This is your second album since 2011, how was the process of writing, producing, and recording this album different from the last?
Well, I think when you become a father everything changes. Since the last record I now have a 2 year old and a 1 year old. I feel like I have learned more about God in the last 2 years from them than I have in my whole life, including the way that I write and lead worship.
For me the last record was a war cry. It was very bold in so many ways. Lyrically, and recording everything live… doing one takes of each song. And it had a very specific message to it, that we needed to wake up and come out of our graves. We didn’t tune the vocals so much that I sounded like a machine. It was very raw and overdosing with passion. Some people have loved it and some people have hated it.
In the last 2 years I feel like my perspective on a lot of my beliefs have shifted. I feel like it’s not what we were saying but how we were saying it. I do believe that there are moments when we need a wake up call and our nation is definitely needing one. Then there are moments that I believe we just get so fascinated with the presence of God that everything else fades, which is what I feel like happened with this record. Becoming a dad for me was like having a heart transplant, everything changed.
I also met these 2 brilliant guys. Jonny Macintosh, producer and JT Daly lead singer and producer from the band paper route. I think sometimes God will send people in your life at just the right moment. That’s how it was for me meeting these guys. I needed to rediscover some of my soul again and they helped me do that. Making this record was like I was dreaming again and all of a sudden there was hope and life exploding inside of me. Honestly making this record is probably the easiest record I have ever been a part of. Everything just flowed. It’s like 2 worlds collided… the production and music were matching the lyrics. I am very honored and humbled to have been able to work with Jonny and JT.
Your song “Like A Lion” gained much popularity and became a major Christian Radio hit as “God’s Not Dead (Like A Lion)” for the Newsboys. Can you tell us more about the story behind the song?
I had a prayer once that went like this: “God, come and destroy Your so called “church” and this diluted Christian music industry. Then once you destroy it, You can start over again and use me. Very humble of me right? There was a very recent point in my life that I hated the local church. I had been wounded, I was bitter, and I was bleeding for justice. There was a point that a leader actually told me that I was not “called” to be a worship leader and that I needed to stick to being a number in the system and to settle for the nostalgic stencil of replicating. I have an intense problem with those words spoken over me. I truly believe that God is in the business of creating not duplicating. My biggest problem with pop culture is not the culture, but the fact that all we, as Christians, do is follow it. Think about it, we have the ultimate creator of all things design living inside of us. Why are we not leading the charge?
There is an epidemic happening all around us, it’s full of what I like to call the exiles. Usually these exiled people are artists and they are full of hurt, because somewhere in their journey the dreamer inside of them was killed. I know because it happened to me. It was almost like a curse was spoken over my life by people that I trusted and looked to for leadership. Now, I know that we are all human and by all means none of us are perfect. But I do know that in an over zealous attempt to build our trendy empires, we bulldoze over the not so put together, the very raw, passionate artist, because they are uncontrollable and radical. At this point of the journey a “leader” can embrace the dreamer and try to be a father to help steer this wild nature, or they can manipulate and handcuff the dreamer because it is too out of the lines of the empire. I was having a conversation with a leader once and he said, ”the sheep are stupid”. That statement makes my blood curdle. I believe the sheep are looking to be a part of a revolution, and they need a revolutionary to lead them.
About a year and a half ago, my wife and I were speeding through our story. Our belief in God was stronger then ever, but our belief in the system was completely destroyed. I actually started working on a Like a Lion and wrote the line “my faith is dead, I need a resurrection somehow’. I have learned that when unexplainable miracles take place, life oozes out into every dry place and that new life begins to form and things begin to happen! There has been such an overwhelming healing that has taken place. My prayer was once “God destroy the church and the music industry”. My prayer is now, “God restore your bride and bring revival to our four walls and may it be so contagious that it can’t help but gush out into our streets and stir up such a commotion, that it will be undeniable to all who the living, creating, healing God is!” There could never be a resurrection unless there was a death, and that’s what happened to me. All of a sudden God has done things with this song that I could have never dreamed of.
