Lighting up the Crowd

Artist: Mark Schultz
Published: 2005-05-31

When Mark Schultz was in Toronto recently for a concert Soul Shine sat down and talked with this modern day story teller. He can be whacky as evidenced in his song Running Just As Fast As I Can and he can be thoughtful when speaking about dear friends who lost their battle with cancer. Mark Schultz is not an isolated musician continually operating in a zone but he is a caring individual who is passionate about meeting the needs of others.

Schultz's voice grows quieter and respectful as he speaks about two different ladies that I knew, one 31 years old, the other 28 years old who both died of cancer. He marvels at their courage and takes hope from the fact that both of them believed something better awaited them. Out of that hope the song Closer to You was born.

At the funeral for one of the women he said of her "I don't think God looks at the length of life to decide how valuable you are going to be to Him. I think He looks at the power of life that you live while you are here. This girl who passed away a few months ago had a way of dancing with Christ."

Schultz says one thing that inspires him to share his stories is the same thing that he finds encouraging when he participates in bible studies. "My favorite thing in a bible study occurs when people share their testimonies, because you see the faithfulness that God has shown in their lives and you think if He can do it in their lives maybe he can do it in my life. I think when people hear these stories it gives them comfort and inspires them to think God wants to be in my life as much as the people in these stories we are hearing."

A song that personally impacted him is Remember Me. He had embarked on 12 day, 3,000 mile trip with the youth director from his church to visit graduates from their youth program. At three o'clock in the morning he began to pen the words to Remember Me, a song he later recorded as a duet with Ginny Owens. At one point he thought to himself that nobody was ever going to hear the song and he questioned why he was even writing it. Fast forward three years later to Mark Schultz playing before an audience in a football stadium in North Carolina. "I started into the chorus and the people in the stands were singing it louder than I was. Tears started running down my face and I couldn't sing anymore. I just got choked up."

The song I'm Running Just As Fast As I Can takes a look at the lighter side of life but again is drawn from the personal experiences of Schultz and others.
I am driving
I am late for work
Spilling coffee down my whitest shirt
While I'm flossing and I'm changing lanes
Oh Yeah
Now I'm driving
Through the parking lot
Doing eighty, hey what the heck why not
Watch it lady, Cuz you're in my spot
Once again, It's early to work
And here's a surprise, I got a
McMuffin for just 99 cents today
I think they ran a special
Schultz says often before concerts someone comes up to him and calls him Ross, an alluding to the verse in the song that says,

Now I'm running
Straight into my boss
And he's angry, Oh and he calls me Ross
Which is funny, cause that ain't my name

The song which he created at the urging of producer Monroe Jones is a song he refers to as whimsical yet serious. He says it is a reflection of his own life and pokes fun at the busyness of life. As you listen to the song it sounds a lot like something Chris Rice would have written which is not surprising since they both have worked with Jones.

"Monroe Jones is like a mad scientist or a painter who paints on the wall. What is really interesting about him is you never see what is happening while it's going down. He will just throw a bunch of colors down and use his hands to start smearing the colors all over the place. When you are working on a song you say this makes no sense to me whatsoever. Towards the end of the project he puts on two more brush strokes and you say to yourself this makes sense. He's unbelievable that way."

Letters from War is a song that derived it's inspiration from the entries in his grandmother's diary during World War II. She had three sons serving in the military. Long story short a general at the Pentagon invited Schultz to film a DVD in the court yard of the Pentagon to encourage the troops.

Mark Schultz tries to capture the same intimacy on stage that can be found in his lyrics. He refers to himself as a relational performer.

He says it's just like visiting with a friend and if something isn't registering with them "you just move on and talk about something else or you find something that you have in common."

Something else that Schultz does that breaks the mold of most performers is he keeps the house lights up. He says he wants to see the faces of the people in the audience. He says it allows him to get a better read on whether or not there is a connection between audience and performer. If necessary he adjusts his show accordingly.

This superbly talented musician and songwriter says that it is when he is writing songs that he feels most connected to God. He compares it to taking his hands off the wheel and letting God lead.

Schultz says the fact he writes his own material allows him to live out his songs on stage. He can recall the circumstances or events that led to a particular song being created.

Schultz a modern day story teller says, "I'm moved by real life events that I feel should be brought, exposed and turned into art."

Writer: Joe Montague

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