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Where the Joy Is: An Interview with We Are Messengers
NRT's Grace Chaves talks with the band's lead singer, Darren Mulligan, about their new album

AN NRT EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW, Where the Joy Is: An Interview with We Are Messengers
Posted: May 29, 2024 | By: GraceChaves_NRT
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2017 was a pivotal year in my life. It was the year I started following Jesus and found freedom after a long journey of battling anxiety. Shortly after finding Jesus, I discovered my love for Christian music. I constantly had music blasting through my headphones, and these songs became the soundtrack to my life. I listened to a little bit of everything Christian music had to offer, but there was one band in particular that I couldn't get enough of: We Are Messengers.

For the next two years, I don't think a day went by when I didn't listen to a We Are Messengers song. I saw them in concert three times within a year, and I couldn't get enough of their music. From "Magnify" to "Giants Fall," their songs helped ground me in my newfound faith in Jesus.

Seven years later, their music keeps finding its way into my life. I was only five days into my first year of college when I found myself at a We Are Messengers concert a few miles away from my campus. God certainly has a funny way of bringing things full circle.

In April, We Are Messengers released their newest album, Where the Joy Is. Featuring ten tracks reflecting the message of God's goodness and the joy found in Him, We Are Messengers is once again bringing hope through their music.

It was an honor to talk with the band's lead singer, Darren Mulligan, about these new songs. I'll forever be grateful for how We Are Messengers brought so much joy to my life when I first started following Jesus, and I can't wait to see how their music will continue to reach people.


Your new album, Where the Joy Is, is out now! Tell me about it.

I'm really excited about the album. I think [Where the Joy Is] is cohesive. It sounds fresh. It's raw and energetic. It's hopeful and joyful. It's all the things I'm experiencing in my life at the moment. I hope this is the soundtrack to people's summer and their walk with Jesus.

[This album] has been an autobiographical, chronological study of what God is doing in my life. And in my life, I've traded happiness for joy. It wasn't easy because happiness feels good. Happiness is not a bad thing in and of itself, but when that happiness is found in something other than God--be that religion without Jesus, trying to be successful, substance abuse, greed, malice--it's not good for us. It leaves us lonely, lost, hurting, and more broken than we were before. But when you trade happiness for joy, what you find is the steady presence of God in your life and every situation and circumstance.

[Joy] has changed how I look at the world. Joy has taught me to love the things and people Jesus loves. Not to worry so much about the things I'm against, and [instead] to worry about the things [Jesus is] for. It's also changed how I view suffering. It has allowed me to find great purpose, meaning, and hope in suffering because Jesus is with me and you in it.

Sonically, [this album] feels different from the other albums we've done because it has an anthemic, up-tempo excitement. I feel excited to be following Jesus. Not because everything's easy--quite the opposite. But because everything's beautiful. I wrote 14 songs and [released] ten of them. I'm delighted with what we got.

What is the difference between happiness and joy, and why is it so important for this new album?

I think joy is ultimately enjoying the person of Jesus. Part of the definition of happiness isn't unhealthy [because part of it is about] enjoying God. Happiness has its roots in pleasure, and there are two types of pleasure: worldly pleasure, which is the absence of God and may feel good temporarily, but [the other type] is the enjoyment of God. 

I wanted to write a record that allowed you and I to enjoy God, even when we're hurting. Because if we only enjoy God when we have the good stuff, then we don't enjoy God at all--we just enjoy the stuff He gives us. So I hope these songs help people realize that joy is obtainable but only through the person of Jesus. When we walk and live in that, everything has purpose.

Christ, for the joy set before Him, endured the cross. For the joy set before us, we can endure anything in our lives because the promise is Jesus. The promise is hope. The promise is a future with no more sorrow and suffering. And the promise is a Presence--Jesus [sharing] in our suffering with us. That gives me great hope.

Do you have a favorite song from the new record?

