The love of God is a funny thing. It doesn't play by the rules. A perfect God loving sinful, broken people like us, unconditionally? It's difficult to fathom. Yet, it's that kind of love that gives us hope on the darkest night. It's that kind of love that helps us move forward when we think we've reached the end. It's that kind of love that reaches down and pulls us up out of the pit of our worst mistake, dusts us off and says forgiven. It's a love that's hard to accept, but it's a love worth surrendering to. And that's what renowned songwriter, worship leader and guitarist Lincoln Brewster set out to explore on his new studio album, Perfect Love.
Brewster has made a career out of cracking his heart wide open in the hopes that what he's feeling might resonate with someone else. Honing his expert musicianship from a young age, Brewster sought refuge in his guitar while growing up in Alaska in a home plagued by substance abuse and
domestic violence. Following his parents' divorce when he was a teenager, he relocated to California where he found success as an in-demand session player. A demo from the then 19-year-old guitar prodigy captured the attention of former "American Idol" judge Randy Jackson, who introduced him to rock legend Steve Perry. The former Journey front man gave Brewster the opportunity of a lifetime with the invitation to play guitar for him out on tour. Eventually, with a calling toward full-time ministry, Brewster walked away from mainstream music. He continued to tour the world; but this time, worship music became his calling card. In partnership with Integrity Music, he's gone on to write and record some of the biggest modern worship anthems embraced by the global Church today, including "There Is Power," "Made New," "Today Is The Day," "Let The Praises Ring" and "No One Like Our God." He currently serves as senior pastor of Bayside Church outside Sacramento, California.
Eleven albums in, and his creative process is a bit like breathing. So much so, his real life is often indecipherable from his artistic life. "I think when you just live your life, it's kind of like a dry sponge soaking things up. And then when you go through the creative process, it's a bit like wringing out that sponge," Brewster observes. "Sort of what you soak up, what God's doing in you and speaking to you and your experiences--good, bad, whatever--come out when you wring it out. I think that's why, so often, the creative process is an overflow of experiences. People write about what's going on inside."
Like his previous efforts, Perfect Love mirrors what's going on inside Brewster's heart in this season. Yet, unlike the album's unblemished title, his life hasn't looked quite as ideal. "My life for quite some time has been challenging, to be honest. It seems like for several years, it's been one difficult season after another," the singer candidly reveals. "There's certainly been good parts in there, but by and large, it just feels like one pretty lengthy difficult season."
This difficult season began when Brewster's wife was diagnosed with cancer back in 2013. Although she's now in remission, on any given day, his spectrum of emotions surrounding her suffering and life's ups and downs get written into song. Through it all--the bitter, the sweet; the hard, the easy--he's found only one remedy: God's perfect love.
"Anything good that happens in the world, any good decisions that we make, any acts of kindness and compassion and generosity, it all links directly back to God's perfect love," Brewster says, "and ultimately, that's the solution for every plight of mankind, for every situation we find ourselves in--whether you're rich or poor, privileged or not. Whatever your situation might be, when God's love is at the center of any situation, that's when it has the most hope."
Produced by GRAMMY® winners Seth Mosley and X O'Connor, Perfect Love dives into this very philosophy, showcasing some of Brewster's most vulnerable lyrics to date. As he writes from a place of compassion, he gives others permission to share their own inadequacies, battles and mistakes. "I think every communicator has a specific place they speak from, and mine's always been heart. Mine's always just been high transparency," he offers. "I have a heart for people who are struggling, and I tend to believe most people are. The vast majority of people need comforting."
Despite the struggles in his own life, Brewster has found a way to create from a place of weakness, a state of imperfection in the midst of what's felt like a never-ending season of hardship for the husband and father. As a result, he's able to craft lyrics and melodies that ring true in the midst of life's valleys. "I think it's incredibly healing for people to feel like they're not alone, that regardless of what they've done or what circumstances they're going through, it doesn't mean they're in the dented can basket," Brewster shares. "People need to know they can still be used for God's Kingdom, even in spite of their issues."
