In an exclusive interview with Worship Leader Magazine back in 2013, Hillsong United’s Joel Houston and Matt Crocker provided insights into the making of their then-latest album, “Zion.” Delving into the inspiration behind the project, the duo shared their thoughts on worship, musical influences, and the significance of each song.
The Heart of “Zion”:
Joel Houston began the discussion by reflecting on the overarching theme of their previous album, “Aftermath,” emphasizing the profound message of not being alone due to the redemptive work of Jesus on the cross. He expressed the evolution of their focus on purpose-driven songs for “Zion,” inspired by the biblical concept of Zion and the belief that believers are called to bring God’s kingdom to Earth.
Houston highlighted the empowering revelation that understanding God’s timeline, from creation to new creation with the cross at its center, allows individuals to recognize their role in God’s grand narrative. He emphasized that believers are not merely saved for eternity in heaven but are called to actively participate in God’s work on earth.
Matt Crocker shed light on the musical aspect of “Zion,” describing it as a blend of influences from various genres. The collaborative effort aimed to infuse a modern touch into the worship experience while maintaining a timeless quality. Houston humorously coined the term “retro electro future folk worship” to encapsulate the album’s diverse musical landscape, incorporating elements from the ’80s but with a contemporary twist.
Balancing Creativity and Worship:
The conversation turned to the delicate balance between creativity and worship, with Houston emphasizing that worship is timeless. He urged against limiting worship to contextual constraints and encouraged exploration of both past and future musical expressions. The Hillsong United team strived to experiment with sound while ensuring the songs remained pure and true to their essence.
Crocker added that while they drew inspiration from a variety of musical styles, the primary focus was on delivering their unique interpretation rather than merely regurgitating influences. He highlighted the challenge of ensuring production enhancements complemented the songs without overshadowing their core messages.
When asked about standout tracks, Crocker identified the explosive nature of the first song and the emotional resonance of “Oceans” and “Heartbeats.” Houston shared that each song on “Zion” was special in its own unique way, emphasizing the lyrical depth and personal connections behind every composition.
A Personal Touch:
Houston opened up about the deeply personal song “Mercy Mercy,” revealing that it was inspired by the passing of a friend they led to the Lord in New York City. The song served as a heartfelt prayer of repentance, reflecting the transformative power of God in their friend’s life.
As Hillsong United’s “Zion” continues to resonate with audiences globally, this insightful interview provides a glimpse into the album’s spiritual and creative journey. The fusion of purpose-driven lyrics, diverse musical influences, and heartfelt stories behind each track showcases the depth and sincerity that define Hillsong United’s approach to worship and music.
- On the Empowering Revelation of God’s Timeline: Joel Houston: “Understanding the picture of God, from creation to new creation, you see the cross in the middle and you understand where we fit in, in like God’s great timeline. I think it really is an empowering revelation when it comes to just being a part of what we have to do.”
- On Musical Exploration and Worship’s Timelessness: Joel Houston: “I feel like worship is timeless. Sometimes we put so many restraints and kind of limitations on it because we’re so limited to what’s contextually. It works right here and now, and we forget, you know, like the long litany of amazing songs and songs, you know, where music’s come from, and I think we’ve, you know, like failed to see maybe where it can go.”
- On Balancing Creativity and Worship: Joel Houston: “I think it’s fine to kind of, um, experiment and to, to go to places maybe that we’ve never been before, uh, creatively, as long as it still feels pure and, and the song is allowed to be the song.”
- On the Musical Landscape of “Zion”: Joel Houston: “It’s retro electro future folk worship. Yeah. I think that’s always a challenge, you know, um… And I think sometimes, you know, we can, we can become timid on the production because we’re afraid that to go too far, you know, will distract people.”
- On the Personal Significance of “Mercy Mercy”: Joel Houston: “And, uh, and you know, those lyrics were written, uh, out of, you know, what I believe was his You know, all the way to him, um, you know, leaving earth and just seeing what God did in his life in such a short amount of time. It’s just a testament to how incredible our God is at taking somebody, you know, from the depths of the depths, you know, like, and, and still lifting them up and going, you know, like, I got you.”
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