The veteran worship leader NOEL RICHARDS talks us through the tracks on his new album
"Calling All Nations"
It was back in March '98 when I was with Wayne Drain who's become a very good friend of mine. Wayne and I were talking and he said to me, "Noel, have you thought about the title of the next album because obviously that will be an album which would probably take you up to Berlin in 2001." As we were talking we were walking through the car park in Kingston-on-Thames and I said, "It's something about calling the nations." I said, "Maybe we should call it 'Calling All Nations'. "It just so happened that I had a tune that was lying spare and I said, "I've got this melody, why don't we sit down and work on the title track together?" So I came up with a sort of lyrical idea and I added the melody and then Wayne and I just put it together. This, we feel, is the manifesto for Berlin but it's also a wider manifesto as well, because what the song says is, "Calling all nations, hear the story of God's amazing grace." So our plea is that we as the Church will get out and call to the nations, to hear this wonderful story. But also we'll call the nations to worship the true living God, because people were created to be worshippers. So we're saying to people, "Hey! Come and hear the story, this is what you were born for, to know Jesus and you were born to worship him." So 'Calling All Nations' is far bigger than just calling people to a stadium, but it's calling nations into knowing the wonderful grace of God.
"Come Now Is The Time"
As we were looking for songs to put on the album I wanted to do what I did with the Warrior1 album. With 'Warrior1 there were six songs by other writers and I wanted to give the Church an album that would be a great resource for them to use for worship. "Come Now Is The Time To Worship" is a stadium praise song, it ties in with the theme of the album - one day every tongue will confess (he is) God. That's what the theme of this album is all about, that one day the nations will hear, that his glory will be known across the world. "Come Now Is The Time" by Brian Doerkson is such a great song; it's a favourite of mine. The first time I heard it I just stopped everything I was doing and learnt it, it stopped my working day.
"Passion For Jesus"
This was a song that was commissioned for this album on a visit to Belfast in Northern Ireland. I met Brian Houston and I really loved the guy. He writes with a passion and when he leads worship there's a uniqueness about what he does. I said to Les Moir, my producer, "I wonder if Brian would write us a song for the album?" So Les Moir rang him up and said, "Brian, would you write a worship song for Noel?" I'll never forget the day when Brian came into my house when he was visiting England. He sat down with his guitar and he said, "I've written this song for you Noel." It's a great song, "Put in my heart a passion for Jesus, restore my first love..." I think it's a song that everybody can identify with.
"How Can I Live?"
This song started probably two years before recording 'Calling All Nations'. Sometimes I get inspired just as I'm dropping off to sleep and so I thought, "I've got this idea, I'll go and sing it on the tape machine." I went downstairs and put on my little tape machine and sang the chorus, "How can I live without your love" and then I played with it for a couple of months, but nothing really happened. I just kept it on file - an idea for a song. Shortly before going into the studio, probably about two or three weeks before, I was sitting at my desk and going through all the song ideas that maybe were unfinished and I played this chorus again. All I can say is that the melody for the verse just kind of came up, just like that, one of those instantaneous things. I wrote the verses that evening. It's funny how that happens, after two years you come back to an idea and then suddenly the time is right. For me the first line is very special, "You have laid your hand on me and I am changed forever," and really, that's what the song is all about. I'll never be the same 'cos I've tasted something that I can't untaste, I've tasted God's love, it's spoilt me forever.
"All I Want Is You"
We were going through a time at the end of '97 and throughout '98 where we were holding a series of revival meetings at a church in Marsham Street in Westminster, London. The whole theme of that was getting right with God, coming back to God. That seems to have been quite a theme for the Church in these last couple of years and so my wife and I simply sat down one night and I said, "Darling, I've got this idea - 'All I want is you', and I've got this melody, it's a song about repentance." It's a song we worked on together, just saying I've been a prodigal, I've been away from you but I've decided that this is what I want, 'All I Want Is You'. So often it's the kinda song which we've often done at the end of an evening and just gives people an opportunity to verbalise what is going on in their hearts.
"I'm Crying Out"
Wayne Drain was visiting back in March 1998, the same time we started working on the "Calling All Nations" song, and he said, "I've got one or two ideas I'd like to play you sometime." He got out his guitar and said, "I've got this song called 'I'm Crying Out'." He played it to me but it was very country style on the pace of the song and I said, "Why don't we slow it down?" sort of tried another groove and he said, "I like the sound of that," and so we did it a few times with more of a Brit pop type feel I guess. It worked very well, so this is a song that really has come from Wayne's pen in the main and I suppose my role has been to sort of rework it a lit tie bit, add my own little touch to it.
We have a guy in our church called James Taylor. No, not THE James Taylor! James has been playing keyboards with me since 1991 and very much been part of my band. He's writing some great worship songs, he leads worship at the church at home, and this is one he wrote. It really worked well. I said, "James, I think we need to record this." They were playing it to Matt Redman earlier on this year and Matt said, "I really like this song." It's great to have Matt guesting on this particular track and James has been encouraged because, you know, not only people like me are saying it's a good song, but Matt Redman, who he rates very highly, is saying it's a good song. So again, it's one of those great songs that I wanted to include.
