Interview: Awaken Music
San Diego-based collective Awaken Music has just released its new, full-length album, 'Move Of Heaven', via The Fuel Music. Louder Than The Music spoke to Mike Yeager, Awaken Church Executive Pastor, to find out more about their music, and the incredible story of how an historic piece of art in Italy inspired the songwriters.
For those who haven't heard of Awaken Music before, can you tell us a bit about yourselves and how you got involved in making music?
Awaken Music is the original music expression of Awaken Church, a multi-site campus in San Diego. Our church started 17 years ago when two Australian-natives, Ps. Jurgen and Leanne Matthesius, moved to America to start the church. Our Pastor has always believed there was call of God on our church to write and produce original music and that initiative got its start in 2021 with our debut release Lionheart. We write songs that we hope will awaken Chrisitian courage and give believers the words to sing that will shift things in their city and in their life.
Mike, at Awaken Church you have the title of "Executive Pastor" - tell us a what that means in practical terms, and what your day-to-day role is like?
Our church has a unique approach with church staff and most of our top-level leaders are bi-vocational. So, I am an engineer by trade and founded an engineering consultancy, and pastor as well. My wife and I are campus pastors over one of the 6 Awaken campuses and I am the executive pastor over worship, AVL production and Awaken Music. I am responsible for the spiritual health and excellence of my campus and those teams.
Tell us a little about the new album 'Move Of Heaven' and what you set out to achieve with these songs?
Move of Heaven is our first full length release with 11 new songs. If we think of the Christian life as a battle on a battlefield, people will find themselves at different places on the battlefield. Some Christians are on the front lines going toe-to-toe with the spirit of this world. Some are too afraid to fully engage in the battle and others are in the medic tent getting healing from an injury. Our sincere prayer is that these songs encourage people and equip people with declarative weapons to get to the front line and engage with the battle that God has called us to fight!
Which is your favorite track on the album and why?
There is a song called Peter that I am in love with. It is a song sung from Peter's first-person perspective that discusses his failures walking on water and denying Jesus during his arrest. The choruses are heart-wrenching as Peter cries out to God for mercy and rescuing. The triumphant bridge talks about the scene at the beach where the resurrected Christ restores Peter. I love the unique approach to the song and the relatability. All of us have been Peter at one point or another in or walk with God.
I'm fascinated by the story of how a piece of historic artwork by Vasari in Italy links to the album's theme of spiritual battle - can you expand on that?
Part of my graduate work in engineering took me to Florence, Italy for a structural analysis of some structures there. I got to work with Professor Maurizio Seracini who had explored Vasri's Battle of Marciano fresco in the Hall of the 500 in the Palazo Vecchio. He discovered a tiny green flag being held by one of thousands of painted soldiers in the epic battle. On the flag, Vasari painted the words "CERCA TROVA" which means "Seek and you will find." It is rumored that behind that flag is an undiscovered Leonardo DaVinci painting that would be absolutely priceless. The idea of a treasure hidden underneath a battle was so intriguing to me and sounds like the Christian life.
What message would you like people to take from your music?
God did not part the Red Sea until Moses cooperated with God's command to stretch out his hand... God is inviting us into a divine partnership to bring heaven to Earth and engage in the battle with the spirit of this world. We hope this music fills people with courage and gives them the vocabulary to declare the promises of God over their city and families.
If you could work with any songwriter, who would it be and why?
Patty Griffin. The first time I heard "Up to the Mountain" (A song written about Martin Luther King Jr's last speech where he prophesied his own death), I broke down. She so beautifully captured the courage of a man who was so resolute about confronting the demons of his age that it cost him his life. It’s an outstanding song and she is one of the great American song writers.
How would you define success for Awaken Music as a music artist?
First, that our church is blessed with songs that carry the specific DNA of our church. We want songs that our church family can sing in services that will build faith and invite the miraculous in our services. Secondly, that the DNA that is on Awaken Church is weaponized through our music and sent throughout the world to equip the saints.
What is your personal favorite album of all time?
The self-titled Third Eye Blind album carries such nostalgia for me. I remember driving cross country with my brand new wife from Dallas TX to San Diego. We were young, broke, and in love. We absolutely wore that album out. It still carries such powerful fun memories for me.
What does the next year hold for Awaken Music?
We are working on a Christmas project that we are very excited about :)