CRISIS

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An Interview with Diana Tyler of CRISIS

(This interview was posted during September, 2000 on JT's Christian Reviews.

Check out a more recent interview with CRISIS, posted during the summer of 2001, at Teens4Jesus.org.)

1. Diana, a lot has happened since we did a review of your cd a few months ago. Tell us about all the changes, both in personnel, and in your music ministry.

Our congregation's contemporary service--for which CRISIS was officially formed--is currently on hiatus to undergo some restructuring. It will begin again within the next few months, possibly on a weekly or seasonal basis. Although this "down time" for the service has been a disappointment to the band, God has (as always!) opened another door: CRISIS has begun receiving invitations to play at various Christian events. We're enjoying having the time, too, to work on new music. Even so, we're eagerly awaiting a return to our "roots" ministry within the North Eaton Christian Church contemporary worship service.

Another big change is that after one year with the band, the guitar player on our CD, Justin Smith, left to spend more time on his college studies and his major--drama. The plus side is that we have since found within our congregation James Albert (Linden). Jim serves as our lead player but also brings terrific vocal and songwriting abilities to the band. In fact, we've added a couple of his tunes to our lineup--"Raft Left Adrift" and "Opening Heaven's Door". Jim also plays keyboard, harmonica and a bunch of other instruments which we haven't yet even figured out how to work into our lineup! The band's sound now encompasses more appeal to a broader audience, especially with the addition of harmony vocals.

2. You play nightclubs, restaurants, and comedy clubs, as well as Christian venues. How is this looked upon by the church where you attend?

To clarify, CRISIS usually plays only for our church's contemporary worship service and at other Christian gigs we are invited to. Face it--if you've listened to our music, it is evident that we are an unabashedly Christian band! However, as a solo artist, particularly before CRISIS was formed, I did the occasional bar gig and comedy act. Even now, though, I still enjoy performing Irish music at local restaurants on St. Patrick's Day and doing other occasional "secular" gigs. (My repertoire for these venues, however, usually relies on songs which uplift Christian values. After all, just because the word "Jesus" isn't in a song doesn't mean that it's not Christian!)

You see, one of the interesting things about Christians is that, although we have Christ in common, there are still a myriad of diversities which define us as individuals. Some advocate that we should not "pollute" ourselves by associating with "worldly" people and situations. CRISIS' particular denomination, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), believes in Christians celebrating our commonality in Christ as Lord and Savior. But it also encourages that we wrestle individually--through scripture reading and prayer--with those issues that usually tend to divide Christians. It is my own belief that, although it's terrific and necessary to support and uphold one another inside the faith, we can't be evangelistic if we're only "preaching to the choir." Jesus came to demonstrate God's love to everyone. We can't practice the great commission (to make disciples of all nations) if we don't make an effort to be with "regular" people in the places where they gather. My most effective Christian mentors have been those people who have shared God's love with me not through condemnation, but with the kind of non-judgmental love for me regardless of where I was in my walk between heaven and hell. Had they chosen to shun me because I wasn't "Christian enough" to be with, I might not today be part of Christ's family.

Those not yet part of the Christian faith are sometimes treated as if they were the lepers of Jesus' time. But Jesus did not shun the lepers--he touched their ulcerated bodies...and their hearts. Most of us suffer our own "spiritual leprosy" at one time or another. We need to remember that Jesus' gifts of forgiveness and saving grace are opportunities which we all have in common, and for which we should be thankful each minute of our lives. We are continually offered a "second chance." And so, I believe we are called to gratefully witness wherever and whenever we can. If you can't get the people into church, GO TO THE PEOPLE!

I don't have an issue with those who don't agree with this philosophy, however. I understand that different people need to be introduced to Christ in different ways. CRISIS and I don't pretend to be "The Christian's Christian." Our mission is to speak to those outside of "The Church" who perceive it solely as unloving and judgmental. And so, while I believe that there are ministry opportunities for those who feel a "stronger" witness to "Christian purity" is necessary, it is also my hope that these Christians understand and appreciate that although our witness and ministries may take different paths, our goals are still the same: to win souls for Christ.

3. Diana, you had some of your compositions published in a 1995 edition of "Journey Through the Bible", a children's curriculum. These were praise choruses?

