Tag Archives: worship music

Feature:: Paul Baloche: The Same Love

13 Mar

“There are a lot of songs about the Cross on this record. People are almost apologetic about it, and yet I feel challenged not to shrink from it. Our tendency is to make our language inclusive and seeker friendly. And I get that, but we also need songs that point to the truth of the new covenant.” – Paul Baloche

By Melissa Riddle Chalos  There’s a certain blanket of wisdom that, if you seek it, comes over time. It wraps around that place in your life where you’re settled in, a place where you’re surrounded by good friends and family and have nothing left to prove. A place where you know who you are, you know your purpose, and you’re content to leave the details up to God.

“If you do something long enough you uncover life lessons along the way,” Paul Baloche says.  “You aspire to be faithful to God’s calling in your life, pressing through even when you fall short. And when you hit a certain age, as you grow in your faith, you recognize the potential and the burden of being a leader, realizing ‘I’ve got to step up and be more intentional toward the people God has put in my life.’ And your prayer becomes, ‘Lord, give me grace to finish well.’”

After 25 years of marriage, 23 years leading worship at Community Christian Fellowship in Lindale, TX, 12 albums recorded with the same label, and hundreds of teaching resources provided free for church leaders (via his web site leadworship.com), one might think Paul Baloche had already qualified for a great finish.

But for this modern hymn writer, mentor and teacher who once aspired to be a priest, ministry is not a sprint, but a marathon, a long series of obedient steps in the same direction. A path where every aspect of life is forged in fires of passion for Jesus and His Church, and the result is almost always an honest prayer for the Church to sing.

All this is at the heart of The Same Love, an organic collection of worship songs from the worship leader best known for such modern classics as “Above All,” “Open the Eyes of My Heart” and “Your Name.” The Same Love mirrors Paul’s love for the Church and gives new expression to the complete faithfulness and overwhelming mercy of a gracious God.

The same love that set the captives free

The same love that opened eyes to see

Is calling us all by name

“One of the reasons I love the process to this day is that it’s a bit of a frontier, a mystery,” Paul says of the creative process behind The Same Love. “You can’t put your finger on it. Nobody can. It has a sense of adventure, a Lewis & Clark kind of thing. All explorers, over time, are trying to go places they’ve never been. Writing for worship is a lot like that. You’re trying to go places you’ve never been, deeper into ancient biblical truths, stirring up your modern soul, if you will. You’re testing the tension and the harmony of several things, combining that with what’s going on musically at the moment… And you end up with all these different elements — harmony, chords, lyrics, melody, vibe — and out comes something new.”

Co-produced with longtime collaborators Ben Gowell and Michael Rossback, The Same Love continues to walk a modern edge musically, while delivering unforgettably rich lyrics composed in the context of community.

“From project to project, I try to wipe the slate clean, to consider what’s happening right now, in my church, in my own soul, in the church at large and to ask ‘What do I sense in the hearts of the next generation, how do they perceive God, the church, fellowship and community?”

Grammy Award-winning engineer Chris Lord-Alge (U2/Switchfoot) mixes the title track and first single of the project, co-written by Paul and Michael Rossback. This is the touchstone for the entire collection.

“God is not this impersonal force,” Paul says. “The truth is that from creation to the crucifixion, God has been calling us – by name. He’s giving us a challenge, calling us to the cross, asking, ‘Are you ready to give up your way of doing things? Come as you are, pick up your cross daily and I will transform your life.’”

The four songs that follow—the anthemic, Coldplay-esque “We Are Saved” (co-written with Jason Ingram and Ben Fielding), bluegrass tinged “King of Heaven,” “All Because of the Cross” (a modern spin on “Nothing But the Blood”) and “Your Blood Ran Down”— follow a path often resisted, even in worship. “There are a lot of songs about the Cross on this record. People are almost apologetic about it, and yet I feel challenged not to shrink from it. Our tendency is to make our language inclusive and seeker friendly. And I get that, but we also need songs that point to the truth of the new covenant.”

We are children of your mercy, rescued for your glory,

we cry Jesus set our hearts towards you

that every eye would see you lifted high…

“Look Upon the Lord,” co-written with Kari Jobe and Jason Ingram, began as a time of worship, an effort to linger and focus on Jesus and His sacrifice. “We felt such a strong presence from God as we were writing it that we decided to record the song around our original demo, keeping Kari’s worshipful vocal and Jason’s keyboard part.”

