The worship leader at St Albans Vineyard church SAMUEL LANE talks us through the tracks on his new album
'The Fire' is the debut solo album from Samuel Lane, a worship leader and songwriter well known for his work with the Burn Band and other Vineyard projects. He recorded 'The Fire' at CatBeach Studio in Los Angeles with Emmy award-winning producer Bobby Hartry (best known for his work with Jeremy Riddle) and some of the best musicians in the music industry (including John Mayer's drummer Aaron Sterling). Samuel here brings the lowdown on the songs.
"Take Me With You"
This is a little song that really just encapsulates a feeling that moves throughout 'The Fire'. It came out of a time late at night in my little flat, an honest prayer to God... "Take me with you. . . Your will be done". It's a prayer I'm always praying. It's a song that reflects the desire to know and follow God but also acknowledges the struggle to do so. The bridge refers to Philippians 1 v21-25, "To live is Christ, to die is gain, to know the Father, to see His face, but I will follow, I will remain, there's strength in Jesus, and joy is faith." The acoustic guitar on this song was the first part I tracked on the whole album, I remember really struggling with one of the chords in the bridge. It was some kind of finger bending take on a Bm which I just needed to relax on. But once we got through that first hurdle everything went fine. We added lots of atmospherics, some subtle electric and falsetto vocals, kept lots of space and Aaron came up with a great rhythm that brought it all together. We had no idea at this point that it would be the opener for the album but it just seemed to work, the opening lines "Where you go, I will follow, where you lead, I'll be there by your side" just seemed to sum it all up right there at the beginning. The journey and the presence.
"Fiery Love" was a co-write with Daniel Wheeldon who's on the team at my home church, St Albans Vineyard. He's writing some great stuff at the moment and came into my office with a worship song he was working on and wanted some help to get it finished. We worked pretty closely on it for a while, bouncing ideas back and forth; we formed and focused the lyrics, tweaked the melody, wrote a third part, cut that part, wrote a new chorus, made the old one the pre-chorus, changed the chords in the verse. It took quite a bit of effort but I enjoyed the creative collaboration with Dan. It wasn't until we were working on some pre-production demos to send to Bobby Hartry that the chorus melody came together and I started to see the real potential in this song. Overnight it changed from a song we were expecting to see cut, into a song that we knew there was something special about. We were working on it right up until the end and finished off the lyrics in LA just days before the recording. It's a song of surrender, of longing for God, us calling out to him to light us up and give us a fiery love and passion for him. Aaron Sterling did an amazing job on this one. We played him the rough tracks and he took one listen and said, "I've got an idea I want to try out". We soon learned that if he said something like that then something special was gonna happen. It was a real highlight of the recording session hearing him lay down those drum tracks in the studio. He really brought something new to it again. It's Aaron's whoop in the intro of the song too, the more we heard it the more we loved it!
"O My Soul" " This is a development of a song we've been using at home for a couple of years now. St Albans Vineyard have had to put up with numerous tweaks and lyrical changes. Originally called "You Are Our God", it was missing the "O my soul" section which I wrote one afternoon as I was playing through the song on my own in the auditorium at church. It needed a moment of release, something to lift it. There's something really powerful about telling your soul to worship God! Everything about that feels right, it's what we're made for! We had a lot of fun in pre-production singing gospel choir harmonies on it with Dan Wheeldon and Henry Cross. I still hear some of the hilarious high pitched ad-libs we sang when I sing it today and it gives me a smile. It was also in this song that I felt the strongest sense of God's spirit in the verses. We've got vocal takes where I could hardly keep it together. There was such a beautiful sense of love and of blessing in the studio right then. "Drew the line in the sand" refers to the story in the Bible where Jesus writes in the sand and saves the prostitute from being stoned to death, but it is also an analogy of what he did on the cross. This is where death was beaten, the line was drawn. So the song is solely focused on God's saving work and our response to him. In the second verse it moves away from the "I"'s and "my"'s, and pulls the rest of the Church into the picture as we begin to sing together, "How you saved US all, Let OUR joy be restored, You are OUR God", a line that comes from Psalm 51v12, "Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me".
