I have a confession to make.
I’ve been holding out on you, my faithful readers.
Okay, so maybe that sounds a little more dramatic than necessary, but it’s still kind of true. On Friday, March 22nd, 2013 I had one of the nicest conversations/interviews of the year with someone who I know you all already adore.
How do I know y’all adore this guy and his band, you might be thinking? Well, I faithfully read my blog’s search engine statistics, and the band Big Daddy Weave is surpassed in search engine statistic popularity on my blog each month only by Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame. (Don’t ask why a blog about Christian music gets thousands of hits about Duck Dynasty on a weekly basis. I can’t figure it out either!)
Prior to meeting Mike Weaver, lead singer of Big Daddy Weave, I didn’t really get why Mike and BDW were causing such a stir on my monthly blog reports. Not to be flippant or anything, but there are Christian artists who have been around longer and perhaps have more big name recognition than the guys in BDW; like, for instance, tobyMac and Michael Tait of the Newsboys. I don’t know that I’ve ever gotten a report with Michael Tait’s name on it, which, come to think of it, is another one of the internet’s great mysteries (at least to me anyways!) There are also a lot of flashier, new up and coming bands that I frequently write about, like for King & Country and the City Harmonic, who generate some readership for me but don’t ever even come close to the numbers that BDW generates.
After meeting Mike and BDW, however, I think I now totally get what makes these guys a fan favorite on the world-wide web.
They are a study in dichotomies.
Hilarious, but with a serious message.
Successful, but oh so very humble.
Fun, but never-failing to point out the fact that their joy comes from the Lord.
Calling BDW ‘special’ doesn’t really seem to do them justice.
The band Big Daddy Weave in a recent promotional shot
After almost 15 years together as a band, you might think that when Big Daddy Weave heads out on tour, to a certain extent things would be more of the same old, same old just in a different zip code with new faces each night.
You’d be sorely mistaken.
In fact, one of the few things that might be same wherever Big Daddy Weave goes is the standard interviews with local press. You could have colored me surprised when, immediately after introducing myself and sitting down for my chat with Mike Weaver, he took the lead in the interview.
“First, let’s talk about this name, Big Daddy Weave,” he said with a smile.
I got the very distinct impression that he had probably been asked at least a million and a half times already about the origin of the band’s name. Ironically enough, I really had no intention of asking him about the band’s name. Thanks to the modern miracle of Google, I already had a pretty good handle on the origins of the band’s name.
“”Okay,” I replied. “Let’s talk about it.”
“You know, we get asked about our name all the time,” said Weaver. “I bet the Casting Crowns never get asked that question.”
“Probably not,” I said.
“We never thought we’d still be doing this after almost 15 years,” Weaver said thoughtfully, tapping his finger against his chin. “If we did, we would have called ourselves something way cooler than ‘Big Daddy Weave’.”
“So, if you could rename the band anything else at this point, what would it be?” I asked.
Without missing a beat, he replied “MercyMe.”
“That’s a good name,” I said. “Solid. I think it has a lot of potential, some real traction.”
“I can only imagine,” said Weaver, sending the entire room into spasms of laughter. (You might need to be familiar with MercyMe’s body of work to really get this one!)
Before the concert having a laugh with my BFF Sarah and BDW’s Mike and Jay Weaver
Back in the days before the band members of Big Daddy Weave had even met, much less given themselves a name other than ‘MercyMe’, Mike Weaver was a worship leader at a church in Florida along with his brother Jay (who plays the bass and sings). Part of the deal with the church’s pastor, according to Mike, was that he had to attend college in addition to fulfilling his duties at the church.
Early on, Weaver’s pastor noticed that he was always hanging around at church so he sent him to a college an hour away in Mobile, Alabama; a good enough distance to keep him away and focused on his courses during the week, but still close enough for him to get back to church on Sunday.
During Weaver’s first semester of school in Mobile, he met all of the original members of Big Daddy Weave.
I asked Weaver, because of his background leading worship, how performing in a concert varies from leading worship.
“The only thing that makes a concert a concert is the billing,” said Weaver. “That, and the sound and lighting that is used to make it look that way. The heart is still very much in worship mode.”
Weaver recalls being told early in his career by an industry professional to never label Big Daddy Weave as a worship band. “I was very offended by that statement,” said Weaver emphatically. “We are worshippers, that’s who and what we are. The Lord convicted me to not worry about what we are called, but to worry about who and what we are.”