I don’t know where You’ll take me

But I know You’re always good…

 “My Hope,” featuring Kathryn Scott and co-written with Ed Kerr, with whom Paul has written over 100 songs, gives voice to the spoken and unspoken prayers of people in times of need. “Life is hard, people are looking for hope, and there’s not much to be found outside of the hope we have in Christ,” Paul says. “My prayer is that this song will help others express to God what they really feel and point them to His promises.”

In each and every one of these church-tested songs, perhaps even more intentionally than ever before, Paul Baloche continues to draw from deep roots of devotion and ministry to feed the fire in his spirit. To create songs in community with like-minded worship artists who understand the hearts and prayers of those they serve, the people in the pew… and those who are still seeking.

“I can’t deny what I’ve seen and experienced in the presence of God,” Paul says. “I can’t deny that I’ve witnessed His goodness and faithfulness over and over again. God is alive. The same God who created the world calls us by name.”

The same God that spread the heavens wide

The same God that was crucified

Is calling us all by name

 “When I meet people who are full of the Spirit—despite their present circumstances, beyond their temperament or attitude—I’m inspired. I want to be that kind of person, to be in His presence, to read and digest his Word, to make it part of my DNA, to walk it out – to live it out. In the end, I want my life, my music to facilitate a conversation about God and who He is.”

For more information on Paul Baloche’s ministry, go to www.leadworship.com. AAAAAAAAAAAnd head over to Paul’s Facebook page to download a FREE song from The Same Love.

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Kari Jobe: Where I Find You

24 Jan

Note from Amy:  While I’m working on my DaySpring review, editing a post that will appear later this week, and gathering material for Friday Faves, I hope you enjoy this article by my friend, Christa Banister, about Kari Jobe.  Kari is an incredibly talented artist whose dynamic voice really packs a punch.  And I should note that Christa, who has contributed to BSW before, did not write this article exclusively for BSW!

Kari Jobe: Where I Find You

By Christa Banister  After being established as one of the industry’s premier worship leaders with her Dove Award-winning, self-titled debut, Kari Jobe continues to serve as a worship pastor at Gateway Church in Southlake, Texas, and will release her highly anticipated follow-up album, Where I Find You (Sparrow) on January 24, 2012.

Produced by Ed Cash (Chris Tomlin, Chris August) and Matt Bronleewe (Natalie Imbruglia, Josh Wilson), Where I Find You, which includes Kari’s new hit radio single “We Are,” is an engaging departure from her previous effort—both sonically and thematically speaking.

Rather than simply emphasizing the beauty found in God’s presence, Where I Find You is a clarion call for listeners to experience His presence to the fullest. And not surprisingly, the accompanying soundtrack is just as bold with a buoyant mix of fresh musical textures and timbres.

“After singing about the importance of making time for intimate worship on my first album, I wanted to take the next step on Where I Find You,” Kari shares. “These songs come from such a honest place of praising God for what He’s done—and what He’s continuing to do in our lives—because of His grace and goodness.

“Ultimately, it’s about declaring who He is and enjoying the simplicity of knowing the Lord is near,” she continues. “He’s for us, He loves us, and sometimes, we need to just stop, enjoy His presence and take that in.”

While recording the album, Kari says she was often reminded of that very truth—a theme that resonates through the lyrics of “Here,” a reminder to press pause, even when our culture insists we constantly keep moving.

“There were many instances when we had to stop whatever we were working on because I needed to go outside, take a walk and have my own time with God for a few minutes,” Kari remembers. “Again and again, I was so overtaken by how present He was while we were recording, and it’s my hope and desire that people really feel the strength and intercession that was taking place while I worked on the album.”

Another decidedly counter-cultural idea that resonates in these new songs is how God never lets believers, including worship leaders, get too comfortable in their faith or permanently reside on the proverbial spiritual mountaintop.

“This past year has been the season of being completely uncomfortable and going through things I didn’t understand that were really hard,” Kari shares. “I was literally having to hold on in my heart and trust He had everything in control. You can even hear that a little in my vocals, especially on songs like ‘Love Came Down,’ ‘Run To You,’ and ‘What Love Is This.’ It was a season that stretched me.”

Even through all the growing pains, however, Kari says she was continually reminded of God’s faithfulness.

“I think there are times as believers when we feel entitled and that life shouldn’t be hard. We live in this culture of convenience that says we can do everything ourselves and find all the answers on Google,” Kari says. “But if we can learn to fall more in love with the Lord and trust Him in the middle of every storm, we build our endurance to keep running the race.”

Naturally, these declarations of God’s faithfulness couldn’t help but make their way onto her album.

