On October 9th, Mountaintops will release their debut album In the Valley. Husband and wife songwriting team Nick and Melissa Morrow wrote the album in the midst of personal tragedy: four miscarriages in two years. A collection of honest questions and hopeful prayers, the album stands as an altar to God’s goodness even in the midst of the worst circumstances. Rather than a journey from “doubt to certainty,” the album explores a journey from doubt to worship. The album begins with questions from the chaos of pain and concludes with the surrender of worship.
Congratulations on the upcoming release of In the Valley! What does it mean for you two to be so close to release day?
Melissa: For me, releasing this album symbolizes the end of a season. We went through four miscarriages in two years. It was so painful, so hard on our family. But we kept pressing in and trying to trust God, listening for His voice. And just a few weeks ago we brought home our baby boy Moses! So releasing the album at the very end of all that feels appropriate.
Nick: We had a weird sense throughout our journey of miscarriage that the music we were writing and the journey itself were interconnected. We’re still seeing that unfold a bit. We had set the album release date before we even knew Melissa was pregnant again, in really early 2019, while we were finishing mixes. The fact that it landed within a week or two of Moses’ birth was crazy! So we pushed the release date back a few weeks. [Laughs.]
How long was this project in the making? When did you first have the vision for this album?
Melissa: After we had our first or second miscarriage, we had been talking about writing some songs around the topic of grief, pain, worship, etc. But then Nick went to a songwriting retreat with Bethel Music, and that really kicked everything off.
Nick: While I was out in Redding, I got a strong vision from the Lord during prayer one day. A picture of our family walking up a mountain. But then the Lord said “we need to take a detour into the valley...I want you to write songs from the valley.” At first I was not excited about that idea. Who wants to write sad worship songs about pain? [Laughs.] But the Lord really spoke into our pain and disappointment and invited us to bring that stuff to Him. And to write our way through the process. We really didn’t plan for this album. It definitely felt like a “detour” from our plans. It was just a process of saying “yes” to Jesus as He opened up vision.
Can you share a little about the meaning behind the album’s title and how it is a reflection of the whole project?
Nick: We wanted to try and write something out of the prophetic vision I’d seen. As soon as I came home from the retreat, Melissa and I began writing together almost every day for a couple months. We would often just have worship time in our living room and listen for God. One day Melissa heard the phrase, “let the living waters rise up.” It stopped me in my tracks, it was a simple summation of our prayers for ourselves and other people in seasons of pain, grief and doubts. It seemed kind of obvious it should be the album title.
What is one key message that you hope listeners take away from this album as a whole?
Melissa: I hope this album encourages people to persist through trials, and not give up. To trust in God, that if you hear His voice speaking you can trust Him, and that He’s not going to abandon you.
Nick: Our main prayer through all this has been that people will encounter Jesus and be healed! Some of the songs are corporate worship songs for churches to sing, but others are private prayer kind of songs that will help people process with Jesus. After releasing the first few singles we’ve already heard some beautiful stories. People struggling with depression, suicidal thoughts, struggling marriages, listening to these songs from dark places and finding hope to walk forward with Jesus. We’re praying for more stories like that!
Which track are you most looking forward to sharing and why?
Melissa: For me it’s “In the Valley.” As we wrote this album, I began to really see myself as a songwriter. Not just a cowriter with Nick, but someone who has good ideas and can really contribute. I loved writing the song “In the Valley” and how it turned out!
Nick: It’s funny, I’ve been writing songs for 20 years now. And as we shared early versions of these songs with people, everyone’s favorite was “In the Valley,” Melissa’s first song! [Laughs.] It was awesome to write together so much for this album. I think each song carries something unique in it, I don’t think I can pick a favorite! Some of the songs earlier in the album like “Could I Believe?” will really resonate with some people in their journey of doubt, I think. But there are also hope-filled songs like “Father of Kindness,” which we wrote as a song to facilitate healing prayer in churches. I’m excited to see whatever God wants to do through the songs.
Who or what were some of your biggest inspirations, spiritually and musically, in developing this collection of songs?
Nick: We had an interesting mix of spiritual influences during the past couple of years. I’ve been reading a lot more from the Catholic tradition, namely Madame Guyon and Henri Nouwen. We often use some of the liturgical prayers from the Anglican Church at home. But then we’ve also explored a lot of what God is doing in the charismatic stream, through churches like Bethel and Upper Room. There’s some amazing things we’ve seen in gatherings at those places, things we can’t deny but don’t have any categories for! God is definitely up to something in this generation. Those might seem like strange partners - liturgical and charismatic practices - but they were like a lifeline for us during our season of loss. Musically speaking…we originally thought this album was going to be super mellow, mostly campfire type songs. But once we got into production it just broke loose. [Laughs.] We wound up weaving in way more influences than I’d imagined into one album. Everything from folky rock to post-rock elements, loads of ambient stuff, all into worship music. There were a lot of influences, but some of the more obvious ones are probably the Beatles, Coldplay, Bon Iver and Brian Eno. We typically try and ask questions like, “What would it sound like if Brian Eno produced this worship song?” and then use that as a sort of target. We are always shooting for the convergence of creativity and accessibility.
Melissa: We listened to a few albums on repeat while we were writing and recording these songs. S Carey’s “Hundred Acres,” Beck’s “Morning Phase,” Sufjan Stevens’ “Carrie and Lowell.” You can definitely hear some of those influences on the album.
Success can be defined in many ways. What is your definition of success for In the Valley?
Melissa: We want to see people healed! Our generation is struggling with so much - depression, anxiety, doubts, suicidal thoughts. We want to see a wave of healing in these areas, that’s why we poured so much into this album.
Nick: Yes! Both inner and even physical healing. Our prayer for our work with Mountaintops is always for people to encounter Jesus. That’s what success looks like for us.
What does the group have lined up next after this release?
Nick: [Laughs], funny you should ask! We’ve been juggling five or six ideas for our next project. It feels like saying “yes” to this project broke loose a stream of creativity and ideas for us.
Melissa: Fast worship songs!
Nick: Yeah, that's almost definitely our next project. Maybe the number one request we hear from worship leaders is “does anyone know of good fast worship songs?” For whatever reason the trend is to write slower songs. So we’ve recently been digging into some of our punk and alternative influences from teenage years and writing some fast worship songs for churches. It’s been fun. We’re really psyched about it. It will be very different from 'In the Valley,' no doubt! I think in many ways 'In the Valley' is an album for people’s seasons of pain, grief, doubt, because that’s the place we wrote those songs from. But we are in a season of joy and celebration, so that’s the place we’re writing from at the moment. Worshiping from a place of abundance and thanks.