Well, the album is out! It’s been a massive process for us – one of the most enjoyable and demanding things we’ve ever done – so it feels really great to finally be able to let go of it. I (Rob) thought I’d write a bit of a blog to let you know about the process of making an album like this. I’ll try to keep the technical mumbo-jumbo to a minimum, cos I’m assuming most of you don’t really care about Sennheiser 421’s, noise gates, multi-band compressors and Dm9 chords.
When Rach and I attended the Bethel School of Worship in 2010 for three weeks, we were seeking to become better worship leaders, to learn about God, and to learn about ourselves. We had both only written a couple of songs each previously (not very good ones), and didn’t have some great desire to write and release worship music. Don’t get me wrong – we both loved to worship – but, at least personally, I was just happy to sing other people’s songs. That was until I began to listen to messages about how God, the Creator of all things, also has made us with the capacity to create. I was struck by the conviction that, although I may not be the best songwriter or musician in the world, I’m the only one who sounds like me and creates like me, and if I don’t do something about it, no one else will. I was humbled and amazed by the revelation that God doesn’t point at me and demand my worship, but actually delights in my worship. It might sound sappy, but I don’t care! Rach was impacted similarly, and we both began to write songs to Jesus, sometimes on our own, and sometimes together (we weren’t dating yet…or even interested in each other for that matter!). Here’s a pic of us rockin’ it 2010 style in Redding…
The first song we wrote together, called ‘Spirit and Fire’, was penned on 7/7/10, exactly 2 years before our future wedding day. God makes me laugh sometimes! It wasn’t a great song – I doubt you’ll ever hear it – but we were just seeking to glorify God with whatever we could bring Him. One of the songs from ‘The Seeds Project’ was written while in California on that trip (‘We Won’t Be Silent’), though most of the other songs on the album were written in either 2012 or 2013. Over the 2 years following our California trip, yep, we fell in love, got engaged, married, and began our life together (I’ll save the sappy stuff for another day). As we wrote more worship songs and began to lead them at our church (The Father’s House), we occasionally talked about recording them in some way, but always pushed it to the side, knowing that recording is a tiring, expensive and humbling process, and we hadn’t heard anything from God telling us to do something with our songs. Our incredible friends and fellow worshipers Jen and Batty would often tell us to record an album, but we managed to ignore or divert the conversation most of the time!
In the early months of this year, we both started to get the itch to record. People started to suggest it more often, including some leaders in our lives, and whenever we prayed, God seemed to bring it to the front of our minds. We realised that things were coming together to allow us to take on a project like this – the songs, the studio availability, the provision and the time – so we made up our minds to do it! We started by worshiping with each of the songs with Jen and Batty to see what would work and where the songs would go, then hit record for the first time in August. My best mate since 2001, Grant Konemann, who’s involved pretty heavily with Hillsong’s music and production departments, played drums (brilliantly) on four of the tracks, and Jen smashed it on the rest. Both of them drum really differently, so it was just a matter of working out what style suited what song! Drums, bass and acoustics (the next step) were all recorded at Queens Road Studio by Jake Nauta, where the album was also mixed.
Rach and I took a week out in September to bunker down at the Bennett’s lovely loft studio and recorded all the vocals there. It was so refreshing to be able to step away from ‘normal life’ for a while, focus on Jesus, and just sing to Him for a week! Being in such a quiet and peaceful place also allowed us to experiment a little, let the tracks run longer than they might normally, and listen to His leading. Rach has outdone herself on this album. Honestly, sometimes I just listen to her and can’t believe the sound that’s coming out…it can be so sweet and pure, so passionate and strong, and sometimes all of the above. Keys, electrics, mandolin, flute, cello, group vocals and pennywhistle were tracked next, mostly just at home, and for me, this is the fun bit, and where the songs really come alive. I’ll bore you if I go into it, so I won’t!
Jake Nauta (singer-songwriter extraordinaire, studio dude and all-round great guy) mixed the album, and did an incredible job. Over 4 days we did about 70 hours in the studio, and Jake basically never lost focus (while I regularly fell asleep). He is creative, optimistic, encouraging, and has a golden pair of ears! Finally, the album was sent to Tom Coyne at Sterling Sound in New York for mastering. Let this screenshot of some of his previous work tell you how amazing he is. Yep, he’s a gun!
My bro Mitch Badman did all the great design work on the album, and our good friend Aemon Beech took the photos. The best part was launching the thing on Saturday December 7th with a worship night at our church, because this is what we actually love doing! We had an incredible band with us (thanks Jen, Batty, Richard, Sam, Kathleen and Miles), and basically just worshiped for 2 and a bit hours. After such a complicated process, there’s nothing better than just coming to Jesus with praise, and remember how simple the Gospel is. My life belongs to Him because of what Jesus has done, and whenever I worship Him, I remember what’s actually important in this life.
We don’t know what’s going to happen now. These songs are out there, and we’d love for them to be available to the greater Church to use in their own worship (that’s why we’ve made chord charts available). I think it’s important that original worship keeps coming out of the church, from multiple streams, so that we actually reflect the creativity and vastness of our Creator. The whole time, we’ve felt like these songs were seeds in our hands that God was calling us to lay down and plant. He’ll turn them into whatever He wants them to be, and His Spirit will provide the water needed for their growth. Until then, these are the seeds we sow…