For those of you who may be choosing songs for worship at your church or youth group you may be interested to hear that the 4 tracks off my EP are now available on CCLI’s SongSelect. You can use this great tool to get full lyrics, sound samples, chord charts & lead sheets.
If you don’t use SongSelect yet don’t fear, all of these things are also available on my website. You listen to the songs & download lead sheets & full sheet music on the Buy page. I would love to hear any feedback from you if you do choose to use these songs in one of your services. Thanks!
So I finally got around to launching my EP in Sydney in late June. I had noticed that there was a brand new Christian music venue called ‘Gospel Live’ was opening up in Manly & I gave the organisers a call & had a great chat to them. A few days later they rang me back to ask if I’d like to play & told me that Geoff Bullock was headlining along with the lovely Zoe Elliott.
So here’s where I got really excited. Geoff Bullock was the first Christian CD I ever owned & I share a publisher with him but I’d never seen him live. I’d met him once for coffee & a chat early this year so I was really looking forward to hearing his songs & stories.
So I very quickly rounded up a band consisting of Rich Fenton (of Garage Hymnal), Dave Thomas (of Huntings) & Tim Chavura (who I used to play with in In Retrospect). We rehearsed on the day at the venue a few hours before the event & I couldn’t believe how great these guys were on such short notice. You can see & hear for yourself below or a few more videos are on the Video page.
The night had a huge amount of radio support & sponsorship from Hope 103.2 & was a success with a sell out opening for the venue. Zoe wowed us all with her incredible voice & such presence & poise on stage, Geoff was captivating with his stories of faith & how he came to write such powerful songs & the crowd were responsive & appreciative. I couldn’t have asked for a more incredible launch. Thanks to all of you who came & supported the night.
Vid below: I’ve Wondered at the Cross (live at Gospel Live Manly)
After chatting to the editor of The Transit Lounge for an interview after winning the ‘Songs That Unite’ competition she asked me if I’d like to write an article on worship to be published in their online e-zine.
I’ve always loved writing & hadn’t written anything in years so I thought I’d take up the challenge. Here’s an excerpt below & you can read the rest of the article here:
A few days after I was asked to write this article I went to Switchfoot’s concert at the Forum in Sydney. As I stood on the top level of the venue, with a bird’s eye view of the stage & the writhing pit of awed fans clamouring for a touch of John Foreman’s outstretched hand, it struck me again just how powerful music is. Whether Christian or not the crowd was united in epic sing-a-longs that held all the passion of the church in full voice rising to worship her Creator. I watched the looks of ecstasy on upturned faces as they mouthed lyrics like:
I’m caving in
I’m in love again
I’m a wretched man
Every breath is a second chance’ (Always)
Pic above: Preparing to go onstage at Youth Alive Groundswell Orange
May was an epic month with round a dozen gigs from Toronto, Dubbo, Orange, Wagga Wagga, Wellington (NSW – yes there is a town called that, I was so excited to be going to NZ but alas!), Gold Coast, Brisbane & a few gigs back home in Sydney.
Most of the shows were part of the Full Hearts tour which included a bunch of the regional Groundswell youth events for Youth Alive NSW. These shows were my favourites, just watching kids who may not have encountered a lot of live music just be so impacted by Full Hearts, their faith & their ministry. So many kids gave their lives to Christ on these nights & it was just inspirational to me. Playing keys with Full Hearts was a really rewarding & exciting opportunity & really opened my eyes to what its like out there in churches all over the place.
Round halfway through May Josh (from Full Hearts) & myself made our way up to the Gospel Music of Australia conference up at the Gold Coast. Met lots of great new people, renewed some friendships from the year before, saw some awesome bands (you have to check out ‘The Art of Sleeping’) & artists (Jeremy Fowler from New Empire). It was a lightning 24 hour visit, plane up on Thurs morn, back on Fri morn, out to a gig at Penrith that night then off to Wagga in the morning so it was no wonder I felt like I was in constant motion & that virtually summarises how I felt the whole of May.
