He was the only Christian artist able to fill stadiums all the world over, from record holdings like 72,132 people at Texas Stadium, over 50,000 in Johannesburg, South Africa, and another 80,000 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. A grand total of 4.5 million cumulative fans attended three national tours, including his extensive "Heart Of A Champion" tour. He's collected the most names of any American citizen, one million signatures, on a petition supporting prayer in public schools and had more than one million people accept Christ salvation at his events. Add in seven Dove Awards, a quartet of Grammy nominations, plus 16 RIAA Certified Platinum and Gold albums and videos amassing to well over 10 million cumulative career record sales, and Carman isn't just one of the most decorated artists within faith-based circles, but quite literally one of the most flourishing, innovative and influential artists of all time.
More than a singer, songwriter, video pioneer, speaker and all around evangelist, Carman branched out into many TV and movie roles, such as "Carman: The Champion" or guesting on "The Bobby Jones Gospel Hour" (which was the most watched gospel show on the BET network in 20 years!). He also broke ground as the first ever Christian music artist to write and release an action adventure novel ("Undefeated: In Love and War") and even joined the likes of President and Mrs. Reagan and Dr. Billy Graham as a House of Hope Humanitarian Award recipient.
But for all the attention and accolades earned by Carman from the early '80s until the tip of the 2000s, the last decade has been unusually quiet for the beloved entertainer. Besides appearing at select church outreach events and exploring other forms of media, the last few years have also brought the sudden loss of his brother to a heart attack, a season of family concerns, followed by the crushing personal blow of being dealt a multiple myeloma cancer diagnosis.
"I was diagnosed in 2013 and was planning on having 2-3 good years left, but I didn't want to keep it a secret," confirms Carman of the literal fight for his life. "I posted the news on Facebook and wanted to be honest and upright about it with anyone who asked. So many people started sharing stories of what they went through and posted photos of their heads wrapped up because their hair was gone. When I hear a story like that, my instinct is to reach out and cheer them up."
Right around the time Carman began reconnecting with fans about his condition, he was approached with the idea of reigniting his music ministry, which he prayerfully considered. Though with so many of the music industry's changes since he last recorded a major project, he was initially reticent. But in keeping with his pioneering spirit, Carman turned to social networking, and more specifically, the crowd-funding platform Kickstarter, which quickly attracted yet another round of record shattering headlines all over again.
"You never know who's out there and who you might reconnect with," he recounts of the decision to officially cast his net into the water and announce his intentions for a new record and tour. "I thought I would get 200-300 posts, which was typically what I got when I posted something significant, and I got 18,000 comments. I didn't know where all my fans and supporters had gone to since my last release and tour in 2000, but then that overwhelming response came in and showed me just how interested they still were."
Not only did fans speak up, but thousands of dollars later (distributed between recording, promotional and touring costs), Carman was tapping into his musical muse once again, crafting what may very well be his most personal collection to date, but also one overflowing with plenty of praise and his signature take on several timely topics. Named with just as much reference to his health struggles as his unrelenting reliance on the Lord, No Plan B is downright powerful at every emotive, faith-affirming turn that's sure to rank amongst The Champion, Revival In The Land, Addicted To Jesus, The Standard, R.I.O.T. (Righteous Invasion of Truth) and Mission 3:16 in Carman's cannon of classics.
"There are fun songs, clever songs and worship songs," confirms Carman. "The main message of the whole album can be found in the title track, 'No Plan B,' which is how I've lived all these years. Even if I only have a few more on this earth, I'll still be preaching, giving altar calls, winning souls for the kingdom and singing the songs that have the power to bring deliverance into people's lives, whether it be in front of 20 people or 20,000 people. God doesn't call us to be popular. He calls us to be effective and that's always been my goal, effective right up to the end. Jesus is 'Plan A.' There is 'No Plan B'. There's never been a 'Plan B' for me, so when 'Plan A' is done, I'm done, and that seemed like the most logical title to me."
In addition to that vibrant and infectious rhythmic rocker, there's also "God Made Man," the latest of Carman's many cheeky character songs featuring a "Sopranos"-styled mob cast, but with an Italian accented narrator who's wholeheartedly committed to Christ. Further diversity comes via the gripping patriotic ballad "The Flag," which sends a very well-timed reminder that we will always be "one nation under God" and our faith can never be silenced. Then there's an updated version of "Jesus Heal Me" with new production, a true touchstone of the album that's bound to continue its role as a concert standard.
"Even before I had my diagnosis, I'd been singing that song live and it's been changing lives," he notes. "The song is about healing the wounds of the past so you can move on to the future. When I stand before an audience of people who've been following me for 20-30 years, they may have started out radically saved and marching for causes, but over 20 years later, things from life have hit them. They've lost love ones, divorced, gone through financial trials and discouragements and brought all those disappointments when they came to see me. I'm singing this song to remind them and even myself of how it used to be, because I've made it through that kind of difficult stuff too."
Of course, fans will have the chance to encounter that testimony first-hand as Carman does indeed plan to load up the buses yet again to build upon a legacy as the most successful Christian touring artist of all time. "All my concerts were free. Carman the artist funded Carman the ministry. My goal was simply to win souls and get people saved and fired up about their faith," Carman explains of his unparalleled commitment to evangelism.
While that plan remains exactly the same, these days the execution has shifted towards a more traditional concert ticket scenario as the "Live Across America Presents: No Plan B Tour" plans to land on at least a hundred stages before it's all said and done. "It's a different time in the body of Christ. The people who will be coming to the concerts will be long time fans, who instead of being in their teens are now in their 30s and 40s," he observes. "They want to know they are going to be able to get in when they arrive and they want to know where they're going sit. So we're going to make the shows ticketed, but still at a price people can afford."
Though some logistical elements have changed, Carman's never been one to shy away from state of the art productions and he promises fans ten-foot LED towers that can show separate images or link together as a massive jumbotron to light up everything from a church, to a civic center, an arena or anywhere in between. While there's bound to be a selection of songs from No Plan B, no set list will be complete without highlights of the countless hits this Christ-centered entertainer's released, including the iconic likes of "The Champion," "Radically Saved," "Sunday School Rock" and "Who's In The House" (to name but a mere handful).
As Carman's rebuilt his recording and touring platforms, fans will also be inspired to know their prayers are simultaneously working in his treatment efforts. After finding a specialized clinic that deals specifically with his type of diagnosis, the faith warrior committed to eight months of extensive treatment and is now feeling strong and expected to be in remission for years with continued monitoring, healthy lifestyle choices and a rock solid faith foundation that continues to be strengthened with each new day of life.
"The fact that I'm still here and coming out of this cancer thing is nothing short of a miracle," Carman exclaims. "I've got more left in me and I'm going to go back out there to find those soldiers wounded in battle, and tell them I know exactly what they're going through, but we've got to hold on until the storm is over. God IS listening. Sometimes it's a short time, sometimes it's 13 years and sometimes it's 40 years, but as long as we're holding onto Him, we'll make it through."
Add it all up, and there's no doubt Carman's a survivor on so many levels, though even with all of his musical accomplishments and the fact he's already had a hand in leading more than a million souls to the Lord, there's still plenty of potential left in this life-changing ministry. "I've always sought to minister to the best of my ability. I wanted to help win as many souls for the kingdom as I possibly could," sums up Carman. "Now I meet people who say 'my life was so messed up 20 years ago, but I went to your concert, got saved and now I'm a worship pastor.' Stories like that just go to show you how somebody's life can completely turn around. I'm like a soldier who serves their country. I just want to serve people, and if just one guy got it, then it's all been worth it."