The Glorious Unseen successfully translated worship music over to the alternative crowd with their 2007 debut Tonight The Stars Speak.
Now, only weeks away from the release of their sophomore record The Hope That Lies In You, JFH's own
Scott Fryberger spoke to TGU vocalist and songwriter Ben Crist about the band's upcoming release as well as the current
state of worship music in general...
This interview took place on: 8/6/09
Jesus freak Hideout (Scott Fryberger): You said you're in a hotel right now, right? Where are you at?
Yeah, man. We're in Phoenix, Arizona.
JFH (Scott): You guys have a show there tonight?
Yeah, we have a show around Scottsdale. It should be cool. Right now we're just working on updating and trying to get our
rep stuff updated and trying to get new promo videos out and stuff.
JFH (Scott): Awesome. I saw the promo video you have on Facebook with all the
hardcore dudes on it like Josh Scogin [The Chariot, former Norma Jean] and Dallas Taylor [Maylene and the Sons of Disaster,
old Underoath]. I really liked it. I like the idea that guys in hardcore bands are enjoying your music and your praise &
worship. It kinda blew my mind, actually, because a lot of times I think of hardcore and praise & worship as almost
opposites. But you see those guys talking about how amazing their experiences with God are just because of the words you
write and the passion in it.
Yeah man, it's been really cool. It's really caught on in that scene, which is great. And, well, I kinda had friendships
with all those guys as well, and that kinda helps.
JFH (Scott): Now is that ministry something that you planned on from the beginning,
or is that something that just kinda fell into place after you formed The Glorious Unseen?
A little bit of both. Well, first of all, I've listened to a lot of those bands for a long time. So it's not as if I had
never listened to any of them or never hung out or went to their shows or anything like that. It was kinda like I was always
around when they were around just being in Nashville with a lot of those bands just coming through town playing shows and stuff.
It's just being around and in-the-know, especially in Nashville getting to know a lot of people involved in the music scene in
general. You know, one of our friends used to manage As Cities Burn and Life In Your Way and Jonezetta, so we had
relationships there, and mutual friends. And I had started doing worship at our church - well, actually I helped start our
church in Nashville - and it was just a small Sunday evening church, and it was at Rocketown, downtown Nashville, so a lot of
hardcore kids or alternative kids would come to that church. So it just kinda got around after a while that we were doing a
little bit of a different style of worship music, and those kind of kids were into it, you know? So they started circulating
it around - the songs that I had written. And it circulated around and eventually it got to Tooth & Nail, to Chad Johnson,
one of the A&R guys there, and he got really excited about it and wanted to sign me and work on making it something bigger.
That's kind of where it happened. But yeah, the relationships with the hardcore guys - you know, I didn't set out to say
"Well, I wanna be a ministry to the hardcore scene." I mean, it IS a ministry to the hardcore scene, but not specifically.
It's kinda got a wide range, where it can minister to general church people and really anyone. But I love being a part of the
hardcore scene. I love that music. A lot of those guys are my buddies. And so I love being a part of that, for sure.
JFH (Scott): I was gonna ask about how the Tooth & Nail deal came about, actually.
What was it like being the only praise & worship band on the label? You have all those other bands like Showbread and
Hawk Nelson, and then you got a praise & worship band.
Well, first of all, we're kinda also on BEC, their other affiliate label which does more of the Christian market stuff like
Jeremy Camp, and there are some other worship acts on BEC. So we're kinda on that, but we are the only one of those acts that
kind of has a following - and I would say even more so amongst - Tooth & Nail and Solid State audiences, more than a BEC,
CCM or Christian hit radio type of audience. I think we're the only one that has an audience of those kids. A lot of kids
that listen to our music don't really care about Christian hit radio. They're also mainstream music listeners, they're not
kids who listen to Christian music exclusively. But anyways, we're not exactly on Tooth & Nail, it's BEC, but I mean, it's all
the same thing... But I definitely like being on a label with a bunch of bands that I grew up listening to and that are my
friends, and just to be able to have the Tooth & Nail marketing, you know Tooth & Nail is a pretty big name. So it's great.
JFH (Scott): Yeah it's definitely a plus being with them. They have a lot of bands
that are in the mainstream like Underoath. So with Tooth & Nail, you're probably gonna get a wider audience. Now, aside
from the hardcore bands that you like, do you listen to a lot of praise & worship artists too?
