Grammy-nominated praise and worship group Elevation Worship has long been known as a collective that is equal parts dynamic sound and spontaneous. This spirit-led musical style has served them well in their previous nine releases, music that has generated more than 760 million views on YouTube alone.
Their latest release, Graves into Gardens (May 1st) showcases the talents of the group but also spotlights guest vocals from some of today’s biggest Christian artists including Tauren Wells, Brandon Lake, and Kari Jobe.
Recorded at Charlotte’s Elevation Church in January, Graves into Gardens features several praise-filled, church-ready singles like “My Testimony”, “The Blessing” (featuring Jobe) and the title track (featuring Lake).
I recently spoke with Elevation Worship vocalist Chris Brown about what goes into making a live album, why Graves into Gardens is rooted in the Old Testament book of 2 Kings, and the creative process that goes into the writing and recording of each song.
How are you and the band making out with dealing with the coronavirus? How has it altered/changed what the band is doing/planning?
We’re doing well through this. Our attention is very much on how to serve the people of our church and meet needs wherever and however we can as a ministry. Some of that is as practical as collecting and serving meals to kids who are no longer attending school but rely on those for nutrition. It’s also staying in front of our church on social media with mid-week worship pop ups and prayer times to encourage one another. And we’re also streaming live on Sunday mornings with just a few of us and Pastor Steven (Furtick) to continue doing what God’s Church does…worshipping together, hearing God’s word preached and being strengthened in our faith.
Why the decision to record a live album as your latest project?
We love getting in a room with our people and capturing the sound of our church. It’s our favorite way to record the songs God’s given us in that season.
What goes into making a live album?
A lot of people are convinced that you just show up and play. But there is so much more than that involved in the process. There are so many people and gifts that come together to make an album happen. It would take the rest of this page to list the amazing people who spent hours and hours dreaming, creating, crafting, recording, editing, editing and editing some more. And so many doing behind the scenes work that will likely never be publicly acknowledged. But it’s their act of worship in setting up choir risers and changing batteries in microphones and I’m beyond grateful for who God has brought to this ministry to serve in different capacities.
You have been quoted as saying, “There has not been another live recording of ours that has compared to the energy and spirit that was in the room that night.” So, what was different on this night?
There was just such a lean in and hunger for God’s presence and joyful spirit that evening. It was one I’ll never forget and I’m so happy we captured the passion and emotion and all the sacred moments that night on this album so our listeners can be a part of what everyone experienced in that room.
One of the songs that highlights this recording is “Graves into Gardens”. What was the inspiration for this song?
“Graves Into Gardens” is a testimony song to the power and authority of our God. It’s a song that very confidently declares how faithful He is to each of us. There are moments we can all experience in life where we find ourselves burying dreams that we once really believed in. Or, maybe we’re facing the loss of a close relationship and suddenly we’re staring at what seems like a dark, hopeless situation – but this is where our God steps in to demonstrate His authority over it all…and He specializes in turning things around. He specializes in resurrection. He’s the only one that can turn our mourning into dancing. Give us beauty in exchange for ashes. He can even take a grave and turn it into a garden…it’s just what He does and it’s what this song declares.
The concept for the album Graves into Gardens has its roots 2 Kings 13. What can you tell me about that?
Many of our songs come from sermons that Pastor Steven preaches. This song in particular launched from a message of his called ‘The Mystery of Potential.’ He was in that 2 Kings passage which details that after the prophet Elisha died, his story didn’t end there. Two Israelites were near his gravesite about to bury another man. When they saw a band of enemy raiders coming, they threw the man’s body into Elisha’s tomb. As soon as the body touched Elisha’s bones, the man came to life and stood up on his feet (2 Kings 13:20-21). Elisha still had a resurrection miracle left in his bones, and God is still in the business of bringing dead things back to life. If we’ll trust God even with the seemingly dead areas of our lives, if we’ll believe in the power of God, if we’ll declare resurrection power over everything we sow, nothing will be wasted. Nothing is over. God can turn any situation around.
Please tell me how you weave the messages of Pastor Steven (Furtick) into your music and songs. How does that all fit together?
Well, the starting place is to know that Pastor Steven’s creativity isn’t just isolated to his sermons. He’s an integral part of writing the songs that come from our church. So, it’s hard sometimes to say if his sermons are informing and influencing the songs, or if the songs are inspiring his sermons. They don’t always come linearly. But if you listen to both, I’m sure you can hear some overlap
After audiences have listened to Graves into Gardens, what would like them to get out of that experience? What is your greatest hope for the album?
Our greatest hope is that people can easily get caught up in worship and encounter God’s presence through it. Whether it’s just a few notes or lyric lines or the entire album, we want the music and message to encourage their faith to believe in the resurrection power of all the dreams, hopes, and promises they’ve sown. And to be reminded that in every season and every circumstance God is able to do more than we could ask or imagine when we trust Him with our present and future.
Please watch a lyric video of “Rattle”, a song that Elevation Worship just recorded on Easter Sunday: