Interview with Aric Nitzberg of Caedmon's Call
by Cathy Courtwright
May 3, 1999
Agape Festival

According to Caedmon's Call, "The welfare system in the 1800's consisted of giving someone 40 acres of land and a mule"--it was their chance for redemption. That's what Caedmon's Call's new project, 40 Acres is all about, redemption and second chances.

Aric Nitzberg, bassist for Caedmon's Call was kind enough to sit down to an interview just before their midnight set at Agapefest, and help shed a bit of light as to the family- and relationship-oriented attitude of Caedmon's Call. Vocalist Cliff Young and Danielle Young are husband and wife. Their brother-in-law is stage manager, Drummer Todd Bragg is married to road manager, Christy Bragg. Most of band members met while attending second Baptist Church in Houston.

How does this fit in with redemption and second chances? To the band, the first is obvious. The entire reason Caedmon's Call formed was to sing of the redeeming power in the blood of Christ. The second part is that each of us has needed a second chance in one form or another. When Caedmon's Call began, they didn't pattern themselves after anyone but Christ. Nitzberg explained that, "As God opened doors, we began to play in colleges and somehow found quite a following." The record companies began to talk with the band. Each company somehow wanted to mold the group into an image. But Caedmon's Call weren't desperate to obtain a record deal, so they stuck to their convictions. After they signed with Warner, the band unfortunately made a series of very poor decisions--abandoning the loyal college groups and attempting to play at youth rallies. "We were playing for a bunch of jr. high kids who wanted a mosh pit. They just didn't get into what we were about." After some difficulty, Caedmon's Call set out to rejoin the college crowd.

Just as the group is a family of sorts, Caedmon's Call's fans are part of an extended family. "We didn't set out to do stuff," explains Nitzberg, "It's all about relationships." Caedmon's Call has never tried to be a huge success. They've simply been forging relationships with people they come into contact with. They certainly never expected this newfound fame and popularity. In fact, Nitzberg appeared quite blown away by all of it. "It's amazing. We aren't in it for the money. It's been God opening doors. If it were us, we'd had crashed and burned. We just follow what we feel called to do." He continued, reiterating a continuing theme of genuine concern for other people and a deep desire to go where God leads.

A primary method of forging their relationship with the audience is through The Guild and charity work. This is one of the most interesting things I've seen a band give birth to. For membership into The Guild, people pay a yearly fee of thirty dollars. Ten percent of this fee automatically goes to Peace Gospel Ministries, a "hands on ministry" in India. This ministry schools students as well as teaches them about Christ. With membership, people receive special edition CDs, a place to gather with the band at concerts, and are treated to a yearly concert in Texas. Another ministry Caedmon's Call feels strongly about is Compassion International. Several of the band members sponsor children; and at their concerts, they educate people about Compassion International. The Youngs are even getting ready for a trip to Haiti to meet the child they sponsor.

After talking for a while about the charities they are involved in, we began to discuss scheduling problems they've had on while on tour. Recently, some scheduled concerts have been canceled. Rumors have quickly spread throughout the industry, speculating the reasons for the cancellations. In the forefront of these speculations was the notion that Caedmon's Call was financially strapped. Again, Nitzberg was marveled at the realization that a group with no ambition somehow was in the center of the spotlight. He admitted that for a short period of time, they did have some minor financial difficulties--anytime a group has this many mouths to feed, there are bound to come some shortages. However, according to Nitzberg, this was not the reason for the cancellations.

The actual reason was simple. "We wanted to see our families," explained Nitzberg. He then reminded me of what Caedmon's Call is about, relationships. Several months ago, the group temporarily split into teams. Each team played small acoustic sets to help promote the new project, 40 Acres. One group focused on sites near their families. The second group brought along their families and had the freedom to travel a bit further.  For Caedmon's Call, it was the perfect solution. They got to spend time with their families, spend time with their fans, and promote the album.

If Aric Nitzberg is any indication of the character of the rest of the band, I can say that Caedmon's Call certainly practices what they preach. As the interview concluded, short as it was, I felt as though we had formed a relationship. I look forward to see where it goes.