Long time lead singer of Phatfish LOU FELLINGHAM has now released her solo debut. Tony Cummings quizzed the singer, worship leader and mum.
It's not often that one sees a soloist's debut album soaring up the STL sales chart but then it isn't often that the artist fronts one of the most popular bands on the UK Christian scene and also is noted for her worship ministry at events like Stoneleigh. Lou Fellingham's 'Treasure' for Kingsway is in many ways the culmination of 14 years of music making for the Brighton-based singer. As a teenager Louise Hunt, as she was known prior to her marriage, sang with Purple Phatfish, as they were known, playing acid jazz around the Brighton clubs. Gradually down the years the band's style evolved into guitar rock while the band recorded such popular albums as 'We Know The Story' (1997), 'Purple Through The Fishtank' (1999), 'Heavenbound' (2001) and 'Phatfish Unplugged: Hope' (2002), each containing some powerful vocals from Lou.
I began by asking Lou whether the release of 'Treasure' heralded the end of Phatfish. She responded, "In short, no! Every year presents new challenges of hearing God and walking the path he's prepared for us and this year is no different. As a band we want to be doing whatever we do "in faith." 'Hope' and the Truth tour and the Faithful tour were things that we felt God specifically call us to do. A new album called 'Trinity' is to be released in April featuring Phatfish And Friends. We were recently stirred by a book that stated that there is a lack of Trinitarian songs in our local churches and we wanted to put something together that will encourage local churches to change this. The album features Phatfish, Matt Redman, Brenton Brown, Cathy Burton and others. Right now we are asking God what the next season holds for us."
So, if there's no likelihood of Phatfish's immediate retirement, why a solo album for Lou? "A couple of years ago we had our first son Jesse. At that point I was wrestling with God as to whether or not I should carry on singing or if my time was 'up' for the moment. Over the next few months I was encouraged to keep going with the singing and that's when the opportunity to do this album arose. There was one night when I'd been asking specific questions and God almost answered all of them the next day at a conference. This doesn't happen to me very often, so I was pretty blown away."
With all her work with Phatfish, Lou has become a session-seasoned pro but she still found the recording of 'Treasure' a very special experience. "I had a great time recording 'Treasure'. One of the big differences from doing this album to Phatfish albums is that I co-wrote most of the songs! That was a challenge in itself. The producer is a guy from LA called Busbee. We had met a couple of times before and the first thing he did was fly over to spend some time writing. I thoroughly enjoyed this experience. He was extremely generous with his ideas and not "precious" when I didn't like them. The next stage was for Nathan and myself to hash through the lyrics and give final shape to the songs. Then last October Nathan, Jesse and myself flew out to LA for three weeks to record. I guess one of the big differences was that I was involved a lot more in the way the album was shaped. It was extremely weird that it was my album and therefore I could have such a big say in it. It was also a little strange that over those three weeks Nath was the babysitter and hardly heard any of the music until it was done. I found this quite nerve-wracking because I highly value Nath's opinion in these things. Especially as he is also a co-writer."
One of the outstanding songs on 'Treasure' is the haunting title song. Explained Lou, "There were two mighty men of God in our movement of churches, New Frontiers. One fighting fit and looked the full bill of health and could go on for years. The other had been suffering with sickness for years, wheelchair bound and looked like he should have passed away years ago. Anyway, God decided to take them at the same time. Both were a shock and very sobering. It reminded me of that Scripture in 2 Cor 4 where it talks about having "treasure in jars of clay." The one who seemed to be so strong on the outside, still in fact had the gospel in a jar of clay, as did the one who seemed like his jar should have broken a long time ago, but God had other plans. They were both filled with the Holy Spirit and were great testimonies of men of faith."
Another gem on the album is the poignant "Hard Pressed". "That song came about when my family, particularly my Mum, was going through an extremely hard time. One that didn't seem to make any sense, one that we had no control over, one that was very painful. I actually wrote the first verse a long time ago, but then when it came time to doing the album we decided to develop the song. There are times when faith seems weak, even non-existent and you can barely open your mouth to speak to God, but that doesn't mean that he's not looking after you and sometimes we just have to fall on God and not say anything. His arms are big enough."
The song "God Of Mercy (Prayer Song)" was inspired when Phatfish decided to take up the Hope 10/10 challenge and do a series of gigs to raise money for Hope HIV. Commented Lou, "As far as I'm concerned, most people pray at least some point in their lives and even if they say they don't, would still be willing to join in the prayer that we were praying through this song. So that's why I decided to write a prayer song."
I asked Lou whether she was comfortable with the label "worship leader"? "The way I understand the role of the "worship leader" at this time, it doesn't bother me if that is part of who I am. The best thing about "leading worship" is when the people as a whole worship together. I believe in a worshipping community but when the numbers reach a certain level I don't think it's inappropriate to have someone anointed and gifted to help guide the way."