Interview: Highlands Worship

Sep 01 2016

LTTM spoke with Highlands Worship's Nicole Mclean about the group's new album, and gets her thoughts on Church culture, worship music, and the importance of using your gifts.

Tell us a little bit about Highland’s Worship “Here I Surrender"?

“Here I Surrender” is a compilation of songs written by several of our worship leaders from across our 14 different campuses in our church. It is a collection of anthems that declare who Jesus is and who we are in Him. We are a church that puts Jesus at the center of everything we do and this album is a reflection of that we are completely surrendered to Him and His call: to know Him and make Him known.

What is your role in the team?

I have the incredible privilege of serving as one of the Worship Leaders at Church of the Highlands. I wear a few different hats in our department. I oversee all vocals across our campuses. I also get to teach and mentor students in our Worship Practicum at our leadership college, Highlands College. I get to regularly lead in our student ministry, with our monthly "Motion Nights". Lastly, I get to help with a lot of our creative initiatives, in areas such as songwriting, recording, conferences, and special events. I think I have the best job on the planet :) I truly cannot believe that I have the honor of getting to serve in the ways that I do I am having the time of my life!

Which is your favourite track on the album and why?

Wow, that’s a really hard question! Ha! I think my favorite song would have to be the title track, “Here I Surrender” because it’s simple and it prompts a response in both congregational and individual/personal settings. The backstory behind the song is that we actually wanted to write it for our student ministry. So in our songwriting group we said, “What could a 14-year-old connect with? What lyrics could we write that would be simple and easy to engage with?” And who knew that with that mindset, it would actually encompass any audience and end up being the title track?! My favorite part is the chorus where it just simply says, “Jesus I love You, Oh how I love You!” Even just typing it out now, it brings a smile to my face because that's really what He wants to hear that we genuinely love Him.

If you could work with any songwriter, who would it be and why?

There are many writers I admire, but I would have to say I would absolutely love to work with Brooke Ligertwood, from Hillsong Church. She has been a role model of mine for quite a while now. I have always loved the depth and sincerity that is so evident in all of her songs. She has an anointing to be able to word things that have maybe been said before, but in a completely fresh, new way. She is brilliant.

Do you prefer playing live or working in the studio?

Highlands Worship - Here I SurrenderI love both for different reasons, but there’s nothing like being united with a group of people, worshipping Jesus together. There’s a reason why we are told not to forsake the assembling of people, right? Ha! I enjoy working in the studio, too. It’s fun to be able to have an objective and focus on seeing that project come to life. But when it does comes to life and we play a newly written song in a live setting, it’s pretty amazing (and incredibly humbling) to sense Holy Spirit moving in peoples lives through that song. When you look out and see someone with tears rolling down his or her face because of what the Lord is doing, that is what it’s all about and how awesome that He would let us get to be part of that?!

How would you describe the Highland’s Worship style of music?

I would say it would mirror a couple facets of our church culture, in general, actually I believe it is authentic, relevant, and powerful. "Authentic," because these aren’t just songs that were thrown together for “hey, let’s write a cool song”-sake. Each song has story and depth as to why specific words were chosen over others. They come from a heartfelt place of wanting to truly connect people with the heart of God. "Relevant," because I believe our sound is relevant with current styles of mainstream music. We definitely have our own unique sound and I think it’s important to stay relevant because that’s exactly what Jesus did, right? His parables and how he taught were relevant to the times. Lastly, “Powerful,” because well, quite simply, we are given these gifts from a powerful God, who wants to move powerfully through them. In all of our worship experiences and on this album, our goal is for people to have that moment when they experience the presence and power of God in a life-changing way.

Who are a few of your personal influences?

My personal influences from afar would include Brooke Ligertwood (mentioned previously), John Maxwell, and Danny Silk. I already described Brooke’s impact on my life as a musician and songwriter. John has massively impacted my leadership, mostly indirectly, through our pastors here - but also through different lessons I have studied of his. Danny completely changed the game for me when I studied his teaching on relationships and how to do them well. Game-changer, for sure. Personal influences I have on a more relational basis would be my parents, my pastors John Larson and Justin Bradshaw, and then my mentor/“friendtor” as I like to call him, Colette Greene. All of them have poured so much into me in so many ways, in so many different seasons of my life. I am so grateful to have such amazing leaders, friends, and family to get to glean from every day!

How would you define success in your career?

Success in my career would be two parts: 1) Being fully alive, present, and engaged in an authentic relationship with the Lord, while operating in the giftings He has given me in each season of life to see people come to know Him and 2) Through all that, sowing seeds into others and watching THEM succeed in their giftings and callings! To me, true “success” is fulfilling what Jesus said the greatest commands are loving God and loving people…and loving them well.

What is your favorite album of all time?

This may sound a little funny but my favorite album of all time would have to be James Taylor’s “Greatest Hits” Album is that cheating since it’s all the hits? Haha! I grew up listening to his records with my dad and that particular one just holds a special place in my heart. Oh man, when that intro of “You’ve Got A Friend” comes on, warm-fuzzies ensue immediately. Ha! James is one of my all-time favorite artists. I learned a lot about how to take people on a journey through song because of him.

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?

Another hard question Ha! I would have to say “Abba” by Jonathan David Helser. I listen to this song at least once or twice a week. There’s a vulnerability and authenticity in the song that just immediately connects my heart with Father every time, without fail. I love the picture he paints in the song. If you can’t tell yet, I’m a sucker for good lyrics and good imagery. But my favorite part is the simplicity of the phrase “Abba, I belong to You.”

What does the next year hold for Highlands Worship?

This next year will be building on the foundations that have been laid in the culture of our church and ministry. We have the most amazing team on the planet, truly. There is a familial aspect that is one of those intangible things you just have to be around to experience. A lot of that has to do with the way we train our teams and our culture that is based around our core values: Heart, Community, Excellence, and Attitude. From there, it is all based on developing others. It’s not about people having “their thing” and “their spot” on the team. It’s about continually looking to encourage and challenge each other to ALL be the best stewards of the gifts that the Lord’s given us. We want to see the people we develop become even better than us! So we will continue to find ways to develop better as a team, write new songs we feel like God is stirring in our hearts, and we will continue to be fully engaged with all the Lord is doing across our church. He is moving powerfully and I, for one, am SO excited to see what He is going to do over this next year!

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