Something else a lot of people may not know about the song…
Married five years, my wife Taylor and I were struggling with infertility and were checking into our medical and adoption options. So we created a family profile and turned it in to Bethany Christian Services. Within a few weeks, we received a call from a birth mother who had chosen us to be her baby’s family.
Months later, in the hospital on the day of our son Phoenix’s birth, we got a glimpse of the care with which God had been writing our story. We were sitting there with the birth mother, and my sisters brought in a little stuffed lion. I told Phoenix’s birth mom, ‘We don’t do teddy bears in our family, we do lions.’ And then she told us a part of her story we had not heard… She’d been given an ultimatum: either have an abortion or get out of the house. So she moved to Atlanta, heard about Bethany Christian Agency on MTV and had the courage to walk in and check it out. Around that same time, a friend took her to Passion City where she heard Chris Tomlin singing “some song about a lion and a roar.” She remembered it clearly because during that song, she felt a presence come over her… she told us that until then, she hadn’t known that you could “feel” God. So, she sat down and started journaling the lyrics to the song, ‘Like A Lion.’
We all started crying at that point. And I told her, “well, actually I wrote that song.” Then she started crying and saying what an impact the words had on her.
To know that my son has such a calling in this life, even before he was born and that his dad’s song was being sung over him before he even knew who his father was… I thought I knew what God was capable of, but we experienced His faithfulness in such a miraculous way.
With one album out, you’ve had a few of your songs gain considerable recognition in names of other artists. How do you feel the interpretation of your songs does/doesn’t change with each different performer?
For me as a song writer, it’s a very humbling and honoring thing. The fact that another artist or worship leader would hear something in your lyrics and melodies and want to capture them with their voice is gorgeous. I’ve had artists that have requested to change a small lyric or a small melody and for me my response is always, “if you feel like those changes would better influence the sphere that you are in, then by all means.” I write songs with a specific message and a mission… a slight change is not going to detour that foundation.
I grew up in the church my whole life and I’ve probably listened to DC talk records over a million times when I was younger. So to all of a sudden hear Michael Tait and Kevin Max singing your song together is pretty surreal!
Delirious and Martin Smith were a massive influence on me when I started leading worship. So, again, when I heard Kim Walker and Martin singing “Pursuit” together on the new Jesus Culture album, all I could think was, “wow”!
I’m very grateful to Crowder for believing in the song “Like a Lion” and truly introducing it to the world… I love art and I love that art can be translated in so many different ways.
What message do you hope to convey in your new record, The Invisible? What is the meaning behind your album title?
The whole record is based off of 1 Tim 1:17:
17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
I love the word invisible. It’s so mysterious. It’s the definition of our faith and the reason we worship. It’s the mystery of all history. The intangible became tangible. The invisible became visible. Heaven invaded earth.
Even In the midst of our torment and lament and pain, there is a current of HOPE flowing. And my prayer for this record is that somehow we were able to capture a small glimpse of that and as people listen it would completely wreck every doubt and fear and silence every lie and demon. I want healing to be unleashed and for the real Jesus to show up in people’s lives. Honestly, I just want hope to be stirred. When Hope shows up, it brings with it undeniable truth, life and freedom. My prayer is that somehow the things that have been healed in my life will be contagious to those that listen.
What was the writing process like for this album? How long did it take you to complete all 10 songs before you went into recording? What sorts of experiences fueled your material?
HaHaHa it was a very hard process. Everyone kept asking me how I was going to write another song like, “Like a Lion” or they would ask, “how are you going to top like a lion?” For a while I could not move pass that.
But then I felt like God was telling me to go back to the foundation and scriptures.
I started to dissect different scripture verses and I began to just sing these truths. All of a sudden I felt a massive release and songs began to flow.
