Caleb Rowden has released one album and performed more than 200 live shows — probably more than enough to make him at least a little famous.
But fame has never been important to Rowden, 24, who has been playing and recording music for a decade. His only goal is to express the role Christianity has played in his life and to perhaps influence others.
'Free from Ordinary'• Number #35 on Christian Music Charts nationwide • “Made” made it into the top 20 on the nationwide Christian Music Charts. • “Made” has reaced #1 on the playlists in Portland; #4 in Atlanta; #6 in Cleveland. (Mediabase)
“One kid said he listened to a song and decided to go out and become a missionary,” Rowden says.
A Columbia native, Rowden formed his first band, Wisdom’s Cry, when he was 14. The band played covers of other people’s music until Rowden began writing his own songs. After three albums, Wisdom’s Cry broke up and, in 2000, Rowden formed the Caleb Rowden Band, which released its first album of original songs, “Free from Ordinary,” in 2006.
Christianity Today said “Free from Ordinary” doesn’t “break free from the ordinary in the songwriting,” but the less-than-flattering review doesn’t seem to have hurt Rowden’s feelings.
“I think a lot of what they said is true, and I’m just going to get some motivation from it today,” he says. “I put a lot more stock in responses we get from people who say how the music influenced their lives.”
What’s “true” for Rowden is his relationship with God. Raised in a Christian home, Rowden remembers listening to Christian music, although he was also exposed to plenty of secular music. Rowden is an evangelical Christian, which he decribes as exciting and interactive. “It’s not sit on your hands,” he said.
While Rowden has always listened to and enjoyed secular music, he has resisted the temptation to go more mainstream. The mainstream music scene is appealing because it’s easier to become famous and make money when your songs are being played on MTV and VH1, he said.
“Made,” a single from “Free from Ordinary,” reached No. 1 on the Christian rock charts in Dallas and Los Angeles. The song is about secular songwriters who cross over into Christian music because they see an opportunity to sell records.
“The song says I was ‘made’ to worship (God), and the Bible says we were made to worship God,” Rowden says. “The whole idea of worship music has become very commercial. Some bands who were floundering along have made a worship record and it revitalized their careers. If we think worship is just a song, then we’ve totally missed the boat. It’s a lifestyle.”
Rowden would like to have a wider influence, but he is committed to keeping his music Christian. He says he won’t sell out his faith for the chance to hear his music on Top 40 radio. “That may sound weird, ‘cause obviously I want to make money for my wife and I,” he says. “If it’s God’s will, then I’ll get big.”
Christian music represented 6 percent of all music sales in 2006, or 54.2 million, according to the Christian Music Trade Association. Music sales are composed of CDs, tape cassettes, digital albums and digital tracks. The genre experienced a growth of 10 percent between 1998 and 2003, increasing sales by 5 million. From 2003 to 2006, the genre charted higher sales than Latin, jazz/classical and soundtrack music.
Rowden was talking with a couple of labels when he decided to sign with Slanted Records. He and his father, Rick, who also acts as Rowden’s manager, felt Caleb would get more attention working with a smaller label and thus grow more as an artist. Rowden is one of six artists on Slanted Records, a subsidiary of Spring Hill Music Group Inc.
In 2006, Rowden and his band played more than 200shows. He is taking a much slower pace this year, scheduled to play only 11 dates in three states between November 2007 and August 2008. He will play two shows, Nov. 2 and Nov. 3, at Christian Chapel Church during the Northern Missouri Youth Convention.
Rowden is Worship and Creative Arts director at Christian Chapel, a position that has made it difficult for him to embark on a more grueling schedule of performances. Rowden has been a member of the church almost his entire life, so he says he has a commitment to it that is as important as his music.
“I feel like it’s where I’m supposed to be,” Rowden says. “I want to help it be a part of the community.”