“‘We Are’ is a song of commission for us as believers,” says Kari, “to be reminded of what we’ve been called to, and that is to impact people’s lives in everything we do.”

In the track “One Desire,” which she co-wrote with Jason Ingram, Kari uses simple, heartfelt language that reminds her of one of her favorite worship anthems when she was young.

“During our writing session, Jason and I were talking about the simplicity of worship; how it doesn’t always have to be so ornate,” she explains.  “When I was a kid, I remember how much I loved singing the song ‘I Love You, Lord’ because it was this sweet, simple song straight from Scripture.”

In stark contrast to the straightforward worship of “One Desire,” another key track, the aforementioned “What Love is This,” features powerful imagery of the Centurion soldier’s reaction to discovering that Jesus was the Son of God after He’d been crucified.

“I often think about what it would’ve been like to experience that and to say ‘Truly, you are the son of God,’” Kari shares. “You realize you were part of His death, you were the one of the people who’d nailed Him to a cross. He must have felt so incredibly broken—to believe the lie and then experience the truth. I really think that’s like all of us. We’ve got to have the perspective that without the Lord’s presence, we’re all in darkness, and ‘What Love Is This’ is my love song to the Lord for His love song for my life.”

Also serving as a grounding force for Kari when life gets complicated is her tight-knit Texas family. Although she turned 30 this past year, she still considers being a daughter one of “life’s greatest blessings.”     

What’s also been a blessing is a new dimension to her ministry. In addition to ministering in churches, arenas, theaters, festivals and conferences across the globe, Kari has also found another outlet for sharing God’s love in partnering with the A21 Campaign, an organization dedicated to abolishing human trafficking in the 21st century.

“I’ve become really invested in that ministry and strongly believe that we all have to play a role and do our part to fight against the modern form of slavery that affects 27 million people and growing,” Kari says. “It’s so incredibly dark, and I feel a responsibility to do what I can. Most of these victims are girls like me, and I can’t imagine what life would be like to be stuck in that place.”

Along with her sister, Kris, Kari has created an exclusive line of jewelry and t-shirts where all the proceeds go to the cause of bringing an end to human trafficking and injustice.

“Whether I’m participating in an effort like this or leading worship, it’s all about making a difference,” Kari concludes. “That’s the reason I’m doing what I’m doing at this specific moment—to see God’s name lifted high, to encourage the hurt and the broken and to remind everyone to draw close to Him because He really, truly does care about each and every one of His children.”

And that’s ultimately the message behind Where I Find You, enjoying the beauty of God’s presence, praising him with your whole heart and letting your light shine in a world that needs to experience the true grace and hope found only in Jesus.

For more information on Kari Jobe and her ministry, please visit www.karijobe.com.

Take 5 with worship leader Matt Redman

17 Aug

Every week at church services, youth group meetings, on the radio, and in our home, millions of people probably sing a worship song written or influenced by UK-born worship leader, Matt Redman.  Known for such songs as “The Heart of Worship,” “Blessed Be Your Name,” “You Never Let Go,” and a slew of others, Redman recently released his latest album, 10,000 Reasons (Sparrow) and a book, Mirror Ball (David C. Cook).  This busy father of five also co-writes songs with his wife (I just had to throw that in here!) took time out to provide insightful answers about new album, books, and life in general in Backseat Writer’s latest Take 5.

You’re released eight albums, written several books, and compose songs that are sung in millions of churches every week.  What is it like to look back on your career?  To think back to when you first started plucking out tunes on a guitar?

Honestly, I feel so encouraged by all that has happened through the songs. And yet I know that what people are responding to isn’t some kind of creative cleverness or innovation on my part. They’re responding to the truth in the songs—the wonders of a God who is utterly high above and yet knows our names and holds our lives. I have a deep conviction that if we can write songs that present the truth of Jesus in a real and relevant way, they’ll make an impact somehow.

One of the biggest surprises and encouragements has been how some of the songs have traveled to different countries around the world. It’s so fascinating to show up in some part of Asia, Africa or Eastern Europe and start to lead a song like “Blessed Be Your Name” and realize people already know it. Of course, this whole thing also carries a weight of responsibility. For any of us writing and recording congregational songs, as exciting as that is, we also need to realize the seriousness of putting words into people’s mouths in worship. There’s a responsibility to try and make sure the songs are thoroughly biblical and honoring to God.

Your newest album, 10,000 Reasons, was recorded live with over 1,000 participants at LIFT: A Worship Leader Collective—why did you choose live over studio recording?

