American worship leader CHRIS TOMLIN talks us through the songs on his 'Hello Love' album, due to be released in the UK by Survivor on 2nd September.
We need to introduce ourselves to love again. With each new record, I continue to strive to create songs that will help people voice their worship to God. I hold this as a great responsibility when I begin to think about what the overall recording will look like. Worship is a massive word with a very broad scope, but in the end, it's very simple. It is love! It's our response in love to our great God who loved us first. As well, it's our love for others. Hopefully these songs will renew in some way or stir up again your love for God and his people.
It's pretty exciting these days to see the Church awaken to the portion of its calling where it serves the "least of these," where we carry those less fortunate than ourselves not just in a special place in our hearts, but in our finances, our energy, our life. And the motive and heart behind all of it is love. That's it. More simply put, worship is "love with legs." It's on the move! It's not just the words and melody. As Paul says so well in 1Corinthians 13:13, "And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."
"Sing, Sing, Sing."
This song was written together as a band. Really it's the only song that we've written together like that. Usually I have most of the song written before I bring it to the band, so this one is unique because it came out of us being in the room together. I remember the guys getting the feel of it and it beginning to come together musically. So I just found a corner of the room listening to what they were doing with my headphones and started singing out that first lyric idea of the chorus, "sing, sing, sing." This song became a big part of our Passion regional events and world tour. It is crazy to see how immediate this song is with the audience. It's the most fun I've had with a song in a while. I love the energy and the connection this song brings with the audience.
The initial melody and lyric of this song came from my guitar player, Daniel Carson. He is constantly writing and recording ideas and from time to time I wander over to his world and listen. Among several demos, was this melody and lyric idea for a chorus that jumped out at me. At the same time, I was looking to use the name "Messiah" in a song. The two ideas seemed to fit perfectly. Messiah is such a strong name for Jesus. For when you use that name, you are truly saying that he is the name above all names. That he is the Christ, the Son of God, the Chosen One, the Saviour of the world. That's why you will notice that every lyric in this song amplifies this idea of Jesus being the Messiah.
"You Lifted Me Out"
Much of this song is straight from Psalm 40. I began to write this song shortly after I heard Louie (Giglio) speaking on this Psalm at the recent Passion regional events. In his message, I remember the profound and absurd thought that God didn't just give us a pat on the back, but he literally got in the mud and mire with us. The very thought that God heard my cry for help and actually turned my way should stop us well in our tracks. My friend Matt Redman helped me finish this one out.
"God Of This City"
We were recently in Belfast, Northern Ireland for a concert. The night consisted of a great line up of worship bands. One of the bands was local and they were called Bluetree. Daniel was thankfully paying close attention when they went into this song. He immediately came to me and said I had to hear it. When I did hear it, I knew it was a timely song and that it would be perfect for the journey we were about to undertake with Passion. And after hearing how the boys at Bluetree wrote this song, it is no wonder why it is full of power. Turns out the song was written in a bar/brothel in Pattaya, Thailand . When the owner of the bar found out the lads were in a band, he asked if they wanted to play and the Bluetree boys were up for it. Now that's worship leading! Proclaiming the grace of God in the middle of a brothel. Sounds like a lot of Jesus to me. Aaron Boyd of Bluetree told me that in the middle of their set of songs, this song just spontaneously birthed. God put this powerful lyric on their lips in that moment. "greater things have yet to come and greater things are still to be done in this city." They graciously allowed me to record it and it became the title track to the current Passion CD and the name of our 17 city Passion world tour. What a statement to proclaim in the cities of the world!
"I Will Rise"
Towards the end of the How Great Is Our God tour, Louie (Giglio) challenged me to write a song of worship for people in the hardest time of grief. We were talking about the reality that we need more songs like the hymn "It Is Well" that can be sung as worship and hope at a funeral. To be able to find words to say and sing in that moment of sorrow when you lose someone you love. A few days later, Louie sent me an email with a few thoughts about the song and the one line that struck me most was "the grave is overwhelmed." I took that idea and ran. This song speaks the truth that we have a Saviour and a God who has defeated death and we have victory over it as well in him. That he made us alive, and even though all of us one day will say good-bye to our earthly bodies, we will rise when he calls our name. I love the passage in Revelation 4 and 5 where you see the angels and all the creatures gathered round the throne of God in celebration, singing in a loud voice, "worthy is the lamb." That's what I am pointing to in this song. That we will join those angels and will stand before the throne of our God and our Risen Saviour alive forever! Amen!
