LTTM caught up with Luke Hellebronth, Josh Gauton & Anna Hellebronth from the Worship Central team to speak to them about the new Worship Central album Mercy Road.
Tell us a little bit about this new album of yours?
Luke Hellebronth : It’s coming at a good time. We feel like we’ve got something fresh to say and a journey to take people on through the songs and music. I think it’s our strongest album yet in terms of a complete work. It has lots of different voices on it, a variation of themes and none of the songs have the words ‘mountain’ or ‘valley’ in them so that must be a first in the worship world!!
Josh Gauton: Mercy Road is really the journey of Worship Central over the last couple of years. Leaving London and relocating to Birmingham, establishing the new home of WC at the newly-planted Gas Street Church (which most of us have been heavily involved with) and then stepping back to think and dream about the future and how we can better serve the church. There's been ups and downs, great points of celebration and times where it feels like we've all been bashing out heads against immovable walls, but we've learned that there's a huge value in learning to love the journey - not just the destination. It's like that in the Christian walk, the real gold is in the journeying with Jesus - learning to love him, to love people, constantly coming back to the cross and asking for forgiveness. Living on 'Mercy Road'. These songs, with all the different styles, voices and themes, capture that journey we've been on.
Anna Hellebronth: This is WC’s first studio album. We’ve reestablished WC in a new community and city so there hasn’t been new music for a while. This album feels as though it speaks of a new time for us whilst still equipping the church with great new songs.
Which is your favourite track on the album and why?
Luke Hellebronth : Really hard to chose one to be honest but I’d probably say ‘Waves’ just because of its story. We had a ‘Kingdom Come’ night of prayer and worship at Worship Central's home ‘St. Luke’s Gas Street’ and this song just came out - the whole thing. We’ve literally made a couple of tiny lyric tweaks but that’s it! To me it captures something of the Spirit of God that we need more of in our times of sung worship and it’s also a different kind of song than what people might be used to hearing from Worship Central.
Josh Gauton : That's tricky - I like different ones for different reasons! I think my two favourites would be Mercy Road, as it's just such a fun and catchy song (as well as being a guitarist's dream - some seriously tasty riffs in there!) and the other would be Waves, as that was born out of such a raw and prophetic time of worship and has been an anthem of our community since we started leading it.
Anna Hellebronth: It’s so hard when you feel attached to so many. I can tell which ones will connect with different people and I’m excited about that. Loving the feel on Mercy road - not heard it in worship before so I’ll go with that.
After such great success with the last albums, does that make recording the next installment harder?
Luke Hellebronth : You’re always your own worst critic so that never goes away but this album presented a new kind of opportunity being our first studio project. We also felt like we had songs that we wanted the world to hear.
Josh Gauton: I think the key to this is making sure you love what you're creating, and not worrying so much about success. Artistic integrity and true creativity speak for themselves - the songs that capture the attention of people are most often those that come from the heart, and in the context of worship songs those that come from an authentic heart of worship. Focusing that way round takes a lot of the pressure off.
Anna Hellebronth: Not at all. God is the creator and always inspiring. There are always new ideas to be found, you just have to find them.
If you could work with any songwriter, who would it be and why?
Luke Hellebronth : Nick Herbert! Ha! Probably Ryan Tedder right now, he’s writing some of the best pop songs out there.
Josh Gauton: A little bit out there, but I'd love to write with James Hetfield of Metallica! The electric energy of some of those songs is unreal, and writing melodies that work brilliantly in tandem with such iconic guitar riffs is a rare skill. Either him or John Mayer, who writes some of the catchiest songs around.
Anna Hellebronth: Sia - apparently she creates songs in 40 mins - I want to see that process! It seems she has such clever concepts and is a melodic genius. I would love to learn from her.
Do you prefer playing live or working in the studio?
Luke Hellebronth : I love seeing people worship God through music and song so playing live is just the best!
Josh Gauton: For me working in the studio, rather than being the end-game, always feels like it's the prep-work so you can then take the songs into a live context, so I'd probably say live. This is especially the case when it comes to worship music, as the predominant reason for the songs existing is to draw congregations and communities together into worshipping Jesus.
Anna Hellebronth: I like both. I suppose the studio gives you more time to develop ideas but there’s nothing like capturing a live moment.
How would you describe your style of music and what are your influences?
Luke Hellebronth : I guess it’s pop/rock but I’ve personally been influenced by so many genres: classical, jazz, rock, pop and film music.
Josh Gauton: As a collective, I'd say Worship Central draws influence from a whole load of places through everyone that makes it up. On this record, there's influence from bands and artists like The 1975, Coldplay, Jack Garratt, Explosions in the Sky etc. If you were going to give it a genre I'd call it Gospel Soft-Rock Synth-Pop. Nice and snappy.
Anna Hellebronth: Rock/pop/elctro pop. I’m into more alternative/more moody stuff but I think rock/pop writers are genius. They turn complex concepts into simple tunes that anyone can get a hold of. I think we have a lot to learn from them for the church.
What is your favorite album of all time?
Luke Hellebronth : Impossible to say but I keep going back to 'Bon Iver’.
Josh Gauton: Led Zeppelin I. SO GOOD! Listened countless times and still love it.
Anna Hellebronth: Gosh. SO many. But one that is close to home (in many ways) is Damien Rice’s ‘O’ - the depth of raw emotion, beautiful melodies mixed with alternative lyrics are so haunting. SO many great songs there.
You're stuck on an island, it's hot, you only have enough battery life left to listen to one song on your mp3 player. What track is it?
Luke Hellebronth : Probably ‘Hideaway’ from this new album which my wife, Anna, sings - ha! #hideaway
Josh Gauton: Head Over Heels by Tears for Fears. It's a gorgeous song that gets stuck in your head, so I could replay it over and over again once my poor MP3 player is dead.
Anna Hellebronth: 'At Last' - Joni Mitchell. It was our first dance song at our wedding so awakens such happy memories. The orchestral arrangement is stunning and when you listen to an artist like that, you can hear the experience shining through.
What does the next year hold for Worship Central?
Luke Hellebronth : So much! We have this album out, ‘The Week’ which is a 4 day retreat for worship leaders, loads of events and then our big conference ‘The Gathering’ with our friends ’24-7 Prayer’ which is going to be incredible. There’s so much going on around the world in the different hubs too. They’re releasing their own music too which is so exciting.
Josh Gauton: Lots! Especially excited for The Gathering - a global conference we're holding with 24-7 prayer. That's going to be off the charts
Anna Hellebronth: I’m excited to see the songs be used. We are always about local church so any opportunities we get to help fuel that, we love. I think we are becoming bolder in our expression and I’m excited to see what that unleashes/gives permission to in the church.