Our discussion of the difference between concerts and worship (or rather, the lack thereof), naturally segued into a topic that Weaver is obviously passionate about: worship. “We have songs that work in a corporate kind of setting, and then there are songs that don’t necessarily work in that kind of setting but boy do they sure work on the radio,” he told me. “At the heart of what we do, at the heart of worship, is responding to who He is. That’s what worship is, seeing Him, seeing how great He is, and responding naturally to who He is. That’s what we encourage people to do every night, it’s what we pray for every night. We want Him to be revealed, because that’s a game changer. If He shows up, we’re not leaving the same way that we came.”
At this point, the witty and light-hearted Weaver turns more contemplative. “You know, as a band there were a lot of nights on tour when we did leave the same way that we came, and I’m just being completely honest with you, probably worse than when we came,” said Weaver, quietly but directly. “We knew the right words to say, you know what I mean? It wasn’t that we did it on purpose, and we always, always knew in our hearts that there was something more. In these last couple of years, we’ve really seen Him, we’ve seen Him move, and it has altered us.”
This revelation has led to a deeper, more intense focus for the band to personally minister to those they meet on the road at their concerts. This truth was plainly evident to me as I attended the band’s Redeemed Tour at Blackhawk Ministries on March 22nd. At the conclusion of the tour, band member Joe led concertgoers in simple worship songs as Mike invited attendees who wanted to know more about Christ, or those who felt compelled to seek prayers or spiritual guidance to come to the front and speak with the rest of the band.
“Let me be clear about this,” Weaver told concert attendees at the beginning of this portion of the evening. “If you come forward with a Sharpie asking for an autograph right now, you will be turned away. There will be time for that later. This is the time for something more.”
I watched as dozens of people went forward, many with tears streaming down their faces.
I turned in my seat to face my own friend, Sarah, who had accompanied me to the concert.
She had tears streaming down her face.
“I am so moved right now,” said Sarah. “I’ve never seen or experienced anything like this before at a concert,” she added, using her sleeve to dot at her tears with a shrug and a smile.
Me either, and I get paid to attend and write about concerts, usually well over a hundred a year.
Just a short hour earlier, Weaver and I had discussed his songwriting process (he writes or co-writes all of Big Daddy Weave’s music). “You know, there’s no point in the process where I say to myself, ‘Now, if I change to this chord or say this instead of that, everyone is really going to start giving their heart up to the Lord,” he said with his trademark dry wit. “There’s never a part in the songwriting process where you’re like, ‘Well, that right there is a winner. That’s going to turn somebody’s life around.’ The Holy Spirit has to do that; but, He wants to.”
Of the band’s immensely popular song, Redeemed, Weaver said after authoring the song with co-writer Benji Cowart (a worship leader in New York) on Skype, he initially planned to keep the song for his own personal collection. “When we finished writing Redeemed, I didn’t even give it to the label. I thought, this song is for me. I thought, this song is too slow. I thought it was all these other things, but the Lord just started using it.”
Perhaps the reason Weaver was somewhat hesitant to share the song initially was due to its intensely personal origins.
“I’d had the chorus rolling around in my head for a while that day I Skyped with Benji,” Weaver told me. “We just began talking about it, and talking about everything: my own inadequacies and my own hatred of myself that I have lived with for so long but never really knew how to pinpoint that’s what it was. It was just who I was. I didn’t know what it was. All I knew was, I didn’t like me. I always thought that if I could somehow change me, then I would like me better. The Lord has shown me that I was not truly receiving who I am in Him,” said Weaver simply.
“You know, He makes some pretty clear, seemingly audacious statements about who we are in Him. He looks at things that aren’t pretty and says, ‘Nope. Beautiful.’ Know what I mean? He looks at what is not holy and says, ‘Nope. Sanctified.'” says Weaver, snapping his fingers. “Because of what He has done, He is IT. For us to disagree with Him, it’s like ‘Who are we, anyway?’ He’s the King of the universe! Oh, I think I might know….well, nothing compared to what He knows. He is and He knows and He loves. He loves people, and I’m more sure of that now than I’ve ever been in my entire life because I know that He loves me.”
Weaver is quiet for a moment, pensive, carefully selecting the words he wants to say next. “I think this message is important to God. I think this message is important to His heart. He wants people to know that He’s not mad at them. When the angels said ‘Peace on Earth and goodwill toward men,’ they were talking about the person of Jesus and what He was there to do. They weren’t talking about the absence of violence in the world. This rift between God and us, it’s reconciled. The blood of Jesus holds back the entire wrath of God from us. It shows us His Daddy’s heart. He loves us, every single one of us. That’s what he wants to get across. It is done. It is finished. He said, it is finished, and it is finished. Now it’s up to us, to receive what has already been done.”
