You have a “new” band but your new release is by Brenton Brown; what exactly is Worship Republic?
Ah my boys! We’ve been playing together for about 4 years. Daniel Ornellas (bass) grew up with me in Cape Town and played in Tree63 before this. Ben Showalter (drums) bumped into our crew while playing for Larue and Sarah Macintosh/Chasing Furies in England. And Scotty Murray I met when he was still playing for Rebecca St James back in the day. We’ve played so much together it feels weird sometimes to hear us introduced as Brenton Brown and his… ‘guys’, or ‘the band’, or even worse: ‘these guys’ . So their unofficial title is the Worship Republic. A republic is a group of people with a common public goal. The worship republic’s goal is worship. It seems fitting.
Your new release, God My Rock is a live recording, what are the benefits to producing a live worship record and what are the drawbacks?
Well the greatest benefit is that you get to hear the songs as they were intended to be used – communally. And it was such a sweet night in Ohio. We recorded it in an ice hockey arena at a Dare2share event. That room is ALIVE!! The ice was still on the floor. They just threw a bunch of 4 x8′s on top of that ice.
The downside… there was ice underneath us!! It was freezing!! Also the event took place over the course of a Friday night and a Saturday. It was basically a one day conference with some elements of worship. We had roughly 100 minutes to get it all down. 100 minutes!!! I aged a good 10 years . But we are so stoked with what we got. It was a pretty amazing time!
What is the overarching theme to God My Rock?
They say there are only two things for certain in life – death and taxes. But there is something more solid and reliable than that – the words spoken by God. They will outlast taxes (thank goodness!), their promises will outlast death (thank goodness for that!) and they are the one rock that we can build our lives upon. We paraphrase Psalm 73 in our verse
When my heart is overwhelmed, I will look to you alone
God my rock, God my rock, God my rock…
You and Paul Baloche have written many songs together (and you co-wrote the title track of the new album). What is your songwriting dynamic like? What does a typical songwriting session between the two of you consist of?
Mostly a lot of talking and laughing first. We’ve been on this journey together for a while. These songs really only happen because of the kind of honesty and realness that that allows for. Typically one of us will bring a verse or a chorus that we can’t let go of and see if it inspires anything. If it does we’ll try and figure out what it is we’re trying to say… and whether that is something worth saying. Congregational songwriters are really asking the church to sing their ‘amens’ to what we are praying. So the thematic direction is super important. Once we’re stoked on that, it’s normally time to leave. Then we typically write a good few hundred emails shaping and working on the lyric and melody. That really is where the hard part is… so many emails
Do you feel as though your creativity is restricted when you write for the church?
I think creativity is a constrained process regardless of what genre or medium you’re working in. We will always be limited by our skill, our knowledge, our media and the goals we set for ourselves. This is true whether you’re a filmmaker, photographer, sculptor or songwriter. These parameters are what make creativity so glorious. Because somehow within the boundaries of these parameters something new and alive and life-giving can grow. I like Jack White’s thoughts on this in the documentary, It Might Get Loud. He appreciates having to wrestle songs and notes from his instruments. It makes them more meaningful and unique. Our parameters are different, but the same challenges and rewards exist for us as congregational writers. There are instances when it’s possible to write a glorious melody and lyric that is glorious because it might also allow a small group of tired Christians to sing their hearts and faith to God! When it goes well, it’s as if the limits are forgotten and God’s glory is all that we can see for a moment. This is what we are aiming for.
When you write congregational songs, are there essential elements you always try to include? Are there things you are intentional to try and avoid?
Really all that matters is that what we’re singing is true… and needs to be sung! It may be true, but has been sung a lot recently. What happens next creatively really just comes down to what actually works. Who would have thought huge churches would be capable of singing verses up an octave together?! Or even that a modern worship song could have four unique sections… Orthodox theology is the only life giving constraint we need to pay careful attention to.
On your new album, “Everlasting God” has been merged with John Mark McMillan’s “How He Loves.” What was the thought process behind this?
Well “Everlasting God” (the co-write with Ken Riley) although a very personal song for me is really pulled almost completely from scripture – Isaiah 40. The message of that song is that God is so powerful that He doesn’t get tired – ever! But also that he helps those that do, those that are weak and struggling. To sing ‘He loves us, oh how He loves us’ ends up becoming the best kind of epilogue for this song. It sums up not just the message of Isaiah but the whole gospel. God’s eternal power is staggering. But it is his kindness that breaks our hearts. He truly loves us. He doesn’t have to. He doesn’t need anything. And yet He loved the world so much that He gave everything for us. This is the God we honor.
You are a father, husband, artist, and worship leader and you also deal with chronic fatigue syndrome; in what ways does God make a difference in the struggle of everyday?
Ha!! I really have to fight the temptation not to let this be a set up for a power drink advert!!!
“In my busy life with all my responsibilities I could never make it through the day without GOSPEL ENERGY!!” :)
Seriously though, there is a genuine peace and a joy that I have found in the LORD that seems to be defiant of circumstances. It transcends my inadequacies, it supersedes the obstacles and challenges my life involves. But it only happens when I lean into Him. I have to trust Him with things as they start to weigh down on me. I have to rest my life and all it’s details on Him. But I’ve found that when I do I am not easily shaken. He is the rock that does not fail. And somehow a peace and a joy rises up in me that allows me to love this life and serve people with joy, even when things get too much for me. Which happens often
You are coming to NWLC in California in a couple of weeks, without giving it all away, what are you going to be teaching on in your workshop?
We’re going to go into some serious detail about how a song goes from a fragment to a finished idea… Not for the fainthearted!! Roll up those sleeves and get ready!