Tony Cummings quizzed singer, songwriter and worship leader PAUL ZACH about his life and music
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Paul: I've been leading worship at Portico Church in Charlottesville, Virginia for five years now. I've really enjoyed learning how to write songs for the church to sing together. It's fun bringing new songs to the congregation to see which ones work well.
Tony: 'God Is The Friend Of Silence' has been critically well received. Tell me about some of the songs on it.
Paul: "God Is The Friend Of Silence" is a song that comes from a quote by Mother Teresa. I actually wrote about five melodies for these lyrics and ended up going back to my original melody. Sometimes I can get too inside my own head when I'm writing. It was nice having Isaac producing this EP so I could get a fresh perspective on what works and what doesn't.
I've never been very good at writing happy songs, but I think "East/West" turned out really well. Psalm 103 is one of my favourite Psalms, so it was fun finding a melody that felt right.
Another song on the album, "I Will Never Leave You Alone", was inspired by a sermon that Martin Luther King referenced in his autobiography. It also came after having a conversation with a friend of mine about the racial injustice that we've seen recently in America and the complete apathy from so many Christians. This song is a reminder that God is with the oppressed and will never leave or forsake them.
Tony: Remedy Drive were a fairly noisy pop rock band. Won't some people be surprised by the title of the EP and theme of some of your gentle worship music?
Paul: I guess. I love all different kinds of music, so it's been fun exploring different styles over the last few years. I'm actually in the middle of writing a gospel album for a friend of mine. Sometimes worship and Christian music can feel so stale and safe so I think it's important to push myself to explore styles that I'm not comfortable in. I've always been a fan of musicians that change and evolve over the years. I always want to make sure that I'm curious about new things.
Tony: There is a great deal of extraneous noise in our world today. It would seem that you're suggesting we make an effort to find God in silence. That is, of course, something that is very much part of Catholic and Quaker traditions. Have these traditions influenced you?
Paul: I really loved reading Mother Teresa's autobiography. It's interesting to read about silence and solitude from a woman who is known for doing so much. I've always struggled with prayer so writing these songs has helped me to continue in the discipline even though it's so hard for me. The Psalms also talk about being silent before God, so I've really tried to focus on this for the last year. I've been learning to enjoy prayer and silence. I usually go to an old beautiful church every morning and I'll sit in the pew for 20 minutes. I still find it very hard to find peace from silence and being still, but I know these things take time.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.
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