Dennis Quaid on New Album ‘Fallen’: “Music Is Fellowship”

Dennis Quaid can’t seem to keep songs out of his head, a phenomenon he’s experienced since childhood. Growing up in Houston, Texas, Quaid was constantly immersed in music. He got his first guitar when he was 12 years old and has been in bands off and on throughout his life. But in addition to acting, the one artistic passion that has stuck with him consistently is songwriting. 

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The Emmy Award-winning actor, who has starred in The Parent Trap, The Big Easy, Great Balls of Fire! and The Rookie, among others, is now showing that passion for music and songwriting on his new album Fallen: A Gospel Record For Sinner. “I knew I was never gonna be able to shred a guitar, so songwriting was my defense,” Quaid tells American Songwriter. “There was always a tune in my head. I think songwriting won’t leave you alone until you finish that one and then you go to the next one. It’s a wonderful affliction.” 

He carries this affliction into his new album. The 12-track endeavor features a mix of original songs and some of Quaid’s favorite hymns since childhood. The solely-penned “On My Way to Heaven” was written more than 30 years ago. It was featured in the 2018 film, I Can Only Imagine, a film about the origin story of Christian group MercyMe and their hit song named after the film. Quaid stars as Arthur, the abusive father of MercyMe lead singer Bart Millard in the film. 

Quaid cites “On My Way to Heaven” as the first gospel song he wrote, the lyrics finding a man acknowledging his mistakes and finding solace through his faith. “All the songs are about my spiritual path and issues that have been going on in my life and the road I walk,” he reflects. “It’s a way to tell personal stories and disguise them a little bit. It’s a way to heal.”

As for why he named the album Fallen: A Gospel Record For Sinners, Quaid, who has been open about his struggles with cocaine addiction throughout the 1980s, says with a laugh, “Because that’s what I am and what we all are. That’s the good news, things that we share and that we’re forgiven. Our sins are taken away no matter where you come from.”

The title track is based on the famous story from the Bible known as the prodigal son about a man who splits his money between both of his sons, only to have one of them lose it all through reckless living and poor decisions. But the flawed son ultimately returns home where he’s met with his father’s mercy.

“It really is about forgiveness,” Quaid reflects on the “great parable,” comparing the experience of writing the song to playing a character in a movie. “You can go out into the world and no matter what you’ve done, you can come back home, that the door is still always open for that.” 

Fallen is rounded out by a handful of hymns that are meaningful to the actor-singer, such as “Amazing Grace,” “I’ll Fly Away” and “Just As I Am,” the latter of which Quaid would often hear growing up watching famous evangelist, Billy Graham. The album was co-produced by David R. “Fergie” Ferguson, Chris Lindsey and Ben Isaacs, the latter of whom is a member of gospel group The Isaacs. Quaid credits Isaacs for helping to establish the album’s bluegrass-meets-gospel sound, “In the old school way and in a pure way that I really appreciated,” he admires. 

[RELATED: Dennis Quaid Talks Songwriting, Upcoming Solo Tour, Getting a Record Deal in The ’80s, And More]

While all the songs hold meaning, the one that is most personal to Quaid is “Welcome Home.” The song was inspired by his mother’s vision of heaven that she used to share with her son when he was little. That vision featured seeing Jesus and being greeted by her loved ones. Quaid brings this vision to life through such lyrics as, Last night I dreamed/You had gone to heaven/You were aglow/Your spirit set free/You were walking/Holding hands with Jesus/And you both were smiling back at me. 

I did find that I was caught emotionally sometimes in the making of it,” Quaid shares of the song he wrote four years ago in the wake of his mother’s passing. “The song about my mom going to heaven is really personal.” 

Getting personal through his songwriting is one of the many ways Quaid’s songwriting has evolved over the years. He’s become more comfortable with diving into the darker parts of life and sharing them openly in hopes that it brings people peace who’ve endured similar experiences.

“I don’t have to be so embarrassed about talking about personal things, because everybody goes through basically the same set of circumstances and emotions and events in their life that, for some reason, they don’t feel free to talk about,” Quaid observes of his songwriting process. “I think songwriting is a conversation with people. In my mind, it’s very cinematic. They’re stories. Music is fellowship.”

Fallen: A Gospel Record For Sinners is available now. 

Photo Credit: Derrek Kupish/Courtesy of Adkins Publicity

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