There’s something about the people of God coming together and singing their hearts out which is just so powerful. If you can capture the essence of that on a record, in can be a really wonderful thing. I hope that is what’s happened with this 10,000 Reasons record. The people at LIFT were a complete joy to lead in worship. I loved how they sung out to God through these new songs with such passion, and even created their own crowd harmonies a few times which we didn’t teach them. I guess that’s what happens when you get a thousand worship leaders and singers in one room! The whole LIFT event was brilliant.  Louie Giglio and Chris Tomlin hosted it and I felt like the flow of the whole couple of days was just so inspiring.

While all the songs on 10,000 Reasons are meaningful, would you please share the story behind a song or two on the new album?

“Never Once” is a song of God’s faithfulness. When we look over our lives we soon see what an amazing track record Jesus has in our lives and that gives us a great hope for the future. In one way we don’t know what the future holds, but in another way we do. It will be sure to be filled with the goodness and greatness of God shining down upon our lives. I love an old Charles Spurgeon quote, “The future is as bright as promises of God.” What a fantastic thought.

This song was written shortly after we left the USA and moved back to the UK. Our house in Atlanta was still unsold, and I was back there for a few days. My family was gone, and so was all the furniture. So I stood there in that empty, echoing room with just my guitar and started to think about the faithful hand of God in my family’s life. He’s provided for us for this two yearlong Atlanta adventure, and even though I didn’t know exactly what the future held, I had such a strong sense that He would continue to be enough for us. The chorus of the song says “Never once did we ever walk alone; Never once did You leave us on our own.” I wrote this song with Jason Ingram and a UK friend named Tim Wanstall, and we really hope that is will breathe hope into the lives of those who sing it.

The title song “10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)” was the last song to be written before the live recording. In fact, it only got finished a few days beforehand.  My co-writer friend Jonas Myrin kept telling me he had a chorus melody idea, but my mind was spinning with trying to finish so many other song ideas that I kept telling him I didn’t want to hear a new one. But then one night after a day of writing I said, “Why don’t you just play me that idea quickly?” And the moment he played it we started wrapping some lyrics inspired by Psalm 103 around it.  Actually about 75% of those verses I reckon were spontaneously, there and then. I think I still have an iPhone recording of that happening; it was just such a fantastic moment.

Songs don’t always get written so fast, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with some hard work and perspiration when it comes to the creative process. But now and again you get a little inspired worship moment like this, and it can be really special. The song of course became the title of the album, and I’m so grateful for it.

Your latest book, Mirror Ball, is released on July 1.  What is this book about?

Yes, I’m excited about the Mirror Ball’s release. I wrote it on and off over the period of about three years. Some of the themes of the album songs actually tie in with the content of the book.  In fact, some of the song names also ended up being chapter titles in the book. The main theme of the book is living boldly and shining brightly for the glory of God. My hope is that it could inject a new confidence into the lives of many worshippers of Jesus, that they truly might get a sense that their lives can make a difference in the kingdom of God.

And our last question is just for fun.  What are some hilarious things that people assume about you because you’re from England? (Or just share something funny.  Let’s have a good laugh together.)

You have no idea how many people from the USA asked me, “Did you get invited to the Royal Wedding?”! I’m sorry to say the answer (of course) is “no”!

For more information on Matt Redman, visit him online at his online hub, MattRedman.com, where you can find chord charts for 10,000 Reasons and Matt’s previous album, We Will Not Be Shaken, Matt’s online store, how to connect with Matt on social networks, and a plethora of news and insight into Matt’s life.

***

What’s your favorite Matt Redman song? Or album?  Or book?  What something surprising insight you learned about Matt?  Are you surprised that he wasn’t invited to the Royal Wedding, but Joss Stone was? What do you think of Matt’s latest album (if you’ve heard it) and/or book (if you’ve read it)?

Take 5 with Rend Collective Experiment

28 Sep

Rend Collective Experiment is a truly unique conglomeration of musicians—15 band members in all!  Hailing from Bangor, Ireland, the band has a new way of making music—in a community of musical friends and it works.  In fact, not only does it work, Rend Collective’s debut album, The Organic Family Hymnal is hailed by critics and worship leaders like David Crowder and Chris Tomlin as brilliant.  And it’s finally being released in North America—today, September 28!

Will Herron, on of the band’s two lead vocalists, was kind enough to Take 5 with Backseat Writer in between bringing “some washing off the line as it had started to rain pretty heavily!”  Don’t you love how his Irish accent comes through, even in an interview?  By the way, Herron also plays electric guitar, mandolin, and once ploughed 1500 acres of land in a John Deere tractor.   How’s that for eclectic?

