Welcome to the Artist Spotlight, with Brian and Katie Torwalt who are are part of the Jesus Culture movement.
Now Brian, I was wondering if you could tell me about the ‘Jesus Culture’ early days. I was thinking about this the other day and it kind of parallels with and is similar to ‘Hillsong United’ who began as a youth band and are now artists in their own right.
B – Yeah it’s been amazing. Katie and I began with the Jesus Culture label about five or six years ago. We actually met at a Jesus Culture Conference in 2006 when they were first releasing their albums and it was just a youth conference. It was starting to explode and you could tell that God was in it. We have just been so happy that we’ve been a part of ‘Jesus Culture’.
I was wondering if you could take me through your song writing process? Does it start off with a bible verse, a word, or an image? What’s that process for you guys?
K – I feel like it’s really different for both of us with each song and every album. We have tried to get better at areas that we are weaker in. Brian is really strong lyrically – we love a good verse and a story. We want to be really intentional with the theology and words that we put into song, which is something I’ve been trying to work on.
Sometimes it starts with a verse. With the song ‘Shores’ we were doing worship nights and when we feel God saying something to us while we worship we’ll actually stop and say that.
We kept feeling like God wanted to lift depression and mental illness off people. I wanted to sing like we meant it in plain words and just say ‘Depression is leaving you right now’, ‘You’re bringing freedom’ – making those declarations in song.
That makes it fun! The actual musical part of it brings joy and a fun free spirit, and the words are driving our music home with the truth.
You kind of touched on it before, do you feel like song writers and artists are not direct enough with the message? Do think that artists will write around a message and so it’s not received as they would hope?
B – The thing that I love about music is that it’s art and so I don’t think that there’s a right or wrong way to do it. One of our favourite song writers is John Mark McMillan and he uses really strong metaphors and is not very literal, but somehow he still conveys a message in a really beautiful way.
I think we are both very blunt and straight forward so it’s how we come across with our lyrics, and with worship music in particular we really want to make those strong declarations that were easy for a church to grab. For a season we felt like that was important – to have really straight forward statements and prayers.
With your song ‘Holy Spirit’ that you wrote together, it seems to have been on a bit of a journey. It has taken a few years for it to be played on radio and make its way into churches. Has that surprised you with the way that’s happened?
B – It has definitely surprised us! We’ve always loved that song and we wrote it when we were worship leading at a small local church and they received it really well. When it was put on the ‘Jesus Culture’ album I guess we ourselves put it a little bit in a box and thought that only the charismatic churches would love it. But over the last five years with all of the covers, and more recently with Francesca Battistelli, it’s hit radio which is crazy, and then the song won a Grammy which was unbelievable to see! For us the incredible thing has been seeing it go to the broader church where so many denominations sing it and to us it is so amazing to sit back and watch God do what He does.
Now I have two questions about that! As song writers did you get a Grammy, and how did you feel about someone else getting a Grammy with your song?
B – All the way back when we were young and writing worship music we really felt that God wanted us to write music for the church before anything like that had happen. That was the feeling we had in our heart. We just prayed that God would take our worship music and use it. And we joked about what would happen one day if people Googled our song and our names didn’t show up – would we be okay with that? And now five years later the epitome of that is happening. We’ve looked back and it is SO worth it – it’s our heart. We wrote those songs because we wanted to see the church impacted.
So to answer your question, because of some weird Grammy loop hole we actually do not get a trophy, but it’s so amazing to know that we wrote a song that won a Grammy.
K – It’s so funny because we were watching it and were in a home maker store at the time. Brian was live streaming it to his phone. But even it being nominated was amazing. And we LOVE Francesca and her family. Their whole team has been extremely honouring to us. And in that moment at the store when it won it all clicked back for us, of those prayers we prayed asking God to use these songs – even if it never came back to us because it’s not about us. We just wanted these words and His heart to go into the church. We are just so excited that the song has done so well and we are so thankful!
Listen to the full interview at rhemacatchup.com