"The Father" was actually called "The Fire" originally which is where we got the title for the album from. The line that's in the chorus used to be "Take me by the fire" and a lot of the imagery in the verses was about that too, the holy presence of God. The melody, feel and sense of direction was all there from the beginning, I wanted to capture the feeling of meeting God "out upon the mountain" as Moses did when he saw God in the fire, but I was really struggling with focusing the lyrics right up until the end. It wasn't until we sent Cindy Rethmeier two sets of lyrics to see what she thought, that I got the clarity and direction to be able to finish it and move away from the "fire". Actually the water imagery and the line "take me to the father" captures the core desire of the song and communicates the original song vision a lot better. I just had to let go of some "precious" lyrics. We really wanted to capture the sense of resting in God's presence in this song and so I actually sat down while I sang the vocals for this one and I think it really helped us capture that feel. It was one of the last vocals I tracked on the album and I enjoyed singing it so much that I could have happily done another 10 takes!
"Presence And Peace"
This is another song where I just wanted to capture the sense of God's presence that I was experiencing, his beauty and the response that comes from being in that place. The line "Here is my love" can be meant in two ways; as an acknowledgement of God's presence, and also as a response to his presence. I spent a lot of time agonizing over the lyrics in the first verse, trying to capture that feeling, and I still feel like I didn't quite get it right - but that's just me - it can be pretty hard to fully express the experience of God in words. I was really excited about recording this one. Musically it's probably the most ambitious of the songs on the album, I was looking forward to putting a load of layered falsetto on it which worked really well (we ended up doing the same on a couple of the other songs too) and some acoustic parts I'd worked on at home. Aaron did his "I've got an idea" thing and really nailed the feel. Both Aaron and Jonathan were amazing throughout the whole week that they were there tracking. It was a real pleasure and honour to be making music with them. When they first came in on that second verse, the sense of relief and pure pleasure to be hearing what I had imagined and hoped for was very moving. "Presence And Peace" has got a lovely light and relaxed momentum and ultimately I hope it leads you into the same place that inspired it.
This is the only song that I'd recorded before, having been on the live 'My Soul Yearns' CD released by Vineyard Records in 2011. I loved that recording, especially the piano that Mark Edwards played, but we just felt it could do with some studio treatment. It was great to get my sister in to sing backing vocals; you could take my vocal totally out of the mix and her voice would still carry it on its own. Bobby added some nice layered guitars and some of his signature strange noises. And we kept some piano in there which was written and played by the bass player Jonathan Ahrens. The chorus came out of a worship time at one of our evening Burn services. Which is where the songs for the 'Beautiful' and 'All From You' albums came from. So I began to build the song up around that simple line. The first verse is taken primarily from Ephesians 2v8-9 and there's a bit of Philippians 1v21 in there too. The second verse starts in Colossians 3v1-2 and moves through to the bridge into Ephesians 3v20-21. I'm passionate about getting the Bible into my songs, there's nothing like the truth. The verses talk to us as the Church, reminding us of what God has done, encouraging us to grab hold of the freedom God has given us with both hands, building the need to sing "Come, let us adore him". And then the bridge responds and moves us into that act of adoration, of giving God glory, of worshipping him.
This was written by Jeremy Riddle. I love this song, it's one I've been leading at church for a while. It's got a similar sentiment to "Fiery Love", "Awaken my soul, to hunger, to seek, to thirst. . ." and I love the simple cry out to the Holy Spirit to "come and fill this place". So powerful. There was already a couple of really great recordings of this song so that's why we decided to go for a toned down, pared back to the absolute minimum, raw version. We recorded this live, vocals and guitar together, and I'm not sure whether it was the first take or what, but we wanted to capture raw vulnerability and passion and decided to keep the cracks and me running out of breath, etc. I think we'd lose something if we tried to polish it up. I love the subtle organ that comes in behind the guitar. Both Kris Pooley and Andy Toy, who played all the beautiful pads, wurli and organs, did an amazing job capturing the right sound at the right time throughout the whole album.
"Your Love Endures"
This is a song by my sister and brother-in-law, Jessie and Darren Clarke. Darren's an amazing producer, and they run a studio up in San Luis Obispo, California where they live. They have written some great worship songs over the years including "I Love Your Presence" and had recorded a sweet little version of a new song called "Your Love Endures". Jessie sings the lead and Darren plays some lovely guitar and banjo. As soon as I knew we were recording in LA, it felt right to bring them in to sing and play on it. They're amazing, talented and humble people who've always followed God and have been a real blessing and encouragement to me. And it was great to have family there too, being part of the process. We had a lot of fun in the studio. They really clicked with Bobby and Jen and it just topped off an already great couple of weeks. "Your Love Endures" is such a simple and beautiful song that draws you in. It was a real pleasure recording it with them. We've used it in church a lot and it brings a new thing. People always connect with it.
