In your new album, Anthems, you have a plethora of reputable contributors; with Otto Price (TobyMac, BarlowGirl) as producer, Ainslie Grosser (Matt Redman’s “10,000 Reasons,” Laura Story’s “Blessings”) as mix engineer, mastering Anthems was Brad Blackwood (maroon 5, Alison Krauss &Union Station), Brent Kutzle of OneRepublic played strings on a few songs, and DJ FrankE (Flo Rida, B.o.B, Justin Bieber) added his flair in “Closer to Me.”
What was it like working with people in the mainstream music industry as well as those in Christian music industry?
Yeah, this album is stacked with amazingly talented people; I am by FAR the weakest link! Three Grammy winners on the production side of things, which still kind of blows my mind.
I have been friends with Justin Franks(DJ FrankE) for many years. We have collaborated on quite a few tracks through the years, and I have learned a great deal about writing “hit” songs from one of the best! His schedule puts him in the same room as platinum-selling artists every night, yet he wanted to bless me with his touch to a song. Brent has played at church with me and of course that was a blast. He was gracious enough to take some time out of his schedule to come and record on a few tracks, and it took those tracks to another level! I also was blessed to co-write with some amazing musicians and writers! I am very grateful for the doors that God has opened for me to work with all of these music gurus for this album.
What instigated your final decision to leave your full-time position as worship leader at Red Rocks church in Golden, Colorado to record an album and pursue a career as a Christian artist?
Prayer. My wife and I prayed, asking for God’s direction. We both felt strongly about the music I had been working on for this album, but with my responsibilities at the church, as well as a father and husband, I couldn’t see how I could attempt to release a national album and tour while still maintaining those responsibilities. It was a really tough decision because my wife and I had been with Red Rocks from the beginning and had really poured our hearts into it. However, when we prayed, God gave us a tremendous amount of peace about the decision. It’s always difficult to take those steps of faith, but we believe He is guiding us every step of the way.
What is the most important aspect of creating music to you?
The most important thing to me in writing music is that it glorifies God. I remember realizing as a teenager that even though I was a pastor’s kid, I wasn’t called to be a preacher. I wasn’t sure where that left me until I sat down with a guitar one day. Now I’m just humbled that He would use me.
How do you decipher a calling from God versus a strong desire of your own?
In the past, I’ve had the desire to make it in the music industry and had opportunities to write songs in the secular market. Even though I enjoyed writing the music and felt so close to “making it,” I could not shake that feeling in my spirit saying that path, however much I wanted it, was not my calling. I could tell I wasn’t designed to make music for anyone except my Father in heaven.
Tell us more about your collaboration on this album. What were some tough decisions you had to make with the purpose of this album in mind? What was the recording process like?
As I was writing for this album, I had a handful of songs I felt were worth recording, and I sent them to my buddy Jeff Jackson in Nashville. He really liked the overall sound of these new songs and encouraged me to work with a producer that would take it to the next level. He connected me with Otto Price, who connected me with Ainslie Grosser. I flew to Nashville and co-wrote for a couple of days with Otto, Ian Eskelin and Chris McClarney. Otto and I hit it off, and he flew to Denver. We recorded the album at Side3 Studios, which was great. The recording process was really smooth, as you’d expect when dealing with such pros.
I would have to say the toughest decision in making this album was to go “all in.” I have recorded albums in the past but never devoted the time or resources to getting them out there. I believe the timing was not right for those, and ultimately, God’s timing is perfect. However, there was something different about this one.
What message do you hope to convey? What is the meaning behind your album title?
That our God deserves to be praised. That it is an honor to get to sing for the King. Imagine being asked to sing for our president or a major world leader. What an honor that would be! But we get to sing for the King that is above ALL kings, the creator of every living thing, and to know that He loves it no matter how we sound… that’s just amazing!!!
I had a few album titles that I was considering, but none that I loved. After listening to it, a friend from Red Rocks emailed me, “I love it, Todd. These are anthems from your heart,” and as soon as I read that, I knew that Anthems should be the title.
How do you manage to create music that is accessible to those outside of the church, but also useful for the congregation?
I have struggled with this for quite some time. When I began writing songs for this album, my end goal was to have created a sound that emulates the sounds of some great rock bands but with lyrics that are praising our King. I want church to sound just as good, if not better, than what is in the secular world.
Where do you hope worship music in the church is heading? How do you hope to broaden its spectrum with your record, Anthems?
My favorite part of leading worship is looking out at the congregation when they are lost in worship, eyes closed, hands raised, tears flowing. What a beautiful time. More of that—that is what I want for the body of Christ. I know that Anthems has a big sound and might be more rocked out than some churches are used to, but I pray that worship leaders can use it as it is, strip it down, or just use it as inspiration to create their own sound.