John Michael Talbot to take a break after 50th album
by Mark Sullivan
“Come home to stay,” is the last lyric John Michael Talbot sings on his new album “Living Water.” The album to be released on August 15th will be the best-selling Catholic artist’s 50th, but could it be his last for awhile?
“I think I’ve been getting a message from God in my prayer that I need to stop for awhile. I don’t know what I’m going to do next,” Talbot recently told Our Sunday Visitor from his home at the Little Portion Hermitage near Eureka Springs, Arkansas.
Talbot has kept a blistering pace by music industry standards. He has been doing four national tours and releasing two albums each year. In contrast, pop artists do a tour and album every once three years. This is not the first time Talbot has taken time off to recharge.
“A number of years ago I walked across the state of Arkansas. It was hot and tiring but spiritually fulfilling. At other times, I’ve traveled around the country leading prayer walks. Teaching people how to pray and be in communion with those who have gone before them,” Talbot said.
Talbot considers himself a composer of modern sacred music that is used for private devotion but can spill over into liturgical use.
“Some people like my music because it’s peaceful, and it calms them down. But my music has always defied existing categories” Talbot said. “That leaves me less affected by the ups and downs of the music industry.”
Almost all of Talbot’s music is based on either a scripture or a part of the mass. The album begins with the lyrics “Lord send forth your spirit and renew the face of the earth,” (Psalm 104). The war in Iraq is on Talbot’s mind and his setting for the psalm echoes 1960s folk music and anti-war movement.
“In the 1960s we asked the right questions. We just didn’t have the right answers. Now the Church has answers and is able to give those answers with humility,” Talbot said. He emphasizes that the pope and bishops have condemned the war in Iraq.
Talbot makes the same point musically with the first two songs on the album. “Send Forth Your Spirit” is followed by a more “traditional” setting of the “Kyrie” sung in English and Latin.
Talbot isn’t complaining about life on the road or the hectic schedule.
“Life on the road has a rhythm of it’s own. We have the mechanics of traveling down to a science. Even so it’s much different from the life that I have when I’m down here,” Talbot said.
The “life down here” Talbot is referring to is his leadership role for the Brothers and Sisters of Charity, a monastic community that includes celibate men and women, families, and singles.
Talbot founded the community in 1982. Today there are 40 people living at Living Portion in Arkansas and 500 others worldwide. In technical terms, it’s a public association of the faithful obedient to the pope and local bishop where they operate live and minister.
Living Portion is largely self-sufficient because they grow their own food, but Talbot’s music is still a major part.
Besides his musical and spiritual roles, Talbot is tuned into what is going on in the music business.
“The music industry is in a huge slump. Sales are down anywhere between 14% and 50%.” Nobody knows where this is going to end up,” Talbot said.
Nobody, except for God. Back at Little Portion Hermitage in Arkansas, John Michael Talbot is listening.