After months of hard work, Love Will Have The Final Word is finally finished, released, and in listeners’ hands. The record is more intentionally acoustic, but is less about sonic reinvention than it is about emotional vulnerability. To mix things up musically this go around, I did something I’ve never done before—splitting the project between two different producers: Jason Ingram and Cason Cooley.
Wanting to build on the momentum of our earlier collaborations that have connected at radio, I re-teamed with Jason Ingram for seven of the eleven tracks. I love getting to chase after songs with him that we hope have legitimate commercial viability as well as a sonic distinctive and both heart and something worth saying. But I also had such an amazing experience working with Cason Cooley on my Christmas record that I couldn’t imagine making a record without him. With Centricity (my label) feeling confident that the commercial considerations were in place, the remaining five tracks were more or less our playground.
I feel like I got the best of both worlds and Jason and Cason took such great care of these songs! It may be my most personal group of songs yet, running the gamut from seeing laughter as a kind of worship to the sacredness of grieving. I didn’t write to a theme as much as I waited for one to emerge, and the common thread running throughout is the power of love to heal our fear, our shame, and make us new.
When writing a pop song, I enjoy the challenge of starting with some great thought from theologians and thinkers much brighter than me, whether G. K. Chesterton, Frederick Buechner, or—in the case of “With Every Act of Love” from this record—N. T. Wright, and shaping it into a song that will hopefully carry the idea to a broader audience. I suppose I’m kind of an idea evangelist.
Along those lines, a quote by author Keith Miller inspired one of my personal favorite moments on the record, “If You Want To Love Someone.” The quote:
“The way to love someone is to lightly run your finger over that person’s soul until you find a crack, and then gently pour your love into that crack.” —Keith Miller
After hearing a song on the radio that I thought offered answers that were too easy, along the lines of, “just trust Jesus and everything will turn out alright,” I decided to protest with a song called “Begin Again” written for people I know who, though they trusted, were not spared the difficulties they’ve endured.
The song I can sing with the most conviction is the one I wrote with Andy Gullahorn about how much I don’t know. “I Don’t Know How” is one of my favorite tracks I’ve ever recorded—Cason and the band did such a great job!
But the song I feel most grateful for on this record is “Not Right Now”—a song I wrote with Josh Wilson for those in grief. “I know someday, I know somehow, I’ll be okay, but not right now.”
For the Special Edition version of the record, I wrote essays for each of the songs as well as added five bonus tracks, including two that my son Kipper produced! One of them is “Even This Will Be Made Beautiful (Part 2)” that I wrote with Andy Osenga. It’s one of my favorite songs I’ve ever been a part of and I’m doubly proud because of the work my son did on it.
I was humbled and encouraged by what an early reviewer for the record had to say about the record:
“This is an album that bravely avoids trite and simple platitudes thrown at our very real and complex circumstances. It’s an album that recognizes our loneliest of lows and our most hopeful highs. It’s an album that knows when to show empathy, when to give advice, and when to just come alongside us and grieve.”
If that is indeed what this record is, then it’s grace in the face of the modest bit that I brought to it, and I’m grateful.