DARLENE ZSCHECH has a new solo album. She spoke at length to Mike Rimmer.
Her friends call her Darls but I call her Mrs Zschech! I am respectful like that. In the course of setting up the interview I discovered that she has an assistant called Miffy and has called one of her kids Zoe Jewel. Unusual names you have to agree. And what about Zoe Zschech, the double Z? Darlene's own middle name is Joyce but Jewel? She explains enthusiastically, "I had always called her Gracie Jewel when she was in me. Then my husband said, 'We have to have a ZZ!' When I was in a weak moment.just after birth. my husband and my other two daughters got on their knees and begged if we could call her Zoe! So I gave in. And so she is ZZ and he is SO proud. So there you go, she'll be our eternal Zorro!"
I confess that I am not convinced about Jewel, it just seems a little rock'n'roll. "It means treasure! It's to be treasured. It's a beautifully cut stone. It's very special. We waited a long time for her."
Mother, wife, songwriter and worship pastor, Darlene Zschech is a busy woman! Her three children (Amy is 16, Chloe is 13 and Zoe is four) seem to be following in the family business as all of them sing and her eldest daughters both play piano. Chloe plays guitar and drums and Zoe just had her third piano lesson. I can imagine that the Zschech household is a noisy place! You can expect that Chloe and Amy will be featured on a United Live album soon.
With family responsibilities and a commitment to her home church, Darlene doesn't travel as much as she once did but she still gets to see what is happening in the global Church more than the average person. "I love to travel," she confesses. "Last weekend we went to Singapore to see what God is doing; I never ever take it for granted. To watch what he's doing right across the earth is quite phenomenal! So I will always make time for that. But home is the prize, always! It's wonderful."
When she looks at the worship scene she comments that she's seeing something emerging. "I can see in many different denominations, a similar song. Not a similar style but a similar heart cry that is being heard, and that's quite amazing because it travels right across the denominational barrier that has traditionally been there. There is just such a sense of hunger for the truth of God and a desperation almost for his presence. I think there is a passion emerging. I can only describe it as supernatural. Wherever I go, whether it's in the Third World, Europe or in the United States, a song sounds very, very different when you start, but by the end of the experience you end up at the same place. There's people loving God and just getting consumed by him."
Darlene has been at the forefront of developing the worship at Hillsong from the moment that "Shout To The Lord" put the church on the map globally. Since then, they have released a live worship album each year with other releases from their youth wing, United, and plenty of other albums emerging from this very musical church. I wondered whether there was a danger with the regularity of a release schedule that it's possible to get stuck in a rut. The albums are professionally made and they sell but there's still a danger of getting stuck in a successful rut. She responds, "Yeah I think there is always, always a danger, and people ask me about what would be the hardest thing now. I think definitely in perceived 'success' - whatever that is - negotiating not just yourself, but your team through that and to keep things raw and real is probably by far the biggest challenge. In some ways it was a lot easier on the home front with our team when nobody knew who we were. Now, there's such an expectation on every song you write. I just keep teaching the team - it's up to us. God is willing but it's up to us to stay raw and uncomplicated and to live lives that are poured out. And every single day, it is a choice you make to keep things real and simple and true. Years ago Brian (Houston, her pastor) and I made a pact that if ever any of this gets in the way of simply building the local church and seeing people's lives changed and seeing Jesus made alive in our own nation, then we're out!"
Darlene has just recorded her second solo album, 'Change Your World', which is a follow up to 'Kiss Of Heaven'. So did the success of the album give her a taste for making solo albums? Darlene laughs and responds, "Not really! It's funny because I don't really have time to do solo albums. What I love to do is write songs. I'm always writing and writing for lots of things. I write for our church and I write for friends. Last weekend I wrote a song for communion for church, or just songs that lots of people never hear. I just thought a few years ago, I'd love to start to record some of these songs and not just let them pile up in my folder. So that's really how it started out and 'Kiss Of Heaven' evolved from that. So I've just kept doing it. It's like my little hobby, recording songs that maybe are not congregational. Most of the songs are worship because that's who I am. I just love Jesus and so in the songs, it always comes out. I don't want to write songs for the sake of it but to convey a message."
So isn't it just the case that Darlene has done herself out of a job? At her centre, she's a worship pastor in church and is helping to develop other worship leaders and songwriters. She is surrounded by a team who have recorded some of the most successful worship albums on the planet. These days, there is a whole range of people writing the songs and so there isn't always room for Darlene's songs! "And that is my delight to be honest," she says honestly. "I'm a pastor and I'm a mum and I love these people and so to see them start to walk and then start to fly and then really step into what God's called them to do, it just brings me so much delight."
Brian Houston encourages her to make sure that the church are singing her songs but it seems this is part of her role that she really enjoys. She agrees, "I do love this side of my world when I'm bringing other people through. I'm at a really nice age where there is no sense of competitiveness. It brings me more joy than I could ever have realised!"
On 'Change Your World', there is a new version of the Michael W Smith song "Agnus Dei". She says, "We started doing that song when we'd go from church to church and lead people in worship. Sometimes if I was in a much more traditional church or a more mainline church, there wasn't many of our songs that they knew. So I'd sing "Amazing Grace" and I would sing "Agnus Dei" and we'd just start there. So that song for me has always been part of what I guess I would call a bridge."
Smith has visited Hillsong to take part in a conference there and for Zschech it was a surreal experience. She remembers, "When I introduced him at our Hillsong Conference, it was freaky for me introducing him because I remember when I was 15 and in my bedroom singing with my hairbrush just loving some of those old songs! I never ever would have dreamed that there would be a day when I would actually get to talk to him, let alone call him 'friend'. It staggers me."
So does she have moments like that very often? "I have moments like that every day!" She says firmly, "Every day I just don't know what's going to happen. So yeah, I pinch myself a lot! But I pinch myself in that I'm married with these beautiful children! I'm like, 'God, you are SO kind!' He is the best at restoring the years that the enemy tries to steal."
Being in the public eye, it might be easy to think that you know all about Darlene Zschech. On the new album cover she is perfectly made up and smartly clothed. If you saw her ministering on a platform, you might want to guess what her life is like. But what does she think are the popular misconceptions about her life? She responds, "I think sometimes people think that you have a very, very different life. I was joking with my girlfriend the other day saying, 'I wish the washing fairies would come tonight and do my washing!' I get help sometimes to do things like that but I'm a mum, I'm a wife. You have to get up early and be organised and clean the toilets and cook food! I think sometimes people think that side of life doesn't apply anymore. Living a big life just means that you're doing a lot more of the small things, the unseen! So I think there's a bit of a misconception there."
I tell her that I am disappointed. Aren't there more glamorous moments in her life? "There are glamorous moments," she confesses. "Like you might get your hair done to go and sing somewhere but that's about it!" She laughs and continues, "The rest of the time you make sure everyone's got their shoes and you've got snacks in the bag. It's just normal life and it's great. It's a busy life but I think anybody who works and has a family, they all lead busy lives."
Showing page 1 of 2