A little bit. Now, when you say "praise & worship," that's really not what I listen to. The term "praise & worship,"
I hate that term. I don't know, I just call it worship now, not praise & worship. I don't know what all that means.
But, the worship bands that I listen to are a lot of more independent worship bands that I've become friends with over the
last couple years, because they find about what we're doing and then that's what they wanna do too, and so we get
these relationships with all these other worship groups that aren't really as well-known. Like there's a band called
Ascend The Hill from Florida, a band called The Ember Days from New Zealand, and Lovelite from California.
Those guys are all killer, and they've done great worship records. As far as more mainstream stuff, I like Leeland.
I've always liked some of the stuff Leeland put out, so I listen to that, and some Matt Redman stuff. But as far as a general
Crowder/Tomlin... I don't really listen to that. Some of it I listen to here and there, but not really intentionally. But
it's just not really what I'm into. I mean, I was into Delirious?, and I still am to some extent, but I don't really keep up
with what they're doing currently. But they were one of the big influences that originally got me into worship stuff.
JFH (Scott): It's cool that you mention Lovelite and The Ember Days. I saw The
Ember Days once and they were really good. And Lovelite actually has an album [All Color] for free download on
NoiseTrade.com, and I checked that out and I dig it a lot.
Oh yeah, it's a great album, man. It's Andrew Polfer and his wife that lead worship down there in California, and it's
JFH (Scott): One question that I had that kinda goes along with this,
more of a riskier question maybe, but some of us with JFH are kind of on the edge about worship bands, with a lot of them
getting kinda bland and they write the same songs over and over again. But what's your opinion on the current state of worship
music? If you have an opinion, that is.
Well, I'm assuming we're talking about the whole Passion thing, and Hillsong and Chris Tomlin and all that, I guess. I mean,
it's cool. I'm 29 years old, so I haven't been around forever, but I have grown up in the church since I was born, so I've seen
how worship has progressed over the years, or at least in the last 29 years. I grew up in the Vineyard Church, and in like,
I would say, the early '90s, maybe even late '80s, Vineyard Church had Vineyard Music Group, and they put out national records
that got national distribution to Christian bookstores. And that was like a new thing at the time. Before that, it was like
Keith Green, you know? First there were hymns, and then there was Keith Green and stuff like that, and then when I was growing
up in the church and first really started playing in the worship band, it was all this Vineyard music stuff. Worship leaders
like Brian Doerkson, David Bruce, and Kevin Cross, and they did some really really cool stuff man, and that was really
groundbreaking at the time. And then, as I remember it, around '96 is when I first heard Delirious?, and when I did I was like
"Whoa! This is such a step beyond anything I've ever heard before." And so, when I heard Delirious?, it was like a new wave of
stuff. And honestly, in my mind, everything that happened after Delirious?, like Passion and all that, it's all been kinda
this one big deal. And, I'm not trying to talk about The Glorious Unseen as if it's groundbreaking or anything, but I do feel
like what we are doing is a new expression of worship. And now going forward from here, there's gonna be a lot of other bands
coming up that will kinda carry this new sound. Cause worship always has to progress and be given a new sound. Now, what's
happened with the whole Delirious? and Passion and Hillsong thing is that that's become extremely, extremely popular. And it's
even had a lot of radio and marketing success, and a lot of money. A lotta lotta lotta lotta money. *laughter*
And, naturally, that's why it is continually being regurgitated, because there's so much money. And of course there's some
great songs, like "Here I Am To Worship" and "Everlasting God" and all those current hits. [They're] great songs. But you know,
there's always a new marketing swing on it, there's always a new voice. And you put a new voice to an old song, and it's gonna
come alive again and you keep making money on it again. So, it's no fault of anybody, it's just a natural business move. So I
guess that's my take on the whole thing. But you know, we play those songs too. We'll go out and play youth camps, and we'll
play "Here I Am To Worship," and we did a version of "O Praise Him," and on this new record we did "How He Loves," a song by
John Mark McMillan from North Carolina. And so we're doing it too, to some extent. But it's kinda nice to hear, cause
you'll have a Tomlin song, but some crowds don't like Tomlin's style. But I know how it gets controversial, cause people will
say "Well you shouldn't mix this with worship," or "You shouldn't mix ministry with money," and it gets all mixed up in there.
But it's natural and that's kinda how the music business is run. That's just kinda how it goes.
JFH (Scott): Speaking of money, or lack thereof, you guys put the Cries of the
Broken EP on NoiseTrade as well. Was that a label decision or was that just you guys wanting to get your music out there?
