We were sitting in a fuzzy’s taco shop in Dallas.
Rick: How are things going?
Mitch:Things are going good. Things are always going good. That doesn’t mean they’re not hard. That doesn’t mean things are always going as I planned them to. I’m continuing to do what I have for years. Ya know…doing concerts. And, every now and then, I’ll make a record to document the songs. Happy to be here in Texas right now…snowy Texas. I never thought I’d put those two words together!
Rick: I think your last album, “Underneath”, was your best overall collection. Do you ever feel pressure to make the next album as good as the last one?
Mitch: I don’t know that I feel pressure…but you’re always wondering if you have anything else to say. I guess you’re always hoping to grow as a person and grow as an artist. I am kinda glass-half-empty more than I would like it to be. I go, do I have stuff to say? Am I still growing? I know I dumped more into this last record than I think I have before. I am not slighting any of my previous records. Each time you do one you feel like you dumped your whole self into it. But with this one, I can’t imagine dumping more than I did. So I go, can I do that again? Will I get the opportunity to? Will the Lord see fit for me to do another record? Will it be the best decision for my family? So those are all the questions. So it’s not necessarily pressure…but definitely questions.
Rick: You’re in the upcoming film ‘Ragamuffin’, based on the life of Rich Mullins. How did it feel to dive into all that again, particularly knowing how painful your recovery was?
Mitch: Parts of it were hard, but, really, I don’t think it was very difficult for me to do it. I’ve always wondered why I don’t seem to be grieving, or having a hard time with things, like other people are. I went to the movie’s premier, and so many people were impacted by the movie. It was powerful for them and it was so hard for them to watch some of it. Afterward I heard from people, over and over, “Wow that must have been so hard for you to do that. It was so brave of you to be in that…the filming of some of the stuff in there”. And really, it wasn’t. Sometimes I found myself asking, what is wrong with me, what is wrong with me? I talked to a friend of mine who is a psychology professor out at Fuller seminary in California. And I was telling him about this. And he said “Well I don’t find that odd at all. There’s nothing wrong with you.” He said “When the wreck happened, it hit people hard. But the next day they went to the grocery store. You’ve been dealing with this every day for the last 16 years. So the movie is not going to hit you as something you haven’t been experiencing all along. It’s hard for these people because they’re experiencing it all over again.” Some of the stuff Rich said, which I heard often in concert, didn’t hit me like it hit people who had never heard it before or were hearing it again for the first time. The wreck scene was so hard for people that were experiencing it like new, some 16 years later. But it’s been with me…it’s nothing new.
I was very close to the filming process. So as i was watching the film, I found myself going “Oh Ok I remember this. Or oh so that is how that scene was pieced together.” And then of course I was very close to the actual events. So I watched the movie from a different viewpoint than a lot of people. This movie wasn’t really for me, anyway. So I don’t deserve to have much of an opinion on it. I’m just grateful that it’s impacting people and moving people. Is it accurate? No. There’s plenty of it that’s not accurate. But is it true. Yes, the essence of the movie is spot on. I was talking to a friend, and it came up…would Rich want a movie about him to be accurate or to have an impact on people. He would want it to impact people…I have no doubt that would be his answer. Well, that’s what it’s doing. The essence of the movie is spot-on true. It’s just trying to tell Rich’s story in 2 hours…things have to be finagled a little bit. So it was hard, and emotion would sneak up on me when I least expected it. But I guess it wasn’t any more difficult than several things that I do each day.
Rick: So that ties into my next question, which is, did you feel the movie painted an accurate depiction of Rich’s life?
Mitch: The timeline was fudged with a good bit. They had a monumental task to turn it into a two hour movie and they did an unbelievable job. It’s a great piece of creative accomplishment. I wish the lighter side of Rich’s personality had come through a bit more. But when I think about it, I go, well, not only did they have to squash the movie chronologically, but they had to do that with Rich’s personality, too. The message they were trying to communicate called for certain aspects of Rich’s personality to be focused on more than others. I think everyone needs to remember, or realize, that Rich is much much more than this movie. And, for me, the timeline sequence, and the ages of different people in the story, don’t make sense. But I don’t think the person watching the movie, and being impacted by it, is really concerned about that. I don’t think they care. The movie is definitely revolving around Rich, his struggles, his relationship with God. And, therefore, the movie is revolving around God, and God’s relationship with all of us. It’s dealing with God’s relentless pursuit of us. So some of the accuracy gives way to that theme…and that’s for the best.
Rick: Was it fun playing yourself onscreen?
Mitch: I don’t think it was fun…(laughing)…I mean, I don’t even know if it’s fun playing myself…in real life…every day! But I’m grateful. I’m grateful to get to breathe this day and to have experiences I get to have this day. It was cool to get to be a small part of the movie making process. To get to see what goes one. I knew nothing about it. All the ins and outs. I’ll tell you what…I don’t know what real acting would be like. Now, some people talk about me also being an actor, and I go, “What?? I was playing myself! Does that even count??” So you know, It was nothing. There were certain instances when I was recounting, and would say to myself, “I remember this real event we’re trying to get down here” So it wasn’t really acting at all. A lot of it was just thinking back to what it was…and kind of reliving things. That was the extent of my acting: Reliving!
Rick: I’ve often heard that people getting into acting either love it or hate it. Are we going to see you in any future film roles? Any academy awards headed your direction?
Mitch: Well if we use my music career as a reference, I would say there are no academy awards on the horizon!! I don’t know if you could I was bit by the bug…but I do think it is a viable medium that I’d be up for exploring. But like I said I didn’t feel like a real actor. Who knows what lies ahead…
Rick: Are you currently working on your next full length record? Any idea about when we might see it?
