Full Circle: Conversations with Andrew Greer
Join singer-songwriter Andrew Greer as he chats with Christian music history makers past and present.
THIS MONTH: REND COLLECTIVE EXPERIMENT & KATHRYN SCOTT
As the couple century-old child of the motherland, the United States has always presumed the role of freedom-seeker since being liberated from the stoic propriety of England centuries ago. These personalities uniquely shape the style of growth both countries have experiences within worship music over the past forty years, and is reflected in this rare one-on-two conversation with Chris Llewellyn, frontman for the wildly successful folk-rock-worship Rend Collective Experiment from Ireland, and notable UK worship songwriter-songstress Kathryn Scott.
Here’s their take on worship music from both sides of the Atlantic.
Andrew: How have you found worship to be different in the UK versus in the States?
Chris Llewellyn: One of the beautiful things about our God is that He is loves diversity, color and personality. In the New Testament, He doesn’t prescribe a fixed formula for “correct” worship but rather allows us to offer something unique within the guidelines of “in Spirit and in truth”.
The personalities of the UK and the United States are very different. People in the UK are quite reserved, a little more cynical, and so they tend to reject what they see as “performance,” intentionally toning down musicality and keeping things simple. It’s indicative of really seeking authenticity. The United States has an amazing sense of freedom and excellence in worship. People come with such excitement and expectancy. In contrast to the UK, there is a real emphasis on quality. Performance is a welcome part of worship. This reflects parts of the Old Testament where God seeks after a highly specific, crafted act of worship such as the building of the temple.
Kathryn Scott: One of the things I love the most as I travel is the stunning similarity between the hearts of worshippers in America and those at home. There is a pervasive hunger for the presence of Jesus across the world, a genuine longing for the King and His Kingdom. Even though the sound of the expression is different from congregation to congregation, the cry is the same. It’s part of what makes us family – every tribe, every tongue.
Andrew: There seems to be a recent shift in worship music where songs of authenticity, emotion and vulnerability are being embraced. Why do you think this has become a trend of sorts?
Kathryn: Songs of authenticity and vulnerability allow us the language of conversation in worship, where our hearts and His connect. As a worship leader, these are the songs I always want to lead with, but they work best in the context song sets where we express the truth of who it is we are worshipping first. We set the table with the fine food of the holiness of God, of His grace, of His mercy and then extend the invitation to come and eat, offering the songs of response so that we can sing our own hearts out to Him. We need both!
Chris: I think of trends as being on a pendulum. If things go too far in one direction, people’s preferences swing back the other way. This seems like a reaction to the growth of the CCM genre and the emergence of mega churches, Christian conferences and merchandise in the 90’s. Those production values that used to inspire awe and wonder in the church have worn off and are seen as distractions. Young people in particular are seeking a raw, unpolished expression of faith that deals head on with their questions, struggles and doubts rather than sugarcoating the experience with lights and videos and technology.
Andrew: Speaking of the lights, the sound, the visuals, the production, how do you balance being a commercial artist who needs to sell records with ministry?
Chris: The important thing is to not lose touch with the church, the people to whom you are ministering. When you don’t hear the stories and see the impact of how the Holy Spirit is using your music, it becomes easier to go through the motions and see it as employment. We have a “Celebration Wall” at our events where worshippers post stories of God’s faithfulness so that we keep on the pulse of what God is doing and stay connected to the church at large. Rend Collective is such a tight-knit community. Relationally very little has changed for us despite commercial success, and that is also a key to staying grounded.
Andrew: As you are writing songs, who is the audience that you have in mind?
Chris: The church is always at the forefront of our mind. We imagine congregations singing the songs and owning them as their anthems. We see our primary role as servants of the church, second as artists.
We are really strict in the writing room with the range of our melodies to make sure that the average churchgoer can fully participate. And we don’t use complicated chords or arrangements, serving the dual purposes of helping out local worship leaders and making sure everything is within our skill level!
Kathryn: Always the local church. I never write simply for records, even though I am aware there is a wider audience than just our church at home. Worship songs are meant to give voice to the heart of communities of people committed to journeying life and faith together.
About Rend Collective: Rend Collective is a celebration band, collectively wondering how to make sense of the conundrum of life, God and community. This movement of Irish 20-somethings uses a bewildering array of children’s toys, whimsical handmade oddities and folk/rock instruments, crafting a sound as unique and organic as their message. Rend have recorded four critically acclaimed projects – – The Art of Celebration, Campfire, Homemade Worship By Handmade People and Organic Family Hymnal. The band is known for their raucous, foot-stomping style and for songs such as “Build Your Kingdom Here,” “My Lighthouse” “More Than Conquerors,” “Movements” and “Second Chance.” They have toured with the likes of Chris Tomlin, MercyMe, Lecrae, and pastors Francis Chan and Louie Giglio. For more information visit: rendcollective.com.
About Kathryn: Known for penning popular worship anthems like “Hungry” and “At the Foot of the Cross,” Kathryn Scott has earned respect from fellow artists and worshippers alike as an acclaimed songwriter. She studied theology at Elim Bible College in England and trained under acclaimed singer/songwriter/worship leader Brian Doerksen. She and her husband, Alan, currently reside in Ireland, where they are the senior pastors at Causeway Coast Vineyard Church, a congregation they helped to plant. Scott has released three full-length albums through Integrity Music (Satisfy, I Belong and We Still Believe) and released her debut independent EP, Sing on the Battlefield, September 9, 2014, via The Fuel Music. For more information visit: kathrynscott.org.
About Andrew: Andrew Greer is a Dove Award-nominated singer-songwriter, author and co-creator of the innovative Hymns for Hunger Tour with fellow singer-songwriter Cindy Morgan. His instrumental record, All Things Bright & Beautiful: Hymns for the Seasons (Lucid Artist), held the #1 spot on Nielsen Christian SoundScan’s Instrumental chart for 25 consecutive week in 2013. And his first Christmas record, Angel Band: The Christmas Sessions, reached the Top 10 on iTunes’ Singer-Songwriter chart and featured collaborations with music legends Phil Madeira, The McCrary Sisters, Cindy Morgan and Sandi Patty. His songs have been recorded by artists like Jaci Velasquez and Nic Gonzales (of Salvador). As an author, his first book – Transcending Mysteries – co-authored with singer-songwriter Ginny Owens, releases later this month from Thomas Nelson. For more information visit: andrew-greer.com or hymnsforhunger.com.