In this season, it's the title track, "Where The Joy Is." It's got a line that says, "Joy's not a place, it's a disposition/And a grateful heart don't need convincing." That's what I'm living by. I don't need convincing that God is good because I've seen Him prove Himself time and time again.

The song is a banger. I love the drive and bass. I love the drums and tone. I love the whole record. I'm not saying we're the greatest band in the world, but I think we've made a really good record. One that I'm really proud of.

You collaborated with both Ben Fuller and Blanca on this record. What was it like working with these artists?

I wanted to feature men and women on this album who have walked through difficult things in their lives because that's what we have in common--we found Jesus in the hard places.

[We featured] Ben Fuller and Blanca who has a stunning voice. And [she has] a stunning story of a marriage not working out and finding her hope in Jesus again. Those are the kind of people I gravitate toward. I'm honored to have them on [the album]. I think they've made [these songs] better.


You co-wrote these songs with a lot of different people. What was the co-writing process like?

I choose people who don't pretend, who aren't afraid to write the hard things, and sonically, are able to go to the places I want to go. Kyle Williams is our long-time guitar player, and he's moved into full-time producing. He co-produced [Where the Joy Is] and co-wrote four or five [songs]. Jack Pardo produced the album and wrote a few [as well].

[Other people who co-wrote were] Jordan Sapp, Ethan Hulse, David Spencer, Hank Bentley, and Jonathan Smith. People don't necessarily know these names, but they write many of the most beautiful songs you hear.

I guess I always have the idea [for a song]. The ideas always came from me. So if I can find people who can help me articulate the idea honestly, Biblically, and--in this case--joyfully, then I'm all in.

The only song on the record that didn't have a co-writer was "Worthy of Being Loved." It's the only "down" song on the record. I wrote it one night sitting in my house in Ireland on my acoustic guitar. I wanted people who struggle with [suicidal thoughts] to know that they're worthy of being loved and not to quit or give up. That lines up with joy, too, because there's no joy without suffering.

What has the evolution of We Are Messengers been like over the years since the release of your first self-titled album? What have you learned along the way?

There are lots of places in my life where I don't honor God well. But songwriting and music is [something] that I've really protected and put aside for Him. I don't lie in songs. I don't make things up. Sonically, I want every album to feel different because I'm in a different place in my life.

As the years have gone on I've learned to trust the influences and sonic references I have in my life. I love Bleachers's new records, so we've got [a little bit of his style on Where the Joy Is]. We've got a little bit of The Killers and U2. There's [inspiration] from all the bands I love sonically [on this new album].

I hope there's also a raw authenticity on [Where the Joy Is]. There's an ordinary [feel] to this record. We're very ordinary men writing songs about an extraordinary God. My hope is that this becomes the anthem for people to roll the windows down--to shout, sing, holler, laugh, sing, and cry as they journey along with Jesus.

You just finished the Where the Joy Is Tour. What was that experience like?

We're on a world tour. We've been exploring Australia, New Zealand, and the U.S.. Then we do the U.K., South Africa, and Europe.

We've seen people gravitating toward this idea that it's okay to have a good time even in the middle of hardship. You don't have to wait till everything gets good to dance. You don't have to wait till the sorrow has gone away to laugh. You can laugh and cry in the same sentence, and that's okay--that just makes you human. And Jesus is fond of humans.

[At] our shows, people realize you can come no matter where you find yourself. Thankfully, people are finding that Jesus loves them too much to leave them that way.

What's next for you?

I already have new music tracked and recorded. I'm always writing and recording. It's how I communicate and how I feel. Sometimes, God uses songs to keep me alive, so I guess I'll always write even when people aren't listening.

How can we be praying for you?

Pray that we stay disciplined and obedient to the calling of God on our lives. Pray that God will protect our families, kids, and spouses. Pray that my voice will hold up because we go hard every night.

Grace Chaves is NRT's News Editor. She's been part of NewReleaseToday since 2019 and is continuing her journey by majoring in Multimedia Journalism at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego.

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