Wake Up – Available Now

Wake Up is out now.

A five track worship EP marinated in dance, pop and rock with some ambient and experimental seasoning, for anyone tired of the same old worship music sandwich.

Available now to order from Bandcamp, iTunes, Amazon, Play and other stores.

Tracks included are:

  • Wake Up
  • Whom The Son Sets Free
  • When The Waters Rise
  • Come To The River
  • Don’t Sleep

Wake Up has already received some great reviews and recommendations including these:

This EP is radically different from anything Jonny has released previously. It blends elements of dance, pop and rock music to provide something really unique – and it works amazingly…I love how Jonny has in a short space of time changed his whole sound. This proves he is a versatile songwriter and producer. I am so impressed with this EP and I can’t stop telling people about it. This is a dance electronic inspired piece of wonderful worship music.  Full review from louderthanthemusic.com

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Jonny Shepherd is back with dynamic worship music, this time in a whole new musical vein – electronic, euro-pop sounds with meaningful lyrics and heartfelt passion for God. From the artwork to the guitar sampling to the sweeping musical landscapes, the Wake Up EP can serve as a positive intro to worshippers to the buzzing and popping sounds of the digital age while meeting God on your knees…or dancing. I love it! Ken Steorts, President of Visible Music College, Founding Guitarist of Skillet

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Jonny consistently inspires me. In a crowded industry, and as an independent artist, he continually finds a way to release vibrant music with genuine passion and sonic integrity. Jonny’s latest release ‘Wake Up’ is both innovative and invigorating. The heart of this EP is rooted in worship, but covers fresh and contemporary musical ground. Jonny is a friend, an inspiration, a pioneer, and someone you need to check out!  Ryan Baker-Barnes, Worship Pastor at Revival Fires Dudley

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A different direction for Jonny, Electronica worship music, well worth checking out.  Contemporary sounds and a brave step, think Owl City and William Orbit with worshipful lyrics.  Wake Up, breaks the walls of the contemporary worship music genre.  Ian Yates, Elim Sound
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All tracks written, recorded and produced by Jonny Shepherd.  Additional production and mixing by Matt Cotterill.  With thanks to Adam Collins.  Spoken word by Alan Scotland.

 

Worship Songwriting – Tip No.2 – Lyrics – The…

Screen Shot 2014-01-18 at 16.32.06In writing a pop or rock song…in fact any genre except congregational worship songs…anything goes.

You can write from any experience, any viewpoint, use any language or emotion that you see fit.  Worship song writing is very different.

While there is no standard to measure your lyrics against in secular music (although it is clear that both good and poor lyrics are written), in worship song writing we HAVE to measure our songs lyrically against one single plumb line that exists.  The Bible.

While experience, emotion and world view can clearly influence our lyric writing, they hold very little real value in the scope of worship songwriting if the lyrics are not theologically sound and watertight, as measured against Truth.

Biblical Truth trumps experience/emotion/view point EVERY TIME

 

Our congregations theology is based more on the songs we sing than the preaches we hear.  Your responsibility as a worship song writer is great.  Measure your songs constantly against Truth.  Find a church leader to check the lyrics for you.

Please hear me clearly – there is a place for experience/emotion/view point – as long as they are aligned with the Bible, and used carefully.  A vague song about ‘feelings’ will dissolve into insignificance when stood next to a theologically pure exaltation, that builds faith, teaches Truth, reflects the nature God, praises his works or remembers the redeeming work of the cross.

 

John 4 v24 – “God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship in the Spirit and in truth” (italics mine)

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Worship Songwriting – Tip No. 1 – Self Critique

Good worship songwriting is critical in playing a part of the Church’s growth, health and maturity.  It is a big responsibility.songwriter_with_guitar

One really important process that has helped increase the standard of my songwriting is that of self-critique.  In my experience it is sometimes difficult to find the right people to really say what they think about your new song.  You will have the friends who will say ‘that’s nice’ or sometimes people who will try to say something constructive but might not have the musical experience or even language to be truly helpful.

So self-critique.  It will take you from average or good, and stretch you to excellence.  Take time to learn how to do it, it is an essential tool in your pocket.

I almost never write a good song in an hour or a day or a week.  Even if I think it’s great, returning to that song after a period of time always begins to reveal the weaknesses in the initial writing.  Don’t be blinded by the feeling that “God gave me this song”, or “that will do”.

Yes God may have sparked the song in you, but he also requires you to walk a creative journey towards excellence.  It is often the quiet voice in the back of my head, that there’s something better than what is down on the piece of paper – I can either ignore that voice, or strive for something more.

What about you?  How do you evaluate the songs you’ve written?

The next blog looks at the critique process that I use, starting with lyrics

Do You Noel?

So often we can sing songs, without fully appreciating the meaning – especially common with old hymns, where the language can be old fashioned or complicated.  Sometimes words are used that are no longer in common use.  Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing is a good example where we sing ‘Here I raise my Ebenezer’ – not Ebenezer Scrooge from Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, but here meaning ‘rock of help’.

noel

So it got me thinking to the Christmas Carols we sing, in particular The First Noel.

Noel, in simple terms is French for Christmas, as in ‘Joyeux Noel’ or Happy Christmas.  So the first Noel, refers to the first Christmas, or the day of Jesus’ birth.

