Leaving a comfort zone is never easy, but taking creative risks has paid off for Grammy nominee Jason Crabb. Long known as one of the most awarded artists in the Southern gospel community, Crabb took a chance last year with Whatever the Road, a pop leaning effort that marked his first project for Provident Music Group’s Reunion label. His risk was rewarded when the album earned a Grammy nod in the best contemporary Christian music album category.
“It is an honor to be recognized by the NARAS members,” Crabb said. “This project was born during a difficult period of my life as I lost one of the great influences in my Christian walk, my grandmother and prayer warrior, Billie Richardson. I recorded this project with her on my heart and mind so this is extra special to me.”
Crabb lost his beloved grandmother Jan. 19, 2015. Growing up in tiny Beaver Dam, Ky., Crabb and his siblings were profoundly influenced by Richardson’s love and faith. He admitted “Home” is one of the songs on the album that is particularly difficult to sing because it reminds him of his grandmother.
“There was one time I was singing it and I just had to stop,” he said. “I didn’t think I was going to regain my composure. I just closed my eyes and I saw her fixin’ everybody something to eat. I turned around and I just saw her. In that moment I was like, ‘I’m not going to see her ever again like that this side of heaven,’ and that was a big chapter closed.”
Crabb’s life has gone through many different chapters in the last decade. He began his career singing with his siblings as the Crabb Family. The group became of Southern gospel’s most successful acts and attracted a younger audience to the genre with their fresh sound and energetic live shows. In 2006, the siblings announced they were disbanding to pursue separate ministries and wrapped up a farewell tour in 2007. (Although over the last few years, they have reunited for shows and still perform together on occasion.)
When the Crabb Family disbanded, Jason embarked on a solo career and in 2010 he won a Grammy in the best Southern/country/bluegrass gospel album category for his self-titled solo debut. He continued to record for Spring Hill Music Group, releasing Because It’s Christmas in 2010 and Love is Stronger in 2013. Though he’s long been considered a core Southern gospel act, over the years he’s crossed multiple genre lines, placing singles on mainstream country radio and Christian AC as well as touring with a variety of acts from Christian pop icon Michael W. Smith to urban gospel star Tye Tribbett.
Even so, exiting Spring Hill to sign with Reunion and enlisting noted contemporary Christian producers Jason Ingram (Chris Tomlin, Tenth Avenue North, Kari Jobe) and Paul Mabury (Lauren Daigle, One Sonic Society) was a gutsy move. “As someone that’s been out here doing this for a little while, I needed a freshness. I needed something new,” he said.
He also took a more active role as a songwriter, co-writing seven of the album’s 10 tracks. “On this album, people will see more of who I am than anything I’ve ever done before. When I’m singing these lyrics, I’m more passionate because I know where these songs came from.”
Released last September, Whatever the Road debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard Top Christian and Gospel Albums chart and at No. 1 on Soundscan’s Adult Contemporary Albums chart. Crabb is currently on the road supporting the project.
Win or lose on Monday night, Crabb is proud of the direction he’s traveled with Whatever the Road.
“It’s a different place for me stylistically, but it wears well. It feels like an old jacket even though it’s new,” he said. “I’ve never wanted to be pigeon-holed. I just wanted to make music. I finally found that if you’re part of the creative process of the song, then it becomes you. With this record, I feel like it’s a little more of who I am than what I’ve been. It’s where I want to be and it’s wonderful.”