Mitch: It seems I am always working on the next record…though i never know if there will be a next record. Does that mean that I have any songs? No. But you’re always working on ideas. I always have a bunch of “in-process” songs…carrying around a bag of melodies, chords, and phrases. I have no idea of when the next one will happen, or, IF it will happen. I know that there are no tangible plans for it to happen in the next, say, 4 months. Beyond that, who knows?
Rick: I know you wrote a couple of songs for the ‘Ragamuffin’ soundtrack, including a song that was supposed to have been written by Rich. Did you make a conscious effort to try and capture a ‘Rich’ vibe while writing it?
Mitch: Well…eventually, I approached it as a co-write. It’s a song called ‘Danger’…in the original script, it was a song that Rich, and the character Justin, were working on. So it’s kinda written from Rich’s viewpoint. After I read through the script the very first time, long ago…I wanted to document some of my feelings, and some of what I felt Rich’s feelings would be, in a song. I just needed to document some of the thoughts and get those down. This was before they talked to me about doing anything for the movie. I didn’t know Schutlz was gonna ask me to write a song or a specific purpose in the movie. I had no intentions of it becoming anything in the movie, but it did. Though the whole script changed…(laughing)…and so the song has no spot in the movie….(laughing). But it’s in the very tail end of the credits, which is, ya know, whatever. The other song merely ended up on my last record…that’s it . So I am grateful. 9. You’re about to kick off a new spring tour. Who’s traveling with you and how many stops so far? How many stops so far? Tomorrow is concert number 2 out of…50 spring concerts, something like that. Probably about 90% of the time I’ll be solo. The rest of the time Dave Sprinkle will be playing with me. Multi-instrumentalist. Bass player, percussion player, keyboard player, guitar player. He is great. Very talented. Awesome to have around. HIs strongest characteristic is his ability to go with the flow…in music…and in life.
Rick: Any specific message or theme that you’re trying to convey to the audience during this new tour?
Mitch: I’m sure there is…I just don’t know what it is yet. I know, last night, I blabbed about a lot of stuff that I hadn’t talked about before. A lot of times you just have to be receptive to what you’ll be led to say. You have to be open and pay attention to what’s going on in you and around you…and soon the message or the theme will become evident. It always happens. I don’t even know that I have a very good idea heading into it of what that might be. There are the big things that I hang onto. The faithfulness of God persisting though our rough difficult stuff. There is nothing we can do good, nothing we can do bad, that can alter our standing before the Lord. That kind of stuff. That Jesus saves me from myself. That I’m completely trying to live in the kingdom of God and, then, how that goes against living in our society, and living in our culture. So those are some things that…whatever message I have, whatever songs I have, whatever I have to say…hopefully will come out of who I am. I have one pool to draw from. And everything I do comes from that pool…whether that’s folding clothes, dropping my kids off at school, doing a concert, or, you name it. I have one pool to draw from. Like brother Lawrence said “Do all things unto God” Those are words that have become kind of cliche, but if you mull those over that’s a big big thing.
Rick: How’s the family doing?
Mitch: They’re doing great! Brooklyn is 8 years old now and in 2nd grade. Payson is 3 years old and raising hell…(laughing)…he’s a little ball of everything and I’m grateful to get to be a part of his life. He’s super smart and he’s a lot to keep track of. Both my kids are wonderful teachers and I love how they’ve made me more me. My wife Paula and I are just trying to keep up with the kids, and uh, my family is super supportive of me doing all this. I miss them a lot. I’m always, speaking of questions regarding my music career, I’m always asking myself, is this worth it? Is being gone from my family worth it? Though it’s not a one-verses-the-other kinda thing, the question remains. Most all of the time I can say, yes, and then there are times I have to say…I don’t know.
Rick: What’s been the biggest challenge of being a father/husband that spends so much time on the road?
Mitch: Just not being there for various things. Ya know, for the daddy/daughter breakfast. It’s not like I miss a lot of stuff, all the time. I’m there for a lot of things, but when I do miss, that’s hard. It’s being gone and getting a call from Paula telling me that Brooklyn locked the keys in the car…and knowing if I was there, it wouldn’t be that big of a deal. But, really, i’m helpless. I am unable to do anything about a lot of situations. It’s, uh, a sacrifice for my family. The hard thing is when I say I’m leaving to do concerts. I say “I’ll be gone for a few days and I’ll see you real soon.” Brooklyn says “Daddy don’t go…please don’t go, don’t go!” You know I don’t know that that’ll ever get easy. Yet when I’m home with my family, I’m pretty much home. Period. I’m a loner…ya know, in my personality. But when I’m home with my family that’s not the case. There are times, say, when I’m driving across Alabama in the middle of the night, that it actually gets hard to be alone. But overall it is a really good life. I have really great friends in a lot of places that I go…and that doesn’t make it any easier to be away from my family, but there is so much goodness to experience. So the challenges are many and they’re different with each day.
Rick: Do you feel like fatherhood, and the new perspective it brings, has changed anything about the songs you write or record?
Mitch: Yeah, yeah I know it has. It’s difficult for me to put my finger on it. But I know that I like to run each song by Brooklyn, and, soon, Payson too. I know the ones they like are going to be the good songs for me to do and record. They’re little kids with short attention spans and I’m old. I want to hear what they have to say. And, also, I want to say stuff that resonates and communicates with them. A lot of times I find myself going “Ok what is this…if Brooklyn and Payson were ever to listen to this song…really listen to it…would this be giving them something substantial, something helpful. Would this be pointing them towards Jesus?” I’ve been impacted greatly by being a dad and being a husband. That has affected hopefully almost all of my conversations in life and I know it’s affected my songwriting.