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Christian music icon performs today in Salisbury

By Katie Scarvey
kscarvey@salisburypost.com
If you were tapped into the Christian music scene 15 or 20 years ago, you surely knew the name Carman.
No last name necessary for this stadium-packing performer.
At one Dallas concert, more than 71,000 people attended.
In 1990, Billboard Magazine named him the first Contemporary Christian artist of the year. He has earned 15 gold and platinum albums, selling more than 10 million albums.
He’s been described as part evangelist, part Vegas showman. Think rock and roll Billy Graham Crusade.
His talent extends beyond inspirational singing, however.
He wrote and starred in the movie “R.I.O.T” in 1997, training for fight scenes with Rorion and Royce Gracie, of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), a mixed martial arts organization.
He’s written songs for several movies, including Disney’s “Prince of Egypt” and the documentary “Jesus Camp.”
His current movie project, which will likely be out next year, Carman says, is called “Jack and the Big 10.” Carman wrote the script for the film, which will explore the question “Can a man break all ten commandments and still hope for a bright future?”
He wants his films to be real, he says, with Christians speaking the way real people speak.
For now, his stadium days are behind him. His recent approach to audiences in his “Carman: For real ó for now” tour is more intimate, focusing more on speaking than music ó although don’t worry, you’ll still hear plenty of the music that he’s famous for.
Carman is appearing at 7 p.m. this evening at Cornerstone Church’s Event Center. Doors open at 6 p.m. A seating pass is $5.
Carman ó born Carman Dominic Licciardello in New Jersey ó began playing the club circuit in Atlantic City and Philadelphia when he was just a teenager.
“I sang in country bands, pop bands, Sinatra … anything that could get me a gig,” he says.
He laughs when he recalls singing “My Way” when he was only 17.
He sometimes played in what he described as “underground mafia joints.”
He perhaps dodged a bullet when he was approached by a man named “Bushy” from a well-known Italian crime family ó something like you’d see on “The Sopranos,” he says ó who wanted to represent his interests.
Shortly after that, he left for Las Vegas and happened to see gospel musician Andrae Crouch in concert. Hearing the Christian message put to music, he says, moved him to make a profession of faith.
“Music was the language I really understood,” he says.
His conversion experience set change in motion for him, Carman says, and his life began to evolve naturally after he made his profession of faith.
Ultimately, he was able to withstand pressure to become entangled with organized crime back East and discovered his true calling as a Christian artist.
Carman’s approach as a performer these days focuses more on communicating with the audience through speaking than his old stadium shows did.
“I’ve evened out the equation a little more,” he says.
“If you were to go into a church and all they did was music, with no speaking, the church would die. Speaking, whether you’re running for election or whether you’re a newscaster or a preacher, the words you say will affect the outcome of other people’s lives.
“Music prepares the way for speaking, music prepares the heart.
People will still hear the music that they expect, he says, but may be surprised by his speaking and in fact, he says, “people are responding more to the speaking than to the music.”
“I start telling stories about growing up, and just relating to people. People are always surprised. They don’t expect me to say something they can relate to.
“People relate to the difficulties of growing up, the difficulties you face when living in a less than perfect environment.”
With his new approach, he says, he has more fun, is more effective, and shows are more flexible. The huge venues, he said, were sometimes overwhelming.
Christian music sales have dropped a lot over the past six years, and Christian artists are struggling overall, Carman says.
Downloading is part of it, he explains, but many churches now are making their own music, resulting in less demand for Christian artists.
That means that to survive, artists have to add to what they do, he says.

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