Interview: Andrew Gonoude
Andrew Gonoude is an English Christian artist, songwriter and worship leader from South UK. As he embarks on a mission to relase a new song every month this year, Louder Than The Music chatted with him about how he started out making music, and what inspires him to keep recording songs.
For those who haven't heard of you before, can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got involved in making music?
I became a Christian when I was 18. One of the first things I was taught was to pray and ask God to speak to me. I felt I heard the voice of God telling me that he had called me into the music ministry. So I told the elders at my church. They said “great, you should join the music group.“ I did not play an instrument or sing, so I started praying about which instrument to learn. I felt the Lord directing me to learn the guitar. I found a guitar shop, got some basic advice and bought a cheap Fender Malibu acoustic. I joined the music group for rehearsals and began to learn different chords, (struggled with bar chords like most guitarist in the beginning).
After a few months I stepped forward one time and sang prophetically during a time of ministry at the end of a meeting. It was the first time I’ve ever sang publicly in my life. I was encouraged to sing more by the church and the worship leader began to mentor me. After about a year, I was beginning to lead the music team with him. So around the age of 19 I was singing and leading regularly. I then quickly developed a passion for song writing. It was the guitar and then the breakthrough into singing that birthed the desire to make my own music. I dreamed of making my own album one day. In the 80’s, recording studios were very expensive, and in those days there was no professional AND affordable technology around to record at home. So until recently a lot of this has remained a dream. A passion. But now that technology is becoming more affordable and online courses are available, I’m slowly seeing those dreams become reality.
Tell us about your new single 'Everything Is Beautiful' and what the inspiration behind it was?
Psalm 8 is where the inspiration started, and then later in Psalm 19. Psalm 8 talks about children praising God: ‘’from the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise.’’ And Psalm 19 talks about the heavens and the skies praising God: ‘’the heavens declare the glory of God - day after day, they pour forth speech.‘’ Both of these gave me a desire to make a song that talks about all creation and all ages worshiping God. As soon as I started experimenting with melodies and chord structures, I knew that I would love to see a children’s choir being part of the song.
A few months later I was in my church prayer meeting and one of the elders started thanking God, and said a phrase that he would go on to repeat in the weekly prayer meeting for about a month: “I praise you for who you, praise you for what you’ve done, praise you for what you’re doing.“ I wrote that down and looked at it one day while I was working on the song and suddenly realised that this phrase of his was the perfect chorus and would be an ideal complement to Psalms 8 & 19. It was also perfect for children to sing as it was very easy to remember.
That song is taken from your forthcoming EP, what more can you tell us about the EP?
The title of the EP will be “Audience Of One“ and is largely based on my personal devotional life. This usually involves getting alone with the Lord with my Guitar, a Bible and an iPad (it has an app for writing music). I spend a lot of time alone with God worshipping and just singing my heart out. A lot of what I sing does not get recorded, nor made into a song. It’s just for him. I heard somebody once say ‘’Do not stand before men until you have knelt before God.’’ And sometimes I feel as musicians we need to be worshippers before an audience of one before we can stand and lead musical worship in front of crowds. So I have a deep desire to be a worshipper in a secret place where I can shut the door behind me, not expecting anyone else’s attention. It’s like my personal conviction, since that first calling when I was firt born again at 18. I have a deep priority in my heart - to be intimate with the Father and worship him in the presence of the Holy Spirit. There is nothing greater in life. I want to know him as he knows me.
What message would you like people to take from your music?
I would say that most of the songs contain some or all 3 things that I care about: 1) knowing the Father, 2) hearing his voice and 3) walking with him in a ‘lifestyle’ of worship. This level of devotion is the most valuable thing we can do in this life. I hope that if nothing else, listeners will draw hope and strength from my songs, and perhaps keep these 3 values in mind especially during hard times. Because whatever our circumstances, he is worthy of our praise, our gratitude and our thanksgiving. These songs reflect those 3 DNA values, largely due to the journey I’ve been on and the price of worship I have sometimes had to pay in very difficult circumstances. He is worth it all. There is always a reason to praise him.
How would you describe your style of music and what are your influences?
It’s very acoustic and percussive, almost always with a guitar, often played without a plectrum and quite varied in mood and tempo. Some songs are solo voice and guitar only. Others involve several instruments and some even involve a full band. Some are objective (outward, upward, towards God, glorifying him) whilst others are subjective (life, circumstances, desires etc.) I usually try to put a lot of theological accuracy into the lyrics whilst still telling the story in rhyme.
My influences come from a lot of guitar players and worship leaders from the last 3 decades. American guitarists such as Ben Ferrell, Don Francisco, Daniel Brymer, Kevin Prosch, Chris Tomlin, Jeremy Camp, Michael Card. Canadian classical guitarist Ruth Fazal. British guitarists such as Dave Bilbrough, Graham Kendrick, Noel Richards, Matt Redman and bands such as Delirious. A lot of these guys shaped my early guitar development. In the 80s and 90s, there were a lot of concerts within driving distance from me and I was able to talk face-to-face with these guitar players backstage and ask them to show me how they did certain things. Very formative years for me. For years, I played guitar for hours every day and went through a lot of guitars and strings. Practicing new things and finding out what works well.
If you could work with any songwriter, who would it be and why?
Ben Ferrell, from Tulsa, Oklahoma. As a new Christian I was given one of his albums. ‘’Sacrifice Of Praise.’’ I still have it on cassette. (Yes, ‘’cassette!’’). It contains is just him and his guitar, singing solo. But the presence of God in his music is so profound, it still moves me today. A lot of my writing carries his influence. I recently found him on the Internet and ordered the CD of the same album. It got lost in the post, so he kindly sent another one along with some free books / gifts which was so kind of him. We’ve been in touch by email since then, and shared our journeys. He completely floored me by saying he wants to buy my album “Audience Of One’’ when it’s finished. Such a nice man. A true worshiper and a true General of the faith. Thank you Ben!
How would you define success in your career as an artist?
Mother Theresa said “if you can’t help the whole world, start by helping one person.’’ Quite simply, if I get a letter from just one person, telling me that one of my songs has given them hope, breakthrough or encouragement of any kind, then everything will be totally worth it - just for that one letter. I’m not doing it to get fame, and definitely not to get rich. But I do believe that these songs can and will help somebody who is hurting or just needing a breakthrough. I think we can say the same thing about hosting an Alpha course or doing any kind of church mission - if one person is blessed, born-again, encouraged strengthened by your obedience then you cannot help but say ‘thank you Jesus.’ Thank you for giving a gift that I’ve been able to give away to minister to someone else. It’s at times like this when you realise the words of Jesus are so true “it’s better to give than to receive.’’
What is your favourite album of all time?
Ben Ferrell. ‘’Sacrifice Of Praise.’’
You're stuck on an island, it's hot, you only have enough battery life left to listen to one song on your phone. What track is it?
Keith Green. “The Prodigal Son.”
What does the new year hold for you?
In 2023 I will continue to release 1 new song every month. Later in the year - after the EP Audience Of One is released - a 2nd album will then be underway. I will also be getting to grips with sound engineering and learning to do more production work at home. I might even ask my wife to teach me Piano.