Grammy Award-winning group Hillsong Worship released their latest studio album Awake, and the popular band hopes listeners will have their own “awakening” with God.
Hillsong church was founded by Brian Houston and his wife, Bobbie, in the suburbs of Sydney, Australia, in 1983. It has now grown from a single church to an international ministry that has houses of worship in 21 countries on six continents, including: London, England; Paris, France; Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Cape Town, South Africa; Tel Aviv, Israel; and three cities in the United States.
The church has an average global attendance approaching 130,000 weekly.
In the U.S., Hillsong is recognized for its thriving congregations in New York City, Los Angeles and Phoenix, with services frequently attended by A-list celebrities.
Hillsong Worship has led the global ministry in congregational music for more than 30 years with a goal to serve the church by equipping believers worldwide with songs of praise. Their new release, Awake, aims to do the same. Featuring the vocals of Brooke Ligertwood, Joel Houston, Taya, and Aodhan King, the album is comprised of 12 new tracks that they hope will help listeners participate in a deeper exchange with God.
Hillsong Worship is widely known for their world-renowned songs, including "Shout to the Lord" and "What A Beautiful Name.” Below is an edited transcript of The Christian Post's interview with lead singer Ligertwood who discusses the church’s fame, how they create their music, and the group’s aim of reflecting their heart for God in everything they produce.
Christian Post: What's the underlying theme of the album, Awake?
Ligertwood: The underlying theme that undergirds all of the songs, to me, is invitation. Invitation into awakening, which simply means invitation into more revelation, basically, more revelation of who God is, more revelation of what's available to us as children of God, and more revelation about what and who we're called to be as the Church of Jesus on the Earth right now.
That's what I would like to think undergirds the sound and undergirds the lyrics. It’s that invitation, Come and see what the Lord has done. Come and see what the Lord says about you. Come and see the things He wants to show you, the things He wants to show us.
CP: What are some practical things your team does to host the presence of God which helps you to receive revelation for the music you create?
Ligertwood: This happens in two parts, both personally and in community. So certainly when it came to making this album we were really conscious as a community and as a team that we wanted God to have His way completely. What that required from us was, great faith and also constant inquiry. Whenever I read about the life of King David, even though he was a really skilled military commander and he was very able and capable within the gifts God had given him, he constantly inquired of the Lord, he constantly stopped to say, Lord, what do you say or Lord, what should I do? Lord, what would you have me do here?
I think that was a really important thing that we established right from the onset was that we would constantly inquire of the Lord. Especially this being a studio album rather than a live album, which is what we've kind of traditionally done for all these years. We wanted to constantly ask, God, "What is the sound that you hear? Please help us to hear what you hear and create that." Rather than just do what we think is good or what we think is cool. "Help us to hear what you hear." That was a really key cornerstone for us in making this project.
CP: Musically, Hillsong Worship combines known worship sounds with modern sounds. Are there styles that you avoid to keep the authenticity of what you do and what you believe is God's heartbeat for what He's called you to do?
Ligertwood: One thing that we don't do is that we don't really listen to other things for references in terms of what we do or don't want to sound like. Sometimes we’ll reference things if we think a specific drum sound would work, then we'll find a song that has that specific drums sound. But in terms of production and the sounds that we're going for, I can only say that I think God has guided the sound of Hillsong Worship through all these years and that He's still doing it today.
We really trust our songwriters. So what our songwriters bring to the table often, the songs really speak for themselves; if the songs were people, like how the songs want to be dressed. If the song wants to wear like a floral dress or a stripy jumpsuit. Production-wise the song itself will kind of tell us what it wants to be and then we do our best to inquire of God and then dress it in its very best and most authentic self.
CP: We see Christian music now being accepted in some mainstream circles, such as Lauren Daigle being invited on daytime television or even late-night TV. Do you think that things are changing in a way that’s more favorable to the Gospel message in music?
Ligertwood: I think both things are probably happening at the same time. I think there's probably some avenues where there's an opening up happening. But then in other areas I see where in some spaces there's less of a tolerance to Christian beliefs as well.
In the past few years, how radio has shifted, I remember many years ago you couldn't really hear what we would consider as a worship song on the radio. It was more kind of CCM artists driven, which was totally fine, that was just what it was.
But I do wonder if now we're at a point where, specifically in the United States — where I've lived for many years now, my kids were born here and they’re little Americans — where in the country there is a sense of turmoil in some areas, and I wonder if it's causing believers in this country to really have to dig into our faith.
Christianity can't just be a lifestyle choice now. We actually have to dig into who God is, what is the Gospel and we as Gospel people as Christians, how does the Gospel ask us to live? That demands digging into the presence of God. And as a result, I think the hunger for worship, not just saying about a way of being a Christian, but actual worship, that vertical conversation with God, we're more desperate for it than ever before.
CP: Selena Gomez named you as her all-time favorite worship leader.
Ligertwood: She's a very special wonderful human being; I love her.
CP: What does that feel like to you when you hear that your worship is reaching all the world, including influential people like Selena Gomez?
Ligertwood: I just think humans are humans. My prayer is that every person would come into a grace collision with God's redemption plan for their lives, whether they are seen and known by millions or seen and known by no one, because every single person is seen and known by God.
The difference is that you can be the most well-known person in the world and not know that you're seen and known by God, and the same goes with the opposite. So my prayer is, certainly, that whatever we do as Hillsong Worship and then whatever I do personally, that it can further the knowledge of God's invitation to every single person on Earth, whoever they are.
CP: What has the journey of Hillsong worship been like from the time you first started up to this new album, Awake?
Ligertwood: Being a part of Hillsong Worship, honestly, I pinch myself regularly because it is a generational thing. It's been around for over 30 years now, and I pray that if we can steward it well then it will hopefully be around for at least 30 more years.
What I think is really precious about it is that it doesn't belong to any one person or any single group of people, but Hillsong Worship is the sound of Hillsong church. The sound has changed since the '90s, but I think one of the things that allows us to continue to grow and expand musically is that actually, at the core, who we are doesn't change. We are a church team, we're church community, and we're spread all over the world now but we're all serving in campuses.
I can go out and lead at conferences and all that, but then when I'm home I lead at Hillsong, Los Angeles on Sunday night to a few hundred people with our local team. We're all very rooted and grounded in serving in the local church. That's very similar to what most people would probably experience on a Sunday. We have our big campuses, but my home campus is in Orange County Campus which in any one services there like two or 300 people, so my experience is not unlike that of many normal worship leaders around the world. So I think that helps us stay really grounded. We're just church builders.
CP: Which song on the album is currently ministering to you in a special way?
Ligertwood: I have different days where I have different favorites, depending on which day you ask me. But my favorite this week has been 'Come Alive.' I think lyrically and musically and the way that Ben Hastings leads that song, it just tells something on the inside of me to stand up and to rise into what God has for me.
CP: How would you describe and your expression of worship?
Ligertwood: I pray that as Hillsong Worship that our expression would be as inclusive and expansive and as personal and intimate as the love of God is.
Hillsong Worship is gearing up to join Casting Crowns and Elevation Worship for a special 2019 USA arena tour this fall.