Gary Chapman admits that even he didn't realize that it had been over a decade since he had last released new music, with his most recent project having been 2002's "Circles and Seasons." But, as it sometimes does, life got in the way.
"I really felt I needed to be available for my kids," said the singer-songwriter. "Then, not too long after they started flying the coop, my dad was diagnosed with Parkinson's, then a couple of years later with cancer. He lived with my wife and I. As close as we were, I felt we got closer. It was a time that I treasure. He died in our home, four years ago on Easter Sunday at sunrise."
Chapman puts his thoughts about the past decade – and life's ups and downs - in his new project, The Truth. He told Billboard that the lyrics of the songs are very much real – and lived. "Life has not been perfect for me by any stretch, and I'm not complaining," he stated. "I'm so happy and joyful in my life that it's ridiculous. But, when I was able to not shy away from the pain, but actually embrace it, and bring it closer, it disarmed it completely. I think the degree that I have been able to successfully convey that with music, I think a lot of people feel that way. It's not a record that's trying to bowl you over, it's trying to touch your heart."
One cut that Chapman admits to getting emotional about is the tender "Put It In His Hands," which features his daughter Sarah. He says the song was inspired by his father. "That song is very special to me. I was putting my dad to bed one night, and to be honest, I don't remember what I was whining about. I was telling him all about it. I went through the whole process. I got him tucked in, kissed him on the forehead and said 'Good night,' and I hit the light. As I hit the switch, out of the darkness, this frail voice says 'Son, sometimes you gotta just put it in God's hands.' He had told me that no telling how many times in my life. But, somehow that moment, it just hit me like a brick. I came upstairs, and wrote the first verse and chorus very quickly. I played it for a dear friend of mine, Aaron Barker, who has written so many hits for George Strait. He said 'Please let me help you finish this.' Then, to have my daughter Sarah, who has such a sweet and wonderful voice, it just kills me. I almost can't listen to it."
The album features a few other special guests, such as Alison Krauss, Rebecca Lynn Howard, Tanya Tucker, and John Rich, with the latter two appearing on "The Rough Crowd."
"That was originally played for me about seven years ago," Chapman says. "That one, along with 'I Didn't Find Jesus,' which is also on the album. I heard them at the same meeting, and I told the song plugger 'I will cut those songs. I don't know when. Obviously, if you can get a cut on someone else, take it. I stayed true to my word. I had been holding them for seven years, and was really attached to them. One of my co-producer asked 'What do you think about having someone sing with you on the 'The Rough Crowd? I'd like to get Tanya to sing the first verse.' At first, I said 'I don't know. I'm so connected to the song.' Then, I knew I was just being bratty about it. Then, we reached out to her, and Billy Joe Walker got her to hear the song, and she embraced it."
Chapman says the cameos were well suited for the track. "Good grief, Tanya Tucker singing the verse of the woman in the well who everybody was going to stone? That's as perfect as it gets. Then John Rich on the third verse, where he sings 'I have cussed. I have raised hell. I've drank, but I know someone was with me all the way.' I'm sorry, but that's John. They both did an amazing job. It turned into a sweet cut."
The emotional centerpiece of The Truth is the jaw-dropping honesty of "Everything I Know," which strikes a chord with the singer. "It's one that I think I'm the most proud of. It's not a young man's song – not one a twenty year old kid sings. It's one a 56-year old guy who has had his butt handed to him a couple of times sings. Life just isn't always pretty. It's not about it always being pretty. If it was, we would all be boring and sick of each other. If you don't encounter that storm now and then, how do you really appreciate a blue sky? I just don't think you can. It's not about everything being right. It's how you handle the process of going through that storm, and keeping your head up, knowing that the storm is not going to last forever. I have to go back and credit my parents for putting that within me."