New EP Bright Light Coming Soon

CHERYL SHEPHERD COLLABORATES WITH SPEAK, BROTHER FOR HER DEBUT WORSHIP RELEASE

Cheryl Shepherd recording vocals at Flipside studios

Worship leader Cheryl Shepherd has teamed up with songwriting husband Jonny Shepherd and brilliant indie folk band Speak, Brother on her debut worship EP titled ‘Bright Light’, due for release on 20th April 2017.

The 4 track release is a beautifully recorded, acoustically charged recording that lets the melodies and harmonies breathe between the delicate piano and guitars and combine for an emotive worship experience.

With songs that are equally at home in a church congregation or a personal time of devotion, this release is an exciting addition to the Shepherd’s growing collection of releases, and an indication of great things to come.

Review – Speak, Brother – Dry Bones EP

So, this is unusual in the fact I’m reviewing something not directly related to worship music. However, as I’ve written about so often in the past, worship isn’t just what we sing on a Sunday morning, but our entire lives lived out in passion and honesty before God, faithful to his call.

Speak, Brother firstly are good friends of mine, and I make no apologies for being completely biased towards their music, but I also genuinely hold a deep affection for their sound, songwriting and passion.  Individually, they are proud to declare their faith in Jesus, and collectively make no attempts to hide their beliefs, however their music does does not necessarily shout their faith from the rooftops, maybe even less so than even Mumford & Sons spiritually inspired lyrics. However their songs of life, love and pain carry hope, not despair, and this is refreshing compared to the life-songs paraded by many bands that only cling on to shadows of real-hope, rather than the real thing.

‘These dry bones are yours to live’ rings the anthemic chorus of their debut single. The single video (seen below) follows the story of an old man in despair, ending with a flickering hope of something unseen – and this carries the Speak, Brother legacy…hope being found in the death of a close one, or a lost love. There is no unresolved tension in the songwriting because that hope is always there, even when unspoken.

Both their single Dry Bones and their new EP which carries a further 3 songs, capture their live sound and energy brilliantly.  Their folk inspired acoustic song-stories glimmer with piano, acoustic guitar, mandolin and harmonies. James Herrings vocals are vibrant and passionate, searing and strong one moment with beautiful vibrato and just enough rasp, and then, as we find on the final song Two Bands Of Gold, sounding broken and emotional.  Nathan Morris (bass, percussion) and Matthew Cotterill (keys) also provide great vocal backup flavouring the textures with harmonies to complete the beauty.  The musicianship of all three band members is evident in well thought out arrangements that allow space for each of them to shine, under the guidance of both their own and Pete Dowsetts production.

Their sound might echo bands like Mumford & Sons or even Rend Collective but they do not seek to imitate, but bring an honest musical offering of their own – superb songwriting, arrangements and production, make this an essential gem to get your hands on.  Check them out now at http://speakbrother.co.uk

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.

 

3 Simple Tips For A Worship Leader

Whether you’re just starting out leading worship, or you’ve been leading for years, it can often be a daunting task.  Sometimes you can feel uninspired and lacking in creativity, or frustrated and unqualified to do the job.  Here’s three simple tips for starters to keep you on the ball, and help you when you lead:light-bulb-2014-500x345.png

1 – Show The Sheep The Shepherd

It’s all about Jesus.  Forget for a minute all your hours of practice, your band arrangements, your sound check, the lights, the monitor mix, your tuning and your performance.  People may be emotionally stirred by these things being done well, but the only thing that can cause people to respond in worship is by having a revelation of Jesus.  Present the person of Jesus, his character, his passion, his love and his works clearly through your songs and your leading.  Nothing will bring a clearer response in peoples hearts than Jesus being revealed to them again and again in clear and fresh ways.

2 – Pursue His Presence Persistently

We were born for relationship with God, and he longs (more than you could perceive) to draw close to his people.  We don’t necessarily ‘sing down his presence’, but through singing truth, we become more dynamically aware of his closeness.

Don’t rush.  Be aware of God working through certain songs, or single lines with songs, where you begin to recognise his closeness pressing in.  Dwell in these moments and enjoy the Creator of the Universe coming close to man.

3 – Surrender Your Soul To The Spirit

The Holy Spirit is the true worship leader, directing and orchestrating our worship back to the Trinity.  The more you lead the music team, the more you will begin to recognise how the Holy Spirit is leading you.  Stay open to where the Spirit is leading – that might be doing a different song to the ones you had chosen, reading a bible verse, repeating a line, bringing a word, a picture or encouragement to the congregation or simply stopping and waiting in silence.

And don’t forget – don’t carry the burden of responsibility by yourself.  The leading of the people ultimately lies with the Holy Spirit, and his gentle works in unlocking, changing and motivating peoples hearts in worship.  You may be a conduit that God uses to help lead the people, but even this responsibility is shared with the rest of the music team, the meeting leader, your church elders and senior leadership team – just stay open and responsive to the Spirit.

SWALK (Sealed With A Loving Kiss)

Worship is not music.  We know that.  Worship is a full-life offering, encompassing all our living.kiss-lips

I was thinking recently as to what our Sunday morning sung worship times should look like, and decided one of the best pictures I could come up with was SWALK.  Do you remember the times when you were at school and that girl or boy that you quite fancied dropped a letter into your bag when you weren’t looking with the letters SWALK written carefully across the sealed envelope?

Sealed With A Loving Kiss.

Your heart would jump and skip at the gesture as you pulled the envelope open to see what romance might be indicated inside.  You would tremble slightly reading the words, and fumble over your choice of actions in response to this move.  After all, you’re only 8 years old, and you can’t afford to take her to Macdonalds yet.

The real message is contained in the words of the letter.   The seal of a kiss on the envelope is a beautiful gesture, yet not as important as the message inside.

And this is the same in our worship.  Your whole life is the ‘love letter’ to God, and the words it contains are by far the most important thing.  Your sung worship is simply the seal over the letter inside.

What value is it to God if your envelope is sealed with the kiss of Sunday morning 10 top worship songs, yet the paper inside remains blank?  Your love letter, your life, is truly what God desires to read – let it be a poetic journey of passion, dedication and sacrifice that encompasses all your living.

Then, and only then, let it be sealed with your song.

 

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 A Way To Be Kept Humble!

Not much needs to be said about this, just watch!

Martin Smith (ex-Delirious) is brought down to earth by a simple unexpected button press…A reminder to us all to stay humble and focused on the one we worship…and not take our selves too seriously!

Have you ever had a nightmare, horror moment on stage?