(Smiling) Actually, I like to refer to them as "songlettes." They were simply six very short pieces of scripture taken from the Psalms and set to music for young children. The songs were included in the Christian Board of Publication curriculum as part of a summer lesson series. Unfortunately, the curriculum is no longer being produced, although I still have a few tapes left if anyone is interested in obtaining one... ;)

4. You perform a wide variety of music-doowop, rock, pop, blues, gospel, and country. What is your favorite genre?

(Laughing) It would be easier for me to tell you what I DON'T like musically! I tend to listen to music on a seasonal cycle, as strange as THAT sounds: Summertime is great for oldies and current rock 'n' roll; Fall/Winter is terrific for classical (I keep waiting for the Christmas music to surface!); Spring makes me yearn for '40's love songs or folk/easy listening; then running back into Summer, a good time for some country music as a prelude to the rock season. Of course, I'm continually switching back and forth across these genres despite the above listening pattern! Of course, let's not rule out jazz, swing, gospel, and the many flavors of rock and pop offered today! (I guess I don't like "musical snobbery" any more than I like an elitist Christian philosophy!)

5. I understand you are ready to record some audience favorites on your next cd. Could you tell us more about "Jonah" and "Only Joseph"?

These two songs began what has become kind of a trend in my songwriting. My pastor will say, "Diana, I'm writing a sermon about (fill in the blank). Do you have a song that would help illustrate it?" "Jonah" is an audience-participation retelling of the book of Jonah, complete with some of the absolute WORST puns you can imagine!! But it's pretty fun and usually well-received by audiences. Although it's not yet been recorded, I'd love to do a live recording for a future album. "Only Joseph" spans the Christmas-Father's Day theme area: that Joseph, though not mentioned as a major player in "the Jesus story," had a very important part in Jesus' concept of what a father is. This song is definitely the favorite of audiences. In addition, it is one of several that have been sought by music publishers.

6. Diana, you do standup comedy too? Tell us a good joke!

Frankly, I've been doing more sitting than stand-up lately, but I WILL give you a riddle to which you can email me your answer: "What was Jesus' least favorite vegetable?" (Hint: You'll find it in John 14:27.)

7. Now tell us about "Dirk".

Dirk is the name of my very first guitar (which I still own!). I've always felt that I'm more of a singer than a musician, however, so I liken Dirk to B.B. King's Lucille...with a speech impediment.

8. Do you include comedy bits in your musical concerts?

Only if it goes along with the overall message we're trying to convey. If the humor doesn't fit, we don't stick it in just for a "yuk." Often, however, the ad-libs come in very handy. Just ask my husband about the night he introduced the song "Jesus Shaves" during one of our shows...the song is actually called "Jesus Saves!" (Talk about God becoming man...!)

9. Diana, you have been involved in your local church in many different capacities. What job in your church have you found the most personal satisfaction and personal reward?

That's a toughie! I've served on the Worship Committee and as its Chair, as a Choir member, Christian Education Director, Vacation Bible School Director and Sunday School teacher, as a member of the Christian Education, Contemporary Worship, and Promotions Teams, and as a computer volunteer as well as several other general capacities. (We were discussing church calling cards recently and I've decided the title on mine should simply read, "Servant!")

All in all, working with our children--through VBS, as a Gr. 1-2 teacher, and recently as a youth chaperone on a mission trip--and participating in our church's contemporary worship services--have been the most gratifying experiences. It's an incredible ego stroke when the young ones run up to greet you 'cause you're their "favorite teacher", or when the older kids tell you they're glad you accompanied them on an outing 'cause you're "pretty cool." More importantly, though, is that without volunteers working with our kids, they wouldn't be exposed to the kind of Christian mentorship I spoke about earlier in this interview. WE HAVE TO BE THERE FOR THE KIDS. You don't have to know a lot or be a "perfect Christian" to positively impact their lives. JUST BE THERE FOR THEM...listen to them...work with them!! And for those people who are afraid to teach Sunday School because they "don't know [their] Bible well enough," I'm living proof that teaching is a terrific way to learn God's word!!

As far as the contemporary service ministry goes, it's allowed me to experience a much more free--and relevant--expression of worship of God. It's fun AND meaningful! I find myself more aware of God working daily in my life because I'm allowed to bring everyday life experiences into the worship arena. This has brought an incredible transformation in me in that I feel much more spontaneous and sincere in my expressions of worship and, as a result, more assured in my personal relationship with God.

