Anthems, a 13-song set of epic, powerful worship songs that sound more like Ballard's influences, Angels & Airwaves and 30 Seconds to Mars, than the worship choruses he led at Red Rocks.
"As a worship leader, I think I understand what people connect with because I've been there," says Ballard. "I wasn't trying to break the mold when I recorded Anthems. I did try to, musically, make it different; but I tried to write really easy, hooky songs that make it simple for listeners to connect with God."
Ballard doesn't want to sound like every other worship artist in the marketplace. Instead, he desires to emulate the same sounds and lyrics that resonate with him personally. To make the record he envisioned, he called on Otto Price (TobyMac, BarlowGirl) to produce Anthems. The title is apropos considering the content: "It's just anthems from the heart. Each one of these songs is an anthem of the way I love God and how I feel about Him," he says.
Anthems was mixed by Ainslie Grosser (Matt Redman's "10,000 Reasons," Laura Story's "Blessings") and mastered by Brad Blackwood (Maroon 5, Alison Krauss & Union Station). Ballard either wrote or co-wrote every song on the project, with the exception of his poignant cover of Delirious' "Find Me in the River." Price, as well as Ian Eskelin (Francesca Battistelli's "This is the Stuff," Chris August's "Battle") and worship leader Chris McClarney collaborated with Ballard on numerous cuts. "I feel blessed to work with everybody I did on this album," he says. New track "While We're Singing" came to fruition during a writing session with Eskelin. They stumbled across an online sermon from Charles Spurgeon Ballard says mesmerized them as Spurgeon shared a message on the foundations of faith. "This is why we sing: Because God is good, and He's holy and He's great," Ballard says. "As a pastor, it resonated with my heart. We sing because God is love."
Another writing session with Chris McClarney birthed "Immanuel," a ballad about resting in God's presence. "It just turned into a very intimate moment," Ballard explains. "Where the rest of the project is pretty guitar-driven, this one's laid back." OneRepublic's Brent Kutzle, a friend of Ballard's, added strings to the song.
Kutzle and some of his bandmates played on the worship team at Red Rocks, and Ballard actually wrote "Closer to Me" with OneRepublic's sound in mind. Legendary producer DJ Frank E (Flo Rida, B.o.B, Justin Bieber) added some underlying beats that took the song to the next level, producing one of the disc's most progressive tracks.
While its liner notes contain a wealth of notable talent, Ballard hopes Anthems transports listeners to a higher place, while also serving pastors who are looking for worship music that defies the norm and challenges the status quo. "I hope it opens up some doors for a new, creative sound to happen in the church world," shares Ballard. "Maybe it will even open doors for people who aren't Christians. I hope people get lost in it. As an artist, you always hope people like your art. As a worship leader, I just hope it gives glory back to Him."
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