He has been arguably one of the most talented musicians and singers Christian or mainstream music has witnessed in the past thirty years and during the past year Bryan Duncan's passion for music has been reawakened by his association with the Neho Soul band and the production of his funky blues style CD and DVD "Music City Live". Prior to one of his recent concerts Duncan was gracious enough to take the time to reflect on his career, his music and his personal life. Unlike some musicians who have trained themselves to respond to formula questions with formula answers Duncan is a delight to chat with because he takes you away from the world of a mere interview and allows you to participate in the disappointments, the joys and his still unanswered questions. His frankness and honesty challenge you to not merely accept what others tell you are right but to dig deeper to find your own answers.
"It was like I came back to life! To hear other players, good players bring something to your music that you never thought about or that you forgot about and put teeth into it in places where you never (he stops)ůit's the difference between walking a road by yourself and then suddenly getting a motorcycle. Suddenly you just twist the little grip and you are off to the races." He says in speaking about his association with the Neho Soul Band. Duncan talks about performing with the band on stage, "It's all I can do to keep up. It's brought back an inspiration to me that I can't even explain." He remembers the first time he heard them play a funky song, "After the first verse and chorus I started tearing up. It was like worship music to me. It's my version of worship music. Screaming funk music with all the passion you can find in your soul."
Duncan met the Neho Soul Band while performing at GMA week last year. He says it was, "right at a time when I thought I should be preparing for a retirement community." He says, "The bass player with the Neho Soul Band just reintroduced me to the stuff I loved all along." Duncan accepted the band's invitation to go to Seattle and play some gigs with them, reliving some of Duncan's songs that they counted as their favourites. "They were all the funk songs and stuff you kind of lose track of over the years because you spend all your time trying to predict what Christian music wants to hear. I lost a little bit of passion for music generally because it became such a cardboard cutout. Just finding this band and playing that gig in Nashville at GMA week last year was just a matter of recognizing that there's some passion that I lost somewhere down the road."
It wasn't that many years ago that Duncan was frustrated with his career, "I almost needed to tender my resignation. I was so wrong in my own heart. I felt so out of touch with whom I was to begin with and what God wanted from me and how He sees me. I was so busy cutting and pasting for other people that I wasn't even sure if I was honest. You start to feel that you are starting to present a package that makes everybody feel good. It becomes a Christian world view rather than a passion for a personal relationship."
He says never again will he compromise and walk that path of wanting to merely give people what he thinks they want to hear. He then quotes scripture, II Timothy 4:3 "they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear." (NIV) "We've got a bunch of songs for future records with the Neho Soul Band where I'm just going to go back and revisit what I've always loved." Then he adds, "I won't sacrifice again the passion for the music in the name of popularity or we need to do this because it won't be a hit." In typical Bryan Duncan candor he adds, "I've had enough hit songs to know it doesn't float your boat in the long run."
Duncan is a man all about candor and good quotes. He remarks about his thirty year tenure in Christian music, "I never planned to be this old." About golf, a game he took up after a serious mountain biking accident, "It tests the possibility that you could lose your salvation." While talking about loneliness he says, "You are aware of your uniqueness and the fact that you are one of many and that you were born into the world and you might have had some people around, but when you die you do that by yourself." In talking about his divorce and what he sees as mistakes he made in his marriage, "I think you can crush someone's trust to the point where they just can't let you back in." More telling is his comment on his website and his special section "Road to Redemption Encouragement for Recovery", Duncan says, "There is a God and you're not Him."
When you sit and talk to Bryan Duncan for awhile you begin to realize his candor comes from burning questions still deep within, still unanswered questions and because he has learned some painful lessons and been through some difficult times. He battled what he describes as "addictive behaviors" for a period of time several years ago, which contributed to the eventual collapse of his marriage. He also endured a time when he wasn't really happy about who he was and what the music world seemed to be demanding of him in order to fit the title "successful". Duncan, the son of a North Carolina Pentecostal pastor says there are times when he still reads the Bible defensively, looking for what he describes as the shame and the sense of guilt. There was a period of time in his career when he felt the burden of having to be all things to all people and the need to "save' everyone. He was a product of growing up in the church and learning to mimic the answers everybody else wanted to hear. He says later in life he learned that even his father had doubts and questions of his own.
Duncan's career has been rejuvenated and he is not about to turn the clock backwards to a time when he simply tried to fit the mould. He says of the music industry and how he bought into the system for so many years, 'There's no balance to the music business. I mean you are careening off the guard rails all the time. Like, I really like doing this but that's not going to fit and I imagine if you second guess yourself enough you lose your passion for what you love the most. I don't know if it is a fair trade off just to be successful and not enjoy what you are doing and I've certainly had success with songs that I didn't even like." Bryan Duncan is back and this time he is going to do it his way. He is going to play and create what he describes as his funky worship music.
Bryan Duncan's "Music City Live" CD and DVD are distributed in Canada by CMC Distribution. Bryan Duncan's website is one of the best artist sites in the industry and has a special audio section entitled "Road to Redemption Encouragement for Recovery". This segment consists of 48 on half hour programs featuring Duncan speaking and some good music. www.bryand.com
Writer: Joe Montague