But buried in the etymological history of the word is another glorious meaning…

“A shout of joy at Christmas for the birth of the Saviour”

What a wonderful word!  So in the same way we can sing and shout hallelujah (praise the Lord) or hosanna (a shout of praise, or ‘he saves’), we can use Noel at Christmas time as a shout of joy, to celebrate his birth.  Joyeux Noel to you all!

Coming Back To The Heart Of Christmas

One of our worship leaders sang Matt Redmans Heart of Worship this week and changed the lyrics to “I’m coming back to the heart of Christmas and it’s all about you, all about you Jesus”.

Once the interruption to my ‘auto-worship’ mode had settled, the stinging truth of that one-word alteration began to settle in my heart.  And though the lyric change seemed a little twee, even cheesy, at first, it challenged me to the core again, and focused my worship anew.  And I’m thankful for our worship leader stepping out to make that change.

And when planning for our Christmas services, I came across this clip from the movie The Nativity Story, which again moved me to worship, and to focus on Jesus once again during this festive time.  This clip, I believe, is conveyed in a very reverent, worshipful way and hope it moves you to thank God for Jesus again, as it did me.

Remember why we celebrate Christmas, and take a moment to turn your heart back to Him!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zbo1znOG4ts

What’s The Deal With “Crown of Praise”?

Crown of Praise started with the small idea of releasing small “chapters” of music. Where recording a whole album can be prohibitive because of the costs involved, I’ve decided to explore releasing music in smaller bite size chunks. Crown of Praise will be the first in a series of “chapters” over the coming months.  Here’s a little detail about the project…

I have loved making Crown of Praise.  I have challenged myself lyrically and musically to be even more creative than I have been before. The emotive sounds of the orchestral elements floating over the piano and acoustic guitars really moves me into worship, and I really hope that it helps you in your personal worship times too.

This first little ‘chapter’ of planned EP’s contains two brand new songs, a new recording of an old song called My Reason and an instrumental.

Praise You For The Blood is a song where I wanted to capture both the reflective nature of acknowledging our sin and shortcomings before God, and the celebratory nature of rejoicing in the grace we recieve.  The song explodes half way in with joy, and seems a wonderful way to open the EP!

My Reason is a number of years old, and I have led with this song many times.  After being pushed by my church leader to re-record the track, I decided to try a new take on it, changing the time signature of the song, chord structure and ambience completely compared to the ‘rock’ approach I had previously used.  I think it works brilliant with the piano track laid down by David Skoppek, and the song still moves me into worship all these years later!

Crown of Praise contains some of my favourite lyrics and thematically follows My Reason with an understanding of our very lives purpose is in the worship of God.

Finally, the instrumental When We See Him finishes the EP allowing the music to inspire your worship rather than words.  The simple repeating melody line throws all sorts of imagery in my head that…well it’s better you just take a listen and interpret it for yourself!

I am on a faith journey where I don’t have a regular job, but I believe God is calling me to write and record worship music for the Church and I want to be faithful in that.  Often money is a barrier in doing what we want to do, and certainly recording music can be a very expensive venture, that can take months or even years to break even on costs.  But I guess that is the nature of a ‘faith journey’ – there has to be an element of the impossible to allow you to put your faith in higher powers.

So please pray for me as I journey – for melodies and lyrics that inspire and encourage the Church…and for resources to do what I believe God is calling me to do. I hope you enjoy this little project and join me in crowning Jesus with your worship.  Download here.

I offer you this crown of praise, formed of my heart, my life, my days
'Surrender' fashions precious jewels and 'sacrifice' the gold for you
And here my alabaster jar, where lie the treasures of my heart
When 'gratitude's' too weak a form, I pour myself, my life, my all

The words of man cannot convey, my debt of love, my breadth of praise
For every hymn and melody, but a token of the love I bring
From time where cells began to form, you watched within my mothers womb
And reason you composed my frame, that I may live to raise your name

I do nor fear the day I die, for you my God are by my side
And final breath won't cease my song, for this symphony has just begun

All blessing, all honour is yours, forever and ever amen
All glory, all power is yours, forever and ever amen

Behind The Song – At The Foot Of The…

At The Foot Of The CrossSometimes I am so in despair over my own fallibility. My complete failure to live a life worthy of who God has called me to be.

“Where would I be, how could I stand, if your grace had not found me?”…read the lyrics…

I mean, think about it for a minute, where would you actually be right now if it wasn’t for Gods’ grace intervening, renewing and rebirthing you into a new creation? Read more “Behind The Song – At The Foot Of The Cross”

Best Worship Albums 2012

2012As I don’t have enough time to listen to everything that’s out there, I thought I’d compile the best-of lists from a few websites.

Here’s the top christian worship albums of 2012.  Is there anything missing?  What were your favourites? Let me know your thoughts! Read more “Best Worship Albums 2012”

Behind The Song – Even When (You Are Here)

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A couple of years back me and my wife took a sabbatical break from serving in our church.  Time out from leading worship, and all the others things we were involved with.  It was a much needed time for God to break us down, in order to build us up again.  I also took a long break from writing, but on returning to church, this was the song that echoed part of the journey we had been on.

The key lyrics for me are ‘You are always faithful, even when I’m faithless’ and the lines that talk about Gods steady hand. Read more “Behind The Song – Even When (You Are Here)”