I love the whole concept of Rend Collective Experiment! A lot of people might find it quirky that you have 15 members in your group. How does that add to the uniqueness of the music you produce?

There are actually four main writers in the band and then we have others in the collective who come on board in the creative process. I think this context can often produce stronger songs lyrically and musically than if we were writing individually. I wouldn’t say we pursue something unique but rather we write lyrics and music we enjoy.

Your sound is so different than the same ol’ worship music. How did you come to develop this unique worship sound?

Each of us listens to a broad range of music, which has a positive influence in terms of creative writing. It also naturally shapes the music and lyrics we produce. Again, we don’t necessarily pursue something unique but we write songs we can relate to and enjoy.

With an album as thoughtful as The Organic Family Hymnal I cannot pick a favourite song. What are a couple songs that are particularly meaningful to you?

I think each of the songs off of the album are particularly meaningful in one way or another. Some were written out of hardship, some were written as a response to God’s movement in our lives and others are a cry for things to come. The songs resonate with what is at the core of our hearts and so each carry a weight of meaning in their own right.

When someone hears Rend Collective Experiment, what is it that you are trying to impress on his or her heart?

Our approach is that of cooperation and friendship, which is exactly what Christ has called us to. We want to show people that we are a collective of people all journeying with God and each other and that we are not “special people on a stage.” Each member of the body of Christ is as crucial as the next and we hope to encourage the Church to its full potential.

Tell me something interesting about your hometown of Bangor in Northern Ireland

Bangor was planted around a monastery in 500AD. In this Abbey they prayed 24/7 for 100 years and trained all the missionaries that evangelized Europe at the time.

For more information on Rend Collective Experiment, visit them online at RendCollectiveExperiment.com.

Take 5 with Justin Unger

12 Oct

One half of the duo, Across the Sky, Justin Unger was touring with big-name Christian acts. However, life on the road was taking its toll on Unger and his marriage and he began to pray .  So in 2003, he did the unthinkable—he gave it all up to become a worship paster.  After offering his music career on the altar, God gave it back to Unger, not only leading worship but with his latest album, Disengage.  The bouncy album was recorded over six weeks as Unger traveled from his home in Prescott, AZ to Nashville. Disengage is a call for Christians to leave their agendas aside and disengage with the world, so they may find who they are in God.  It takes someone like Justin Unger, who was willing to give it all up, to tell a story like this.  And because he’s a stand-up guy, Justin agreed to “Take 5 with Backseat Writer.”

Like you, I remember being a teenager thinking I must have done something horrible as a Christian because the whole “Christian life” wasn’t as joyful as it was marketed.  It was hard and other teens would say the cruelest things about my faith.  I’ve heard other teens talk about the same thing.  Why do you think teenagers and other Christians feel this way? Also, do you think this is one of the reasons some walk away from the faith?

I absolutely believe that this is one of the key reasons why some Christians walk away from their faith.  It’s called suffering.  Suffering for Christ is part of God’s plan for us to be like Christ. Although at times it seems so hard and unbearable, persecution for our faith is one of the healthiest ways to grow.  God is so faithful to give us the strength we need and confidence we need to persevere in those times no matter how hard and painful/ What an honor or suffer in this world for the one who suffered so much for our sake.  John 15:18 says “If the world hates you, you know that it hated me before it hated you.  If you were of the world, the world would love its own.   Yet, because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”  When I remember all that Christ went through for me, it makes my trials seem so small.  Hallelujah!!

Disengage seems like a funny album name from a guy who clearly wants us to engage with Christ.  So what’s the story behind the album and the title track, “Disengage”?

The simple answer to this question is LUKE 9:23!  “If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake.  To what advantage is a man who gains the whole world and is himself destroyed or lost.”  Although the word “disengage” seems a bit negative, it is so fitting according to this passage to describe our role as Christ-followers.  We are called to disengage from ourselves and this world and then, like you said, “engage” with Christ completely.  WOW!

When reading your biography, I couldn’t help but think of when the Apostle Paul wrote that he considered all things lost for the sake of knowing Christ.  It seems like you were willing to give up what you thought would make you happy and give you money, but instead you found more happiness being in the center of God’s Will.  Why are we so afraid to trust a God who knows us intimately with our lives and our careers?

