and do things like that. I got on this healthy kick, started eating a lot of healthy things and doing a workout plan. I’d work out three or four days a week and I’d eat right every day. I started seeing a huge improvement and I felt a lot better When you work out and eat right, you think better, you feel better and everything seems to work better. I will say that in the last year I’ve struggled a little bit with that because I’ve been so busy on the road and it’s hard to make time for it. I normally try to do it on the days I am home. I work out and try to keep that in check. It’s not always that way, but I try. I am definitely not a cardio guy! I lift weights. This year I’ve done a little more cardio than normal, but I do the weights and that’s kind of my thing. I did a program called 30-Day Shred. It was a full-body workout in twenty minutes, which was cardio and all that, and that was a good little workout for me. Now I’m just in the weight room. I do about thirty minutes of cardio after I get through working out, depending on how I feel, and that’s about it. I don’t drink or smoke and I never have. I can’t handle that stuff. I drink a lot of water and I hardly drink much pop. It definitely is a workout when I’m singing; when I get through, sometimes I’m soaking wet, and it is a good workout for me. When I’m home, my diet stays pretty good. I don’t always eat the right things on the road. It’s hard when you get done with a concert and the only thing open is a Waffle House or a convenience store.
How much of the discipline in your life comes from faith?
All of it. It takes faith to do anything, to believe, and having God in the middle of everything you do is definitely key for your marriage to work, all of that. I definitely think my faith has helped me in a lot of areas in my life, not only singing but all around in everyday living. My faith has kept me whole and kept me together. I think when you put your mind and heart in something and connect that to your faith, you’ll see great results.