LTTM talks to Elias Dummer from The City Harmonic about their last ever album 'Benediction Live', and why they've decided to call time on their hugely successful time together as a band. Make sure you go to their pledge page to order the album (pre-order and get a free track straight away).
With three amazing albums under your belt why stop now?
Truth be told - it was simply an issue of being true to what God’s calling us to do. We’re as close as ever as friends and it’s not as though there’s a creative dispute or anything. We came to the decision together that it was time to close this book in order to start new ones.
Besides, nobody likes TV shows that go on for seven seasons when they should’ve had only four…
You have chosen to release your best hits in a live record. Why release the songs this way instead of more traditional greatest hits album?
Good question! We love making studio albums, but singing these songs together live - in worship with the people - is a whole different sort of thing, and it’s something that’s always in our minds as we write. So, this seemed like a great way to capture the spirit of what has been driving our work as a whole. That brought some challenges with it too (our albums have varied in terms of style enough that we had to be intentional about drawing these songs together for Benediction), which made it really fun and interesting.
Did you prefer recording your albums or playing them live?
Honestly, both are totally different, and often have different goals. The experience of listening to an album is totally different from the experience of going to a show or a night of worship, too. So, making an album is often about making art that is your own and so you sort of hope that it will connect with people. It’s a moment in time, and you might be capturing some of what’s going on in the world, but at the end of the day, it’s your perspective on that moment.
Playing live is different in that it’s not just your moment anymore. The songs take on a life of their own and mix with other people’s stories, so it becomes about connecting with people in the moment and going somewhere new together. So, yeah, I guess I’m not really answering your question, but I love doing both things for different reasons.
With so many amazing songs, was it hard picking which songs to have on the live album?
Very much so - thankfully we knew that we wanted to focus on this being a collection of songs we’ve written that we know we could sing at our own churches, so that gave us a great filter. Of course, we also knew there are certain songs that would have to be included, and we were more than happy to make that work too.
What is your favourite track on the live album?
This is going to seem like a cop-out, but I love the way the Doxology sounds at the end. The doxology so often sends shivers up my spine as it is, but to have folks sing that out at the end so beautifully - it kills me every time.
In second and third place… our new song “Honestly,” in part because people responded so strongly right away! Third, I really love how “A City On A Hill” came together in this totally new arrangement... man, this is impossible.
What was your favourite moment as a band?
That’s a tough one! A lot of what makes being in a band great is all the little stuff, all the time you spend together on the road when not playing shows - all the “firsts” and stories. But in my mind our first trip out to the West Coast stands out in a big way, in part because it was so early in our career and we hadn’t gotten to the point where we were used to it at all. It was all adventure and enthusiasm, and we got to see all these incredible sites and drive up the entire coast with the top down.
Other than those moments together, our favourite moments are all in the incredible stories we’ve heard. People would pretty consistently come up to us at shows and tell us how God had used this song that we wrote in a living room somewhere in powerful ways. It’s incredibly humbling and every single time it reminds us why this is such an amazing privilege. We just try to be faithful to doing the simple things God’s given us to do, and with it God does something incredible.
What was your favourite gig you played with The City Harmonic?
We’ve played so many incredible shows that I honestly never imagined we would. Playing at the ACC, or EOJD in Holland, Big Church Day Out in the UK, playing with Hillsong United at a worship night at Ichthus… none of these were in our minds when we started this band. Truth be told, though, the size of the show eventually doesn’t matter so much.
It sounds strange to say, but the nerdy artist in me loved the way our final worship gathering on April 29th came full circle. So much so that that show ended up essentially being the album even though we recorded the whole tour. It was just so emotional and real, and every single song had such poignancy for me as we sang them together at the top of our lungs, with a great many of the same people who had sent us out to do this in the first place… I mean, 13 years ago we helped lead a diverse group of Christian students in worship after they’d spent all day getting their hands dirty in mission. To have that same event still going, and participating at our last show - that meant the world to me.
If you were stuck on an Island and you could only take one of your own albums
Which would you pick and why?
This one. Besides the fact that it has a bunch of our favourite songs, it’s live. It’s why we do what we do. I’ve loved the process of making all of our albums - and making an album in amazing studios with your friends is an incredible experience that I love. But, for me, hearing these sung live with a crowd worshipping together - it just brings these songs to life for me in such an incredible and satisfying way.
What does the next few years hold for the band members?
It’s funny, it took almost no time at all for all of us to get involved in leadership at churches again. Eric left the band over a year ago to focus on planting a church in Hamilton, and I’ve been involved in a church plant in Nashville and writing and training worship leaders here for over a year. I know Aaron and Josh have both taken on leadership roles in their churches as well.
Aaron also has new music in the works, and I’ve been pretty focused on writing songs for the church - so it won’t be long before I start to share some of those new songs too!
The thing about the word ‘Benediction’ is that it isn’t just an ending, it’s a sending. We’re spurring each other to do great things for the Kingdom, and so whatever Christ calls us to, I pray that’s what we find ourselves doing. For now, we’ve started this new season in the same way we started the season that’s ending: seeking to do the work of Christ in our own neighbourhoods.