The traveling Christian pop revival Winter Jam makes its yearly stop in central Arkansas on Sunday.
The concert, at Verizon Arena in North Little Rock, will feature acts including Britt Nicole, Tenth Avenue North, Andy Mineo, Colton Dixon, Thousand Foot Krutch, and hosts NewSong.
There will also be special appearances by Duck Dynasty stars Sadie Robertson, Willie Robertson, Korie Robertson and evangelist Tony Nolan. A PreJam Party will include Obb, Sarah Reeves and Steven Malcolm.
Headlining the extravaganza for the faithful is Texarkana, Texas-born Crowder, whose magnificent beard is on par with those of the Dynasty crew.
He's a Winter Jam veteran, by the way, making his first appearance in 2003. This, however, is his first time as headliner.
"It's like going to summer camp," he said of the tour during a pause last month before a show in Augusta, Ga. "It's really unusual to be a musician and get to be around people that have your same pace of life and the same issues you deal with day in and day out."
Crowder, whose full name is David Wallace Crowder, grew up in a house divided.
"I was on the Texas side of things except for the Razorbacks," he says. His mother's people were from around Russellville, so when it came to sports, he leaned toward the Hogs, to the point that he wanted to be a Razorback.
"My goal in life was to go run track for the University of Arkansas," the loquacious, whippet-thin singer says. "But I ended up going to Baylor University."
His dreams of track glory faded and he started a band in college, although music wasn't going to be a career choice. His initial plan was to take over the family business.
"My dad had an insurance agency in Texarkana, so I had that nepotistic hookup," says Crowder, 45. "I loved it. I thought it was the coolest job ever. He had wood paneling in his office and wallpaper with a waterfall scene behind his desk. I just thought that you can't get cooler than this. This dude is living."
So his plan was to study music at Baylor, graduate and head back to Texarkana and a wood-paneled office with cheesy wallpaper and little shoulder rests on the phone receivers.
"In my junior year, I was part of a church startup," he says, and that's what changed his plans. Directing the music at the church -- University Baptist -- helped steer Crowder from a life of filing insurance claims to one of recording and touring.
He started the David Crowder Band in the mid-1990s and went solo in 2012, releasing Neon Steeple in 2014 and last year's American Prodigal, which both hit No. 1 on Billboard's Christian music chart.
Now based in Atlanta, where he lives with his interior/architectural designer wife, Crowder's sound is a curious blend of programmed beats and electronic dance music with traces of something closer to Americana.
"I was calling it folktronica," he says. "A lot of fiddle and the ones and zeroes right next to each other."
By the time he began recording American Prodigal, though, he knew the sound needed to expand, and Atlanta was a big influence.
"I felt like [Neon Steeple] was really, really white," he says. "Being in Atlanta, my relationships and the people I was living around and the conversations we were having didn't feel reflected in the music."
And at the heart of the album is the story of the prodigal son.
"I am lost as you are," is how Crowder interprets the tale, "and isn't grace and the fact that we're broken more compelling to talk about than what our differences are?"
Weekend on 03/16/2017
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