River Valley Worship is a collection of artists, musicians and songwriters who are an extension of the vibrant creative culture within River Valley Church. With campuses spread across the greater Minneapolis, MN area as well as an international campus in Swaziland, Africa, River Valley Worship is making a global impact. Their debut album, Million Lifetimes, was released on March 2, 2018 via BEC Worship. River Valley Worship's Evan John, Ryan Williams and Wesley Schrock recently talked with us about the inspiration behind this exciting new project.
How long has this record been in the making and what does it feel like to have the finished product ready for download?
Evan: Million Lifetimes is a full year in the making almost to the exact day. We flew in our producer Mike Fatkin last March when we first began the album process of writing, producing and recording these songs. To finally hold both the physical and digital forms of this record in our hands and on our phones is one of the best feelings! I’m so proud of our team and our families who have sacrificed so much so that these songs could see the light of day.
How would you describe the sound of this record to brand new listeners?
Evan: To me, this record sonically has a really strong Indie Pop/Alternative foundation with various nods to some of our favorite artists. Our team brings a lot of different vibes and musical influences to the sound of our music, and when we put it all together along with our producer, it really creates something bright and energetic while maintaining depth and intentionality. Lyrically this album reflects the heart of our church, which is rooted in joy, victory and a passion for the presence of God.
How would you say your walk with God has developed while writing and recording this new record?
Evan: Throughout the writing process of this record, there was a resounding theme of hope that emerged from the songs our team was writing. And while we were writing these songs, I personally gained a greater revelation of the power that comes from the name of Jesus. When we speak out or sing out His name, the atmosphere shifts, walls are broken down, and in those moments in His presence, anything is possible. So whether intentional or unintentional, every song on this record mentions His name. In John 12:32, it says that by simply lifting up the name of Jesus, there is a divine response that occurs as God promises He will draw all people into Himself. As a worship leader, that right there takes all the pressure off me and puts all the focus on what really matters, Jesus. This concept has even extended beyond the music for me. When I’m walking through my neighborhood, when I drive by a car accident, when my home out of nowhere is hit by heartache, I know that by calling upon His name, there is power, hope, and healing. What a powerful tool, and what a weapon we can use daily to disarm the tactics of the enemy.
What were some of your biggest inspirations in developing this collection?
Evan: We were really inspired by some of the analog and vintage synths we used throughout our time of writing. In particular, our producer used an old Juno and Prophet to create lush warm vibes that made the writing process so much more inspiring than a classic acoustic guitar. We also really fell in love with an old Rhodes piano that the studio had in one of the writing rooms. There really is nothing like analog synth tones!
Can you talk a little about the title of the album and why you chose it to represent this new collection?
Ryan: A lifetime is a marker that means a great deal to us as human beings. The weight, the significance and the power held in one lifespan no matter how long is unmistakable and undeniable. That’s why the death of any human being can be such a blow to our soul and psyche. Think of every moment, every breath, every word, every day, every second contained in a lifetime. It's hard to fathom that there is anything more complex, more extensive, more beautiful, or more heart wrenching than one single life played out on this Planet. But those of us who have chosen to follow Christ, we must look through different eyes. Psalms 36 says, "Lord remind me how brief my time on earth will be, Remind me that my days are numbered, how fleeting my life is. You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand. My entire lifetime is just a moment to you. At best, each of us are but a breath." We realize that there is a God who exists outside of and stands High above our feeble understanding of life and time. HE is ALL, the creator... He is the start, HE is actually the "before the start.” HE is a masterpiece...marvelous, magnificent, an awe-inspiring Jesus. And though it would seem logical that because He is so great and so grand and so "not us" that He would be a God who lives and dwells far far away from us...but the true revelation is that He is a benevolent and kind hearted savior who is, as Acts 17 states, "Closer than our very breath.” So we live with abandon for JESUS and we gather to give him a million lifetimes full of worship. It still won't be enough but we will spend our lives, taking every breath, and exhausting every molecule of who we are to respond to the greatness and Glory of our precious savior Jesus.
Which track are you most excited for listeners to hear and why?
Evan: I think every song on this album has at one point or another been “my favorite.” However, the song I’m most excited for people to hear is “World Needs Jesus”. With all the chaos, pain, and injustice happening across the globe, this song is so timely. It’s an anthem for the church to sing out into the darkness. And it’s an anthem that ends with a second chorus that acknowledges that the change and healing we want to see in the world must first take root and grow in our own hearts.
Were there any songs that were particularly challenging to write or record?
Ryan: “All This Time” was definitely one we had to fight for. From the conception of the song, to the live recording, to the final version you now hear on the record, the song probably had 3 or 4 different versions each with different sonic identities. There was a point where we didn’t know if the song was going to see the light of day or not. Hours before our deadline for mixing and mastering, Mike sent us the final version of the song and it blew our minds. I kind of relate it to the Hail Mary catch Stefon Diggs had in the final seconds of the Vikings playoff game this year against the Saints. It was that epic and special for us. We’ve realized that until the final stems are sent in for mixing that some songs continue to grow, mature and take on new identities. We’ve learned to never settle for okay but always be pushing to see if a song can go from okay to great no matter what the timeframe. That song was the perfect example of that as it ended up being the second single off our record.
If there is one message you hope people take away after listening to this album, what would it be?
Wesley: That’s easy, it’s Jesus. Every single song on this album specifically lifts up the name of Jesus. He’s your answer in the trial, He’s your comforter, He’s your strength, He’s your provider, He’s your healer, He’s your faithful God, He is… He is… He is.