Running towards the light

Anberlin’s Stephen Christian finds clarity and confidence on new record

  • Gel is the way, keeps hair in place: Stephen Christian (second from right) and his Anberlin bandmates worked with Brendan O’Brien for their latest CD, Dark Is the Way, Light Is a Place. – ParkerYoung.net

Stephen Christian sounds like he has just had the best sleep of his life.

The singer of Florida rock band Anberlin is in Seattle, Washington, hanging out with friends before a show in the city, the “best city in the world,” according to the band’s Twitter page.

Five weeks ago, the band released its new album Dark Is the Way, Light Is a Place, and the band is snaking its way across the U.S. and into Canada on its new tour.
And after feeling like their previous release was a stutter-step, Christian’s mind feels clear again.

“I just felt like I was completely in my element as opposed to other records in the past, especially New Surrender, where there was such a mental block and I couldn’t get past myself and I couldn’t find inspiration,” he said by phone last Thursday. “That was such a traumatic experience, but this record, honestly, doesn’t even compare.”

For a man whose clear path in life is writing – Christian’s side projects include his solo acoustic work Anchor and Braille, and he’s a published author – it was a welcome sight to reach the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.

“Just how the creativity flowed on this record kind of gave me a renewed sense of self-confidence that my best work isn’t behind me,” he said. “After five records, you start to question yourself: what’s next? I tell people all the time, artists and musicians have their entire lives to write their first record because of experiences, places they’ve been, people they meet, and then after that, all right, what do I do now?”

After five records, you start to question yourself: what’s next? I tell people all the time, artists and musicians have their entire lives to write their first record because of experiences, places they’ve been, people they meet, and then after that, all right, what do I do now?

Stephen Christian, Anberlin

Grammy award-winning producer Brendan O’Brien (Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam, Tom Petty) produced Dark Is the Way. Though O’Brien marks the third different producer the band has worked with on their last three albums, it was the right choice to continue moving on, says Christian.

“With each producer, I think not only does your band get a different sound, but I think it also kind of teaches you in some way with what to do and what not to do on your next record.”

The result is a more minimalistic, back-to-the-basics sound, a natural fit with the band’s earlier works.

“One of his greatest attributes is that he makes minimalism sound epic. When you put a Bruce Springsteen record in, it’s so very minimal, but it sounds so massive,” Christian said. “Instead of bells and whistles, Brendan was like ‘What’s the minimum we can do, and let’s only add what’s important to the song, not what you think is going to make the song over the top.’”

Christian’s voice is soft and relaxed, betraying the hardened edge his band has built themselves around. But he’s a man who’s humbled by the things he’s accomplished in his short 30 years.

“I really don’t know what’s next. I just know that, for me, life is so amazing,” he said. “I just feel like it’s unbelievable and I just want to take it all in and want to make the most of it. And so that’s what I’m setting out to do.

“I want to face life and know that at the end of my life I did everything that I possibly could.”

Published in Volume 65, Number 8 of The Uniter (October 21, 2010)

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