10. Diana, in our review of "Diana Tyler and Crisis", I compared your voice to Stevie Nicks and Bonnie Raitt. How did those comparisons make you feel? And who do you feel your more easily comparible to?

I was quite flattered by your comparisons. But I think I have a fairly average voice. Stevie Nicks had such broad appeal in her "glory days", and I think Bonnie Raitt is truly a strong singer who can well cover many types of musical styles. Personally, though, I think my voice is best suited to folk and country music (even though I prefer rock!). I'm reluctant to offer any personal comparisons to well-known singers, however. I think my voice is distinctive but not any better than the most average singer in most church choirs. There are so many incredibly talented vocalists in both Christian and secular music that I'm just grateful to have the opportunity to sing at all!

11. Tell us about your concert schedule. I hear you are going to play at the Lorrain County Fair in Wellington, Ohio, and a festival in Berea later this summer.

By the time this is published on the net, we will have finished our Fair gig (Saturday, August 26) at the main stage across from the grandstand). What's so cool about this particular gig is that apparently, some of the "overalls" (as opposed to "suits") in charge weren't sure about having Christian rock be part of the entertainment lineup. They've always had country/rock and even some gospel groups but I believe this is the first time they're opening the door to Christian rock. (We'd better be on our best behavior... ;) Seriously, I'm excited because the person who hired us definitely took a stand on our behalf. I applaud his courage and his commitment to having Christian music heard, especially the kind that is still, unfortunately, a cause of controversy to some (see question No. 2, paragraph 2 above!). Another cool thing about this gig is that the stage we play on faces our church's food booth (I think the North Eaton Christian Church has had that booth there for almost 30 years)!

If you get this up on your site REAL quick, we won't yet have played the Berea gig and might be able to encourage folks to attend. The event, Joyful Noise 2000, is being held Labor Day Weekend, September 2 & 3. It's a two-day (Saturday & Sunday) family event devoted solely to music, drama, speakers, arts & crafts, etc. of a Christian perspective. There'll be lots of different types of Christian music, a ton of activities for kids (sand castle building, puppets, etc.), food, rides, fireworks, and a whole bunch of stuff! National acts include Phil Keaggy, Avalon, Anointed, First Call, Buck and a host of local artists, including the Singing Angels. Go to http://www.joyfulnoise2000.com for ticket info.

12. You were at the Tennessee Hope Work Camp recently. Tell us about that please.

It was a really special week! Just over 400 high school teens and adults worked to weatherize and "fix up" approximately 166 homes of elderly/low-income residents in Selmer, TN. The work camp was one of many each summer put together as an outreach program of Group Publishing. The program has been going on in different parts of the US for over 20 summers. We met a lot of wonderful new Christian friends, including the residents themselves who often had much to share about their own faith in God. CRISIS' web site has a full report and some pictures for anyone interested in the details: http://www.angelfire.com/oh2/crisis.

13. When you recorded your cd, you recorded it "live-in studio", meaning the end product was just as you would be heard in concert. Why did you choose that style over a more "polished" studio recording?

I'd love to tell you it was a decision involving multiple layers of artistic integrity issues. The simple fact is that we are "grown-ups" with job, family, and church responsibilities. We simply didn't have weeks of time to spend in a studio recording multiple takes from which individual notes and effects would be pulled, remixed, tweaked, and specially-effected, culminating in a highly-polished (and probably totally unreal) "image" of the band's sound. (Besides that, cost was also a factor! :) So we did the next best thing: We grabbed our gear after a full day's work, drove across town, set up, tuned up, set levels, blew through FIVE (count 'em, FIVE) songs, waited for our "mix-master" (Thanks, Al!) to work his magic, packed up, headed home, and were able to grab an hour's sleep before going to work the following morning. Actually, we're very pleased with the end result. The other tracks on the CD were some solo tracks I had recorded a while earlier (these are the gospel, folk, doo-wop and praise & worship songs). (One of the reasons the CD was titled "CRISIS and Diana Tyler" was so that, if the guys in the band didn't like my solo stuff, they wouldn't have to bear the blame for them! Surprisingly enough, however, they've been pretty popular with our fans who like their Christian music in a quieter, middle-of-the-road, country/folk vein. I guess that's why our CD has been hailed as having "something for everyone.")

