The guitarist for Christian rock band Kutless talks about the new album, Casting Crowns and what’s coming next.
Nick De Partee, the guitarist for Christian rock band Kutless talks about the new album, Casting Crowns and what’s coming next.
1. How did Kutless start?
As a worship band at a Warner Pacific College in Portland, Ore. They started doing some worship services at college and started doing some of their own original work. They also played local shows.
2. How long have you guys been together?
The band got together for a year and a half before they got signed in 2001. I only joined the band three years ago. They signed with Tooth N’ Nail records and put out their first EP in 2002. Been going ever since.
3. What does the name Kutless refer to?
It refers to, basically, Jesus dying on the cross. He took all the cuts and pain that we deserve from our sin and took it on himself leaving us cutless -- or Kutless -- in return.
4. Who does most of the writing for the band?
We all contribute in different ways. Jon Micah and I do a lot of the co-writing. Jon Micah is our singer. We do a lot of the main writing. Dave, our bass player, does a lot of programming and a lot of the digital production stuff. Jeff, our drummer, does a lot of arrangement stuff with a lot of our songs and knows a little bit of the production side. Then James, our other guitarist, does some of the lead guitar and some of the music end of the writing as well. In the end, everyone is pitching in.
5. What is the most important thing a new fan would need to know about Kutless?
Probably that we are not just a worship band. We have a variety of styles and ranges across the board. A lot of people don’t know that we have all these rock albums and, vice versa, they will comment that they didn’t know we have worship albums. I would recommend any new Kutless fans to check out our whole catalog if possible.
6. Why is it important to you guys to come out with another worship album?
We struggled with that. Our first worship album “Strong Tower” came out about four years ago and, on the business side of things, has been our most successful album. It just went gold this past year. With the record industry suffering right now it would be easy to say, “Well that one did well, let’s do another record along those lines.”
We got some critique across those lines about our new record that we just did it because of those reasons as well. We really struggled with that because our fans from the “Strong Tower” record kept asking us, “When are you going to do another worship album?” We didn’t want to do one just to do it or just because “Strong Tower” did well and it would be something that would be good marketing wise.
Because of this we put it off for a long time, but we have always kept a worship portion in our set. Over the last year and a half, all of a sudden, people are just connecting with that portion. With the country going through a lot of stuff, there are a lot of people hurting right now. ...
As an artist, alone, you do want to do music that connects with your fan base the most. Seeing that and knowing that in all of our hearts, separately, we got together and said, “Hey, maybe we should do a worship record.” We weren’t even supposed to put out a record last year. It just seemed that was what our fans were needing right now and we decided to just do it. All the music just came together and we went to a ranch out in Portland and recorded at a friend's house. We kept it low-key and had like our own little mini retreat. We got the album done and are just really stoked about it. We have gotten a lot of good responses on it. We are just excited to see what it does.
7. How hard was it to take worship songs like “It is well” and make them into a Kutless song?
That was a larger task than what I thought it was going to be. With hymns, especially, you don’t write music like that anymore, just to write like they did back then. So our bass player and I started tearing that song apart. We were like, "How do we make this more current?"
There were five verses and there is not really a chorus, there is like a refrain and no bridge. With that in mind we just spent days on that one song in a little studio in his apartment cranking through it trying to figure out how to make it current -- but at the same time we didn’t want to go too far. It is such a recognizable song. We just ended up creating our version and were really happy with it. It was kind of weird, like we didn’t know if people were going to like this. But we have had a really good response, so we could both take a breath after it came out.
8. How did Kutless get contacted to be on the Casting Crowns tour?
We have been, somewhat, good friends with those guys for a little while. We have played with them, a lot, over the last year at some festivals. They were headlining the festivals and we were direct support to them. We had dropped comments to them about how we should tour sometime.
We were more laughing about it because we could never dream of being on tour with them. When you look at Kutless you see a bunch of crazy guys playing rock music so a tour with Crowns, we were just laughing about it with their guys and it ended up that they were talking to another artist about coming out on this tour. It ended up not working out. It wasn’t super last minute but it picked up on a more serious level. ...
They said, "You know what, let’s go for it. Let’s see what happens." We respect them so much and this was awesome. For them to even take a chance on bringing a band out where it could work or it couldn’t. It’s just been awesome, we have played six shows of the tour already and it has been unbelievable the response. People have been great and we haven’t scared too many of them away yet. (laughs) We love those guys.
9. How much fun has the Casting Crowns tour been?
It has been a blast. It has also been refreshing in a lot of cool ways. Casting Crowns' heart for ministry is convicting. Like on our tours we will do devotions and stuff. I don’t want to say there is a lack of commitment of ministry on our tours, but it has been a very good conviction here.
Every day, Mark Hall (lead singer of Casting Crowns) from crew all the way to all the bands, we have devotions every day at the venues were we sit in the auditorium, do devotions, and then Mark has everyone sit all around the arena and just pray over the venue every night. ...
People are coming into this arena tonight to come see this concert and they are coming in with different stories, different problems in their lives, different issues. So as Christians, let’s be praying for them. So it’s cool seeing our entire tour, all the bands, crew, sitting in this arena just praying for the people that are going to come in that night. We have seen so many rad things. People getting saved and people telling us what God is doing in their lives. I have just never felt so connected to a tour before. So it has been really refreshing, we have learned a lot things we want to implement into our tours going forward. It’s been good.