I believe a lot of times we get caught up in our flesh and the enemy uses those opportunities to get a foothold, which causes us to stumble.  Instead of surrendering all we have to Christ and letting Him write the story, we like to take the pen out of his hand jot down our plans.  Let’s get personal here–in my grandma’s bathroom back home, there is a little picture frame with a quote that says, ” If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.”  I think if we can continue to surrender our plans and our earthly desires to the Lord, he will honor and bless us in ways we can’t imagine.

You have a really neat website at JustinUnger.com, complete with chord charts!  Was it important to you as a worship pastor to make your music reproducible for corporate worship?  Additionally, has being a worship pastor changed the way you write songs?

Absolutely!  As I continue my journey as a worship pastor, I am driven to use and create songs that can minister to the entire body of Christ and not just the one here in Prescott.  As I continue to write songs, I feel led in a way to connect with the worshipper on a personal level.  Although worshipping with music can be done in many ways, God has given me a passion to be creative and think outside the box.

What are one or two songs by another songwriter you would love to cover on a future album and why?

“You’re Beautiful” by Phil Wickham and “If I Stand” by Rich Mullens.  These are two of my all-time favorite songs, but I have an entire list of songs that I love by other artists. [Amy’s note:: “If I Stand” by Rich Mullins is my all-time favorite song!]

Music Review:: Glory Revealed II: The Word of God in Worship

13 Jul

Finally!  Glory Revealed II: The Word of God in Worship, the follow-up to the multiple Dove Award-winning 2007 release Glory Revealed, is hitting the shelves today.  The album was written and recorded during a week long artist retreat and features 21 different artists including project leader Mac Powell (Third Day), Brandon Heath, Mark Hall (Casting Crowns), Shane & Shane, and many more!  The music itself is a fusion of grass roots, folk, and rock music blended with the incredible vocal talents of Christian music’s top talent.  Every song on the album is a toe-tapping, sing-along-out-loud blast of soul music.  My favorites include, “Wake Up Oh Sleeper” and “Cup O’ Salvation.”  Reminiscent of the City on a Hill series, Glory Revealed is not only getting artists to work on collaborative projects, but raising the bar on worship music.

Amy’s Score: 4.5 (out of 5)

Review: Running Back to You–Chris Sligh

2 May

Album Release: May 6

By Amy Sondova
From his wild curly hair to his off-the-beaten-path look, Chris Sligh seemed an unlikely candidate for “American Idol” Season 6, yet he managed to slip by thousands even making the show’s Top 10. Less than a year later, Sligh releases Running Back to You on indie label Brash Music, with his mug adorning the album cover reminding us all why America loved him.

The title track, “Running Back to You,” is a catchy tune sure to make worship leaders everywhere sing its praise…figuratively and literally. “Cry Tonight” starts out strong, and then falls into the same tempo and mood as the other 12 tracks on Running Back to You.

The album itself is less than dynamic. Tired lyrics, repetitive melodies, and lack of interesting vocals make Running Back to You another CD on the shelf. In fact, Sligh’s vocals are often drowning under guitar hooks and drum beats, so one has to pay careful attention to catch each word. It’s not that the album is terrible; it’s not. However, it lacks creativity as each song runs into the next. While there are a few interesting orchestrations here and there, they can’t save this album.

Running Back to You makes great background noise or as a starter CD for a youth worship band. If you’re looking for something unique, the album doesn’t hit the mark. Or as “American Idol” judge Simon Cowell would say, “Come back and wow us next year.”

Print copy of review.

Review: Quiet Revolution–Telecast

30 Apr

Release Date: April 29

By Amy Sondova Telecast’s third album, Quiet Revolution (BEC) is a pleasant blend of piano and guitar hooks, unusual instrumentation, and quirky transitions. Far from being a pop-driven worship album, Quiet Revolution has a uniquely Brit-rock sound (complete with semi-British-sounding lead singer). Crafted by lead singer Josh White and producer Zach Hodges (also a member of Telecast), the album is a “call to holiness for believers.”

Lyrically, Quiet Revolution is a typical worship album with words that praise God passionately. While songs like “Temporary Twilight” and “Beautiful Mystery” are deeply entrenched with insight from White’s reading of Scripture (and C.S. Lewis’ classic, The Great Divorce), none of the songs showcase lyrical excellence.

Writing the piano parts first and then adding in guitar, White strives to make an album that stands out, yet praises God—he succeeds in both. While fans of Tomlin and Crowder may not “get” it, those devoted to the more artistic side of worship music will be delighted with Quiet Revolution.

Print copy of review.

