Cory Asbury’s Reckless Love debuted at No. 1 last month on Billboard's Christian Album Chart and garnered rave reviews from listeners and critics. The 10 track LP, released by Bethel Music, draws from the lessons learned in the sojourn from boyhood to manhood, and the organic, soulful discovery of an essential story in Scripture: a Father’s desire for connection with the ones he made, knows and relentlessly loves. We recently caught up with Asbury to discuss his new album, musical influences, and how the birth of his son helped him understand God’s love.
Congratulations on the recent release of Reckless Love. The album was met with rave reviews and topped Billboard's Christian Album Chart on debut week. What about this record do you think is really resonating with people, and what does it feel like to have such a positive immediate response?
I think the thing that people are connecting with is just the heart of the Father. So many of us grew up with some weird pictures of what a father is, in our own homes, our dads were ABC and they didn’t measure up to the heart of our Father in Heaven in so many ways. So many times we look at God, [through] those kinds of messed up ways because of what we’ve seen, and we all need to know the kindness of God. We all need to know the goodness of God, especially in the midst of so many things that are happening. Tragedies in the world and difficulties in our own life circumstances -- to actually be able to grab a hold of and cling to the love of God and the goodness of God in the midst of those situations is huge. I think that’s a lot of what people are connecting with, just that heart of the Father and that kindness of God because so many people look at Him as mean, or disappointed, or angry. So just to look and hear a song like "Reckless Love" that redefines the love of God in so many ways, I think that’s what people are connecting with, really.
Can you walk us through the creative process of this album? How long was this album in the making?
This record has been a long time coming. Honestly, it’s been about nine years that I’ve been working on some of these songs. A few of them are almost that old. I tried so hard to release it so many times before it was time and I was grappling with Bethel like come on guys let’s get it done, let’s get it out. It seemed like every time the Father was like, ‘Hey, chill, just wait man. My timing is going to be perfect just trust me on this, don’t worry I got this.’ Each time, I would have to submit to that, which was not fun. It was not enjoyable at all but I think it taught me so many things, like He fights for us. He cares more about our future and our destiny more than we do. A lot of times we want to take things into our hands and make them happen ourselves in our own strength. What I found is what we build in our own strength, we have to maintain in our own strength and that is never the way God wanted it. He is going to go, ‘No, I wanted to do this for you, and when I do it for you, I breathe on it and it’s easy.’ You just ride that wave, you ride that wind, and so it’s been nine years of writing and then rewriting, and then new songs would crop up and I would throw out some of the old ones. The story has been long and the waiting has been crafted for quite a while, but I am so glad because of the way that the songs landed and the way the theme of the record sort of emerged that the love of God covers everything. I wouldn’t change it, even though it was really difficult.
You are quoted as saying, “I had to become a father to learn how to be a son.” That’s a powerful statement, can you expand on the meaning of it?
Like I said, my dad growing up, was mostly unpleasable. He was that guy who was kind of standoffish and distant, like, you prove yourself to me and maybe you’ll get the affection you are looking for. When you experience that, you grow up with this longing for approval, for affirmation, for affection, and you look to God a lot of the same ways you look at your dad, like what do you think about me. For me, because I grew up that way, that’s how I viewed God. When I had my son, Gabriel, who is 8-years old now, when my wife and I had him, I remember looking into his eyes for the first time and that moment changed everything because I realized that I had this capacity for love and affection that I didn’t think was possible. Especially looking at the way my dad loved his kids, in so many ways when we were young, I didn’t think it was possible to feel this type of love for someone. I looked into Gabriel’s eyes and I realized there is nothing this little guy could do to make me love him anymore, and there is nothing he could do to make me love him any less. That began to change my paradigm and perspective of who the Father in Heaven is because I realized He looked at me that same way. He was like, 'you are my son, and you are the one I dreamt about before I created you, or formed you in your mother’s womb, my thoughts to you are more than the sands of the sea,' and I began to see myself that way. It changes everything when you realize you are a son. You no longer have to beg, no longer have to prove yourself, no longer have to earn anything. You know, you just walk into the kitchen and you take what you want [Laughs.] When you are a son you don’t have to cower and ask, ‘Dad, can I have a sandwich today, would that be ok?’ No, you go, ‘Hey Dad, I’m going to make a sandwich, cool?’ It’s a completely different relationship.
What would you say to a younger version of yourself if you could go back in time? What words of wisdom would you impart on yourself?
For me, it’s all about humility and loving people. I think so many of us, as young people, we’re so caught up in what do people think about me and am I pleasing the right people, am I fitting in with the right crowds, am I cool? There is this weird thing where we want to be cool when we are young. I think if I could go back I would say, 'it’s not about being cool. In fact, it’s not about being liked, it’s not about fitting in with the right crowds. It’s about being like Jesus.' We would know this if we look at the life of Jesus. He was a man that was lowly of heart, that’s what the scripture says. He was humble, He didn’t esteem himself as better than anyone. He didn’t try to fit in with anyone. In fact, He invited in the people that were unloved, the ones that sort of didn’t fit, the pariahs, the misfits, the prostitutes, the sinners, and He invited them to come with him. There was this lowliness of heart, this humility of heart, that I so appreciate in Jesus’ character because it drew the people that needed love. It drew the people who, like the scripture says, He came to heal. So He drew the sick to him and there is this beautiful thing that takes place because He loves those people, because He didn’t consider himself better than those people. He wasn’t trying to be cooler than those people so they would want to follow him, He just walked in this humility, this humility of heart that was so attractive to people, to the broken especially. To my younger self, be humble. Stop worrying about what people think. Stop worrying about whether you are accepted or not, be who you are called to be and walk in humility like Jesus walked.
Can you talk a little about the title track and why you chose it to represent this new collection?
The whole record is about the love of the Father. That’s the thing that changed my life completely. You know, I grew up thinking I had to do ten things to make it into Heaven and that’s what Christianity was to me. Do ABC and maybe I will make it through the gates. If I don’t, I’m going to burn in Hell and I guess it was all for a loss anyway. The reason I thought that way was because I was devoid of any relationship with what Christianity is about, with who Christianity is about. Sometimes we turn Christianity into a religion which is a form devoid of relationship. It is rules and regulations devoid of any actual or relational equity. The reason that we want to do ABC, meaning follow the commandments of scriptures, is because we love God. In the same way, we want to make our wives happy, we buy them roses, even though we don’t care about roses, we know it moves their hearts, so it is born out of love not duty. The love of the Father, when I finally was able to get a hold of that, changed everything. It was no longer a get into Heaven free card, or get out of jail, not go to Hell card, it was oh my gosh, the creator of the universe breathed His breath into my lungs and upholds me by the words of His power and He thinks about me in ways that I never thought He could, and it produces a response. In the New Testament it says, 'those who’ve be forgiven much will love much' and I think that, in so many ways, is the story of my life. I’ve been forgiven so much and when I realize that I go, 'oh my gosh, my heart is exploding in love back to you because you loved me first.' Now I want to do this, I want to lead worship. I want to lead people into your presence. I want to love on the unlovable, the broken, the messed up, on the wounded, on the hurting, because I realize that is your heart Father and you have given me that kind of love. I want to actually express that to other people. It means something to me now. It’s not just a list of to-do’s basically.