10. Is it easier to be an opening act or would you prefer to headline?
I think there is good and bad about both. Being a headliner is rough because you have to keep that crowd. If they aren’t feeling it, and we have done some real bad shows in our history, you start seeing people trickle off and they are like leaving. You are like, "Oh man, we did something wrong." Though there is a lot more pressure being a headliner, it is very exciting. I also love being direct support like this. You go out there and you do your thing. We have a half-hour set and play like six songs. Hopefully we want people to enjoy it but, especially on this tour, we worship for like six songs and really try to bring people into that place and then we leave. We are showered and ready to go by the time Casting Crowns is half way through their set.
11. When you break off from the Casting Crowns tour, who will you be touring with?
We are talking about doing and in the process of booking a more West Coast-based tour. We will be leaving in the beginning of April. I haven’t heard all of the details as far as the opening acts and stuff. We are looking at a few different bands. It is still TOP SECRET! (laughs) It’s going to be good though. We are excited about it. We have a new booking agency we are working with now. They do a killer job of just helping us get this tour booked. We are just really excited about it and we love hitting the West Coast.
12. When will you be back to the Kansas City area as a headliner?
I think we are at least coming near Kansas City on that next tour on our way to the West Coast. Probably April. We will be posting some dates in the next couple of weeks.
13. When your fans go to see you on tour, what can they expect from a Kutless show?
Again, I think it is some variety. It has become, in a cool way, to be the rock band who does worship. We have a variety of music that will take people on a journey. Not that, "Hey, here is 10 face-melting songs and everyone is worn out and deaf afterward. We like to come out and give you some rock, then bring it down for some songs, mix in some ballads and have that worship time. It is real up and down. We do our best to give people their money's worth, honestly. You don’t want to go see a band who is up there looking bored. We feel super blessed to have a career this long and have a collection of music that can take people on a journey with us. I think variety is the main thing that you can expect from one of our shows, which is fun.
14. Do you find it hard to reach a broader audience being labeled a Christian band?
I would say yes and no. Being labeled a Christian band, you get some of that automatic, before they even listen to you, you are automatically pigeon-holed with like “Ahhh, you are a Christian band, OK! So you just rip off all of the other mainstream bands.” (laughs) So basically there is an element of that but sometimes you just have to get through people’s stereotypes that they have built up in their heads.
I think honestly, man, that we know we have been called to this by God and he is much bigger than industry and careers and money and everything else that is so involved with music. If he wants to open doors for us to go play some mainstream tours or anything like that, he can do that. We will gladly go. If that is where he leads, then great, but the main thing is just to be serving what he has called us to do and as long as we are doing that and picking one day at a time, we will go wherever he opens the doors.
15. If you could tour with any band out there, who would it be?
I would pick the Foo Fighters. I am a massive Foo Fighters fan. Other than that, in the Christian market I would love to tour with Switchfoot. I am a big Switchfoot fan, a big fan of Jon Foreman. They have just, talk about a band crossing over the gap between Christian and mainstream industry, they have done an amazing job holding true to their faith and making music that is very much their own that can cross those boundaries. I respect them quite a bit.
16. What is your main role in the band?
Besides playing guitar, I also like to do some graphic design stuff. I do a lot of our online marketing design stuff. I do posters and stuff like that. I like to stay busy with that. Other than that, I am always writing, trying to write the next song. Jon Micah is always writing a bunch, too. I guess I am somewhat of a creative director guy. (laughs)
17. How do you guys stay focused on the road?
A lot of it has to do with accountability to one another, member to member. If I am being a total dork on tour and messing up or not reading or being in the word, I have four other dudes who are going to call me out on it real quick if my attitude starts getting in the wrong spot. A lot of that, we have to rely on each other to be accountable. We are not home on a lot of Sundays, we are not able to go to church every week. There is a church in Portland, they will send pastors out on tour with us for a few days at a time to just check in with us. To keep us on track.
You get out on tour and you are not involved in a community of church. You are not connected as much as you would like to be. It is real easy just to, well, not to fall into major sin or anything, but to not be in the word and not being sharp. So it is awesome to have these pastors from this church come back out and stay in communication with the families back home. Being kept in prayer and stuff and people just keeping us sharp because it so easy to let your guard down being on the road for months at a time.
18. What is the greatest benefit of being in your band?
I think the coolest part about what we get to do is just obviously we love music. I grew up just loving to play guitar. To have the combination of, No. 1, having a job or having a job period right now is a blessing, you know. A lot of people don’t even have jobs. But not only having a job, but a job doing something I love and getting that to be my work to just play music. And off of that to be in ministry is like the all inclusive dream job. Everything that God is calling me to do in ministry and the passion he has given me and the talent is all wrapped up in an awesome package. To be able to do that full time and travel and see everything that I get to see around the world, doing that is a huge blessing. I don’t think you can get much better than this.
19. What is the band’s greatest accomplishment to date?
As far as industry stuff goes would definitely be “Strong Tower.” It just went Gold in the last year. That has been our biggest achievement as far as industry standards. On the ministry side, I think just being alive for the last nine years as a band and getting to minister to people. I think we are all learning more and more, the older we get, to just take it one day at a time. If God wants to end Kutless tomorrow, he can and very much will. But we are taking it one day at a time and we are just stoked to be a band and still have so many good fans that support us and are behind what we do. We are just thankful.
20. What does the future of the band hold?
More music hopefully! If God will let us do it, we will continue this. We are always writing. We are already writing new stuff for whenever our next record will end up being. We have no plans yet as far as next record but we are always getting ideas thrown down. We are also working on some tour stuff for when we do all the festivals this summer. We are working on some ideas for the fall for touring. I have already got some ideas for next spring already. We are always thinking far off in advance but again, one day at a time.
Maryville Daily Forum (Maryville, Mo.)