I would describe these new songs as simple songs of truth. They are all based completely out of scripture, the turning point is that the truth will always set you free, we don’t have to try. Freedom just happens where there is truth, hope and life.
“Let Hope In” is a very personal song to me. Here is the story written by my wife, Taylor: (Download “Let Hope In” and the chord chart here)
“Let hope Arise and make the darkness hide. My Faith is dead I need a resurrection somehow”.
This has been a very controversial line in “Like a Lion”. David Crowder sang the line at Passion, but several other worship guys have asked if they could change the line from “my faith is dead” to my “my faith is cold”. Daniel said yes of course, if they feel like that line is better for where they are playing, then that is what is most important.
But I’ve been thinking about this very thing lately. Hope. And Faith.
Hope has become Daniel’s anthem. It is written on his guitar.
It is written on his arm.
It’s the cry of our heart that through his music Hope will spring up!
There is something that I am hoping for in my life right now.
And I honestly struggle with letting hope in, because I fear disappointment. I fear pain.
When I start to feel the little flutters of hope, I shut them down, preferring to think “It probably won’t happen” because then I’ll be surprised if it does. That feels safe. But is that right? Sometimes my faith does feel dead.
Let Hope arise and MAKE the darkness hide. I like that idea better!
I was running last week and praying about all of this. Daniel and I are attempting to train for the Nashville half marathon- we shall see. But I’ve had a lot of time to think as I run.
My conversation with God went something like this:
“God how do I let hope come in? I’m so afraid of being sad, disappointed, hurt etc! But I want to hope! I don’t want the enemy to have any place in my heart or mind or emotions- I want your hope. But I’m scared.” -sounds like a little girl- but it’s how I felt.
I felt like he said this. Taylor, all you are responsible for is letting yourself hope- let it grow inside of you! Let faith arise, don’t be afraid. And if it doesn’t happen when you think it should- let me take care of your heart. Leave it to me”.
I feel like from the moment we started our adoption process I had to trust. When we weren’t sure what was happening with the birth father, I had to trust. I’ve never had to trust so much in my life. Could this be for a reason? Could God be saying “I need you to learn this”. Well, I’m trying. I’m trusting. I’m letting the little flutters of hope arise inside of me. And I’m trusting that no matter the outcome- God is the one who takes care of my heart.
Even though sometimes my faith feels not only cold, but dead. I know it’s not. And I know that no matter what- Ihave the promise of a Father who loves me with his very life!
Are you hoping for something? Take the risk and dare to hope. Let that faith spring up.
If the worst happens- God will take care of our hearts.
But somehow I think that through hope, miracles are coming!
So I started working on the song “Let Hope In.” A few months later we found out that we were pregnant.
As a Christian songwriter, what do you believe is most important to remind yourself when writing more God-centered songs?
I don’t think the world needs another worship song or another worship recording. We have millions of them already. I do however believe that God uses us to say fresh things to our generation at very timely moments. That’s what I want to do. I want to write songs that are from the father’s heart for a fatherless generation. My prayer is that somehow God would reveal these fresh sounds and somehow we will be able to orchestrate and pen a piece of His heart. I think that’s all He is looking for, someone who is listening and willing.
You have a very eclectic and electronic style, is the music off of this album something you hope to be carried into the church?
I love that word eclectic. I would say my hope is that the church would become a breeding ground for true dreamers and the leaders of our culture. That the church would embrace the unique and powerful demonstration of not having to sound or look like everything else. I would love the church to be about creating and not following. I truly believe the church should be the staple of fresh sounds and dreams. So whatever that looks like or sounds like I’m all about and I’m all in!
I do hope that this record will translate no matter the denomination or worship style and that these songs will find their way into places that will truly surprise us. I love singing these songs at my church, which is where really everyone song was birthed. So yes I do hope that this eclectic unique voice that we have will infiltrate into the church as a whole but also beyond that even to people that have given up on the church of have been wounded and become bitter.