For Chris Sligh, the road to his Word Records debut, The Anatomy of Broken, has been an unexpected one, beset with false starts, a label change, and ultimately a new direction for the project. The result of the last two years is a set of songs with the grand pop stylings of his debut loaded with a challenging message.
After two years of near-constant touring, Sligh set about recording his follow-up to Running Back To You (which produced the top 5 hit “Empty Me”). But in the process of moving labels, the American Idol finalist scrapped one set of songs, and then another, trying to find the right mix of message and music. “I wrote three records’ worth of material,” says Sligh, a little wearily.
Among those songs was “In the Weak,” originally considered for Meredith Andrews’ second album. “After I wrote that song, it changed what I thought this album was about,” he says. On it, he sings, “God does not reside in churches made of stone . . . He’s in the weak/He’s in the orphan/He’s in the broken and abandoned/That have been too long ignored.”
Next up was “Only You Can Save,” the project’s first single, inspired by seeing “a homeless guy on the side of the road. It was July; he was sweating. And I thought about what would be the hardest thing about being homeless. For me, it’d be not taking showers.” Sligh considered inviting him back to his house to clean up, but then second-guessed his motives and drove on. Ultimately, he felt convicted “to love because I’ve been loved, give because I’ve been given to, and reach out because the hands of Christ can save someone,” a conviction that forms the song’s chorus. “Once I had those two songs under my belt, I had kind of a theme,” one that carried though the rest of the record’s songs, which he says form “different pictures of brokenness. Nearly every song deals with the idea that we’re broken people who need to be healed, and that redemption is what ultimately heals us.”“The goal of what I want to do with this record is to communicate that it’s okay to admit that we’re fallen and broken,” Sligh explains. “The beauty of brokenness is that it’s mirrored by redemption. If we weren’t [broken], we wouldn’t need Christ—so being broken is a beautiful, beautiful thing.” He says we too often try in vain “to present ourselves as perfect people.”
“I’m not writing happy songs for you to clap along with,” he says. “I’m writing songs to challenge you to be a better person.” But that challenge arrives not as a lecture but wrapped in sublimely catchy pop-rock tracks.
Changing things up from his successful Brown Bannister-produced debut, Sligh co-produced with respected engineer Steve Bishir, using his touring band instead of session players, changes that gave Sligh more creative freedom and pulled top-notch performances out of his band.
For Sligh, the chance to record for Word is more than just signing with a different label partner. He recalls some of his first music purchases—albums from Acappella and Amy Grant—were emblazoned with the old “W” logo. “It’s awesome now 15 years later to be on Word. It’s a very cool thing to see.” He continues “I chose to be in Christian music. I walked away from a mainstream record deal because I felt like this was where God had me.”
On top of writing for himself, Sligh’s making a name as a songwriter for others, making time to write every day he’s not working on a record. The first song he turned in on his publishing deal was a big one: Rascal Flatts’ multi-format hit “Here Comes Goodbye,” co-written with Clint Lagerberg. In the last two years, Sligh has submitted close to 150 songs on that deal, a remarkable output that’s both a testament to his work ethic and to his perspective on his place in the music world.
“I understand that this business is very fleeting, and it’s tough to find lasting happiness when you’re tying to be an artist. My goal is to walk away saying that I made great music, I had something to say, and I conducted myself in business as a Christian first. I want to conduct myself as Christ would. I don’t want to be okay with making ordinary music.”
You were my favorite person on American Idol| Posted January 27, 2011
I got your Running Back To You cd and songbook for Christmas a few years ago and are still enjoying listening to your music. Love Is Raining Down and Loaded Gun are probably my favorites.
Apology...| Posted January 26, 2011
I love this CD, but on my last comment I wrote the wrong song title that I loved ... :(. Sry I can't figure out how to delete it but I really do love your CD!!! I really , really have been inspired by the song Still You love me !!!! and One !!! (again sry about the last comment) Thank you for your talent and sharing it with us all. God continues to touch my life with the words that you have shared with us in your songs!