Record producer, singer and worship leader NIGEL HEMMING answered questions from Tony Cummings.
Tony: Tell me a bit about your background. How did you get into putting albums together?
Nigel: Since leaving uni I've worked as a musician and a primary school teacher and then more recently on the staff of South Birmingham Vineyard church (four days p/w) with responsibility for children's ministry among other things. I also work freelance (one day p/w) in music, mainly on production with Vineyard Music or training/equipping children's and worship leaders. My involvement with recording started when I was invited by Brian Doerksen to play keyboards on the 'Come Now Is The Time' worship album and then to co-produce the 'Hungry' album with him. Although I had played with plenty of bands (including Fat And Frantic in the early '90s), I had very little studio experience and in truth was a bit thrust in the deep end. Since then I've had the chance to work on various other worship albums and as a children's worship leader I've been writing songs for a while. I was really excited when the first 'Great Big God' album was suggested and thrilled that some of my songs were selected, so I guess I then had even more reason to enjoy being part of the production team.
Tony: To somebody who has not heard 'Great Big God 2' how would you explain what it's trying to do?
Nigel: 'GBG2' really aims to follow on where 'Great Big God' started. We were aiming for an album of songs that six to 12s would enjoy but that other ages would also appreciate. From our own experience we were only too aware that children's albums have to appeal to parents in order to stay on the CD player long term. We aimed to find new songs that appealed to all ages and support them with interesting musical styles and production that everyone would enjoy.
Our second aim was to resource children's workers and teachers with useable and accessible songs for kids clubs, Sunday schools and classrooms. We had plenty of good feedback from the first album and decided we would try again. In line with our Vineyard heritage, our aim is that children (and adults) will connect with God so we try and choose the songs that will communicate the heart of God in a relaxed and informal, but none the less meaningful way. I think the album works either just to listen to, or as a resource. Certainly my three year old loves to jump around and sing along with it, and so do all my friends' kids. In a nutshell, we're trying to help kids connect with a God who's very real and lots of fun!
Tony: Would you say six to 12 year olds is a tough age bracket to pitch an album at, particularly a worship album?
Nigel: Well I've heard kids' worship albums which can be a bit "plinky" and I've heard kids albums that are full of "adult" songs but recorded with great vibe and feel, so I guess we tried to steer a path through the middle. Vineyard Music has always been about documenting the worship that is actually happening, so we tried to follow our instincts as children's worship leaders about what works in a live context. Because we were used to working with that age group, then it's probably easier to get a handle on what they will and won't like. I love working with six to 12s as even though there's an enormous range of musical genres and styles, if the music has heart and vibe then they will enjoy that. Combine that with good accessible songs (see above) and I believe that will go down well with any age. Having said that, we're very aware that what we do is only part of the picture and there's loads of great music aimed at young people.
Tony: Any more projects lined up for the future?
Nigel: Right now we're finishing off a live worship EP from a Vineyard Youth event called Dreaming The Impossible, where the worship was mainly led by teenagers. That's a small project that will be finished in October time. After that nothing is definite but recording wise I'm planning something in the future that has the same 'Great Big God' vibe but is for very little kids.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.