Posted by: Billy Marsh | February 26, 2008

The Habanero Hour: “Christian” Music in the Hot Seat

The Habanero Hour

What is “Christian” music? Is there an element to it that separates Third Day from U2? Should Christian music artists only make “Christian” music? How explicit should the “Christian” message be in their music?

These are questions that are now being asked much more loudly than ever before. Some people have declared that CCM is in a downward spiral to its sudden dissolution. Independent Christian artists are growing in popularity and are gaining more and more freedom to make the kind of music they want without having the major corporate figures keeping them all on a tight leash. Most of my favorite artists such as Phil Keaggy, Andrew Peterson, Jeremy Casella, Steve Bell, and even Michael Card, have moved away from the major Nashville record companies for this very reason.

This shift is causing many of today’s Christian artists and listeners to reconsider just exactly what is Christian music. And, I cannot express how happy I am to see this movement occurring. For many years, I almost gave up listening to “Christian” music because it had morphed into something so compressed and packaged that it became nothing more to me than cotton candy for the ears. Every CD and band sounded the same, and you could almost step-by-step track the trends in CCM alongside what was selling in the secular. Let me just say that it wasn’t an accident that the “Christian” boy band group Plus One popped their heads up right around the same time that NSYNC and the Backstreet Boys were taking the music buisness by storm. And while I’m on this note, I love worship music, but when it took off in the 90s, it was a little pathetic how suddenly, every major Christian band and artist absolutely had to put out their own version of the popular praise songs. That endeavor caused me to want to quit playing a lot of songs that were special to me because they were eventually ran into the ground. I mean, honestly, how many different versions do we need of a Chris Tomlin song or Tim Hughes’ “Here I am to Worship”? I usually like Tomlin’s version better anyway.

Now things are changing, and more broadly, the question of culture and how Chrisians ought to relate to it in terms of creativity, engagement, and appreciation is beginning to be an even bigger topic that churches and Christians are considering across the board. That’s why I’m so excited to see the institution of a new podcast called “The Habanero Hour“. Their slogan goes, “It won’t change the world, but it might change the way you think about ‘Christian’ music.” The show is a periodic collection of interviews and song selections from a wide array of “Christian” music, spanning many genres and styles. Their vision is one that I share with respect to helping unearth and place good music in your hands that otherwise you probably wouldn’t stumble across, especially if your main exposure to Christian music is your local top 40 CCM radio station.

The hosts are Brent Thomas and Mark Whiten. They warn that it is still a work in progress. I’ve already listened to their first episode, and even if there are still some bugs to be worked out, it sounded great. I’ve already got a few new artists that I’m looking to explore from the podcast. The first session features songs from Jeremy Casella, Steven Delopoulos, Doug Burr, Anathallo, Andrew Osenga, and others. They also share a phone interview with Steven Delopoulos (formerly a member of Burlap to Cashmere) discussing some of the topics mentioned above.

Please check them out and subscribe to the podcast (it’s free!) and let them know what you think.


  1. Billy, I am not a big country/western fan but do enjoy it once in a while. One thing I have always enjoyed about Country/Western is that they freely mix in their faith with their music. Along with all the truck drivin’, drinkin’ and cheatin’ songs, are some good songs about family, faith and patriotism. I wish more Christian musicians would write for other genres and have “Christian” music in the mainstream instead of “ghettoized” (a BW coined term, thank you!).

  2. i’m gonna listen to this podcast…right… thanks for the recommendation. I also wanted to say that i posted again…finally. I’ll see you tomorrow then. see ya.

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