So, so true.
Even though Weaver and Big Daddy Weave have a serious message and a serious ministry to carry out, don’t be fooled into thinking that the Redeemed Tour is lacking in the fun department. Contrary to popular belief, Christians can and do have a lot of fun.
If this statement of fact is ever called into question, the shenanigans on the Redeemed Tour bus could very well be the defense’s Exhibit A.
Chris August on stage at the Redeemed Tour stop at Blackhawk Ministries on March 22nd, 2013
Chris August, (a notorious prankster and) one of the opening performers for the first leg of the 2013 Redeemed Tour, told me in an interview on the 22nd that he can’t think of a night on tour that the guys haven’t literally laughed until they cried.
Mike Weaver agreed. “Every night, it’s a regular variety show out on the bus,” he said.
One source of entertainment for the guys is something Weaver likes to call ‘Bus Diving.’
“I hope the Olympic Committee will consider Bus Diving for the next Olympics, actually,” said Weaver of the sport that he claims to have invented. “I’m the initiator of Bus Diving. Don’t you at least get a medal or something if you invent an Olympic sport?” he asked me.
Probably not, but you might get a 3 minute documentary of your life tenderly voiced over by Bob Costas during the midnight to 2 am Olympic time slot (if it’s a slow news day).
When I asked Weaver if he could explain to me just what exactly Bus Diving is, his answers became a little cagey. “We try to be careful, but it’s a fact that people get hurt Bus Diving. It’s not without casualties,” he said rather elusively.
Chris August, on the other hand, became very animated when I asked him to describe this sporting phenomenon known as Bus Diving. “It’s a frightening thing,” said August. “I can just be sittin’ on the bus, minding my own stuff, and Mike will walk by, say ‘Bus Dive’, and then fall over on top of me. You don’t even want to go there,” adds August with a disarming smile.
“I can only imagine,” I replied, realizing after the fact that once again, MercyMe has elbowed its way into this story.
I would, without a doubt, be remiss if I didn’t mention that the BDW gang (in addition to their Bus Diving proclivities) also have a penchant for taxidermied mascots.
(I would also be remiss if I didn’t say the tour’s manager, Brad, cannot be lumped into this overgeneralization.)
The band’s former mascot is a bobcat named Cathy that Todd Agnew originally rescued from a middle school’s janitorial closet in South Carolina. To make a long story short, Cathy was offered to me as a gift during my interview with Mike and the band on the 22nd.
(I’m thinking an exquisite yet freakish creature like Cathy truly deserves, at the very least, her own blog entry. For Pete’s sake, she has her own Twitter account! How many taxidermied, traveling bobcats can there be? Also, I wouldn’t want her to get jealous or anything. She has some seriously sharp-looking teeth and claws for a stuffed animal!)
While the leg of the Redeemed Tour with Chris August and Cathy has ended since my interview with the band (August is currently out with Matt Maher and Bellarive on the All The People tour), the fun and ministry of BDW’s Redeemed Tour travels on with Mikeschair (love ’em!) and Citizen Way.
Yet, when all is said and done, Big Daddy Weave is more about striving to meet the challenge of living a life that is different from that of this world than tour bus antics. What they are about is living a life that is fully yielded to the Lord.
“I’m not saying that we ever lived like we’re heathens,” said Weaver, “and I’m not saying that we are even at 100% yet. But we’ve traded in our brokenness for His perfection, and because of that, we need to live differently. We’re learning to live our lives yielding to the Lord on a daily basis, when no one is looking. That’s the goal.”
Because life’s not the kind of gift that you can hold
The only way you can keep it is to let it go
I wanna give my life away
Cause I know that’s what You want me to do
Wanna give myself to You
Gonna give my life away
I’ve been changed by the Truth
If I give myself away
I’ll find myself in You
~Lyrics to the song Give My Life Away,
from Big Daddy Weave’s 2012 album, Love Come to Life, which is available wherever music is sold
For more information about Big Daddy Weave and the Redeemed Tour, visit www.BigDaddyWeave.com
A special thank you to Mike Weaver and Chris August for their time, and Ms. Montine Felso with Warner Music Group/Word Entertainment for her very gracious assistance arranging this interview