Chris Llewellyn: I wonder if in the search to find a universal song, what we’ve done is we’ve sang things that are not specific enough to connect to anybody very deeply.
Joshua Swanson: Welcome to The Walk, a devotionals podcast for worshipers. On this episode, we have a very honest conversation with Chris Llewellyn from Rend Collective about his son, his new music and the beauty of God using our struggles to call us back to him.
So you said what was it 14 years you’ve been with Rand? 12 years?
Chris Llewellyn: Uh, well, I mean really like since 2003. Okay. So, uh, before Rend was even like anything to do with music, uh, we were a bible study and that was when I got involved in it in 2003. Okay. So, uh, and then it kind of spiraled from there because, uh, that Bible study put together a selection of songs, like EPs as kind of almost like a parting gift.
So we, everybody was kind of moving away and going to university and stuff. And so we decided, okay, well, we’ve been on a bit of a journey and a lot of us are artists, so we might as well make something. Yeah. And we must have pressed like a hundred EPs. It’s nothing, nothing more than that. Uh, but Chris Tomlin and Martin Smith had two of them, and so, uh,
Those are kind of two pretty big names there. Well, right. Yeah, I know. It’s crazy.
Joshua Swanson: How did, how did that even happen? How did, when you say Chris Tomlin and Martin Smith had them, like, what does that even mean? There is a, you mail it to them, like, what does that even mean?
Chris Llewellyn: Well, we didn’t. So a guy called Les Moir, uh, who has been kind of hovering around the Christian music scene forever.
He was sort of passing them out. This is like pre us being signed by Kingsway or anything. So he was just out there. I don’t know. He just felt like there was something on it. So he gave one to Martin Smith, who then gave one to Chris Tomlin. And then Chris Tomlin actually decided To invite us on tour because Matt Maher pulled out at the last minute and we were kind of the last thing he was listening to.
He’s just like, wow, I contact these Irish guys. And so that was really, that was the first time that we ever were kind of struck with the idea of could, could we be a band? Yeah. Could we go and do this tour? So we got invited on that. Uh. And if our god is for us to this massive arena tour and we aren’t we aren’t even a band Let me explain that we’re like masquerading as a band in the States And yet because we were on the Tomlin tour like kind of the industry felt like they’ve maybe missed something And so they all felt like they were on the back foot and like they have missed this great catch so we got management and booking like really quickly and so visas and everything came through and We’ve stayed ever since. So you’re the impostors of Christian music. A hundred percent. It’s not even a syndrome for us. Yeah. It’s just, it’s
Joshua Swanson: just the reality. I love that. Les Moore, the godfather of European Christian music. He really Chris Llewellyn: is, and a fine bassist as well. I mean, yeah. Yeah, he started in recording
Chris Llewellyn: music. Yeah, yeah, he’s killer. He’s the only person I know who, like, talks in fractions of dBs in mastering, which I don’t understand anyway. Uh, I always just get it back from master and I’m like, yep, good, loud, loud. Yeah.
Joshua Swanson: Well, I guess we should actually introduce me when I’m having fun. So Hey, uh, Joshua Swanson, the worship leader privileged to sit with Chris Llewellyn to talk about some of his new music and his heart and his story.
So thanks man for hanging with us. Absolutely. Yeah. I really loved your podcast. That you did for us. I thought that was really special. Um, I’ve quoted that line. You said, uh, I’ve realized I’m more of a doubting Thomas than a Peter. I’ve quoted that several times because I
Chris Llewellyn: was like, Oh yeah, that was a little close to home.
Yeah. That was kind of me too. I think maybe we’ve all felt like that at some, at some season. Actually, I don’t know if we all feel like a Peter. Yeah. He’s He has a lot of confidence. Yeah, he’s pretty big. He’s a pretty big character. Yeah, he’s right like a third of the time, but he goes in with the confidence of somebody who has a better track record.
Joshua Swanson: That’s the truth. Okay, well, so, uh, you have been with Ren a long time, and it’s a very fascinating story how that all came together. So you’ve been… Thinking of music in terms of the band, so I’m assuming there was kind of this like individual like hey I’ve got some things I want might want to say myself That evolved and is that how we got to this album
Chris Llewellyn: or how did we get here?