Leeland: Raising Up a Worship Generation

8 Apr

By Amy Sondova w/ Melissa Brown A best-selling album, a GRAMMY nod and several Dove Award nominations, a new marriage, and the Feb. 26 release of sophomore album, Opposite Way—that’s a lifetime of accomplishments for 19 year-old Leeland Mooring, frontman of the band, Leeland. The band’s first album, Sound of Melodies, was heralded by audiences and commanded attention and respect from the pillars of the Christian music industry, including Michael W. Smith, Casting Crowns, Switchfoot, and Chris Tomlin.

In addition to the band’s namesake, the band is comprised of Leeland’s big brother, Jack Mooring (keys/vocals), the Mooring boys’ cousin Jake Holtz (bass), and friends Mike Smith (drums) and Mike Campbell (guitars). In hot demand, the band has been touring nearly non-stop for the past two years, which has given them a lot of time to craft an album that continues the excellence that excited audiences in Sound of Melodies.

Just as Opposite Ways first cut was just being released to the media, Melissa Brown and I had a chance to sit down and chat with the members of Leeland, who despite being 19-24, were intellectually, spiritually, and emotionally mature. Perched on a seat neat to me was Leeland, who rolled up my business card and stuck it in his sock during the interview. Despite his apparent disdain for paper objects, he was surprisingly attentive and well-spoken as were the other band members. Next to Leeland sat Mike C., then Jake, followed by Mike S., Jack, and finally Mel.

Jack took special care to make sure that questions were answered accurately and appropriately and helped moderate discussion. Jake, one of the youngest members, was amazing and forthright, often making the everyone laugh (especially Leeland) while the duo of Mike’s were less talkative, yet insightful. Passionate about raising up a generation of worshippers, Leeland the band was eager to talk and even nicely shared the microphone.

START TRANSMISSION

Amy: I’ll start with Leeland. Everyone loves the fact that you’re 19. Youth workers love the fact that you’re young. What kind of response have you had from youth workers about ministering to teenagers?

Leeland: What’s really cool is when we get to minister at church. We sing for youth groups and the youth pastors are really encouraged. First of all, we see tons of kids that are my age, and I’ve had tons of kids come up to me and say, ‘How do I get that passion for God that you guys have? I look up to you guys and your walk with God.’ It’s humbling and encouraging at the same time for us.

As far as youth workers, we’ve got to really inspire youth workers to nurture the gifts in their own youth groups. We’re trying to encourage youth with their dreams. There might be a kid that loves to draw, loves art, writes poetry, love music, or loves speaking—we love to encourage that and see that develop.

Amy: When people think of “worship”, they think of music. Worship can encompass so much more. What are other ways you guys are encouraging worship in other ways, besides music, even though you are obviously involved within the music genre?

Jack: I think that goes back to our main topic of what we’re taking about, which is raising up a generation of worshipers. Does that mean raising up a generation of songwriters or singers? No. It means maybe quite the opposite. Raising up a generation of worshipers means going past songs and past music into living a lifestyle that glorifies God.

Yes, music is amazing and a great way to worship God, but there are so many other ways to worship Him aside from art. Our goal is to help people to find ways to dedicate their whole lives to God and worship in every aspect of their lives. I definitely think there are lots of ways we’ve missed as a Church to worship God.

Matt S.: For us, it’s more of a lifestyle. We try to be the same on the stage, on the bus, or wherever. Worship is definitely living a lifestyle of prayer and being in a relationship with God. I think if you really want to define worship it’s a lifestyle that is trying to be pleasing to God.

Leeland: Worship is anything that’s glorifying God whether that’s praying or hanging out or cleaning up the church after worship or cleaning the toilet—anything that’s glorifying God in your life or in a song is worship. It literally is your whole life devoted to God.

Amy: Leeland here is the youngest in the band and he’s kind of the “leader of the band”. How do you older guys deal with that?

Mike C: We have a good open line of communication and Leeland’s always been good about pushing everything back towards the band and towards us and making it a group thing. We were the ones that made him take the band name ‘Leeland’. He didn’t want it in the beginning, we were just in our youth group back home playing worship and then we started playing other places as ‘The Leeland Mooring Band’.

Amy: So you guys all went to youth group together?

Jake: Jack and Leeland’s parents started a church about five years ago and yeah, so we started in the church. We met Mike at IHOP and Matt went to a church across the street and Jack was the youth pastor. That’s how it started—in youth band.

Jack: Leeland I were brothers and our parents actually started the church, and maybe the people didn’t know that… (Everyone chuckles at him.)

Amy: You were brothers? What are you now?