The wkd after GMA my wife & I flew up to Brisbane for a worship night at Kedron Brook. We’d been friends with people from this church for years but never visited so it was great to see their home & we caught up with some old friends who’d lived in Sydney for years but who’d moved to Dublin for a few years. Predictably, but amazingly, the morning after I finished this last gig for the month I came down with a massive head cold!
Pic below: The Full Hearts boys minus Mons & Jonno & plus a local at Youth Alive Groundswell Wagga Wagga
April also saw the birth of a brand new version of ‘Lead Me Lord’. It never ceases to amaze me how many different versions this song has been through.
The latest incarnation came about because I’d posted on a Christian discussion thread and the guys from Static at Dawn saw it & contacted me. We chatted briefly on the phone & a week or so later a remix landed in my inbox. So fast!
I was listening to a lot of the new David Crowder*Band album at the time & so I was so stoked to have one of my songs turned into a dance number. But I’m not that familiar with the scene so here’s a description of it in the guys’ own words: ‘if you guys are familiar with Kaskade or DeadMau5, you might be getting close’.
In April my wife Sara & I made our first trek up to Toowoomba for Easterfest. We packed up 3 keyboards in our car & embarked on the 900km/10.5hr drive up through the heart of the beautiful New England countryside, stopping overnight at a gorgeous little B’n'B in Armidale because it had a ‘piano suite’.
We arrived on the opening day of Easterfest & had a few hours to settle in before I took to the stage for the first time accompanying Chrissie Pearce. It was great seeing the excitement round the place & being there to see muso’s rocking up, renewing old acquaintances, meeting new friends.
I had enlisted the services of the wonderful Garage Hymnal to play with me at Easterfest & in exchange a friend of ours generously gave us accommodation for all of them & us! I hadn’t even met any of the band before arriving up at Easterfest & most of them I didn’t meet until the morning of the gig. A few of the guys had flown in late on Fri night so when we rose in the morning there were a few quick introductions & then down to business with a quick rehearsal in the lounge room.
Sat arvo & the YWAM Chai Circle was full of people sipping chai, escaping the beautiful QLD sun & chatting amongst friends. I was so pleased to see the tent pumping with people & loved every second chatting & sharing my songs with the laid-back but eager crowd. I had a chance to linger & chat to a few old friends who’d made a huge effort to get there & to some new fans & friends before we scooted off to see Garage Hymnal play their set. It was the first time I’d seen them play & I felt honoured that they’d come & played with me as I loved their set, they’re a really unique worship band.
Later that night we wandered down to the mainstage to see the Newsboys set with 12,500 other people. Michael Tait didn’t disappoint, the consummate front-man. It was supposed to be an early night as Garage Hymnal were playing at a Sun morning service & had a 7am call & I was playing keys for Full Hearts at another morning church service but as we hadn’t really had a chance to meet a bunch of us ending up chatting til all hours.
Resurrection Sunday! What can I say? This was a really unique & exciting experience this year. To start off the morning by worshipping in a tent with a band I’d never played with before to a massive outdoor church service in the evening punctuated by another appearance with Full Hearts in the afternoon. There was such a buzz around the place that this day was what Easter was all about. Jesus is risen!
Unfortunately reality was also present throughout the day as it was the last day of Easterfest. It had been such a whirlwind of people & places & performances & it was all over too soon. I had been looking forward to the finale all wkd with Lydia Cole & Stu Larsen & they didn’t disappoint. 2 incredible performers, intimate & extraordinary, rounded out the wkd with such a sigh of perfection. Then a quick visit via the Artist Green Room to say hello/goodbye/thankyou to a few people & back for a few hours sleep.
Mon morning saw a flurry of cleaning to show our gratitude for our accommodation & then it was into the car for the big drive. A freak thunder storm led to an unexpected but pleasant stop in a town called Deepwater where we sampled the ‘best burgers in NSW’. They were massive & fantastic, the old cornerstore kind that were so packed with ingredients that the juices & sauces end up dripping down your arms!