Yeah, I think so I mean for years singing all these big Anthems and trying to come up with these songs that kind of are universal and are able to be sung by people across the entire Planet that that’s been the focus for a really long time and there is something so special about that I would never really want to give that up There’s something amazing about hearing a lot of people on the same exact page, uh, just being able to lift up the same song.
But on the other hand, that isn’t really, it isn’t the full record of even the songs that we have in the Bible. Uh, like the Psalms don’t all look like that. Some of them do. Uh, you can see that real congregationality, uh, in some of them, you know, there’s almost call and response sections in some of them where you can see how they were supposed to be used.
But at other times, you just see people bringing these incredibly personal things. Um, and I think… There’s something to me in exploring the idea of, I wonder if, I wonder if in the search to find a universal song, what we’ve done is we’ve sang things that are not specific enough to connect to anybody very deeply, but to everybody kind of in a shallow way. Sure. Maybe we need two kinds of songs. I just want to point out, you
Joshua Swanson: called your band members shallow. That’s right.
Chris Llewellyn: That’s what we’ll highlight here. Well, it’s all my fault.
Joshua Swanson: No, I get what you mean though, to your point. big anthemic music, party time, celebrating Jesus, huge, you know, huge settings. Like that’s what Rend is, which is incredibly joyful, which is an, which is also an experience that we don’t really have.
I mean, when you guys hit the scene, like there’s not really a lot of folks still like you guys. So I understand that you’re saying from your perspective, maybe You wanted to express something a little bit different. Well,
Chris Llewellyn: absolutely. I mean, actually, the reason why Rand is so joy focused isn’t so much that we are very naturally gravitating towards that, but more that it’s always been the thing that we’ve needed.
Mm. You know, I, I mean, I kind of always had a very introspective, maybe like kind of depressive personality that that’s my, that’s my natural orientation is to go that direction. And so a lot of what I’ve done in Rain Collective is try to combat that. Hmm. And I think there’s some health to that. There, there are times when you gotta challenge, uh, that, that kind of darkness in yourself and, and try to fight for, for a bit of light in there.
But there are also times to explore it. And I think. You know, moving from 2020, which was a difficult year for everybody, uh, yet it was also the year that my son got diagnosed. Uh, he’s like quite profoundly autistic and that that had a massive impact. And I think what I realized was. Okay, now it’s starting to close in to the point where trying to fight back against this and pretend like this darkness, this difficulty, this doubt doesn’t exist, that’s not working for me anymore.
I think I need to face up to it fully and try to move through it rather than move around it. And so that’s really what this record is. It’s just trying to face up to the reality that things get. Really hard. And you don’t always have a complete certainty and what God’s doing in your life. And yet there’s still a worship song in those moments, which is great.
Absolutely. Yeah, for sure.
Joshua Swanson: Yeah. All the different colors of our faith, right? I mean, yeah, different. Aspects as we grow in our faith and as we grow in our experiences,
Chris Llewellyn: right? Totally. I mean, when you start reading the Bible and noticing how much we get out our highlighter pen, it’s like a good two thirds of the Bible is like lamentations.
Psalms, again, more than half of them are laments. Uh, Jeremiah, it’s like nearly all laments. Ecclesiastes, it’s like, what is life? You know, it actually isn’t, it isn’t all stuff for like. You know, the Sunday school or youth room. You can’t just translate it that way. It really is stuff that looks at the harsh realities of life.
And a lot of the loose threads just kind of are left hanging there sometimes. And I guess I think that’s what the authors of scripture meant by what it is to trust God is actually to leave those loose threads in his hands and believe in spite of them.
Joshua Swanson: We’ll be right back with more from Chris Llewellyn.
But first, we had a conversation with Aaron Stewart, the co founder of Planning Center, our partner on this episode. We asked him what
Chris Llewellyn: is the most
Joshua Swanson: helpful tool Planning Center offers to musicians.
Aaron Stewart: So if you’re putting all of your music in Planning Center to organize it and to give to your people to rehearse, what you can do is download the Music Stand app, which is best on a tablet, so an iPad or an Android tablet, and that lets you log in to your account and then it says.
Here’s this week’s service and it launches in a, in a customized view and it makes it so that whatever music you have, whether sheet music or chord charts, whatever it is as PDF files, it gets put in there so that you can just swipe from song to song, or you can use a wireless. foot pedal. Um, if you want to be hands free, you can just tap your foot and it changes the pages.
