Contemporary Christian singer-songwriter Clay Crosse has released six solo albums that have generated eight number-one singles on the Contemporary Christian music charts. He uses his music to encourage devotion to Christian religious ideals, and he uses his fame to help him serve as a role model for his fans.
Crosse was born during the late 1960s and grew up in Memphis, Tennessee. He was raised in a Christian home and was actively involved in his church while in high school and college. At the age of 23, Crosse married his high school sweetheart, Renna, and the couple has two daughters, Shelby and Savannah. Both Crosse and his wife are actively involved in the Leawood Baptist church in Memphis.
Crosse's Christian music recording career began in 1994 with his album My Place Is With You, which earned him the Gospel Music Association's Dove Award for New Artist of the Year in 1995. The album had two number-one singles: "I Call Your Name" and "I Surrender All." He followed up this success with his 1995 album entitled Time to Believe, which led to his nomination as the Dove Awards' Male Vocalist of the Year. This album generated three number-one singles: "His Love's Comin' Over Me," "His Love is Strong," and "The Rock (That Was Rolled Away)."
In 1997 Crosse's popular success soared with his next album, called Stained Glass, which had more of a rock sound than his previous two albums and aimed to appeal to a younger audience. "Stained Glass is not only a fresh new musical direction for Clay," Reunion Records president Bruce Koblish told Deborah Evans of Billboard magazine, "but I think it also represents where more contemporary Christian artists will be headed in the future--powerful and honest lyrics with a grassroots musical approach that connects with the soul of what people are wanting to hear." To promote the album, Crosse launched the "Walk a Mile" campaign where he walked a mile in every city which held the Special Olympics in 1997. He also "walked a mile" in the shoes of the radio and retail personnel who promoted and sold his records by actually doing their jobs. As Crosse explained to Evans, "It's just my way of saying thank you to the people that mean a lot to me out there, all the people who work hard at their jobs and, in turn, further my career...." In addition to "He Walked a Mile," the single "Saving the World" also reached number one on the Contemporary Christian singles chart.
In 1997 Crosse also participated in an album paying tribute to gospel music legend Andrae Crouch. This project won the Dove Award for Special Event Album in 1997. In 1999 Clay released a compilation album called I Surrender All: The Clay Crosse Collection, Volume 1. This album included four of his number-one singles from other albums: "He Walked a Mile," "Saving the World," "I Surrender All," and "The Rock (That Was Rolled Away)," in addition to three new songs. The song "I Will Follow Christ" landed Crosse the Dove Award for Inspirational Recorded Song in 2000.
As a Christian music artist, it is important to Crosse that he not only lead a Christian life, but also serve as an example for his listeners. In 1999 he spoke publicly about how he and his wife decided to abstain from sex until they were married. Even though they started dating in high school, the couple strongly believed that they had a moral obligation to wait until they were married before they consummated their relationship. As Crosse explained to Martin Cockroft of Campus Life magazine in 1999, "It wasn't easy. But it was our goal and our prayer, and through God's strength, we made it."
Crosse has also spoken publicly about other temptations in this life, hoping that his experiences will serve as an example to other Christians. He candidly explained how exposure to pornography as a child had negatively affected his views toward women. He had also allowed himself to enjoy certain television shows, movies, and magazines that were popular among the general public, but were contrary to his Christian beliefs. Crosse believed that his deviations from true Christian living took a toll on both his personal and professional lives. Because he was not at peace with himself, Crosse began having problems with his voice. He was distraught over this because he thought that his voice was the one thing in his life that he could always count on. His fear of not being able to sing professionally moved him to reexamine his life.
In order to deal with his problems, Crosse rededicated himself to Christ. He wrote his next album, A Different Man, as a testimonial project. As Crosse explained to Christianity Today, "A different man means someone who is seeking God wholeheartedly. God's music to me has been to just let go of all of these other distractions, and to follow him completely." Crosse's wife, Renna, helped him deal with this difficult time in his life. To show his appreciation for her dedication, Crosse wrote "Walk With Me (Renna's Song)" for this album. A Different Man was well received and produced an additional number-one single for Crosse called "More Like You."
According to one review from ChristianMusic.com, "The songs of Stained Glass enveloped the listener and moved them with spine-tingling music and lyrics, and Clay's new songs do the same, but they are more passionate and powerful than ever before."
Throughout his career, Crosse has promoted his music through live performances across the country. In addition, he has appeared on such television shows as Late Night with Conan O'Brien, Prime Time Country, 700 Club, Hour of Power, and ABC News. Aside from music, Crosse is also involved in several charities, including the Tennessee Special Olympics, World Vision, and the Union Rescue Mission in Memphis. Crosse believes that the future of his career is guided by God. As he wrote on his website, "My eyes are wide open and I am completely open to His calling. It's not on my terms, it's got to be on His."
by Janet P. Stamatel
Clay Crosse's Career so far:
Released debut album, My Place Is With You, with Reunion Records, 1994; released Time to Believe, 1995; contributed to Tribute--The Songs of Andrae Crouch, 1997; released Stained Glass, 1997; released first compilation album, I Surrender All: The Clay Crosse Collection, Volume 1, 1999; released A Different Man, 2000; released Christmas with Clay Crosse, 2001.