NRT's Bill Lurwick talks with Phil about his new album and his heart for writing worship songs for the Church.
What is worship at its most fundamental, other than humanity’s response to God? What always begins with a revelation of God and then manifests itself in the response to that revelation – is fully realized in what we have come to know as worship.
As singer/songwriter Phil Wickham puts it, “This revelation demands a response.” In many ways, his fourth album, Response, gives voice to our collective reaction to the many facets of God’s love – His powerful creativity, His promises to us in scripture and ultimately His sacrifice for us on the cross.
There has always been a thread of worship that has run through Wickham’s previous three albums, but on his fourth he was compelled to write and create from this concept of worship. Each of the eleven tracks provides the listener with a song that in any circumstance seeks to give voice to our acceptance of the myriad of ways in which God loves.
NRT's Bill Lurwick talked with Phil about his new album and his heart for writing worship songs for the Church.
When people hear this project, they’re going to say this is a worship project. Have you always wanted to do this kind of project?
I grew up leading worship ever since I was like 13 years old. I was just like the youth group worship leader back in junior high. It’s always been a big part of what I do and I think if you listen to all my past records, songs that people can sing are sprinkled throughout them all. The whole thought of worship is definitely like – we’ve got some more songs written to God than about other things.
It’s always been a big part of what I do, but this really was the goal of this record. It was on my heart to try to put together a record of songs I could sing with people, and hopefully if they fit, into certain churches. I just love to serve the Church with new songs; hopefully they can sing some of them.
You spent some times with Tim Hughes some time in the last year or so. How much did that fuel this record?
I would say that the relationships that I’ve made with some people over in the UK really kind of sparked my heart. That was a big part of sparking my heart. That and remembering all of the years of just growing up and leading worship without any thought of making music my career. I just knew some chords and I knew some worship songs.
I had this opportunity to lead worship. It seemed that God would always bless it. I just remember thinking to the Lord, “As long as opportunity I want my music to raise people’s hearts to yours, God.” I remember thinking that as a young kid. I just feel so at home when I’m writing songs and songs of the Church and stuff.
Like I said, it’s always been a part of what I do, but there’s a few things I did over in the UK before I started writing this record. There’s a church called Soul Survivor in the UK, and that’s actually also a festival. They have a number of these festivals that last for a week long. It’s tens of thousands of students. Amazing things happen and people come to know the Lord and are healed. It’s an incredible experience.
Me and my wife got to go over there. I just co-lead along with some other amazing worship leaders over there, with an amazing band. We just hung out and sang about Jesus, and talked about God.
That’s the way it should be.
It was amazing, so that was on my heart. I just wanted to continue with the same spirit that me and my wife left from Soul Survivor. Tim Hughes had asked me to lead worship at a worship leaders’ conference. It was in London, so I went over to the UK for that. I really connected with Tim and the whole group that he’s part of. It’s called Worship Central and it’s an amazing group of worship leaders and what they’re doing, their vision, their heart is awesome and at the same time I connected with Matt Redman, who’s also from the UK.
We did some co-writing together and hung out and I was just so inspired by all these relationships with these guys. I was just so excited to write songs for the Church to sing, and it just so resonated with my heart.
“Sun and Moon”--I like that song. It’s kind of a play between you and God, right?
Yeah, that’s a good way to put it. I’ve never said it like that, but obviously I’ve seen a full moon at night. It’s so amazing to see, but if you’ve taken any kind of level of like a science class, you know that the moon doesn’t shine on its own. It’s from this greater life force that it’s reflecting, which is the sun. It’s just kind of using that thought as a metaphor of what I want God to be and to do in my heart.
We’re kind of image bearers of who He is. We’re made in His image and I think we’re created to be like Him and to reflect who He is, reflect little, little pieces of His glory and His love and His character to people around us. It’s just kind of a prayer that if you were the sun, I want to be the moon. If you’re this massive, amazing light, then I want to be a small part in reflecting that to the world around me.
“Heaven Fall Down” begins Response, and it’s really a great song, a real uplifting song. Was that intentional? You really start off the project with that solid track there.
I was very intentional with the themes of the song and the progression of the songs on the record. I wanted a song to start off the record that really lyrically, dramatically and even musically created this excitement and urgency. It’s like a cry for God’s presence to be made known.
We see who He is and see bits of His glory and His heart and we respond by singing songs of thankfulness and worship and gratitude and praise. So I wanted to start the record off by saying, “God, we pray for a new refresh reviewing of your presence and your spirit that you fought with life,” and that was a very intentional opener of the record.
And then at the other end of the record, it makes perfect sense. You wrap it up with the song “The Victory.”
It’s one of my favorite songs on the record. It’s so simple. The chorus: “Jesus, savior. My God, my king, my Lord. Jesus savior, the victory is yours.” I wanted a song about the cross on the record. I wanted a song about Jesus’ sacrifice, but also victory over death.
The song ends by almost kind of saying the story doesn’t end there with the sacrifice. At the end of the record it’s this whole choir singing that death has been beaten. The grave has been conquered and there’s life everafter.
That’s the thought I wanted to leave people with after this kind of journey through responding to different aspects of who God is. Just leaving them with the biggest kind of evident work of love that God did, so people can leave the record and live in response to that.
It’s brand new. It’s now available from Phil Wickham. It’s called Response. God’s blessings to you, man. Appreciate what you’re doing.