Well, you see, the thing with that record is that it's just stripped down versions of songs from Tonight The Stars Speak.
There aren't really any new songs - there are a couple b-sides that we recorded for Tonight The Stars Speak that didn't
make it onto the record, and we put those out with Cries of the Broken. But the thing about that acoustic record is
that we essentially made it for free. There was no budget to make the record. We did it in an in-house studio in Nashville.
I just used my acoustic guitar, I did some piano on it, we had some backup vocals, brought in some cellos and harps, and that
was really cool. So we essentially made it for free, and we put it up on NoiseTrade, cause it was just kind of an in-between
album before the newer album, so we wanted to use it to increase the promotion in whatever way we could. And since we didn't
have a lot of money invested in it, the label didn't have a problem with just giving it away on NoiseTrade and in return
getting people to know about the email database so that we could promote the new album. So that's kinda what they used that for.
JFH (Scott): Did you get a lot of downloads for it?
I would have to check to see what it was exactly. I don't know, but I think around 3,000. That was a few months ago.
I don't even know if it's still up anymore.
JFH (Scott): Will the How He Loves EP be on NoiseTrade?
For free? No, I strongly doubt they're gonna put that on NoiseTrade because that record cost us money to make.
And actually to put "How He Loves" on there - it's not even our song, so we'd have to pay publishing, so they probably
would not do that. If they did something like that, it would be way later. It would be after the record was out for a while.
You know, sometimes they'll want that later on in the game. Obviously it's a business, but the label's first intentions is
to make back the money they spent on the record and later after that and once the record is probably done, then they might
do like a free download thing just to keep promo going in some way. But I don't think that will happen anytime soon
JFH (Scott): So then your new full-length is coming out in a few weeks,
The Hope That Lies In You. I have the album, working on a review for it, and I'm really liking it so far.
Are you hearing a lot of feedback and anticipation for it?
Yeah, people are digging it, man. I haven't had time to get online and read all the reviews and stuff. But everyone
I've showed it to and everyone that I know that has heard some of it is really into it. I mean, I guess people who don't
like it probably wouldn't tell me. *laughter* But yeah, we've been doing some of the songs live and it's been really
great. We're so excited to be doing the new songs. It's great.
JFH (Scott): What songs are you most excited about people hearing?
Well, I love all of them. There's a song on there called "We Can Be Renewed," it's an intense one. That song's out of my
marriage, and that is my prayer for our marriage when my wife and I are going through a tough time, and to be able to sing
that song every night - it's essentially just a prayer, and I'm excited. I think that'll impact a lot of people. In this
current culture, there's a whole lot of broken relationships and relationship struggles. And for people to be able to hear
that and hear that we can be renewed, and that God's heart is for restoration is gonna be really encouraging.
So I'm excited to play that. And a song called "Sustain" that just talks about being on a spiritual battlefield and what it
means to be in spiritual warfare and I'm really excited about that one. It's powerful. And we got a song called "Awakening"
that we just sing "Hallelujah, hallelujah" at the end. And I'm excited for all these new ones. The live experience
of the new songs is gonna be really cool. It's gonna be a really good flowing time of worship. It's not gonna be a big
concert, you know. It's gonna be a time of worship and for people to really touch the heart of God.
JFH (Scott): Are you guys on a big national tour right now? Or just kinda playing
some shows here and there?
Right now we're kinda just doing our own thing. We're going around to some churches, mainly going across the country
playing at churches, and we did a youth camp a couple weeks ago, we're playing a couple festivals, and it's all stuff that
we've booked ourselves. This isn't a big national tour with any other bands, but I'm hoping we will get to that place soon
where we get on with another band that really has a heart for ministry, and we can go out and do it together.
JFH (Scott): Sweet man. Well that's all I have for you. Is there anything else you'd
like to add?
Well I'll just ask people to keep praying for us, cause when you're out here doing ministry like this - you know, we
are out here doing what God has called us to do. This isn't a money-making scheme, this is because this is our hearts.
And when you do something like this, you get out here and travel around and do this so much, you're on the frontlines of a
spiritual battle. We are impacting people in ways that would turn their hearts toward God and we are impacting a scene of
people who previously may have not been so passionate about God. And when we do that, the enemy would basically wanna take
us out cause we're doing something that he does not want to happen. It's a battlefield out here. And we need prayer
covering from anyone and everyone who could lift us up in prayer. That would be my last request. Thanks so much!