And that’s the end of that story, an incredible Easter & one I won’t forget.
In April 2010 on my way up to Easterfest I discovered that I’d actually won the Uniting Church’s National Assembly songwriting competition ‘Songs That Unite’. My wife & I had just pulled into a little B’n'B for the night & I wasn’t even going to check my emails but thought I’d do a last minute check of all the Easterfest details. I saw the email come through & at first glance it just looked like your typical response as it started out ‘Dear Ben, Please find attached a letter …’
So I opened the PDF expecting a well written rejection letter. Instead it announced that I was first prize. I was so speechless & just kept staring at the screen reading the email over & over. I’m so honoured & excited that people actually believe in this song.
Well Leanne Hyndman threw me this challenge so I thought I’d give it a go …
I think its always hard to distil down your favourites to a top 10 but I’ll give a little rationale for why each of these songs resonates with me.
I’ve included the CCLI numbers where I could find them. If you use these songs in church please make sure you have a CCLI licence & report correctly so you can support songwriters.
Blessed Be Your Name – Matt & Beth Redman CCLI # 3798438
I just hope I never get over singing this song. The lyrics are so profound & so many times I’ve watched people become overwhelmed by the message of this song as they sing it. I remember having to lead worship at our church retreat just after getting a phone call from my sister telling me her best friend gave birth to their long awaited baby girl only to have a few hours holding her before she died. Getting up & singing this song after hearing that was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done …
‘Blessed be Your name on the road marked with suffering,
though there’s pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name …
You give & take away but my heart will choose to say
Lord, Blessed be Your name!’
Mighty to Save - Reuben Morgan & Ben Fielding CCLI # 4591782
This is a more recent song that we’ve been singing at youth group & church but I just love how it stirs up a congregation to sing, a real modern day anthem but also a ‘get up & go’ song, spurring us into action. I have to say though Reuben has written some incredible songs over the years & I think ‘All I Am’ & ‘Still’ are equal contenders for my favourite Reuben songs. Definitely by his first album ‘World Through Your Eyes’, its awesome! Love the second verse:
‘So take me as you find me, all my fears & failures,
fill my life again
I give my life to follow everything I believe in,
Now I surrender’
Lead Me Lord – hymn written by Samuel Sebastian Wesley.
I love this hymn & I think that’s why I’ve always sought to make it relevant to new generations by rewriting it. Its so simple & profound & the music is so rich & dark & thoughtful. As I grow as a person & a Christian this song becomes more meaningful to me as do lyrics from hymns like ‘thy way not mine O Lord’. In a world of ever increasing self dependence & independence to cast your cares on God & let him direct Your paths seems harder & harder & yet easier to do, all at the same time. ‘Lead me LORD, lead me in Thy righteousness
Make Thy way plain before my face’
Closer to Jesus - Ari-Ben Pickering
I think any song that moves me to tears is going to make a top 10 list. I remember when we were putting together the album ‘songs in a strange land’ & we were going through demos. One of my best mates Ari was putting together his debut album ‘chasing angels’ at the time & so he sat down one day with a simple recorder & his piano & recorded all of his songs with little spoken intros. It wasn’t a great recording but it captured the heart & soul of these tunes. He popped it in the post to me & I picked it up out of the mailbox on my way to uni because I was spending some time in the studio there. As I was setting up in the studio I put the CD on to listen & moments later after encountering this song was reduced to a sobbing mess over the message of the song
‘Oh I know we all stumble & that grace leads the way
But I just wanna know when they ask me your name
that I would still know what to say …
& what if I was your shadow for only one day
would I be closer to Jesus?
or would i be further away?’
