Following up 2013’s unique live-to-tape collection, The Analog Sessions, Shawn McDonald’s latest offering from Sparrow Records, Brave, takes this singer/songwriter to a whole new level, seemingly pushing him far beyond his comfort zone. The career that began with a simple acoustic guitar and some stories has blossomed into an art with greater thought and depth. With the help of producers Chris Stevens (TobyMac, Colton Dixon), Jamie Kennedy (Marc Broussard), and David Garcia (Britt Nicole), Brave showcases an increasingly noticeable electronic element on top of Shawn’s familiar acoustic foundation.
Sounds Like: Acoustic-driven pop/rock foundations with varying layers of electronica, OneRepublic, Imagine Dragons.
Top Songs Most Singable: “We Are Brave”
Strong Biblical Content: “Your Love Is Saving Me” (1 Cor 15:1-2)
Trent and Shellie Monk are The Monks, and this new acoustic-folk album is filled with a creative landscape of sounds featuring raw vocals, guitars, mandolins, harmonica, and of course the lap steel. The star is Trent’s familiar voice, recognizable from his days with duo Monk & Neagle, and his recent solo hit “Beautiful You.”
After his days with Monk & Neagle, and with his new wife, Trent and Shellie embarked on this journey of full-time music, encapsulated in the standout track, “Here We Go.” With top-notch producers like Mitch Dane (Jars of Clay, Bebo Norman) and Ed Cash (Chris Tomin, Kari Jobe) at the helm, this duo’s high-quality release is sure to resonate with fans across the country and be the launch of a long career.
Sounds like: Civil Wars meets NEEDTOBREATHE meets All Sons & Daughters with the Monk’s own unique and catchy vibe.
Reverent Worship may represent the cutting edge of where worship and contemporary Christian music may be going. His Name Is Love is a collection of songwriters, worship leaders, musicians, and singers that found their way together to complete this project. The artists and producers do not identify themselves on the CD or their website. Many of the songs sound both familiar and fresh and are aimed at the worship leader.
The secret sauce behind this collaboration are two songwriters, Josh Cobia and Andrew Capra, who teamed up as worship leaders for a Los Angeles based church plant. “Deeper” and “Reckless” standout and the alternative version of “Lead Me to the Water” with the additional womens vocals is engaging on many levels. The idea and concept of a collective effort to write and create songs for worship leaders with no strings attached leaves one inspired that the next generation is in good hands. At the end of the day, Reverent Worship delivers great songs and a “reason to praise”.
Sounds like:His Name Is Love delivers Nashville sensibilities with a California edged adult/rock worship ensemble using balanced arrangements that merge various guitar tones with well executed results. “Reasons to Praise” is an up tempo rock tune definitely worth a listen and infectious.
Top Songs Most Singable: “Reason to Praise” and “Worthy One”
Kari Jobe, in a recent conversation with Worship Leader about her new album Majestic, recorded live at the renowned Majestic Theatre in Dallas, points toward the rewards of collaborating with others—especially the Holy Spirit—the faithfulness of God, and the joy of leading others in worship.
WORSHIP LEADER: On your new album, although all songs fit in a congregational context, some songs have a more personal feeling, such as “I Am Not Alone,” “Keeper of My Heart” and “Lord Overall.” Would you tell us how those songs emerged?
KARI JOBE: I wrote for about two years for most of this project and “Lord Overall” actually is the oldest song on the project—I wrote that one almost four years ago. It was absolutely in the middle of an extremely hard time in my family, some shifting and the Lord working out some deep things in all of our hearts, and it was one of those, “Lord, I need you to rescue my heart, and I need you to hold my heart. In this season I’m declaring that, ‘you’re Lord overall, you will be my rescue, you will never fail.’” I don’t think I could ever get tired of saying that over myself, you know. I think that’s something that is always a good truth to say over ourselves.
“I Am Not Alone” was a song I worked on with my band. Out of really an overflow of what we were seeing God do, through many nights of worship. I share a lot of Scripture on nights of worship, and I was sharing Isaiah 43, where it says, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you…When you walk through the fire; you will not be burned…” It’s God’s promise to us to walk us through those things, He doesn’t say we wouldn’t go through them; he says when we do he’s with us, and he’s strengthening us and he’s giving us the courage. I’m thankful for that.
Some of the other songs are more of a heart cry for more of God’s presence to invade our lives and to be welcomed. In a night of worship, of course he’s there, but there is something so powerful when we as human beings say “I welcome you to move and have your way in my heart and speak to me and change me and make me more like you.” It’s a beautiful way to worship.
WL: On this album, you did a lot of co-writes. When you co-write, what is that process for you? What are the steps to take it from inception to completion?
