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Song By Song: Chris Renzema
The upcoming singer talks about what inspired the songs on his new album, 'Let the Ground Rest'

Posted: May 07, 2020 | By: NRTeamAdmin
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Upcoming recording artist and songwriter Chris Renzema grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, learning to sing and play music in churches. If you've listened to his music, you'll notice his inspiration comes from early 70’s Folk, Punk Rock, and one of his favorite bands, Wilco. He recently released his sophomore, full-length album, Let The Ground Rest.

Chris's first album, I'll Be The Branches, gained more than 35 million audio streams, as well as over one million Spotify track saves over the last 12 months.

"Chris's acoustic, soul-stirring songs shift seamlessly from indie rock to folk worship to Americana; gritty but accessible, profound but listenable," says his label, Centricity Music. "His voice and lyrics cut to the bone as he sings about a hope that slices through life's inevitability, echoing the universality of both pain and praise."

Chris took some time to share about each of the songs on Let The Ground Rest.


"Springtime," the opening track, is a special song to me. It's the first song I've co-written with another songwriter. It was originally supposed to be released in spring. But, the executive decision was to release it in the winter. I actually wanted to release it in spring. That season, in itself, symbolizes growth. The song itself is about growth. We're like soil, moving winter into spring. Growing in a new season.

The heartbeat of the whole album is the idea that growth comes from periods of rest, of barrenness. It's a process to exist, to learn, and understand God's love. While His love is not seasonal, we go through seasons as we understand and experience it. Spring is not spring without winter, and that process is a good thing.


"This Is the End"

I find the idea that the end is just another door to be really hopeful. It's a very loose riff on something from Lord of the Rings, actually. Gandalf uses this memorable quote in the film: "End? No, the journey doesn't end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take."

I think people can be so stressed about the time they have spent or the time they don’t have left. We should change our perspective and embrace the truth that the end is just the start of something new, something we all experience. The end doesn’t have to be scary. Simply, think to yourself, "How am I not going to waste this?.” There's a lot more time left.

"Not Finished Yet"

I wrote "Not Finished Yet" in two parts. The first two verses center around two different metaphors about a sculptor and a gardener, both describing the Lord as someone who slowly works on us, but is moving towards a beautiful conclusion.

"God Is Love"

This song, probably more than any other song I’ve written, hits you in the face with these words: "What more could I say about Him, my God is love."

I have been sitting on this song's chorus for a while. I couldn’t hear a way to go with the rest of it. And, I didn't want to screw up what I had. I ended up finishing the song with other writers. It turned out better than what it could've been on my own. "God Is Love" is a communal worship song, written by multiple people. Honestly, I think having multiple songwriters helps build into that aspect of it being for all people. 


"Seventeen" is the oldest song on the album. I had absolutely no intention of showing it to anybody when I first wrote it. I don’t usually feel that way about my music. But, I think it's because the song is very personal, very confessional. A lot of my songs feel that way, but this one in particular.

"Signal Fire"

"Signal Fire" is the pop song of the record. I've struggled in the past to put music out that I thought didn't feel heady enough. And, I think the more that I write and the more that I listen to music, the more that I see that so many of my favorite songs just hammer home one point well. "Signal Fire" is a simple song that ends up just being a lot of fun. 

"Older Than Our God"

"Older Than Our God" is the headiest song I've ever written. I wrote it with Matt Maher. We were chatting about the English writer GK Chesteron, as we started to write. Basically, I misquoted a GK Chesteron quote. And, it became the song.


I wrote "Better" at four in the morning. My roommates were gone and the house was empty. So, I stayed up at my piano and did some late-night singing. 

"Better" came from a very raw, rough place. I was trying to understand who God is and who I am. I felt like I wasn't enough. Falling through the cracks made me feel crazy. I was holding on by a tiny thread of hope, hoping that everything would get better. I wanted to get better, but I didn't know how.

This song is a get-well card to myself and others. I know this card doesn’t actually help anything, necessarily. But, the fact that we're all on the same page about wanting to understand things better, love better, and be better, I think, is universally true. 

"Steal Back Your Joy"

I wrote this song at a writer's retreat, without any co-writers (I don't think we are supposed to do that).

I was in Washington with other worship writers. We were showing each other songs. During this experience, I noticed many writers were referencing John 10:10: "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."

I've heard this scripture so many times. But, I never heard a conclusive statement on it. So, I came up with the idea, referencing my more anxious times, where the enemy has come to steal, kill, and destroy, but I was going to steal it back.

"Let the Ground Rest"

"Let The Ground Rest," the album's title track, was the last song that I wrote before recording the album. I know I've said this about other songs. But, this is, legitimately, my favorite song on the album. It's just all about the groove and it's got a great feel. 

It's another song we cut just live together and didn’t really edit. We didn’t really change anything in the piano playing of the vocals. 

Those lines "He’ll finish what He starts, and He started, this I know. If you saw the plans, maybe you wouldn’t go. I saw him plant a seed and then let the ground rest. So believe, because there’s going to be a harvest."

We don’t need that now to believe that these words are true. These lines are what the song's about and what the album's about. And, hopefully, this is what's guiding me all the time. 

"Thoughts On Where He Is Today"

I think any album, as any learning should be, is a snapshot of where I am, and when I was there.

"Music Growing Up"

I pretty much picked up the guitar because I wanted to impress a girl. Classic. But, I ended up liking the guitar more than the girl. 

"When You Think You're Going"

I'm a big fan of Jeff Tweedy from Wilco. He said in an interview that every time he makes an album, he tries to make one that he doesn't have yet, something he hasn't heard and something he hasn’t made. 

Whatever I can do to keep doing that, just to keep being interested in what I do and hopefully not settle in to the one thing that I’m okay at. I would like to challenge myself to keep doing that.

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