Listen: Jonathan Douglass and Marty Sampson on recording Hillsong’s latest album
Recording a full Hillsong album live in front of 25,000 people, in the middle of a conference, was always going to be a high-pressure venture.
But with a good dose of God’s grace it came together—in the form of the church’s latest worship release, OPEN HEAVEN / River Wild.
That’s how singer Jonathan Douglass, better known as JD (pictured above), described the experience to the Hope 103.2 breakfast team, after the album’s launch. It’s the first time the church has created an entire album live during its conference.
“Tthe conference itself is such a massive thing for us to pull off as a church, and then throw a full album recording on top of that, definitely brought its pressure,” he told Dan and Laura.
“But the thing that we love is, we plan and try and get it all together as best we can, but at the end of the day God will kind of breathe on it.
“And his grace is marked on the project.”
The Tension Of Recording Live
When asked about the potential inherent in live recording – such as people coughing in the congregation – JD said lone voices shouting above the silence were more of an issue.
“Over the years I feel like there’s been a couple of moments in some of the live recordings where you hear someone yell out really loud, and you think, “Is that really them praising Jesus or just wanting their voice to be heard?”
“But we’re not here to judge,” he laughed. “It kind of all happened and fell together – and there’s not too many random coughs, or yelling – so we’re happy!”
Marty And JD’s Favourite Songs
The album features songs by writers Reuben Morgan, Taya Smith, Marty Sampson, Joel Houston, Ben Fielding and more.
JD said One Thing – also the album’s single release – is among his favourite tracks. He described it as a song about surrender.
“The thing I love about it is the lyric that says, “All I know is everything I have means nothing Jesus, if you’re not my one thing.”
“It’s really about…taking our temporary desires and laying them at the cross, and declaring that He’s all that we want. It’s a good reminder of our first love, and really helps bring things into perspective when everything crazy that can happen in life, happens.
“Declaring that has been pretty solid for us as a church and definitely for me personally.”
Guitarist and singer Marty Sampson co-wrote the song Oh Praise the Name (Anastasis) and said that tune in particular has really struck a chord with the church.
“We wrote it for Easter and it has that narrative of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection,” he said. “We were on tour recently and it was resonating with people. It really connects with the audience.”
So Where’s Marty Been All This Time?
Those who’ve followed the journey of the Hillsong musicians for some years, would have noticed the temporary “disappearance” of Marty from tours and recordings.
He’s now back on deck singing, songwriting, recording and travelling with the team, and said his “quiet” season was all about family.
“I’ve been around,” he said. “I kind of stepped back a little bit just to spend time with the family.
“Being part of what we do is demanding, in a really good way, but I had spent a lot of years doing it, and I thought “I just want to be able to be more present at home”.
“I got married and had kids so I [decided] I just needed to not travel at this point in time. I just felt like the call of God saying “I want you to do this”.
“But these days I’m kind of back in the saddle, so to speak.”
The Worldwide Phenomenon Of Worship
JD agreed said he was constantly encouraged to see what is happening in the church on a global level.
“Having the privilege of being able to travel and go to other churches and meet with other people that are following Jesus and have a faith in him, just stirs up more faith, for me, of what God can do,” he said.
“It’s so easy for us to get so absorbed in doing our own thing, but sometimes we can get exhausted. So just to see the breadth and the depth and the bigness of God’s church, I believe it’s in the strongest place it’s ever been.
“Wherever we travel, we meet pockets or masses of people that are just passionate about God and it just stirs me. God is doing something incredible and we’re a part of that.“