KJ: I wish there was a method, but there isn’t. It’s always different. Most of the time, I’ll start with a theme in my heart of “I want to write something about this.” And I’ll go in with either a verse melody idea or a little bit of a chorus idea. The reason I co-write a lot is there is so much more strength in it, I feel people bring so much to the table all together, in a community of writing. And I’m able to finish songs a lot easier. It takes me a long time to finish a song. I think “You Are For Me” took four years to finish. So, it kind of helps expedite the process a little bit.
WL: But the four year ones really, they have a lot of punch.
KJ: They do, they have a lot of depth in the Lord, there’s just a different feeling with them, you know. On “Forever,” Brian [Johnson] and I sat down and didn’t have anything. He just had the theme. He said, “We should write something about ‘forever,’ how we’ll glorify and worship Jesus forever.” And I started humming the melody to the verses and the chorus. So, the first day we finished that: we only had the melody idea and the theme. We didn’t have any of the lyrics yet. And it took a process of us writing with different people to really finish that song because it took on such character.
WL: It’s beautiful.
KJ: Yeah, it’s such a poem; it’s a poetic way to talk about the crucifixion. But it took six people, you know and the bridge was finished in a live setting: Jenn Johnson started singing that bridge in the middle of doing the song live. I feel if we keep our ears tuned to the Holy Spirit and are good stewards of crafting them [the songs], they are always going to look different, but, I like the stories and the character behind each of the songs.
WL: I was wondering about the story behind the almost title track “How Majestic”—definitely a song that draws one in and up?
KJ: I was on tour with Chris Tomlin, and one night before I went on stage, he said, “Hey, Matt Redman and I started a song that we keep thinking about you, and we want to finish writing it with you if you want to.” And so, that day, the very same day, I had just reserved the Majestic Theater to record my live album, And I got in my bunk that night by myself and put my headphones on, pushed play on the song and on the chorus I started weeping. I couldn’t believe that it was about the thing that was drilling in my heart for the album, and I said, “God, you’re amazing, that you go before us and you put the dreams and the visions in our hearts.” I feel sometimes I’m walking those things out, blindly, But He is so good at reading us and, so I told Tomlin, “Yes, I love this song. I feel so connected to it. So I helped finish the song with them. That’s how that one happened, that shows you how it’s always different, there’s always a different story.
WL: Are there songs on this album that are especially meaningful to you that you love to lead people into God’s presence with?
KJ: Well, I’m loving watching people get this revelation on “Forever”: that we have victory over Satan, to be reminded of that is so powerful. People are starting to cheer in the middle of the song by being so excited that we serve the King and that he has rendered the enemy defeated. They throw their hands in the air and start worshipping so loud, it’s just been amazing.
Every night on that song, I can hardly contain myself. The other night I started weeping right in the middle of it. I love it. I love that I get a front row seat to watch people get revelations of God every night, which is so cool.
Another one that’s been really cool to lead lately is “I Am Not Alone.” Songs that are ministering to people are really special to me. We went into “I Am Not Alone” the other night and a lot of women started coming down to the front to the altar and weeping before God. Mind you, I had just shared a story about one of the writers of “Forever” who lost a baby. And it had been a real hard week and a half since. I shared it on stage, to bring out the point that everyone’s walking through the fire, and there are things we are not going to understand that God has us walk through, but it doesn’t change the fact that He’s faithful. And that He’s worthy of our worship and that He’ll be near to us in those moments—but we’re going to have them. It’s been neat to watch people really touched by a song like “I Am Not Alone.” It reminds me of when I first started leading, “You Are For Me.” I’m real excited about “Let The Heavens Open”; it’s the last track on the whole CD. And it’s fun, it’s big, it’s loud. The strings go crazy. There are two drummers, and it’s such a heart cry for Gods Kingdom to be evident on this earth more and more in our churches and in our lives and a cry of, “I want God to invade earth as much as he can before he comes to get us.”
WL: Do you sing most of your songs in a congregational context before they ever make it onto an album?
KJ: That’s a good question. We try to. I think a couple of the new ones on the album we didn’t get to, we didn’t get time to practice them in a congregational setting and we trusted that they felt strong. I don’t make any of those decisions alone. I tell my worship leader friends, “Hey, I’m going to send you a couple of songs. Will you send back feedback?” So that’s a way to do it too, get feedback from people, see what they think.
WL: Tell me a little bit about choosing Jeremy Edwardson to produce.
KJ: He’s amazing, I love his stuff and I’ve worshipped with his songs and CDs that he’s produced for a long time, not knowing that it was him. And when it came time to do this project, I thought, “I want to use the guy that does some of the Jesus Culture stuff. And the more that I researched and found out all he had done, I was blown away at the fact that a ton of songs that have majorly, majorly impacted me, he’s been a part of. That was pretty cool to bring him in. He really gets it, he really knows how to help you in a live setting, how to capture that night and how to capture the congregation.