Thursday, August 06, 2009

Interview with Andrew Peterson, Part I

Posted by Robert Sagers

It's true that so much of what passes as Christian music these days hardly seems Christian at all—which is all the more reason to praise God for Christian musicians who seem to be getting it right. And one of those artists is Andrew Peterson.

Peterson is the producer of ten albums, the author of three books (including the soon-to-be released, North! Or Be Eaten), and the creator of one website for artists and musicians. You can listen to some of his music—for free—at his personal site. You can also find him on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter.

Peterson was kind to answer some questions about art, music, writing, community, and the gospel for the readers of this blog. This is the first installment of that interview.


RES: Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions for the readers of Justin’s blog! Could you please tell us a little bit about yourself—where you’re from, what you do, your family, and how to came to know Christ?

AP: I was born in Illinois, grew up in Florida, and live in Tennessee. That makes me one part Midwesterner, one part Southerner, and one part hillbilly. I’m a singer/songwriter and author who’s been married fourteen years and has three children. I grew up in the church. My dad’s preached since he was a teenager, so I’ve known about Christ since I was old enough to sing “Jesus Loves Me.” As for actually knowing him, that all started when I was about nine.

RES: In Art for God's Sake, Philip Graham Ryken recalls traveling to New York City to view the paintings of Makoto Fujimura. So moved by what he saw, Ryken writes the following: “At its best, art is able to do what Fujimura’s paintings do: satisfy our deep longing for beauty and communicate profound spiritual, intellectual, and emotional truth about the world that God has made for his glory.” What is art, and what do you think is its purpose?

AP: Wow. I don’t know how I’d say it better than Ryken—although I have one tiny issue with his quote. Art can’t satisfy a longing for beauty. Art can pique it. It can remind us that we were made for ultimate beauty, but it’s only a window. When I’m confronted by a profoundly beautiful work of art, I feel a profound ache, like a kid peeking through the gate at Disney World. I’m comforted to remember that such a world exists, but I’m not yet allowed entrance. An artist hangs windows all over the shadowy world, lets the light in, reminds people to draw near and peek through.

RES: Do you see yourself primarily as a Christian who is an artist, or an artist who is a Christian? What difference do you think that it makes?

AP: I really don’t think it makes a lot of difference. I used to worry about that question, but I don’t anymore. It’s exhausting. I’ve written, deleted, and re-written an answer to this question three times now and can’t come up with a good one. The thing is to keep your hand to the plough and work as the Spirit leads you. In the face of an excellent work of art, such questions don’t matter so much.

RES: Explaining the nature of art, Francis Schaeffer in Art and the Bible contends that one of the basic notions of art—“the one that really produces great art and the possibility of art—is that the artist makes a body of work and this body of work shows his world view.” What do you desire your music and your writing to reflect about the way that you see the world?

AP: I hope to be honest in a way that helps people feel less alone, to remind people that the deep sadness they feel proves they were made for an even deeper joy, and that joy is in Christ. I hope to remind people that they were made for an unbroken world. As I said before, I want to hang windows and let the light in. David Wilcox once said that when he stands on the stage he envisions the audience before him as a thirsty field, while behind him is a vast reservoir of clean water. When he plays a song, he’s turning on the faucet and watering the land. That’s what a song or a story can do.