Jack: Actually you know we did an official separation for purposes of the band. We didn’t want things to get personal, you know? So, yeah, I was actually youth pastor at the time and Leeland started writing all these songs—he was 12 years old! It was a really cool time in our lives because I would get up and preach and Jake would play bass and Leeland would get up and lead worship. It all came about because of our youth ministry. Without our youth ministry, we wouldn’t be here.

Amy: OK, let’s head back towards youth ministry. There are a lot of kids who are pretty talented and write songs. Obviously, Leeland over here is a musical genius, but how do you encourage kids in their craft without crushing their dreams?

Leeland: In the beginning, the songs may not be that great. But one of the biggest things I’ve noticed is that when someone is really, really close to the Lord and when they’re really been seeking God and have an innocent relationship with the Lord, they could be singing ‘Kumbaya’ and the presence of God will come. I’ve been around some places where the person’s voice wasn’t that amazing or they weren’t great with the instrument, but you could just tell that they were so close to the Lord and loved God so much that when they were playing I felt the Lord and felt him stronger than professional musicians.

Keep encouraging kids to write songs and keep writing and to seek after God as they’re writing. That’s the difference between a great song writer and a great worship leader. A great worship leader is so in tune with the Lord that they could be up there singing anything and the presence of God will come.

Amy: A lot of people look up to you guys as a band—both youth and youth workers because the music’s great and the lyrics are real. What do you think is a critical issue in youth workers? What do youth workers need to know?

Jack: I actually worked with youth before I was in the band. One thing I can say as a word of encouragement is to make time to spend with God and for your self. Youth workers are very selfless people, so they don’t have time for themselves.

Leeland: You are selfless and you give and give and give so much you come to the point where you’re tired. But if you devote yourself to the Lord, you are able to keep your dreams alive for your group and your city. A lot of youth workers start out with great dreams, but they lay down their dreams because they’re tired because they don’t seek the Lord and the presence of God.

Youth workers need to say, ‘God, let your presence fill out youth group.’ We can have Playstations and games all day long, and these worldly things don’t edify. They attract people, but they don’t edify. The presence of God is what our churches need to be asking for, that’s when people are changed.

Jack: Games and all those really cool fun lights attracts the kids, but once they’re there, what happens? Where’s the beef? Where’s the meat? Are they going to take something more home than meeting their friends and beating Guitar Hero? I think that’s where the youth workers need to get on their faces before God.

Amy: Youth workers can be guilty of neglecting their families because they think that ministry is the highest calling, but also family is ministry. How do you guys keep the romance alive with your wives?

Jack: Literally, your family is your ministry. It’s amazing that we’re going to minister to all these people, but 20 years from now if our kids aren’t serving God and our wives have been neglected, I don’t really see the point. When we stand before the Lord, he’s going to ask us how we treated our families, how you treat your children and your wife is going to affect many generations to come.

Amy: So, Jack, honestly, what’s it like being Michael W. Smith’s son-in-law?

Jack: They’re an amazing family. He has a reputation of integrity, and he’s put his family first. You can just tell when you spend time with them. He’s been nice to me and hasn’t given me a hard time.

Amy: We’ve been talking about the Michael W. Smith fan cruise. I was like, “It’s going to be 50 year-old ladies and Leeland”. So, really, what was it like?

Jake: It was like a worship conference to me. It was awesome. It wasn’t all 50 year-old peple. There were younger people there and some people brought their kids. We went to Alaska and spent 7-8 days there. It was free food the entire time. Ice cream in the middle of the night. Milk and cookies.

Jack: And we saw whales and that was amazing.

(Random incoherent mumblings from which I could glean, “We drove the ship into an iceberg.” Mel asks, “Did anyone abandon ship?” All of a sudden Leeland grabs the mic to make this announcement.)

Leeland: The blue whale is the biggest thing in the entire world. Its tongue weighs as much an elephant. It weighs 200 tons and its heart is as big as a car. Its tail is as wide as a small aircraft and you could swim in its largest blood vessel.

Amy: Ooo-kay. On that note, anything that you want to say in closing?

Leeland: Keep dreaming for your city and know that God is with you and be encouraged. God is doing something incredible in the hearts of youth today. Keep encouraging your kids to devote their lives to God.

END TRANSMISSION

For more information on Leeland and their current tour “The Altar and the Door” with Casting Crowns, visit the band’s website (LINK: http://www.leelandonline.com). Also remember to check out their latest album, Opposite Way, which released February 26.

Print copy of interview.

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