With the release of “SEVEN,” her latest project (and coincidentally her seventh album), Platinum recording and Grammy Award-winning artist Brooke Ligertwood declares what could be called a clarion call to the church.
Link2Us: What was the inspiration behind “Seven?”
Brooke Ligertwood: The inspiration behind the project was God’s calling. This was not a project I saw coming or that I had on my heart for a long time, but more of a realization that God had given a collection of songs in a very short space of time. These were songs that were written with friends all around the country, from all different churches (and by definition, weren’t songs coming through the usual venue that is my local church). It became a combination of these practical factors, but also a strong sense of peculiarity because I hadn’t traditionally written this way, at this speed, in this concentrated period of time–with songs that felt like they belonged together and were different parts of one statement.
L2U: Could you speak to the evolution of the project?
Brooke: At that time, I was deep in the book of Revelations and was also reading a book called “Discipleship on the Edge” by Darrell Johnson–which really affected me in the best possible way and gave me context for so many questions I had about the church, the world, and America. In the context of that, the songs came, and I felt like God gave them to me to bring them to the church–just like when John was in the opening chapter of the book of Revelations and heard a voice that said: “Write down what you see and send it to the seven churches.” And that’s why the album is called “Seven,” as well.
L2U: Please elaborate on what made this project so different as opposed to how you normally engage with a project?
Brooke: Well, I guess if I should use the word “normally”: normally I’m the head of Hillsong Worship and get to be part of this ministry that has existed for almost four decades now. I get to serve this legacy. Which is so much bigger than me. And so, when I’m writing, either on my own or with my husband, or the other writers who are part of that church, we are asked what are you doing in our church, what is it you want to say to our community, and what is it we need to be praying for as a community? We very much understand that we have something global, that starts very much at the local very tangible level. (Normally) we are thinking of the faces of the people at church every week. We are thinking about the things that they are struggling with–which is the usual context.
By May 2021, we had been grounded for more than a year. And there had been no tours or music beyond a record we did with Hillsong worship in 2020 called “Take Heart Again.”, But beyond that, the rest of the time I found myself in Zoom meetings for about eight hours a day, and I got to the end of that year and felt like the enemy was kind of rubbing his hands a little (figuratively). A mentor in my life challenged me and said to me: “You know Brooke, one of the ways that the enemy will inhibit you or stop you from doing what God has called you to do is not necessarily by a moral failing (because you are not wired that way), but it will be through noble business. And that was a word that I really took to heart. And while I understand it’s really good for me to be in meetings about website sign-up buttons, when I’m doing that, I’m not doing these other things. So in 2021, I carved out some space to do that.
This was about fellowship, just as much as it was about making space for creativity, and in that time these songs just flowed. Why it felt peculiar? I guess it felt like what Jacob said: “The Lord was in this place, but I was just not aware of it.” And while I’m happy to spend a long time on a song, these songs came very swiftly and fully formed. It felt almost like they had their roots in deep places but they sprung up quickly—and at the end, I had this little forest. At the same time, I had trusted friends that wouldn’t have known any of the things that I was thinking about or going through who began to have dreams that confirmed what God was doing. And so we had this very peculiar sense of “The Lord is in this place, and I knew it not,” and we didn’t know what it would look like, we didn’t have all of our i’s dotted and t’s crossed, but we said: “OK, If this is something the Lord is asking, let’s do it.” We said yes to it, without dropping anything else, and so in between August and November of last year, we were making two records because we also had the Hillsong Worship album. It was a little wild there for a minute, but we are on the other side of it now and I’m so grateful.
L2U: Tell us about “A Thousand Hallelujahs,” the first single in the project.
Brooke: This was actually the last song that came on the record. And when that song came about, I just remember saying: “OK God. I give up,” [she laughs].
We were writing it with our friend, Phil Wickham, who lives about an hour south of us. We met him at this beautiful old church that he attends on Sundays–and we were sitting there with instruments all around us, and as we looked around the hall, we thought about all the saints that have gathered to bring their hallelujahs over generations in this place, and the thousands of hallelujahs that had been brought to God in this place. That’s where the phrase “a thousand hallelujahs” came from. The song kind of poured out and we all just looked at each other in disbelief. As we speak today, friends have sent me videos of it being played at their churches. Yesterday, I shared a text from a friend recovering from burnout in ministry; she said, “I’m at a rehab facility for a week and ‘A Thousand Hallelujahs’ is playing in the lobby. Thank You. I love you.”
L2U: Could you tell us about the incredible imagery used on set as you were recording the album?
Brooke: My husband was the creative director on this project and he is extremely prophetic when it comes to visuals. In the way that I can hear the music before it exists, Scott sees it before it exists. He has this invisible horizon line that he can see, (but no one else can), that he is always pushing towards when it comes to visuals. He works with the incredible Mr. Luke Campbell, and they have just a really specific sense of that. I think it’s really important particularly when it comes to worship and if there are screens involved in visual media, that it’s enhancing, and an affirmation of what God is doing in the room and not a distraction or entertainment. I really value visual artists who can serve through visual art in cooperation with the Holy Spirit. I get really frustrated when I see people dissing screen media or dismissing it as entertainment because actually, the Lord has gifted all of us differently. I think about the people who come to do lighting for the church service. They are gifted to draw out beauty through lighting, emphasize God’s presence, and lead us into His presence through lighting which is not less holy than the person with the guitar leading the song. The Lord has given us this breath of creative gifts for us all to bring it to the house of God and emphasize the beauty of the Lord.