One of my favorite worship albums of all time is Freedom by Darrell Evans. Of course, this was before worship became a genre in and of itself. Darrell and I recently talked about his upcoming record and the state of worship music today.
Gabe: You have a new album coming out September 25th, “Fearless”, what can you tell me about the album?
Darrell: Something I’m real excited about.. I started about a year and a half ago working on tracks on my computer.. not knowing I was creating an album. I was learning how to do some different things like programming and producing wise and as I kept moving along and writing new songs.. I started first remaking songs I had already written.. and then the next thing I know I have a whole albums worth of songs. They worked together great and it sounded amazing so I am very excited about it. I did my own background vocals, had one of my buddies play electric and another pay bass, three guys ended up mixing the record.. one guy mainly.. and everybody worked on it for free. So including the artwork and the art design, the cover and all that stuff.. I just had to get licensing for the photo we used.. I made this record for fifty-bucks.
Darrell: Yea! And it sounds great, I’m real excited about it.
Gabe: You were a worship leader before the big boom with the “worship” genre came about in the last ten years, what has it been like for you to see the growth of worship music over the last decade or so?
Darrell: Worship has been around since time has.. Our contemporary music.. when one of my earlier records came out, I think one of our marketing guys was trying to think of where to place it.. because it had some pop elements and radio elements, but it was worship and praise, chiefly… and they had this band from England called Delirious? and had this group over here called Sonicflood and then me. So they were trying to figure out how to place it, in terms for people to understand what is in Christian bookstores and stuff like that. A friend of mine coined the phrase “modern worship” and said lets start a new expression in terms of identifying this music.. that was in the late 1990’s with my “Freedom” record. Back then they didn’t play worship songs on radio unless it was some type of non-profit praise station.
In terms of contemporary Christian radio playing worship songs, it didn’t really happen. Then artists started covering worship songs and now you see quite an expression of worship on radio today, which is cool to see. It’s an interesting thing because at the time we were doing a sound that was a newer expression.. people had full bands, but it was more of an older sound, keyboard driven kind of thing, early 80’s or early 90’s sound.. and I was doing acoustic rock driven band expression with some freedom and spontaneity in it. Now you have worship rock-stars which I think is an odd thing.
Gabe: Is that a negative aspect of worship in your opinion?
Darrell: People are people. They like what they like and that kind of thing.. but in terms of the way we express things, like whoever has the coolest hair, the right jeans and the right sound, the smoke and the lights, wins. I think we see that in churches a lot too. It’s kind of a strange thing for me. The last few years it’s been odd… I’ve been traveling either with one other musician, one of my musicians or by myself, just acoustic and bringing it back to a place of simplicity about the presence of the Lord and experiencing Him. This new album is definitely a fully produced, band type of record, but in terms of my live expression in the last four to six years has been more stripped down and simple. Also that way I can go other places no other artists would go or could go. To get certain people you have to come up with $25K-$30K or more. You can’t do that for a love offering. What I do I can go anywhere, in any small community or big cities, big churches, small churches. The idea is.. I love the whole band thing, but what if we stripped away a lot of that, would you still experience the Lord or is more about a concert experience for you? I think there is value in all of it, but I don’t know what to think or say about the state of the union in our country with worship just yet. It’s probably better I don’t.
Gabe: What is your approach to writing a song? Is there an idea that comes to your head? Do you have a specific focus with each record?
Darrell: It comes in a lot of different ways. A lot of songs for me, early on, started with me and a guitar.. just some guitar chord progressions and then a melody and a small lyrical idea would pop up with it. A lot of types that would happen spontaneously as we we’re leading worship.. I’d be scrolling through the deck in my head, what song would be perfect right now for where we’re at? If I couldn’t think of a good one I would start singing a few lines.. that’s how the beginnings of “Trading My Sorrows”, “Your Love is Extravagant”, “Fields of Grace”, “All We Want is You” and many other songs began in a spontaneous moment. Then I would go back to back to my house, sit in the living room and work out the song. It might take fifteen minutes, it might take a week or 5 months, it could take forever. I’ve always felt when you get an idea, you have the rest of your life to finish it.
There is no need to rush it. God is worthy of the craft of the tune. Sometimes a lyric idea will come first and that will be the strongest idea and then I imagine what the music should be that’s fitting to help people engage with it. Other times, like with this record, it started as wholly produced tracks and then I wrote the melody and lyrics around it with a couple other guys. I did more collaborating and writing than I ever have before. I used to write in a cave by myself, because I was the only one I trusted, but over the last couple of years I have been collaborating with more writers and younger guys that grew up on some of my music and that’s been a great experience. Sometimes a song idea will come and I hum it into the phone and then work the rest of it out later. If you start with the musical idea first, usually you have to work harder on the lyric part for it to match the level that the original catchy melody is.. if you come up with a strong lyric first you have to work on the music. I have some lyrics that I have written first… they’re very, very strong, but it’s taken me years and I still haven’t figured out the right melody or music to go around it yet.
Psalm 45:1 says, “My heart is stirred by a noble theme, as I recite my verses for the King my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer”.. that’s the balance of my song-writing theology, the inspiration, but also the worthiness of God is to recite it before him as a prayer, work it out and work on being a skillful writer.
Gabe: I’m excited to hear your new stuff! Thank you for your time.
Follow Darrell Evans on Facebook: facebook.com/darrellevansmusic