Aaron Sprinkle has been a household name in the Christian music industry ever since Poor Old began. But when the band broke up in ’96, Aaron continued with side projects like Rose Blossom Punch and his solo career, along with producing and engineering for other bands in the recording studio.
Like a good number of people, I’ve followed Poor Old Lu and much of Aaron’s other work for years. So it was a cool opportunity that I recently had to interview him at Cornerstone. In the interview Aaron shared mostly about his solo career, but also touched on subjects like the Christian market, along with Christianity and the Arts.
Matt M: So what’s going with Rose Blossom Punch these days?
Aaron Sprinkle: Nothing.
MM: How many albums did you guys have before you broke up?
Sprinkle: We did “Ephemere” and then we did a record called “Sorry to Disappoint You.” It was EP that never came out because Jackson Rubio went out of business before it came out.
MM: You also work as a producer with bands like MxPx, Squad Five-O and Pedro the Lion. What other bands have you worked with and what do you find challenging and rewarding about producing?
Sprinkle: I’ve made about 50 or 60 records, so a lot of bands actually. I love working with other bands, just helping them pull more out of their music. I really enjoy it. I enjoy the technical side of recording. It’s a great way to make some money, since I can never make money making music.
MM: Well, besides doing Poor Old Lu, Rose Blossom Punch and producing music, you also do some solo stuff. How many albums have you done solo and what’s been the overall response to your work?
Sprinkle: I’ve done three solo records and I’ve started my fourth one already. The response has been great. I mean everyone that has talked to me about them seems to really like it, but none of them has sold really well. But I think it’s just the timing has been off and maybe not working with the right label, but I don’t know we’ll see what happens with the fourth one.
MM: Being a one-man show, you’re probably compared a lot to Dashboard and Pedro, but who is an artist who that you feel is stylistically similar to your music?
Sprinkle: That’s hard. I get compared to Elliot Smith a lot too. But I don’t know. I’ve been very influenced by Matthew Sweet, who is kind of a one-man show too. And stylistically though, I don’t even know, it’s really hard for me to have any perspective on what my style is. I just sort of do what I like and then it comes out. It’s kind of weird. Sometimes I feel like it’s too all over the map. I don’t know. I’m not really sure.
MM: Do you tour much solo and what age groups does your solo stuff attract?
Sprinkle: I don’t. I have yet to tour as a solo artist, I haven’t done one tour. I guess I did a little one down the West Coast with a band, which I do play with a band occasionally for my solo stuff, about 25 percent of the time. The age group seems to be mostly college age, but it depends. Half or more than half of the shows I play in Seattle are in bars, so obviously the age group is going to be over 21 at the bars. But then I play some all ages shows and it seems to be a pretty good mix. The all ages shows, it seems like there’s young teenagers and people old enough to be my parents. That’s kind of what I like about my solo stuff, age-wise it really spans over a lot of years.
MM: Can you preview the new record a little bit?
Sprinkle: I never really can, because I don’t ever have any idea how it’s going to turn out until it’s done, because I just let the songs do what they want to do. [I] don’t try to force them to be anything.
MM: Do you think it will be similar to what you’ve done in the past?
Sprinkle: Yeah, it will be similar, but it will be different. It will be influenced by some of the stuff I’m listening to right now, but probably not directly, because my stuff rarely ever is. I don’t know we’ll just have to see what happens.
MM: As a solo process artist, is the writing process similar or different compared to your writing involvement with Poor Old Lu?
Sprinkle: Well, in Poor Old Lu, I don’t really have anything to with the vocal melodies or lyrics. So it’s totally different, like a completely different thing for me.
MM: Supposedly you were looking for more artistic freedom from what I’ve read in interviews. Do you think your solo career has provided that for you?
Sprinkle: Yeah. Definitely. I couldn’t be any more free artistically really, because like with the solo stuff, I don’t answer to anybody, which I really like having that outlet. I do miss being in a band and I’m trying to get another band started. But I think it’s been really good for me because I still think I really know or understand myself as a songwriter and it’s the best way for me to get closer to that.
MM: Your CDs are available in the Christian market. What is your opinion of that industry and do you want to be part of that in the future?
Sprinkle: I don’t really like the industry at all to be honest, but I love the people. I love a lot of the people in the industry and I love all the people that buy the stuff, that support the bands-they’re good people. So I would never intentionally not allow my stuff to be sold in the Christian market. I’m not ashamed of it. As far as the people go, I am ashamed of it. I guess in general it bothers me that it exists in the first place. I don’t understand why it exists honestly or why it has to. But I’m not at the point where I’m done like, “I’m not going to sell my stuff in the Christian market.” If I was on a label that just didn’t do it, then I don’t think that would be the worst thing, but I definitely am not against my music being in it. The people that buy my music at Christian bookstores are the people that have allowed me to keep doing what I do-supported me.
MM: You said you’ve caught some flack for some of your lyrical content. Can you give some examples of that?
Sprinkle: Sometimes I get flack from people just because I don’t sing directly about the gospel in my music, which I obviously don’t think is bad, but it’s just not at this point in my life that’s what God has given me to do-that’s how I feel. I’m not interested in forcing lyrics and I think it’s fake, and if I were to do that I would be forcing it. I think that that’s worse than if I don’t sing about that because then it’s not real. So I get flack about that and I had a song that said, “It makes me ill the way you love me still.” It’s about God actually. Some Christians thought that was bad to say that God makes you feel ill, they thought that was weird. Generally, the people that seem to like my music stylistically seem to kind of go along, seem to don’t really have a problem with my subject or what I’m trying to say and people tell me all the time how much my music ministers to them. Because I don’t believe it has to be directly about the book of Matthew to minister to you.
MM: You’ve talked about Christianity and the Arts. How do you think God uses art to minister to people?
Sprinkle: I can only say that through my own experience of how God used art to minister to me. Sincerely, the majority of the art that God has used to minister to me has been created-to my knowledge, by people that don’t know Him, which might sound really weird. I think there’s a little bit of a skewed perception of what it is that God intends for artists to do that believe in him. Like John Fischer’s book “Fearless Faith”-I haven’t read it yet, but I’ve heard a lot of excerpts from it. He talks about how he believes you really need to prove yourself as an artist before you even have a right to bring God into your art on a deliberate level. Art, in and of itself, speaks to the existence of God the Creator to me. I’ve been ministered to R-rated movies and songs that cuss in them, because I think it’s such a beautiful thing that God has created us in his image as creators of something. I think art is the most beautiful that we create, whether it is film or fine art or music or whatever. But I think every artist’s responsibility is their own thing between them and God. I think making Christians who do music feel that they have to be pastors is a really dangerous, dangerous thing. I think it already has proven itself to be a dangerous thing and really backfired, personally.
MM: At the end of the day what do you hope that your listeners will take away from your music?
Sprinkle: I hope that people don’t know Christ that hear it would really listen to it and experience it, and that it would touch their lives, and in some way that they would know God. And for people who are Christians, I hope that it would let them know that it’s okay to be a real person and be a Christian. It’s okay to go through all the stuff that we all go through, it’s okay to talk about it and feel it, and think about it and question things. My goal for making music is to connect with people-that’s it. I just trust God that my connections are going to be something that help Him-that’s all I can do.
MM: Any last words, thought, comments or suggestions.
Sprinkle: It’s really hot.
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