We recently interviewed Ben Calhoun, the lead singer of the Christian band “Citizen Way“.
In the interview he shared about how he sets and keeps his priorities straight. He also shared advice for aspiring singer/songwriters and worship leaders.
How did your band come to be? Whose dream was it and when did it come together?
The band’s 10 year anniversary is this September!
In March of 2004, Ben put together a record of songs he wrote. He recruited his brother, Josh Calhoun, to play drums, and Ben Blascoe to play bass. The first time they met each other was in the studio!
For eight years they were known as “The Least of These.” This name originated from Matthew 25.
The turning point was early on in their career when they played at a Battle of the Bands called “Party on the Prarie” in Woodstock, Illinois… and they won!
After Ben wrote the song “It Should Have Been Me” they opened for Barlow Girl. They loved the song and asked if they could pass it on to a record company. Pretty soon they were signed and have continued to grow!
How did the name originate and why the change from TLOT?
The name was changed from “The Least of These” to “Citizen Way” at the time that they were signed to a record label. There were so many organizations that were called The Least of These, so they decided it they would be easier to be found if they changed their name.
The name “Citizen Way” is very purposeful. They wanted to make sure that the band wasn’t the focus, but God was. Citizen comes from Ephesians 2 “We have our citizenship in the kingdom of heaven.” and John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the father except through me.” They combined the two and there ya have it!
Who is all in the band? Have these members changed since the original members?
All of the original members are still in the band. Four years ago David Blascoe has been one added however. So now there are 2 sets of brothers in the band!
Do you all have other jobs and how does that work???
Ben Calhoun is very involved at Judson University. He built and runs a recording studio, he is the studio producer, and teaches in the worship arts program there at well.
Josh Calhoun lives in Wisconsin and teaches guitar lessons.
Citizen Way is Ben and David Blascoe’s full time jobs.
Who or what has been the most influential on your music?
For Ben personally there are 5 people that been extra influential:
- His mom- She is a world class accompanist on piano. She studied classical music, and won Praise in the Rockies in 1987.
- High School Band Teacher Mr. Ken DeVoe
- Steven Curtis Chapman
- Phil Keaggy
- Joel Hansen from PFR
There are many more than this, Ben said, but these are the ones that were the most influential in his life.
How do you maintain your walk with the Lord with your schedule?
“It all comes down to priorities! My priority is my relationship with the Lord, and He tells me to have a relationship with my family and then my career in that order”
Ben said that they don’t have a TV in their house and he doesn’t have Facebook or Twitter on his phone to keep the distractions at a minimum. He has two young daughters that need his time when he is home on tour.
He is currently going through an intensive study with his dad. Ben said, “I love studying God’s word, it is fascinating to me. Memorizing scripture and teaching it to our kids is a part of our every day.”
Even in their music, scripture comes into play. On their record you can look up the scripture that each song pulls from.
“It’s very important to me to have priorities straight…you just kind of put things to the side because they don’t matter.”
“In a big answer you have to keep your priorities straight, if you don’t, you loose the platform He gave you in the first place.”
Do you write all your own music? Whats your favorite song?
Yes! They have a part in writing every song.
Ben’s favorite song is called “All Things“. It’s was inspired by a homeless lady in a park, Craig from the Morning Show on Klove, and a friend he knew with cancer. Craig reminded him of 1 Thes. 5:18 “Give thanks in all circumstances.”
Ben loves all of the songs on the album, but this one is just special.
What advice do you have for worship leaders or aspiring christian musicians around America?
Ben said there are 3 main pieces of advice he would give any musician.
1- Micah 6:8. He is going to tell you who you are, and you’re going to be able to tell people the same. The best thing we can do is partner with God in what He is already doing. The way to do that is get rid of the stuff that doesn’t matter and focus on him.
When you walk with Jesus that is when the real content for your songs is going to come. People don’t need to hear about what you are going through as much as what God has done. Make sure you are pointing to the Lord in everything.
2- Be more interested in people than your product. People don’t care if you don’t care about them. You can use that as a business principle, but quite simply it is what God has asked us to do. Love one another.
3- Be really good. Be the best musician you can be, and be really great to work with. Don’t be the guy that is really talented but no fun to work with. Eventually you will run out of opportunities.
Is there an area in which you would have done things differently? What are some leadership lessons you learned from the experience?
There are always areas looking back that you would do differently, but if you did things differently you would miss out on the opportunity and blessing to learn from your mistakes.
1 random fact about each member of the band?
Ben Calhoun- (@BenCalhoun) Ben ran his first marathon when he was 19 with his dad. He is glad he did it, but doesn’t want to train for another one.
Josh Calhoun- Josh used to be in a band called “Mabel” which was named after a little old lady they went to church with.
Ben Blascoe- (@BenBlascoe) Ben is fluent in German. He is so good that people from Germany don’t know he isn’t from there.
David Blascoe- (@DavidBlascoe) A few years ago he was world ranked in Mario Kart.
Citizen Way’s CD “Love is the Evidence” is available at Amazon.com.