Carlos Whittaker Biography
Last updated: 11/21/2013 09:44:04 PM
Chances are that you know the Carlos Whittaker story already. You know about his time at Andy Stanley’s North Point community church, about that tattoo, that viral video and the People’s Choice Award. You know all about that blog which comes in just behind Piper and Driscoll in the top five charts and you know about the debut album with Integrity Music. We’re guessing you also know about the fact that for Carlos Whittaker, the prospect of a world without social media is, frankly, terrifying.
But none of all that is either the whole story or the bigger picture. And when it comes to the words and sounds of Carlos Whittaker, the whole story and bigger picture matter a lot.
In a journey that has taken him from the east coast to the deep south, Carlos has become something unique within the church. His favorite phrase is his calling card - to disturb and disrupt to see Christ’s face fresh again - and his voice sounds loud and clear.
“Perhaps my voice before was a little more cautious,” he explains. “But now that I’m not working in a church I can be more...” [pause] “...aggressive? I mean that I am better able to question the evangelical community. These days I can say the things that will get me into trouble and lose readers and commenters, but these are the things that matter - these are the things that are true.”
All of which is why we’re five paragraphs in to this micro-bio and we’re only just getting round to exploring the new music coming from Carlos Whittaker - namely, his sophomore album, due out with Provident in *MONTH*.
It was all so different with the debut album, Ragamuffin Soul. It was produced and largely co-written with producer-of-the-moment Jason Ingram, and Carlos had been signed up for the project even before the label had heard him sing. That meant there was a lot of ground to be covered - like finding a sound, a voice and honing a message - and it needed to happen fast.
But two years are a long time in the life of a social-mediarista like Carlos, and in between the then and the now he has joined the Paradigm Collective Music Label/ Sony Provident family - home to the likes of John Mark MacMillan, All The Bright Lights and The Royal Royal - a brother partnership featuring Nathan ‘Producer-Of-A-Moment-Coming-Very-Soon’ Finochio.
“Nathan and I became friends before we became music partners. My kids love him and he knows me as a father, as a husband and as a friend. He sees my successes and my failures. So when we work together he produces and crafts in a whole different way. He gets my heartbeat.”
That heartbeat has a fresh sound. As an album, The Fight is full of electro beauty and genre-bending madness. Instead of heavily-delayed guitar parts, it favors a double swiss of keys, loops and all the rest. Why?
“People see me as this creative guy, and I don’t want to give them cookie-cutter worship music out of Nashville.”
Yet, Carlos is never one to wander far from the path, and while he wants to disturb and disrupt, he only ever does it to encourage, not to alienate. That means that, in a concession to bemused guitar players everywhere, Carlos has recorded acoustic versions of all the songs.
Scrape away just a little at the surface of The Fight and you’ll unearth a message ripe with honesty, truth and the desire to bring people on. For halfway through creating the album, Carlos was forced to face some uncomfortable truths:
“Last year was hell. I was struggling in my marriage, I was struggling financially, I was struggling in my faith and I was losing it all. This is it, I thought. This is what it looks like to have to fight for your life.
“And as I looked around and saw so many others in the same position. Some friends of mine are in the fight of their lives for their careers, for their marriages, for their kids. I know of parents with ten year olds looking at porn. How did we even get here? And is there really any way out of here without a fight?”
Carlos speaks openly of his own struggle with anxiety and depression, how he’s been on Paxil for the last nine years and used to have panic attacks so strong that he was unable to stand up. And seeing some of those patterns begin to emerge in those he loved was a crushing blow:
“I started to see in my nine and ten year old the same things I struggle with - the anxiety and the depression. I started to lose it, and it was clear that after ten years of feeling like I had a handle on my anxiety and depression, that wasn’t so true any longer. My own stresses rose and I needed to up my Paxil dose. I have to look at it in a new way. I had to see it as a fight.”
The revelations came from other sources too:
“I looked at my Instagram feed and it was full of selfies, all calling out for people to leave comments that would boost my ego. I started to look around at others too, and I saw that so many of us just show the tip of the iceberg, just the perfect three minutes from an otherwise normal - and difficult - day. Nobody can ever achieve the type of perfection we see on those blogs, but we’re heading for disaster if we keep on trying. So now I find myself in a fight to be authentic.”
Slowly, gradually, and not without much self-doubt and questioning, the album re-emerged. New songs came, bringing a touch of hope where it was needed most.
“New Song’s first line kind of sums it all up for me: “I was dead and not breathing.” I explain it before I sing it at churches and I see how many people are suffocating like I was. But it doesn’t stay there - the fight doesn’t go on forever. The song bring hope as well: “You lifted me up out of the worst darkness.”
Carlos knows that not everyone is at their wits end, but it’s true that the fight will come - or has come - for every single one of us. None of us can escape the fight. Not a single one.
Just as he does with his blog, Carlos has a unique ability to help people open up and unleash the honesty. These songs are part of him, and so nobody should be surprised to learn that they have an agenda. Like a sheepdog let loose in the field, The Fight is a Spirit-scripted plan to drive us to the place where the fear loses its grip. The Fight comes out and finds us there among the mud and the blood, and it reminds us that one day - soon, we hope - we will get to rest a little in the arms of the One who knows what it is to fight for life - and win.