When it comes to contemporary Christian music pioneers who date back to the Jesus movement, Randy Stonehill is one of the elite few who not only has influenced several generations of musicians, but has remained prolific and profound in his songwriting efforts. On his eighteenth recording, Edge of the World, Stonehill recalls several elements that have allowed his compositions to stand the test of time, even reuniting the troubadour with peers from the 1970s. Whether teaming up with Larry Norman, Phil Keaggy, Barry McGuire, Annie Herring (from Second Chapter of Acts), or Sara Groves, Stonehill has been able to delicately balance bittersweet nostalgia with a refreshingly relevant edge. Here's more about the latest from this generation-spanning poet:

How has the Christian music business changed since you first began?

Stonehill:It's changed enormously, and those changes bring both positive and negative things to the table. It started out as a grassroots movement, which I believe was propelled by the Spirit of God. Over 34 years it's evolved into a multi-million-dollar industry.

On the one hand, we've learned how to make great sounding records, and stylistically there's something for everyone, so that's a good thing. On the other hand, it's become far too commerce driven, and I believe generally there's less focus on, and passion for "Who" we started singing about in the first place. That's sad to me, and it endangers the power and longevity of the genre.

How does it feel to be referred to as a pioneer within the industry?

Stonehill: It feels amazing! I mean, that's a rare position within the panorama of music history that I never could have dreamed up for myself. I think it's a gift from God. I just felt compelled to share the stunning reality of God's love with the gifts I'd been given. I couldn't help myself. I really didn't give much thought to the long-term cultural implications.

Where do you feel your place is in the current Christian music spectrum?

Stonehill: Well, I see myself as sort of a musical-spiritual "Johnny Appleseed." I bounce all over the planet with my guitar like "the human ping-pong ball." I just try to bring as much godly passion and artistic excellence as I can to each situation. Beyond that, I'm enjoying the opportunity to pass on what I've learned about faith and art through the years to the next generation—kind of an elder statesman capacity.

How did you choose what guests to include on Edge of the World?

Stonehill: It was a matter of just following my "artistic radar" so to speak. Given the stripped, down-to-earth nature of the project, I knew, for instance, that players like Mike Roe and Phil Madeira fit right in. Having Sara Groves join me for the duet on "Take Me Back" felt like a bit of a divine appointment. I wanted a female voice on the song and had seen her perform a few months earlier. I was really touched by her work and mentioned it to Bob Kilpatrick. He got a big smile on his face and said "I happen to know her and her husband. I've performed at their church in Minnesota. Lets give her a call!"

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The main musical moment that includes guests is on the song "We Were All So Young," about the early years of contemporary Christian music. For that one, I tried to select artists whose work really shaped the genre in those formative hears. Looking back, I was also blessed that they each had very distinctive voices that are easy to identify.

How did you go about tracking them all down?

Stonehill: It was a fairly simple process of phoning and e-mailing, but I have to say I feel honored that everyone we invited said "yes." It reminds me that my contribution to this musical field and my friendship are valued.

How did those sessions differ from some of your previous endeavors?

Stonehill: It had a lot less of the stiff, formal "recording vibe" to it than many of my past projects. Bob and I viewed it initially as an "unplugged acoustic" side project—an experiment to see what we could do together. The happy irony is that the casual approach to the whole thing allowed me to capture some of the most intimate, candid performances of my career.

What songs are you most proud of on the new record?

Stonehill: That opinion changes from time to time. At present I'd have to say "Jayney" and "We Were All So Young." The performances and the arrangement on "Jayney" really capture both the despair and the hope I was writing about. My hat is off to Bob Kilpatrick for the way "We Were All So Young" turned out. He saw the "big picture" for that one and worked at it tirelessly. He took what I think is an interesting song and created a mini musical-historical event.

How has songwriting stayed fresh for you?

Stonehill: I've just always loved the mystery and challenge of the craft. I find that as I keep pressing in toward God and keep reaching for the next high water mark with my writing, the more fun it is.

Are there any new directions you'd like to take?

Stonehill: I'm exploring a new direction and audience right now with a project for children called "Uncle Stonehill's Hat." I'm like a big kid myself in many ways, and children who come to my concerts with their parents see that, so it's come very naturally for me. I recorded a CD that I view as a prototype. It could tie in with a video series as well as a book series. So far it's been riotous fun and a great opportunity to encourage the spiritual growth in children. We'll see where God takes it.

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What would you like your legacy to be long after your time on this earth?

Stonehill: I hope to be remembered as someone who loved God and loved people. I want that love to be evident in my life as well as in my work.

Click here to read a review of Edge of the World, the latest release from Randy Stonehill. You can listen to song clips and purchase their music at Musicforce.com.