"Let The People Hear"
This, again, was an idea that was running for several months. With songs sometimes they work, sometimes they don't and you just have to put them to one side. I just couldn't get anywhere with this and then I was playing my idea to Les Moir and I said, "Look, I've got this idea, what do you think?" He said, "The chorus is great, it's hooky and just need to work on some verses." So I sat at my computer and had the melody - "Good, I've got the melody, we've got the chorus, now let's write some verses!" I couldn't write anything at all and I went out for a while. I came back and Trish had been sitting there and she'd written all the verses. She said, "Voila! It's done." So it's a real joint effort, this one. All the great lyrics have come from Trish, she's a real wordsmith. She's got this great way of writing and I love what was the last verse but then became a kind of bridge section, "We're looking forward to the days when unbelievers sing your praise," and I was reminded of the time when Martin Smith from Delirious? was just a little concerned because all these people who weren't Christians were turning out to the HMV record stores and he was just a little bemused that they would all be singing, "I'm not ashamed of the gospel, I'm not ashamed of the one I love," and as Gerald Coates pointed out, he said, "Well Martin, what you're doing, you're helping them to belong before they believe." So I just love that line, "We're looking forward to when unbelievers sing your praise as they come running to your side." Let's sing the song of salvation and let's encourage those who don't know the Lord to sing the song, 'cos as they sing it, the truth will get into their hearts.
"What Jesus Would Have Done"
Dave Clifton called me and said, "I gather you're going into the studio and you're looking for some songs that could be recommended for this album." I said, "Yeah, that's right Dave. We've got lots of ballads and I'm looking for something that's really up because we have a surfeit of ballads for this album." Dave said, "You know, it's not really an 'up' song but I'll send you what I've got." So the tape arrived the next day, and I put it on and as soon as I put the song on thought, "This was made for me." We played it to Caroline Bonnett who was going to have the job of arranging the strings, and she said, "You could have written this yourself." It's written by Dave Clifton and Phil Baggeley. I think Adrian Plass had a hand in it as well and it's on the 'Shipwrecks And Islands' album. It fits in with what we're all about, which is standing with those who are suffering, being Jesus to these people, expressing care. That's what worship is all about.
"When I Worship You"
In January of this year I was doing some work out in the States visiting some churches and on one particular Sunday morning towards the end of the trip we were in a church in San Jose, California. I was leading the worship and then I began to sing out spontaneously prophetically, and there was a great spirit of worship in the place. This phrase came out, "I love to worship you 'cos when I worship you Heaven comes to me." As it left my lips I thought, "What a great idea for a song." I just wanted to run out and find a piece of paper and find a tape machine that I could sing this idea on before I forgot it. So all the way through the sermon I'm sitting there going over in my mind, "When I worship you Heaven comes to me," then I rushed out from lunch and got my guitar out and got out my tape machine and then I had to come away and work on it. The whole idea for this song is that when we worship, when we express our praise to the Lord, it's like a little shaft of Heaven's light beams straight into our heart, straight into the place where we are. When Paul and Silas were singing praises in the midst of that prison when they were locked up there, a little shaft of Heaven came into that darkened cell... And so it's my prayer that as people sing this song and sing those words they will have a sense of Heaven coming to them.
"How I Long For You" and "All I Know"
Again, where I was on this visit to the States in January of this year, the last weekend we worked with a keyboard player called Ron Bailey whom I'd met a couple of years previously. He's at a church just outside Fort Worth in Texas, and a really lovely man, a real heart for England as well - he loves England with a passion. We'd met last year and he'd given me his songs and I'd made one or two suggestions. He was playing keyboards for me on this last weekend and he sang one of his songs towards the end of the evening, this song "How I Long For You", and all the other guys in the band said, "Noel, you gotta do this song, this is a fantastic song." Again, it's just part of where we have been and still are, wanting more of Jesus, crying out for God, 'cos as we get more of God then we can be more effective in this world. So he did a little demo for me, I brought it back to Les Moir and said, "Les, I think this song will go on the album." Without hesitation Les said, "This is a great song." It really is just a fitting way to end the album and it's segue-ways into the song, or the chorus of "All I Know". Back in '97 Wayne Drain said to Trish and myself, "I've got this song, it's called 'All I Know', let me play it to you, but it still needs some work on it." So the three of us sat down and we reworked it a little bit and tidied up the melody and I made some lyrical suggestions, and that's the result. Everything that we do, this song, "All I Know", it just has an incredible effect because people are reminded about God's grace being able to cover all our sins and his mercy is there for all of us. It's a shame we could only put the chorus of it on the album, but it was very close to "How I Long For You" melodically and we had a lot of ballads on this album. And it works as a medley!