Chris Mountford spoke to worship leader and songwriter Aodhan King of HILLSONG YOUNG & FREE
Down the years Hillsong, the Sydney-based mega-church, conference and worship movement, has demonstrated a clear appreciation that different parts of the Church have different musical tastes. Alongside the best selling Hillsong albums there are also the Hillsong United (youth worship), Hillsong Chapel (live acoustic worship), Hillsong London (the UK's contribution to the movement), Hillsong Kids (children's ministry) and now, newest of all, Hillsong Young & Free. Worship leader and songwriter Aodhan King of the Hillsong Young & Free team spoke about the latest Hillsong offshoot. "Y&F has come out of our youth ministry so it's the sound of what's happening now, what God's doing in the actual youth ministry. It's a collective of maybe 40 people, lots of different faces, lots of people writing. If you wanted to put what's happening onto a CD that's what Y&F is. From the art, to the sound to the videos it's all what's happening. We pray and we hope that it will be an honest depiction of what's happening in youth and what's happening in our church."
Hillsong Young & Free released their debut album 'We Are Young & Free' which was recorded live at the Hillsong Convention Centre on 19th April 2013 and released on 1st October. The album was preceded by the release of two singles, "Alive" (written by Aodhan King and Alexander Pappas) and "Wake" (penned by Joel Davies, Hannah Hobbs and Pappas), as well as a Spanish single "Vivo Estas". Aodhan explained, "We're trying to create a sound that's going to reach people that haven't heard Christian music before. We're trying our best to make an honest representation of youth and we pray that it would move in ways that it hasn't before and that someone in the far distant part of the earth that hasn't listened to Christian music would come to see them, in a secular way or on Christian video. As well as all the lyrics I pray that there would be a new way - 'cos we're always writing about the same way, about Jesus and the truth of what he's doing. I pray the way we formulate lyrics and the way we sing and the melodies will be a new expression of what God is doing. I guess it's like it's been in the past with Darlene, it's a new generation and for us our main goal is to reach people and that's why we're doing what we're doing."
Aodhan pinpointed Y&F's particular stylistic approach. "We tried different things: we tried some jungle roar, some things like indie. When we started doing electro or pop sounds people responded. I guess you can't really push the sound into one genre or another. It's definitely a mixture of many things and I think that's what our youth is. We've got people coming from different cultures, different backgrounds and when it comes together, that's the sound it is. For ages we had so many different things we were trying and what you hear on the album is what resonated best in our youth."
Aodhan spoke about the group's first single, "Alive". "We did a little acoustic demo and gave it to one of our friends, Joel Davis, who ended up co-producing the album. The song was what it was but the way it came out with what he did was so much more. A lot of the songs started like that. We started with acoustic or just piano and sort of went through the filter of Joel and another guy. A lot of us aren't that great at producing electronic stuff or anything of that quality."
One of the most popular songs on 'We Are Young & Free' is "Back To Life". Aodhan spoke about that song's genesis. "I had a friend at school - Joel and I had known this guy - he was going through a hard time. Kids want to know that when there is a hard time and when they're going through something that seems never ending, God has made their burden light and can bring them back to life. When you're feeling lifeless, when you're feeling hopeless, God will bring you back to life and bring you joy. I remember when Joel and I wrote 'Back To Life' we struggled with the lyrics for ages. We wanted to talk about the struggles and the trials and then we wanted to talk about what Jesus does and what he has done. And he never lets go, he's always faithful."
Another Hillsong Young & Free song currently impacting many is "Sinking Deep". It features on a half hour documentary on YouTube and was penned Aodhan and Joel. Said the songwriter, "We were struggling with 'Back To Life' so we decided to try something new. So we left my house and drove to the church studio and were there 'til about 10.30, 11 at night. I'm praying, 'God, can you just give us something to say. God, speak to us right now, we need your guidance on lyrics.' We prayed and then almost instantaneously this song started coming out. We sat there and Joel played piano, then I played - back and forth. We came up with a verse and naturally verses lead straight into the chorus and straight into the bridge and then in about four hours we'd written the whole song."The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.