14. Tell us about upcoming plans, if any, for new recordings.

We've got a few tunes we'd like to see recorded (including "Jonah" and "Only Joseph," mentioned earlier in this interview). I'd like to see Jim's songs surface on our next project as well. And "Wisdom" and "Powerful Word", our newest songs, are fast becoming favorites. We need to sell a few more of our debut CDs, however, to help finance a second recording.

15. Diana, are you planning any solo albums?

(Laughing again.) If I do a solo album, it will probably mean that CRISIS has broken up! Besides, I'd miss the camaraderie of the band--especially since the bass player is my husband! Seriously, the guys were great about letting me put all my "solo" stuff on our first album. So, you see, I have the best of both worlds. What a swell bunch of guys!

16. How are the negotiations going with getting your songs published in Nashville?

I'd say they've come to a screeching halt. Although the people offering the contracts are very nice on a personal level, I felt the contracts were a little shy of what they could have been. I was also unwilling to sign away my publishing rights when I knew CRISIS could do such a great job with the songs. And as the company wasn't interested in committing to the band, intending instead to give the songs to their existing stable of solo artists, it became apparent that we couldn't come to terms. So that--and prodding from our fans--finally made us decide to do our own album. Happily, there seems to be no hard feelings from these folks over the negotiation breakdown; after all, they still sent me a Christmas card...

17. "Mary" is a super song you wrote, which is included on the "Crisis" cd. Tell us the history of that song, and how special is this song to you personally?

Thank you. Frankly, I was surprised by the high praise for this song as it hasn't necessarily been highlighted as one of our stronger pieces. "Mary" was the result of my pastor's request for some music to highlight some Advent monologues by characters in the Christmas story. "Mary" and "Elizabeth's Song" (not yet recorded) were written for this series. "Mary" describes Mary's conversation with her cousin Elizabeth at the time Jesus and John were being carried by the two women. The dialogue is conveyed in a tone of excitement, blending modern language and old-world phrasing, and includes a paraphrase of The Magnificat. Years later, "Only Joseph" was added to this series of Advent character songs. I like "Mary" and tried to give her a small touch of humor with the line "No, I haven't been in the wine skins, and my mind is not confused..." However, a more meaningful (emotional) song for me personally is "He's There." I wrote it one day when I was feeling pretty down, and it continues to be a source of comfort to me and to many who have heard it. We get a surprising amount of positive feedback on the song, and it ranks up there as one of our fans' favorites from the CD.

18. Diana, can you give us a brief personal testimony of how you became a Christian?

I have "always" been a Christian. I attended church every Sunday since I can remember. My grandmother was active in my little "birth church" and I was "sprinkled" as an infant. By the time I was five, my mother and the pastor of this tiny congregation had gotten together a "youth choir"--which started with my four siblings and me and grew to around 20 kids. My Christianity began to really mean something to me, however, only after returning to church with our first child after a period of "life experimentation" which had included, among other things, sleeping in on Sunday mornings. As our family grew and we moved around, it took a while to find a congregation that felt like home.

We found one in the church the band represents. The pastor and the people there have consistently demonstrated what it means to love one another. Their concrete expressions of love and help to those in need--done in Christ's name--helped me realize the truth and beauty of what it means to really BE a Christian. I finally understood what a real difference Christ and his teachings can make in a person's life. I want to similarly be able to move others into making a decision to really follow Christ.

19. What are you working on right now?

Finishing this interview! And trying to find the time to do all the things I want to/need to/should do every day! Seriously, I don't have a spiritual "to do" list of "things to work on." My general goal is to try to live my life as Christ would want. That includes prayer (listening and "talking"), reading Scripture, worshiping God, being with other Christians to learn, teach, and encourage one another, being with non-Christians to witness, using my gifts to their best abilities and to God's glory, serving others, and trying to have as much fun as possible doing all of the above. It's a pretty big job and some days I do it better than on others... and THAT's what I'm working on!

20. Is there anything you'd like to share with our readers that we haven't already covered yet? If so, go right ahead and share those thoughts now.

God gave us all different gifts. Sometimes, they're not the gifts we would have chosen. So discover where your TRUE gifts lie, learn to love what they can do, and USE THEM. Whatever you want out of life, don't wait for others to give it to you. You've got to make your own dreams a reality. If you consistently consult God about your desires, your life will shine brightly in whatever area it's supposed to. Don't force it...but don't neglect your own responsibility to make things happen. "Delight in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart." (Psalm 37:4)