Find Me at the Cross – Chris O’Brien CCLI # 3191028
We’ve been singing this song for years at Mt Colah but I still love it. Its leaked out into the youth group & all over the place. A really simple worship song with gorgeous chords that sound awesome on piano. Great soul-releasing message
‘Here I stand forgiven
Here I stand holy & righteous
You paid the price when you laid down your life
Jesus I surrender all
& I’ll walk with you in my heart
& I’ll walk with you in my heart
Find me at the cross, down on my kness
Thank you Lord for saving me’
Sound of Melodies – Leeland (J Mooring, L Mooring, S Wilson) No CCLI #
I heard this song when it came out, it was all over TV & radio but it never penetrated my skull that it was actually a Christian song. When I discovered the debut album a year or so ago I almost lost the plot because I loved it so much. This song is the title track & is incredible but there are also amazing songs like ‘stolen my heart’, ‘tears of the saints’ & the stunning last track ‘carried to the table’ which I’m now covering as a bread & wine meditation song because I think its so perfect. Hard to go past ‘Sound of Melodies’ as its such a gorgeous pop song though & that opening verse *sigh*
‘We who are called to be your people
struggling sinners & thieves
we’re lifted up from the ashes
& out came the song of the redeemed’
O Praise Him – David Crowder CCLI # 4158022
Its hard for me to put my finger on a favourite David Crowder song because I just love so much of what he does but I think this song is pretty special. The gorgeous piano riff at the start, the whole up-beat feel … But mostly I had my breath taken away by this video which was inspired by the song:
‘Turn your ear
To Heaven and hear
The noise inside
The sound of angels awe
The sound of angels’ songs
And all this for a King
We could join and sing
‘All to Christ our King!’
If We Are the Body - Casting Crowns (Mark Hall) CCLI # 4196589
I love this entire album (also a great debut album like Leeland’s ‘Sound of Melodies’) but mostly because the first few tracks are so hard hitting lyrically, they’re almost Christian protest songs designed to wake us up & get us back on our feet instead of snoozing in our church pews ;P The other 2 songs are ‘what if his people prayed’ & ‘voice of truth’ (i think that’s what it is called)
‘But if we are the Body
Why aren’t His arms reaching?
Why aren’t His hands healing?
Why aren’t His words teaching?
And if we are the Body
Why aren’t His feet going?
Why is His love not showing them there is a way?
There is a way’
How He Loves – John Mark McMillan CCLI # 5032549
This is also a recent find for me. The song has been around for a while & has had many different people covering it & for good reason. Its an epic song with verse lyrics that put other songwriters to shame. I’m personally in love with the David Crowder album version, don’t really like the single to be honest. But the one thing you gotta do is check out the story behind the song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KYu68H7nNGQ
‘He is jealous for me, loves like a hurricane
I am a tree bending beneath the weight of his wind & mercy
When all of a sudden I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory
& I realise just how beautiful You are & how great your affections are for me’
All I Need is You – Marty Sampson CCLI # 4455213
I discovered this track on Hillsong’s ‘Look to You’ album from a number of years back. I bought the DVD & nearlly everyone who’s been through our house because of recording or music stuff has seen this DVD because I’m so fanatical about it. I have, however like so many of my other favourite CDs etc, lent it out to someone & it hasn’t returned so I’m a little broken hearted about that. If you are reading this feel very guilty! Marty Sampson & Reuben Morgan are my 2 favourite Hillsong writers so its fitting that they have a song each in my top 10.
‘Left my fear by the side of the road
Hear You speak
Won’t let go
Fall to my knees as I lift my hands to pray.
Got every reason to be here again
Father’s love that draws me in
And all my eyes wanna see is a glimpse of You.
All I need is You
All I need is You Lord
Is you Lord’
So that’s my 10 … Is there time to mention classics like ‘Day by Day (I Am Carried)’ by Geoff Bullock or the sunday school favourite ‘What a Friend We have in Jesus’, ‘God of this city’ or most hymns by Horatius Bonar (I Heard the Voice of Jesus say, Thy Way Not Mine & Here O my Lord I see thee face to face). So many great Christian songs, thanks to Leanne for giving me this challenge & making me think about it.