HOUSEFIRES has been on a roll since the release of their third album, HOUSEFIRES III, hit shelves (and the digital marketplace). In its first week, the album sold 6,000 copies, and hit No. 3 on Billboard's Top Christian Albums chart--definitely a milestone for the Atlanta-based collective led by songwriter/vocalist Pat Barrett.
The band found widespread success with their last album, HOUSEFIRES II, propelled by the worldwide mega hit, "Good Good Father." The worship anthem--made popular by Christian music icon Chris Tomlin--has already garnered a number accolades, including a Dove Award nomination each for "Song of the Year" and "Worship Song of the Year."
Awards and chart rankings aside, what makes HOUSEFIRES unique is the raw and organic sound of their music, a simulation of a small worship community. The band's roots lie in a house church movement that began six years ago.
In 2009, roughly 200 people gathered in downtown Atlanta to establish "house churches"--small gatherings of regular people who meet in individual homes. This movement became Grace Midtown, which now consists of almost 50 house churches.
In their music, HOUSEFIRES tries to capture the organic sound of Grace Midtown's worship. Grace Midtown pastor Matt Reynolds says, "The name captures what is happening. It's bigger than a certain style of music, and it's much more than an expression of one church. It's an expression of what God is doing in ordinary places, in 'houses on fire' all over the world."
I spoke with the band's frontman, Pat Barrett, about HOUSEFIRES III, "Good Good Father," and the band's musical direction. Barrett is a husband, father, and worship leader of Grace Midtown Church.
To start, can you tell me the story behind the name, HOUSEFIRES?
Our name captures what's happening in the room. Our music also captures what happens in ordinary places, like houses, every day of the week--not necessarily what you hear on Sunday mornings. A lot of our music sounds like two guys with an acoustic guitar singing in an intimate setting. Our first album, HOUSEFIRES, was recorded in a house, so naming the band HOUSEFIRES just made sense.
HOUSEFIRES III reached No. 1 on the charts. Even after a month of its release, the album is still charting well on iTunes. How do you feel about the success of HOUSEFIRES III and "Good Good Father"?
I'm in complete shock and surprise. It's so humbling that these songs have connected with so many people. On a funny note - I am just blown away that that many people can listen to eight-minute songs. "Good Good Father," for example, was not supposed to be eight-minutes long. We had the arrangement that we were trying to record and then all of the worshippers in the room took over. Our original plan was to cut the song, re-record a better version, and include it on a later album. I am glad we decided to leave it on there.
The eight-minute version of "Good Good Father" exemplifies HOUSEFIRES' raw and acoustic sound where anything can happen. Would you agree with this definition?
We want our music to feel human. We want to capture every moment of imperfection. You might hear crowd microphones that are way too hot, or you might hear a long pause in between songs. That's okay. What you will hear in our music is a group of people singing together in communal worship. God wants to do something and it leaves a lot of room for error, but leaving out these imperfections are a greater error.
Capturing imperfections is definitely not the typical goal in studio recordings.
Life doesn't happen in three-minute perfect splices; it happens when it's drawn out. Sometimes it's short, sometimes it's long, sometimes it's clean, sometimes it's messy. What really excites me about our music is that we have space for spontaneity. Anything can happen at any time, and you don't know what's going to happen next.
How do you achieve this intimate worship in large arenas?
We really hold the value that it's not the size of the room that makes worship intimate; it's more the perspective of your heart. Playing in large rooms is really new for us. Recently, we were leading worship at the Honda Centre in Anaheim; we played songs the same way we would if we were in a room full of 20 people. It was exciting, because we had still had room for spontaneity: real anthems that happen naturally. You can still experience intimacy that way in worship.
Is a studio album in the works for the future? Solo projects or a band effort?
I don't know. I always try to be open, but I think for the type of material that HOUSEFIRES puts out--capturing real communal worship in the moment--recording a studio album wouldn't be a good idea. Some of us have already embarked on individual projects. For example, fellow singer Kirby Kaple released Who We Might Become in December 2015, and Nate Moore, another member of HOUSEFIRES, dropped Hope of Glory in 2013. I can totally see individual solo projects in the future--live or in studio--but not for HOUSEFIRES. We want to capture those imperfect nuances in our music, and we can't do that with a studio album.
A lot of people don't really understand what goes into making a record and how long it takes. Can you give us an idea of what that process has looked like for you all as far as coming up with the ideas and then putting HOUSEFIRES III together?
In music composition, we spend most of our time writing the music, and then leading the community in worship with the new songs; we spend the rest of our time ensuring that what we have captured translates into how we release the music. For HOUSEFIRES III, we were under a really tight schedule to complete the album. First, we spent two nights performing the songs in Atlanta. Once we recorded the music, we made minimal changes; some of the moments took longer than our previous album, so we had to take CD time constraints into consideration. I submitted the final masters 30 days later. It took an incredible team of people working nonstop to finishing everything within such a tight timeframe.
What would you want your listeners to walk away with after hearing your record?
I want our listeners to walk away feeling like they have a new hopeful and healthy perspective about God and life: how they relate to Him, to one another, and to themselves. These songs have also helped me on my own journey with God. I just pray that it happens with other people as well.
Phill Feltham is a Canadian journalist with over eight years of experience writing and editing content for print and digital media. He specializes in health, fitness, nutrition, travel, and the power grid. He loves music, movies, and, of course, living for Jesus. Highlights of Phill's work can be found on his portfolio site PhillFeltham.com and his official blog, The Weekly Wanderer. Phill lives out his faith with his wife, Jodi, in the Greater Toronto Area.
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