On one of my trips back home to Austin, I decided to detour through Dallas and see if my friend Cary Pierce was around. Cary has been someone I have enjoyed writing with since our song "Unfailing Love" landed on 'Arriving'. Fortunately and divinely appointed, Cary had just cancelled a family trip and was home for the weekend. We spent of couple of days writing some songs together. He played me a demo he had recently worked on and I was really excited about a song on there called "Love". I asked Cary if I could take the song with me and work on it a bit and see what happens. Well, I wish you could hear the different turns that this song has taken to be what you hear on the record now. From Cary's first demo, to my demo, to the final product after Ed Cash got through with it is quite a journey. I remember Ed hearing the song and immediately commenting that he thought it should be more of a world sounding song, with world percussion and instruments. Admittedly, I was nervous about this idea at first, but then began to hear and see how it was coming together. But that's the half of it. Ed then suggested that it might be cool to have an African children's choir on the track as well. I joked, "Yes, that would be amazing, but we are in Nashville and how is that going to happen?" A few short days after this initial thought, Matt (Ed's assistant) gets a text that says the Watoto Children's Choir from Uganda was in town for a concert and day off in the city. Unbelievable! The Watoto ministry is one I had recently become acquainted with and so for it to be them was just even more amazing to me. These beautiful kids are AIDS orphans. Who better to sing a song called "Love". The way this song was finally recorded is truly a gift from God. It was truly one of the greatest days I've ever experienced in the studio. I hope you can hear the hope in the voices of the Watoto Children.
"Praise The Father, Praise The Son"
There are always those songs that you hold an extra special place for inside. This is one of those for me. Ed Cash and I wrote this song on the last night of recording my vocals for the record. All of the songs were already recorded and we were happy with where we were. But I am always open to God possibly breathing another song along the way. On this night, Ed grabbed his guitar and told me he wanted to play this melody that he felt was special and that he had been using in some times of ministry with his church family. It kind of reminded me of how the Bible teaches that David would play and it would bring peace and healing. Ed sang a few lyric ideas for the verse and I immediately just began to sing out the chorus you hear on the record. It was one of those moments where you knew you were not in charge, and we both just sat there with tears in our eyes, stunned at what was happening. I do feel this song is one that any church, with any style of worship, can sing. It continues to be my heart to write songs that give voice to the generations now and the ones that are to come and I sense this is one of those songs.
This is the second song on the album that actually started from Daniel's world of songwriting. Again, it was just the simple refrain of "my deliverer" that I heard coming from Daniel's computer that caught my attention. Shortly after, I came across this verse from Isaiah 60:18 ".but you will call your walls salvation and your gates praise." I am sure I had read over that verse several times, but this time my eyes and heart stopped on it and I found it to be the perfect way to amplify that chorus. This is a song for all of us who continually wait on God to move.
This is another song that came about on my spontaneous visit with Cary Pierce. I had been carrying this thought for some time about Moses' response to God in Exodus 33 when God calls him to go and lead the people. Moses' statement and understanding continues to bring everything I am doing into focus. Exodus 33:15-16, "Then Moses said to him (the Lord), 'If your presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of earth?'" That's it. I pray it's the presence of God that marks my music and my journey. That I continually stay in step with the Spirit of God.
Yahweh was and is the most revered name for God. In fact, it was so holy that the early Jewish people would not even speak the name, but only write it. Wow! When we proclaim the names of God we are saying something to ourselves and to the world about his character.
My producer, Ed Cash, is one those guys who constantly amazes you with his unending talent. Not only does he do a great job of getting what I have in my head onto the CD, but he is an extremely talented musician, singer and songwriter in his own right. Over the past three records we have enjoyed writing songs together. "God Almighty" was a song that Ed initially sent to me as a chorus and I took it from there. I especially like the bridge on this one and how it expresses a picture of just who we are before this massive, Almighty God. You can sense this awe of God as you sing that refrain. "I hide my eyes with my face to the ground in the presence of your majesty/I clap my hands and lay my crowns in the presence of Your majesty. There is no other response but to fall on our face when we truly get even a glimpse of the holiness of God.
"All The Way My Saviour Leads Me"
If you are familiar with my music at all you know that I love bringing some of the older songs of our faith (hymns) to life. My friend Matt Redman also has a passion for remembering and reviving some of these songs as well. One of the songs he came across is [this one]. Matt is not only one of my favourite people in general, but one of my favourites to write with as well. Besides the chorus, the majority of the lyric is taken from stanzas of the original hymn. I put it as the closing song of the record because I think the lyric "This is my song through endless ages/Jesus led me all the way" is a fitting benediction.