Andy Erwin Says New Doc THE JESUS MUSIC Offers Hope for Today
By Movieguide® Staff
While the pandemic forced filmmakers, musicians and performers worldwide to press pause on various projects, it opened up a unique opportunity for the Christian directing and producing duo, Jon and Andy Erwin.
The brother’s newest project, THE JESUS MUSIC, is a documentary about the origin of Christian Contemporary Music and its impact on culture throughout history.
“This doc is probably the most personal thing that Jon and I have been able to do,” Andy told Movieguide® in a recent interview.
Despite the Erwin brother’s passion for Christian music—who started their creative careers shooting music videos for famous Christian artists—they stumbled upon the idea due to COVID-19 delaying another project.
Andy said: “We didn’t really intend to tell kind of the full story. But when COVID kind of shut things down… We said, ‘We have to tell stories, we really want to stay active, what stories can we tell now that we can’t tell at any other time?'”
One of the producers suggested that they look into the history of CCM.
“‘For the first time in history, all of these artists are off the road at the same time,'” Andy recalled the producer saying. “So we pitched it to our friends, Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant, they loved it and they said, ‘Not only would we want to be a part of that, but we’d like to executive produce it with you.'”
Soon after the Erwin brothers decided to do the project, it became apparent that a lack of interviews would not be a problem.
“We interviewed 100 different artists for the doc, and it became like the comprehensive history of Christian music, and it was just amazing to kind of tell the story,” he explained. “I think the biggest challenge was just the sheer volume of stories. We had to distill 300 hours of interviews down to an hour and 45 minutes.”
“It took a lot of just collaborating with a lot of different filmmakers to figure out how do we tell this story cohesively,” he added. “We really focused in on four individuals to kind of guide us through and it’s Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, Kirk Franklin, and Toby Mac. Those are kind of the guides to the film that walk us through the history.”
Andy noted that the interviews with the most influential artists in CCM were also some of the most vulnerable.
“Amy [Grant], not many people knew at the time, was about a month out from having open-heart surgery,” Andy recalled. “So we actually filmed her interview through the window of her house, we put the cameras right up to the glass, and had this amazing interview that we did with a two-way intercom. And it was such a vulnerable interview, that it just spread to everyone involved.”
THE JESUS MUSIC traces the history of CCM back to the 60s and the revival that happened within the hippie movement.
“These hippies that were self identified as freaks, that had burned out on sex, drugs and rock and roll and found a spiritual experience with Jesus and became known as Jesus freaks,” Andy explained. “They started singing about it. There was no business model, there was no outlet. They didn’t fit in the church, they didn’t fit in the world. And they said, we’re gonna forge a path that didn’t exist. And so telling their story was just so romantic, so rebellious, and we loved every minute of it.”
Andy also noted the personal connection he had to CCM as a young Christian man. Andy said that he was first introduced to CCM through Columbia House, which was popular for selling multiple records to customers for just one penny. Andy remembers one of his first albums was DC Talk’s “Jesus Freak.”
“When I put DC Talk’s ‘Jesus Freak’ into the dash of my ’81 Camaro and listened to it, I fell in love with this genre of music. It was just I’d never heard anything like it before,” he said. “Jesus Freak was kind of a derogatory term when it was first coined in the 70s kind of make fun of these kids that have gone Christ. Toby bought it back. He said, ‘No, we’re gonna say this as a rebellious anthem, that this is who we are, this is what we believe.'”
While that was decades in the past, Andy said that there are many similarities between then and now.
“I think stories of revivals, kind of spark revivals,” Andy said.
“What sparked the Jesus movement was this sense of defeat and jadedness that everything that the free love movement, and Haight Ashbury, and all these hippie movements that promised that unlocking your mind with LSD was the power to know God—these kids burnt out on it, and they bottomed out,” he said. “When the bottom fell out, they had a funeral for the hippie movement in Haight Ashbury, and they lost everything. They said that what else is there to believe in?”
“But in the midst of that hopelessness where people were so defeated, they had an amazing, authentic encounter with the living risen Jesus Christ. And out of that sparked this revival that our country hasn’t seen since,” he added.
“I think you see that sense of hopelessness right now, with people, there’s so much division, and there’s so much hurt, and there’s so much disappointment on every side of the aisle of what do we believe in?” he continued. “I think that the stage could be set for another moment like that.”
Andy said that he hopes that THE JESUS MUSIC will encourage others to stand up for their faith.
“Our desire was to put the origin story out in the purest form, but I hope it connects with a generation that has never experienced anything like that,” he said. “It’s a beautiful, powerful story. The message overall is hope. I think that’s a universal message and I think people are craving it.”
View this post on Instagram