His music a cross between '70s-style light rock and orchestrated pop, Steven Curtis Chapman has been one of the most prominent performers of contemporary Christian music since the '80s. Born and raised in Paducah, Kentucky, Chapman learned to play several instruments while hanging out in his father's music store, excelling at guitar and piano. As a young man, he enrolled as a pre-med student at Anderson College in Indiana. He soon decided to pursue a music career and dropped out to go to Nashville, where he began working in a music show at Opryland USA. When not performing, he was busy writing songs, a skill he learned from his father. One of Chapman's tunes was recorded by the Imperials, a prominent gospel group, marking the beginning of his songwriting success; many of gospel and country's brightest stars, including Sandi Patti, Billy Dean, Glen Campbell, and Roger Whittaker, have gone on to record Chapman's songs.
Although several different labels and music publishers were interested in him by 1987, he decided to sign with the major Christian music company Sparrow. That year he cut his first album, First Hand. The first single released from the album, "Weak Days," made it to number two on the contemporary Christian chart. His second album, 1988's Real Life Conversations, earned him four more hits, including the number one song "His Eyes." Co-written with James Isaac Elliott, it earned the Contemporary Recorded Song of the Year award from the Gospel Music Association in 1989. That year, he also won a GMA award for Best Songwriter of the Year. Released later that year, his third album, More to This Life, contained four number one hits and in 1990 earned him an unprecedented ten nominations at the GMA Awards (he won five). His next album, For the Sake of the Call, which contained five number one singles and earned him another slew of GMA awards and his first Grammy in the Best Pop Gospel Album category, only strengthened his position as the king of Christian music.
In 1992, Chapman made a successful bid to attract a more mainstream audience with The Great Adventure, which also won a Grammy, and its accompanying title track video. When Sparrow Records was purchased by EMI/Liberty, they began marketing the album in discount stores, and in 1993, it went gold. Also released in 1993 (both as a video and CD), The Live Adventure won more GMA awards and also earned Chapman a new award from American Songwriter magazine, Songwriter and Artist of the Year. Chapman released his seventh album, Heaven in the Real World, in 1994 and embarked on a major tour. In 1996, Chapman released Signs of Life, which was followed three years later by Speechless. Though Chapman's albums had always done well on the Billboard CCM charts, in 2001, after the release of Declaration, he really began to get even more attention on the Top 200. Both it and 2002's All About Love peaked in the Top 15, and his 2004 record, All Things New, made it to number 22. In September 2005, in time for the holiday season, Chapman released All I Really Want for Christmas, and the following year, Musical Blessing came out. Beauty Will Rise arrived in 2009. Following 2011's Re:Creation, he left his longtime label Sparrow Records and signed with Reunion Records, which released Joy, Chapman's third Christmas album, in 2012. ~ Sandra Brennan, Rovi