Stu G, the former Delirious? guitarist and renowned singer/songwriter/author, has just unveiled the multi-artist Beatitudes album, featuring 18 tracks from multiple GRAMMY and Dove Award Winners such as Hillsong United, Michael W. Smith, All Sons & Daughters and Matt Maher. LTTM spoke to Stu about the project, and what it was like being reunited with former band mate Martin Smith.
The Beatitudes Project seems to have been something you've been planning for quite a while, how did the concept come about?
It’s been a dream and forming for years. Back in the day when delirious? were touring and we were asked to sign CDs, some people would ask for my favorite scripture. I would always say Matthew 5,6 & 7 the sermon on the mount. I always saw that as the “essential” Jesus teaching. Over time the Beatitudes came into focus for me and I thought we might make a delirious? beatitudes album, eight themes seemed like a nice number for a record. I’m glad we didn’t though because as time went on and going through the end of the band and into a personal transition, I began to see the beatitudes differently. Not as a list of things to attain or achieve but upside down announcements of God being on our side when things are broken and we are at the bottom of life.
This led me to think about what these beatitudes might look like in the twenty first century and that’s when I started to collect the stories that became the book and inspired the songs on the album. We filmed every recording session and a lot of the stories too and that is becoming the film part of the project
There are some incredible collaborations on the album, it's like a who's who of Christian music! What was it like having so many people involved?
It was essential to the project. I think that part of the message of the beatitudes is that we need each other. I am better when I’m with others and this is not about building “my” thing. It was thrilling as one by one people said yes to being a part, it was so honoring. I enjoyed every collaboration and even the tricky things like not all being in the same part of the world at the same time was just creative fun. It does add some complications now the record is out, I don’t know what the touring or event side will look like and so hopefully that will all be creative fun as well, and we’ll find a way to get out and play some songs live.
There's also a companion book called 'Words From The Hill', tell us a bit about that.
Words From The Hill is in some ways the back bone of the project. When I started to talk about what an album would look like, some of the conversations spread farther than my artist friends and I guess about five or six years ago my publisher Don Pape reached out and said “have you thought about writing a book?” which I hadn’t. It was in that moment that I started to reach out of my own circle and I met people and listened to their stories, they helped me see these announcements through a twenty-first century lens. Many of the stories in the book inspired the songs that we wrote.
It helped me see that one of the invitations in the beatitudes is to open our eyes and see who is around us, who is our neighbor - to see, and listen.
In the book you talk about how after Delirious ended you missed standing on stage with Martin Smith, so it must have been particularly special to record with him again for this album?
It was so great. Martin called and asked if I could play with him at a conference in Pennsylvania and of course I said yes! We had such a great time there and it felt so good to be together on stage again. We spent a day writing and the song that came out was Holy Troublemakers. He was due to come to Nashville and record but had to change plans at the last minute. I flew to London and in a moment of celebration and extravagance booked RAK Studio 1 where Radiohead recorded The Bends. In some ways it was a full circle moment for us because that record really inspired us when it came out in the 90s. It was a really special time and I'm so glad we got to make some new memories.
Is there a particular highlight for you on the album?
There are so many... but one that comes to mind whenever anyone asks is I Will Be Your Home with Audrey Assad. Writing this refugee song with Audrey who is the daughter of a first generation Syrian refugee, and one of my favorite singers was special enough, but two days before recording i had the awesome privilege of meeting a Syrian refugee family in Nashville who arrived just two months prior. We played some music together in their home and I invited Hassan to come into the studio and play on this song. The Tabla and Oud you hear on the back half of the song is him. But I'll never forget when he started to sing. His and Audrey’s voices united in a beautiful lament of homesickness.
In addition to enjoying the music, what message do you hope people will take from listening to the songs?
I want people to hear the message that life with God is not about achieving and attaining and striving. That when things are broken and we can’t fix them, when we want answers and certainty and a way out, what is offered is “presence" God is on our side.
With the book you've clearly drawn on your experiences and observations from traveling the world, what single change that we could all make do you think would have the biggest impact on society?
To see and to listen.
To see those who we haven’t noticed before.
To listen to their stories without feeling the need to talk over them.
Is there more to come from The Beatitudes Project?
Yes we are currently editing the film portion of the project and hope to have that available very soon. Then we’ll see... I’d love to find a way of doing some live events and that could look like a number of things. Maybe find a way of bringing something to the UK and Europe, I’d love that more than anything but it depends on a lot of moving parts.
I think this whole thing is a first step into what the next season holds.
What does the next year hold for Stu G?
Well I’ll be playing my guitar, that’s my passion - writing and recording as usual here in Nashville and continuing to tour in Michael W Smith’s band. I love creating so that will never stop. Then I will be doing all I can to be out and about with The Beatitudes Project. Showing the film, speaking, playing some songs. Continuing the conversations and work I’ve started in the book with peacemaking and inter-faith dialogue. Doing my best to enlarge my circle of compassion and encouraging folks to hear the incredible upside down good news in the beatitudes and the invitation we have to live this surprising and upside down life.