"You Are With Us"
"You Are With Us"is a song written to and for the Church. A reminder that God is with us and that he loves us and is for us. It only just found its way onto the album, it was an underdeveloped idea that I was ready to drop and very nearly didn't send up to Vineyard Records. The recording I had was just taken from my little portable recorder. The only thing you'd recognize from it would be the verses and even they've changed a little. Jimmy Cooke saw the potential in the song to be used by churches and urged me to work on it some more. Again this was one that really only came to life in the pre-production stage, and even then we still had to wrestle this song to the ground. Bobby Hartry was a real help and challenged me to not settle or give up on it. I nearly cut this one a number of times; we tried a few different choruses on it and I just wasn't happy with it until we switched the bridge and the chorus, made a few changes to the chords and melody and it slowly and reluctantly fell into place. I still hear things I'd like to tweak now, but I'm glad we persevered with it. It's a good idea to listen to someone who's won an Emmy! In fact, the whole time whether it was Bobby or Aaron or any of the other guys, I really just wanted to give them freedom to bring their own creativity to the table. I didn't go into the studio with a list of pre-written parts to record. It wasn't an easy thing to do with guys I hadn't met before, but I knew for sure it was the only way to get the best out of them. And I really wanted to see what they would bring to the table. It made the whole process so much more interesting. Music is such a collaborative thing, and everyone has their own personality and sound. I'm a big believer in allowing freedom of expression.
"Lead Me Home"
"Lead Me Home" is another of those "late night songs", a real journey. It acknowledges our frailty and sin and the knowledge that God is the only one who can save us. It asks God to take our hand, to lead us home, into his presence, into salvation. I love the layered guitars and organs that Bobby used to build into the end. When I left LA this song still needed a lot of work but we'd run out of time. So there was a lot of emailing back and forth, and Bobby did an amazing job and really put his heart into it. I wasn't sure at first about the move to double time in the second half of the song. We asked Jonathan Ahrens back in to re-track the bass to move it away from a slight country feel that had developed. It was one of those things that slipped through in the midst of a thousand decisions. But I'm glad it's in there now, it lifts that end section and takes you somewhere new. Again Aaron Sterling was on it! Oh. . . and we also cut a little "holy" section that I absolutely loved! It was a shoot out between that and the "lead me home" chorus. "Lead me home" won out because it was just more focused. I've learnt that you just have to be ruthless with your songs. Simplify and let go of your hold on them, and you'll end up with a stronger, more focused song in the end.
"Glorious" is a simple little song that came out of a spontaneous time of worship in Brazil. I was out there for three weeks travelling around a bit with some Brazilian guys I met out there leading worship in some crazy places. One minute I was off the beaten track leading at a little youth camp with dodgy electrics, and the next I was in Brazilian parliament having to scan my guitar so that I could go through to a 24/7 prayer and worship meeting! There was a moment in a Baptist church in Curitiba where we led worship and the Holy Spirit broke through and the presence of God was incredibly tangible in the room. One of those moments where you're not sure what to do in fear of getting in the way. So really it was a response to the awe of the Holy Spirit. All I could say for about 20 minutes was "so glorious, give glory to the glorious". I tried for a while to develop it a bit more as a song and there was a chorus I used for a while that actually worked pretty well, but we just felt that simplifying it would make it more accessible. It's one of those songs that works really great pared down to one acoustic and voice.
"The Road" was the last song that I finished writing, and along with "The Father", just came in within the last couple of months before recording. I wanted to create some space on the album for people to rest in, rather than just rushing through lyric after lyric and never really settling anywhere. So we created this long, moody, spacious build that just kept on going and going. It was a lot of fun tracking the different layers, screaming down the mic and hearing Aaron and Jonathan yet again pull it out the bag. Me and Jimmy watched Bobby create these amazing soundscapes with an iphone, an ebow, some little wind up monkey toy, and a vintage acoustic guitar which had a humbucker pickup placed in the soundhole fed through to a spring reverb, and some delay, and then into a Fender amp. It was some truly inspiring stuff. The song is about the narrow road, our journey through life and faith (Matthew 7v4). I think of all the songs on the album this is probably my favourite. "The Road" ends with the lyrics changing the focus onto the listener. . . "For your fire, for your soul, Jesus waits, Jesus calls". And it felt so good to end it this way. My honest prayer for these songs has been that they would connect people with God and by flipping the focus there at the end, hopefully it engages you directly as the listener and tells you that God is waiting for you, calling you and that he loves you. A bit like the father in the story of the prodigal son. I enjoyed being able to whistle a bit on this one too.