At its peak, David Crowder Band was one of the most popular artists in Christian music's worship genre. The group's songs have been sung in churches and youth groups across America, as well as internationally. As the band came to a close and Crowder himself decided to depart on a different musical journey, it left the other members of the band at a crossroads of sorts. What would the next step be, and how would they proceed?
David Crowder transplanted himself to a new location and assembled a new band, simply dubbed Crowder, revisiting many of his old songs and writing new ones with a distinct bluegrass infusion, adding a more organic element to his music. Crowder visited Cain's Ballroom back in April and shed a new light on those early songs while also giving a glimpse of what the future likely holds for his music.
Although it was a great night of worship songs with a distinct Southern Gospel element, something was different. Even Crowder admits that there's a yearning to the folk and bluegrass nuances that he's currently drawn to, and that tone has replaced not all, but at least part, of the celebrative spirit of many of this early songs. And while it was enjoyable, I'm sure I wasn't the only one wondering what the rest of the band was doing and where the change might lead their music.
That question has been answered with the debut album by The Digital Age, Evening & Morning, which was released in August. Composed of original David Crowder Band members Jeremy "B-Whack" Bush on drums; Mike "D" Dodson on bass, piano and keyboards; Jack Parker on guitar, banjo, and Rhodes; and Mark "The Shark" Waldrop on guitar and mandolin (all of the members contribute to programming and synths) -- this is the group that most DCB fans will eventually be drawn to. The voice has changed as Waldrop, Parker, and Dodson all contribute vocals, but the spirit of the music is still alive and well. And so is the band, albeit moving forward with a new name.
With The Digital Age currently kicking of its first major tour and coming to Tulsa for a show next Friday, Oct. 25, I got the chance to catch up briefly with Mark Waldrop to get some perspective on the band and what its future may hold.
Of course, first and foremost in all fans minds is the transition and what happened to split the band. In addressing that issue, it turns out to be fairly simple, with no ill will or bad blood between anyone.
"Basically, David moved to Atlanta three years ago," Waldrop explained. "He was ready to move there because that's where the Passion group and Sixsteprecords is based with guys like Chris Tomlin, Charlie Hall, and Matt Redman."
"The rest of us didn't really want to move, though," he continued. "We were originally the worship team at University Baptist Church in Waco, Texas, which is a college church, and essentially, we had to start touring. So when David decided to move, we decided we wanted to continue investing in our community, and that starts with our church."
With a change in name and an almost instantly recognizable front man departing, it left the remaining members in a position of great freedom moving forward. When discussing that transition, Waldrop admitted that perhaps the hardest part was determining what direction they should go and how to proceed.
"Obviously, when we lost David, we lost someone with a very characteristic sound and signature, and I think the worst thing to do is to try and replace that," he shared, "But we can try to evolve, so really, we've just been writing songs for our own congregation and, hopefully, they're songs that other churches can use."
"We lost an acoustic guitar and a violin and our big question was 'Do we try to replace them?'" he continued.
"In the end, though, we are a big, electric, fun worship band. That's just what we are."
With that in mind, the group decided to move forward as a four piece and embrace their calling as that big, fun worship band. That still left one thing in question, however.
"The hardest part was determining our sound," Waldrop admitted. "We've been playing already and our church has seen it, but our fans didn't know what it would sound like ... "
"David is definitely branching out and doing something different," Waldrop stated, "But for people who like the sound of David Crowder Band, that's what The Digital Age sounds like, for the most part. What changed was the instrumentation and vocals -- and one of the songwriters left, but other than that, it's not that different. I think a lot of what we're doing sounds like the Church Music record."
"I play guitar a certain way and B-Whack plays drums a certain way. We can't just change that," he explained. "In the end, we realized you don't have to rethink how to write music. Near the end of DCB, we were already getting music together and David knew that was the direction we were going and he was fine with that."
Above and beyond all else, Waldrop shared that the vision and purpose of The Digital Age is to "help people sing to God and have fun doing it. We think singing to God is fun and should be a good time, and we love that you can celebrate in that."
With the current tour behind the debut album, The Digital Age has taken a different approach. With its popularity constantly growing, David Crowder Band consistently played larger venues, like Cain's Ballroom to theaters and even arenas. As it starts fresh, however, The Digital Age is returning to churches as the group gets back to its roots.
"The whole past year we've been playing at exclusively churches," Waldrop revealed. "We were connecting with the congregation and we'd lead worship all weekend and then do a concert on Sunday night. We really enjoyed connecting and investing in the church, and with David Crowder Band, that was just something we didn't have time to do any more. It's cool because we get to find out how we can connect with and help the community."
"For us, churches made sense right now," Waldrop explained. "They've actually been really great to us. We kicked off the tour last night at University Baptist Church, and we're going out for 34 dates -- which is actually longer than any tour we did with David Crowder Band. I think the longest we ever went before was maybe 30 dates, so 34 is a stretch for us. But we wanted to go big."
Of course, the only impediment right now might be a lack of name recognition, but that should change quickly once word gets around that the new album is out and the group is on the road. Admittedly, however, The Digital Age is a name that people won't immediately identify with DCB.
"We love our name," Waldrop stated. "A lot of people, when they hear our name, don't think of a Christian worship band and that's fine. We want people to connect with the music.
Joining The Digital Age on this tour is Bellarive, another worship band from Orlando, Fla. "They're a perfect fit for this tour," Waldrop shared, "because they're both so intentional and fun and pushing the boundaries of what worship means."
The Digital Age brings its "Evening & Morning Tour" with Bellarive to Tulsa on Friday, Oct. 25, at Central Church of the Nazarene (7291 E. 81st Street). The show concert begins at 7pm and tickets are available for $12 exclusively through the band's website, thedigitalagemusic.com, or at the door the night of the show.
Anyone who loved David Crowder Band and enjoys modern worship music won't want to miss this show as the band reconnects with the church on its first major tour. Inevitably, once word gets out, the band will grow into larger venues, but for now you can see them embracing their roots.
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