In the world of spiritual music, Andrew Peterson is often considered one of its finest poets. His songs give us pause as his reflections on God, and man—and how one relates to another—are enlivened through his careful crafting of words with melodies. Though he would be cautious of the comparison, Peterson’s way of writing (and perhaps his way of thinking and feeling) reminisces the spirit-sensitive prose Rich Mullins perpetuated throughout his deep discography of thinking-theology songs.
Throughout this conversation with Peterson, he eloquently remembers the ongoing influence of Mullins’ music on his own music, and even more poignantly, the impression Rich’s life has made on his own life … forever.
CCM Magazine: Do you remember the first Rich concert you attended? What kind of impression did it leave you with?
Andrew Peterson: The first time I heard Rich in concert was at my little Bible College in Florida. When he talked about God, I got the sense that he was talking about an actual person that he actually knew, not about an idea. I wanted that. I was so hungry for that. I’m hungry for it now.
I remember Rich saying if you want to know God, or [want to] be close to God, obey Him. Go do the things that He’s called us to do. Rich wasn’t perfect, but I think he tried to live his life as if the gospel were true. That way of living resonated with a lot of people who, like me, were hungry for the gospel and wanted it so badly.
CCM: What was it that you experienced through Rich’s music that you see now influencing your own music?
AP: Rich’s music was this combination of Scripture and poetry and humanity. His songs were full of Scripture, and they could be loftily poetic, but they were also very human, using folky vernacular. He brought all these big, beautiful ideas down to earth, and he sang about them with an earthy voice—in a key that I could actually sing in. To feel like you’ve been given a gift of some kind but you have no paradigm for expressing it was very frustrating. So for a young guy who wasn’t a good singer, but felt like he had a song to sing, hearing Rich’s music gave me permission to try—I didn’t have to be perfect or slick if I wanted to write songs.
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