Actually, you can even link multiple devices so that when I turn my pages, it just automatically turns anybody else’s pages who wants to be turned. And then also you’re able to take notes on it. And so what I love about this is I take notes the first time we’re going to do that song. And then when we do that song two weeks later, a month later, a year later, it just comes up again with all of my notes.
Well, so if I can save notes, why can’t I share my notes? So. If you are playing piano next week, you can be like, well, I don’t want to take my own notes. Did Aaron take notes on this? You can just say there’s Aaron’s notes important to mine. So you can share your notes with other people. If you have your audio files on there, it allows you to listen to those.
This is how I practice my stuff every week. So I sit down at my keyboard and I like open music stand. I launched the audio player and it’s like, I can scrub through the player at the bottom while I’m taking notes. On the music right there. I’m like, what, what was that? And I like back up. I’m going to highlight that part because that’s where I’m going to sing a harmony part.
And so having all that, sharing those notes with your people and turning those pages, it just makes rehearsing or playing in the service so much easier.
Chris Llewellyn: For those
Joshua Swanson: interested in transitioning to Planning Center, you can find out more at planningcenter. com. Okay, back to Chris to close us out. How long have you been ruminating on these songs?
Has this been like, you just sat in a room and a month later you had an album? Or you’ve been writing these songs for a long time? Or, how did you get here? You
Chris Llewellyn: know, I’ve probably been writing them in the background of Rand’s stuff. I’m more like, some of them just didn’t make the filter. Where it was like, Oh gosh, that’s a weird song.
Doesn’t kind of jive with the confetti cannon vibe that we have. And so some of them just kind of were like, well, that’s an oddity. I’ll just keep that, keep that away over there. And then some of them are, you know, in the last couple of years, really more responding to things that are more current than that.
Yeah. Um, but yeah, it’s. It’s one of those things. I’m really glad that I have this outlet now. I think it’s, I think it’s given me maybe a healthier perspective that not everything needs to be forced through the lens of congregational worship all the time, you know, and writing songs that aren’t like that can be just as
Joshua Swanson: helpful.
Yeah, I thought Honest was probably one of the most powerful songs I’ve heard in a long time, just given the story. I mean, musically, it’s a beautiful song, really fun to see with all the buttons and the, all the things, like, that’s a lot of, it just seems like a lot of work, but,
Chris Llewellyn: uh, It is a lot of work. Yeah,
Joshua Swanson: yeah, but the final product is
Chris Llewellyn: worth it.
A lot of counting. Yeah, okay, I didn’t think of that. That’s what it is, if you get one of those loops wrong, and you’re paying for it, that’s it, everything is off rails. Uh, well, that’s all.
Joshua Swanson: All that stuff. But, but then of course the underlying, like what it’s about with yours, I’m assuming it’s about your son and about that discovery and about that process of like starting to doubt your faith or you doubt God.
I mean, am I right? Or yeah,
Chris Llewellyn: absolutely. I mean, it, it was in that environment. I think once you start losing that full confidence and. Like, the reliability of God to do everything exactly the way you would like him to do it. Uh, once you start realizing that that is not something that is going to happen all the time.
Uh, it does start a bit of a spiral. I mean, maybe that’s a very immature faith life that believes that God primarily exists just to make all of your dreams come true. But I think it’s pretty common. Right, I think it is, until it’s challenged in real life, everybody knows that that, nobody would say that out loud, that that was their belief system, and yet I think functionally a lot of us really do think that.
Yeah, right. Well and,
Joshua Swanson: yeah. Sorry, I’m, yeah, I’m just, yes, I’m agreeing with you, because uh, Western society also can, we, we, as a group, we just kind of like, oh, let’s push pain and discomfort away, but then when something bursts through, you’re all of a sudden hit with that reality, and then all of a sudden it’s like, well wait a minute, who
Chris Llewellyn: is God?
Right, because we all think that a meaningful life is a pain free life. Yeah. Um, like that, that is our current culture’s way of processing, but it’s certainly, certainly not scripture. And it’s not even my experience, you see, I think that’s the, the really beautiful thing underneath it is when you start to experience doubt in the way that I have, I think I’ve discovered God to be incredibly faithful.
You know. I’ve realized now that it’s not really about the quality of my ability to believe. That’s, that isn’t what makes me loved. It isn’t what makes me a Christian even. What it is, it’s the faithfulness of God to call me and to continue to use me and to continue to draw me to himself. And he really, he is good enough to show up and be faithful when we’re faithless, you know, because anything else is to deny himself.
