Interview: Citizen Way

Apr 22 2013

Citizen Way have exploded onto the scene with their outstanding debut album 'Love Is The Evidence'. LTTM was so impressed with the album that we caught up with band member Ben Calhoun to find out more about them.

For those who haven't heard of you before, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got involved in making music?

We all grew up serving in church ministry, which is where we all started playing and leading worship. Christian music was a significant source of inspiration and guidance for us as young men. I learned to play guitar at 13 from my youth pastor, Erik Henry. Steven Curtis Chapman, Joel Hanson (PFR) and Phil Keaggy were the main influences to my early guitar days--they still are! My mother is an accomplished musician and has been foundational in my career.

I graduated from Judson University near Chicago where we started Citizen Way. We had served at camps, youth groups and churches for 9 years when "Should've Been Me" first played on radio. It's pretty cool to see where The Lord has taken us through the years! 
Tell us a little bit about your new album 'Love Is The Evidence' and what the inspiration behind it was?

Love is the Evidence is a line from the song "Evidence" which I wrote with my friend Jeff Pardo (a fellow Chicago native!). It defines the record and Citizen Way as a whole. We are citizens of the kingdom of God following in the way of Jesus. Our name, that song and this record all point to verses like 1 John 4:19: "We love because He first loved us.” As Christ followers our focus is to be like Jesus in every situation. Jesus spoke with authority because He could back it up with his actions. People saw the evidence of His Love and we want the same.   
Love Is The EvidenceYou worked with producer Seth Mosley on the album, what did he bring to the project?

Seth is just plain ol' AWESOME!  He's efficient and patient in the same breath and he cares about people more than the product. He helped write and mix three songs on this record, all of which are unique and powerful. We had so much fun making this record. He's a great producer and a great friend.
Which is your favourite track on the album and why?

All the songs are special to me.  Here are some good stories behind a few of them.  

'Fall Like the Rain': written for our friend Wendy who went to be with Jesus at 19 years old.  She invited us to play at a missions fundraiser and a few days before the event she was killed in a car accident. The church held a memorial concert instead of the fundraiser. I wrote and this song immediately after I found out and sang it at the memorial service.  

'All Things': My daughter and I met a homeless lady in the park one day. The lady told me she was thankful for what she had and it seems like she had nothing. I gave her some money, a backpack and my contact info. She gave me a new perspective and she inspired this song.  

'Love Is A Mess': I co-wrote this song with Matt Hammit (Sanctus Real) and our producer Seth Mosley. This song surprised us all in that we got to the end and looked back and thought "wow, this is really special." We won a battle of the bands in 2005 and our prize was to open for Sanctus Real. It was awesome. It's an honor to have written with him.  

What's your song writing process?

One part inspiration and 99 parts perspiration! Sometimes it comes immediately and other times you sit with a song for a few years until life helps you finish what you want to say. I have to work at it like a diamond miner. You dig until you find it, and you always know when you do. It helps to listen to music I want to write. Joel Hanson (PFR) gave me some great advice, he said "write what you know.” Additionally, these words just aren't as powerful unless they contain the timeless truths and promises of God's word. That's where most of my inspiration comes from.

How would you describe your style of music and what are your influences?

Melodic/lyrical pop rock. We all really enjoy John Mayer. David's favorite band is P.O.D. and he's a great hip hop drummer. One of Ben Blascoe's favorite bands is North Mississippi All-Stars. Josh Calhoun has been to a few Coldplay concerts and knows every record well. My favorite band of all time is PfR and today, I was listening to Opera and Harry Connick Jr.

We all have so many Christian bands that helped pave the way for who we are.  I remember going to a Steve Taylor, Big Tent Revival and Bride concert when I was 14. I knew then that being in Christian music was what I wanted to do. I still do and it's an honor to be a part of that family.  
How would you define success in your career as a band?

The Bible says in John 12:32 "If I be lifted up I will draw all men unto me.”  We do our best to use our platform to point people to Jesus and as we do that the Lord opens the doors to new opportunities. It's the whole "well done good and faithful servant" idea. 

In your opinion, what makes the perfect worship song?

One that leads someone near to the heart of God.  

You're stuck on an island, it's hot, you only have enough battery life left to listen to one song on your mp3 player. What track is it?

"ah, ah, ah, ah stayin alive - stayin alive!" The BEE GEES got it right!

What does the next year hold for Citizen Way?

Our tours with Big Daddy Weave, Chris August and Mikeschair have been so much fun already. Anything else at this point is a bonus!

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