This is something Brewster has learned firsthand, and that's why he and his team of songwriters handled each lyric on Perfect Love with kid gloves. They wanted to make sure every word accurately reflected God's kindness in the midst of unimaginable circumstances. "We really worked the lyrics over," Brewster reveals of the team he collaborated with, which included ace songwriters Mosley, Mitch Wong, Mia Fieldes, and fellow Bayside worship leaders Corbin Phillips and Peter Burton, among others. "I don't think there was a stone left unturned."
Ironically, the depth of the lyrics--soaked in suffering--stand in stark contrast to the hint of '80s synth, retro flair and otherwise upbeat sonic bed spread across the album's 11 original selections. The project's dance-worthy opening track, "Move," lives up to its name musically; while lyrically, it urges listeners to keep pressing forward, despite difficulties. The laidback vibe of "Have Your Way" encourages surrender. The bluesy "Let Me Love You," a personal favorite of Brewster's, is written from the perspective of God talking to any one of us, pleading to allow Him to love us even when we feel unworthy. Meanwhile, the hymn-like "If Not For Christ" was birthed in Brewster's car on a particularly difficult day when he felt compelled to get his feelings down on paper. What he assumed would simply be a private journal entry evolved into one of the project's seminal tracks.
"If you read the lyrics to the song, the verses are literally just me journaling, like exactly what I wrote in the moment," Brewster shares of "If Not For Christ." "So it is very honest, very real. I think when we're going through valleys, the question becomes, 'What do I do now? What's the path forward? What ultimately solves the problem?' The answer for me is God's love, not human love."
His new songs might be packaged in a joyful exterior that celebrates God's perfect love, complete with Brewster's enviable guitar prowess, but at the end of the day, the veteran musician hopes his music feels like one giant embrace, all while inspiring people to action.
"I think now, more than ever, I hope this batch of songs encourages people and makes them feel motivated to live their best life and let God love them. I hope it encourages people to let go of the myth of control and surrender to what God's got for them, function off of His strength and try to have a positive impact in this world in some way, shape or form," Brewster says. "I'm a pretty hardcore believe that everyone has the capacity to have a positive impact pretty much no matter what your condition is."
Brewster models this mantra in his own life, intentionally pouring into the next generation at his home church by coaching many of the young singers, songwriters and musicians who make up Thrive Worship, Bayside's in-house worship team. Brewster has been instrumental in establishing a clear vision for Thrive Worship and bringing the collective to the attention of his longtime label home, Integrity Music. The experience has made him passionate about leaving a mark on a new era of worship leaders.
"The goal for me has really just been to raise up a whole other generation of leaders--not just worship leaders, but leaders in general--and help them express their songs of worship," he shares. "I honestly want to do more stuff like that for churches. I want to help them find ways to nurture people and keep developing those leaders. It's been a really cool thing for me. It's one thing to write and create your own music, but having the opportunity to share what you've learned with someone else and being able to duplicate what you do has been really rewarding."
No matter what he does, Brewster always shoots from the heart. Whether he's helping young songwriters and guitarists hone their craft, massaging lyrics for his own record, or simply tending to his family at home in California, he's leaning into the truth of God's perfect love. Now, after two decades of artistry, his greatest concern isn't chart position or commercial appeal; it's simply that his heart won't translate.
"I think my biggest fear in making an album is actually not that it won't be successful from a sales standpoint and all that. I don't actually worry about that," he admits. "What would crush me is to feel like I made a record that didn't speak to anybody, that just didn't hit somebody in the heart. That would feel like a waste of time."
Perfect Love feels like anything but a waste of time. Instead, it feels more like the soundtrack to an imperfect life, authored by a perfect God who breaks every rule in the book.
This Guy's God Mad Skill| Posted December 04, 2012
I've had the pleasure of seeing Lincoln Brewster live on two occasions, and I was utterly amazed both times. The first time I was a budding guitarist and it blew my mind, the second time I was a better guitarist by a lot, but still amazed at this guy's skill and ability to move his fingers with such ease. On top of that, this guy has a great voice and awesome songwriting skill. I'm jealous
One of the BEST!| Posted September 23, 2010
Lincoln never fails at using his God-given talents to give right back to God by stewarding them the right way. When someone this talented submits them to the Lord like this, it makes a beautiful expression that talent alone can never muster. Way to go Lincoln, I pray that your example would inspire a whole new generation to truly offer their gifts back to God, and not just look to what they can get from it.