That’s how the scripture puts it.
Joshua Swanson: Wow. Would you look at this collection of songs, like, uh, if you had, if you just pictured them on a bookshelf, which would be the one that you would go to every day and pull off?
Chris Llewellyn: That’s an interesting one. Um, you know, I think it probably is the title track, almost. I think that’s the one that probably distills…
Everything that I was thinking into into one tight package, I find myself coming back to that verse in scripture in particular, um, and even as I was singing today, there’s something special about singing it from within the middle of kind of a struggle. You know, I was singing that right when I was experiencing kind of the worst sense of alienation from God and that The Darkest Outs and now I’m kind of on the other side of that and I’m in a much more positive space But it’s interesting.
The song just means different things in different seasons to me. It’s almost a cry of confidence at this point Yeah, wow. Wow, that’s really good. Yeah, I think it’s probably it’s a favorite one that I’ve written in a long time
Joshua Swanson: Yeah, well, it’s fantastic. I really love the music video, too Is that a lot? I
Chris Llewellyn: mean, well, that’s a lot of counting.
Okay. Yeah. The music video being a, being a live thing. It was,
Joshua Swanson: I mean, you did do it live. Yeah. Okay. I didn’t know if there was movie magic in there. There’s
Chris Llewellyn: definitely, uh, lots of takes magic. Yeah. That’s intense. Yeah. Yeah. But, um, it’s interesting. You get so used to playing with the same group of people all the time, uh, that even reimagining how to present music is kind of, is difficult, and yet it felt to me really important that this kind of music was presented truly solo, uh, because that’s the experience of writing it and that’s the experience that a lot of people have when they’re going through seasons of doubt and difficulty.
It feels lonely and I kind of wanted artistically for it to always be presented that way. It’s just, it’s just one guy kind of trying to make it work. Yeah,
Joshua Swanson: because honestly, that’s how a lot of us feel oftentimes, right? Well, exactly. Which is why the Trinity was created, right? God was like, we need community.
Right. God needs community. Exactly. So it’s like, what are you doing out there by yourself? So, but that’s an amazing. That’s an amazing visual too that I didn’t think of in terms of the music video that makes a lot of sense.
Chris Llewellyn: Yeah, that’s interesting. I didn’t use much in terms of very spare in terms of co writing and things like that on the record Just to try to reflect that as well so when I would get stuck it was just Well, you’re stuck.
You need to, you need to find your way out of this. It’s not, it’s not Nashville where you can just call somebody up and meet somebody at 1030 and have a song by 1130. Uh, you know, you’re going to have to sit with this and wrestle through it. And I think they just wanted to kind of make that statement.
Joshua Swanson: Well, I think you did an incredible job. When will we get to see this music out live?
Chris Llewellyn: Yeah, uh, we’re actually, it’s funny we were talking about that in the car on the way here. I think it’ll probably be next year because Rant Collective is so busy. We got our campfire 10th Avenue, not 10th Avenue North.
Yeah, actually we’ve toured with them so many times off the tongue, but it’s a 10th anniversary tour of our campfire record. So we’re, we’re doing that in the U S this fall and then in the UK in the spring. So I’ll be a little bit after that for. Chris Llewellyn to do his thing.
Joshua Swanson: Yeah, but there will be space for that.
Chris Llewellyn: absolutely. Very cool,
Joshua Swanson: man. Well, thanks for just chatting with us a little bit about the music and sharing your heart. It’s really a privilege to sit with you. So check it out. ChrisLlewellyn.com And then the album is called Honest. Appreciate
Chris Llewellyn: it. Thank
Joshua Swanson: you, Chris, for spending time with us. Chris’s powerful devotional episode of The Walk from a few months back is in the show notes for this episode on worshipleader.
com. You’ll also find an incredible live version of that song, Honest, which we recorded in our Song Discovery Studios. If you haven’t done so already, it would mean a lot to us if you would subscribe to our podcast and leave us a review. All right, until next time, I want to thank the team at Life Audio for their partnership.
If you go to lifeaudio. com, you’ll find a collection of faith-centered podcasts about health and wellness, parenting, current cultural events, Bible teachings, and more. So check them out at lifeaudio. com. I’m Joshua Swanson. Thanks for listening