Keith Elgin hoped that by recording a live album he would simply be able to share the enthusiastic worship style that previous studio albums weren't able to represent. But what he ended up with is much more - a 13-track album and accompanying DVD of original and favorite worship songs that not only brings Keith's music to life but as he tells Jesusfreakhideout.com's Cathy Payton, embodies "a proclamation of who God is and how He is our foundation in the troubles of the world." The CD/DVD set, Our Hope [Live], is available now...
This interview took place in September 14, 2013.
JFH (Cathy): Our Hope is your first live album - what prompted you to make it at this point in your career?
Keith Elgin: I've always wanted to record a live album. I think because I first started writing songs and singing in church, I've always been drawn to that live sound. And as somebody who leads worship almost every Sunday, I wanted to capture where God has me at this point in time. It's part of who I am to take songs and arrange them in such a way that helps contribute to people experiencing the presence of God. The goal is not too different from any of my studio recordings, it's just that with a live one, you capture passion from the people who are there in the room. And you get one shot. It's like one big musical Jesus party that will live forever.
JFH (Cathy): And not only did you produce a live CD, but an accompanying DVD as well. This is a pretty big bite to take - both organizationally and financially - for an indie artist. How were you able to get such a complicated project off the ground and completed so successfully?
Keith: I actually grew a lot during this process. I had to learn to ask for help and delegate. My wife was a huge help in keeping me organized, and the guys in the band were super helpful in prepping for the day of the show. It's kind of crazy the amount of work it took day after day leading up to the one particular night. It feels like it took up most of 2013. But that's what you sign up for when you're an independent artist trying to pursue things without a label. I'd do it again. You know, with a DVD, you have to plan for a lot more than just what you'll sound like. The lights were vital. Making sure the audio producer and video producer were on the same page. And yes, we talked about what we would wear. There are so many layers I didn't plan for. As for the finances, we were able to fully fund the project, including promotion and duplication, through donations and Kickstarter. The fact that three times as many people contributed to this project than the last album is so encouraging to me. It's humbling to know people believe in me and what God's doing.
JFH (Cathy): The songs on Our Hope are a mix of originals from your previous albums and well-known contemporary worship songs by Hillsong, Chris Tomlin, Steve Fee and John Mark Millan. How did you decide which songs you would perform for the album? Did your experience as a worship leader for your church have an influence?
Keith: I wanted to do a mix of songs that represented who I am as both a worship leader and artist. So we did some popular congregational-type songs. But we changed up the arrangement from the way most people play or hear them. It's kind of rock-worship. And I tend to write songs for people to sing in church, so those were a natural fit. There are also a couple of songs that don't really fit with that typical worship style, but I think that makes them authentic to me. It's kind of my way of saying, "We can get together and worship and sing a variety of songs and it's still worship."
JFH (Cathy): Our Hope was produced by Jason Hoard of Black Cat Studios, who has also toured and performed with Third Day and David Crowder, as well as produced for artists such as Fee and The Museum. This isn't the first time you and Jason have collaborated - he produced your previous album, Made for More. What is the most valuable thing Jason brings to your projects?
Keith: First of all I have a high comfort level with Jason. I think that's important for any artist with a producer. Jason is kind of known for having brilliant ideas on the first shot. He always goes with his first instinct, which is typically spot-on. But this time it was great having him play as well. He sings in his own band, plays and sings with other bands, so it was great to finally do this together. He is also honest with me when I'm being too nitpicky about every little thing - and reminds me of the vision for the project in general.
JFH (Cathy): The title song, "Our Hope is in You," was co-written with Jason, as well as Mac Powell, lead singer of Third Day, and Brandon Coker, who is currently playing drums with Aaron Shust. Obviously the album's title Our Hope comes partly from this song - is there more to the story?
Keith: Two weeks after my wife, Emily, and I got married, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. MS is basically a disease where your immune system thinks your body is an invader, so it fights itself. And there is no known cause or cure, only ongoing treatments. So right after getting married, we're thrown into this chaotic and scary time, and not knowing what life will look like moving forward. There were times when I felt what seemed to be the weight of the world on my shoulders, but in actuality, the world is not mine to carry. We're still in the midst of the struggle, as is everyone, but we know that in the midst of uncertainty, the hope we have in Christ is certain. Coming up later this year, Emily will be having a stem cell transplant in hopes of putting the disease into remission. So it's almost like Our Hope is a personal reminder of where we've been, where we're going, and Who is going before us and guiding our steps. I don't think songwriters or artists of any kind can be experiencing things in life and not have them shine through. For example, the song "Our Hope is in You" began as a thought about the storms we experience in life, and how people who don't know Jesus handle it. Without experiencing some darkness, how can we truly appreciate the light?
JFH (Cathy): How would you most like this album to impact its listeners?
Keith: Of course I hope people like the way it sounds. I hope they can sing along and want to share it with their friends, families, and churches. But, if the only response is worshiping God, then I'm good to go. That's the main goal. In my opinion, if you are singing songs about God's faithfulness and love, then what other goal would there be? And from the beginning, the vision wasn't to create the perfect sounding song or best looking video, but instead to get together with a group of people (in this case a large group), play some songs, and lift up the name of Jesus. And I'm humbled that we've done that.
Find out more about Keith Elgin at www.keithelgin.com and you can buy his CD/DVD Our Hope [Live] now on iTunes.