The Season of Advent
Interview: Robbie Seay
At the beginning of this season of Advent, we talk to worshiping artist Robbie Seay—a significant contributor to Worship Leader over the years—about Advent, artistry and the Robbie Seay Band’s new EP: December Vol. 2: Songs of Advent. Any and all of these songs would grace your December listening or community service. And to get you started a free download of “Mary’s Song.”
You have done Advent tours in the past. Are you involved in an Advent tour again this year?
We are playing several Advent shows here in Texas this year. I try to always stay close to home when December arrives but we still play many shows in Dallas, Austin, Houston, etc..
In light of Advent, how do your family and your church observe this time of anticipation of Christ’s coming and coming again?
Nothing is better than walking through Advent with kids. The story of Christ and the hugeness of what happened is not lost on them. Their hearts are not too crowded to take it all in.
This year at home we’re using an Advent guide by author Ann Voskamp. It’s fantastic. We downloaded it online and so we sit down each night and share the reading for that day. We also have an Advent ornament for each day that is added to a smaller Advent tree in the living room.
Tell us a little about the inspiration and recording of your Advent EP?
I didn’t grow up understanding Advent. It was Thanksgiving to shopping to Christmas day with a little bit of music and a service or two in between to complete the season.
Advent is waiting. It is longing. It is hoping…for a Saviour that will change everything.
And so these are songs we’ve been singing each year for many years and I wanted to put them together and offer it to folks as they discover the Advent season themselves.
“O Come, O Come Emmanuel” has always been my favorite song of Advent and I was thrilled to start this EP with that track.
“Mary’s Song” is one that I wrote with Andrea Hunter many years ago. I was so struck by her lyric and insight to Mary’s response to God’s revelation. I’m so thrilled that we were finally able to record this tune. It’s a favorite in our church!
“Come Thou Long Expected Jesus” – we wanted to try and remake this by singing it to the melody of “Come Thou Fount”. I was so surprised when I heard how easily the lyrics fit. We added a tag and hope adds a fresh look at a traditional lyric.
“O Come Divine Messiah” – I wrote this song with the great Jennie Lee Riddle. This song, more than any other on the record, captures Advent’s longing and hope for a Saviour. I’m honored to sing this song on the EP.
“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” – Dallas based Folk Angel invited me to sing on this track and it’s always been a favorite. It turned out having a very Sufjan Christmas vibe, which is a nice change for this EP.
“Song of Hope (Acoustic)” – I’d never thought of this song as one for Advent – but the longing for Heaven to come down fits perfectly with this collection of songs.
What is of greatest significance and importance for you in intentionally marking the season of Advent?
It’s a refocus. Rather than “What can I get?” It’s “What can I Give?” Instead of rushing. It is slowing. It has brought peace back to a time of year that can very easily feel chaotic and stressful. It’s also a building up to Christmas day and allows us to connect with the days leading up to Jesus birth. Together, we enter the story as we look towards the 25th.
What has God been speaking to you throughout your time as a worship leader and artist and especially in this season of your life?
My plans don’t matter. Seems obvious, I know…but it’s very easy for me to map out records, tours, songwriting, etc … and 2012 has been a year of God constantly interrupting my ways with His.
How do you compare the experience as an artist on a label to being an artist as an independent?
I loved my time at EMI. They feel like unique seasons in my life and grateful for both. Being independent allows you to make decisions quickly and have some more flexibility.
Has your vision for worship and about worship changed over the years?
There is always a tug of war between excellence and art vs authenticity and being open to the Spirit’s leading. To me, that’s what makes music in the context of worship so fascinating. There is no formula. There is no “right way”. God has given us such a broad landscape of music and art and as believers, we respond to his grace in music in a thousand different ways. It’s taken me years to steer clear of comparison and replication—and simply respond to God and invite others as we worship a living, Holy God.
In “Rich and Poor”, the title track from your latest album, it’s apparent that you have encountered trials and doubt in your relationship with God, “Even in my darkest days/I’m gonna sing your praise”… How do you turn that into an album with a uplifting encouraging message? Does their need to be a balance between writing laments and writing joyful declaration and thanksgiving?
I wanted “Rich & Poor” to have the same balance and response as we see in the Psalms. We see David and others writing in response to God by lamenting, celebrating, doubting, trusting and rejoicing. So, my hope is that Rich & Poor has the same balance. On this record we celebrate baptism, mourn the passing of a close friend, give thanks to God for his forgiveness and ask God to slow our minds and souls in order that we might hear Him.