North Georgia-native Sammy Ward first landed in the Christian music spotlight nearly two decades ago with his critically-acclaimed 40Records/Gotee debut, My Passion. After a season of full-time music ministry, Ward launched an entrepreneurial career, founding and managing a variety of tech startups. Despite this vocational shift, which Ward calls a "wild God-sized epiphany," songwriting and worship leading have continued to be a priority for him through the years. On January 31, Ward returned with a highly anticipated new recording, Hymns Anew. Produced by Nathan Nockels (Chris Tomlin, Keith & Kristyn Getty), the Vibraslap Records release features fresh takes on five beloved hymns, as well as the original title-track written by Ward. In the days prior to the release of Hymns Anew, Sammy talked with us about the inspiration behind his new collection and hopes for the record.
Congratulations on the release of Hymns Anew! Can you share the inspiration behind putting this collection together?
Thanks a ton! 'Hymns Anew' was ultimately inspired by my love of hymns and the timeless Truth they carry. The title track speaks of my desire to reintroduce some of my favorite hymns to a new generation, truly making them "hymns anew.”
When did you first have the idea for this project? How long was the record in the making?
I've had the idea to do a hymns project since my last EP released back in 2011. 'Hymns Anew' has been about two years in the making.
Did writing the original track come easily to fit with the selected hymns?
Yes, unexpectedly it did. I usually have more self-confidence when I’m cowriting, however, with this one I tried to break the cycle a bit and just go for it!
Can you talk a little about the meaning behind the album’s title and how it is a reflection of the whole project?
I have a deep desire to express what I know I'm supposed to do, and I knew I was supposed to do this EP—to actually follow through and finish it instead of just talking and about it. This is a constant struggle for an artist; you want perfection, but that's just not realistic on many levels. Our fears can freeze us up, and I think that’s been the case for me musically for a while. It's not to say you don't work hard and give it your all, sometimes I think we are just too hard on ourselves.
We need to be good stewards of all the things the Lord has given us, to be doers of the Word and not just hearers. The song “Hymns Anew” zeroes in on the fact that we should let amazing songs of worship from the past continue to encourage our faith. It also makes the point that we need to sing a new song to the Lord as well.
Who or what were some of your biggest inspirations, spiritually and musically, in cultivating this collection of songs?
Billy Graham for sure, and my pastor back home in North Georgia, Steve Sullivan. Growing up in the church we sang these songs year-round. My wife and daughters were also a huge inspiration for this project. When I would pray over my daughters before bedtime, they'd want me to sing them a song, and it was like my heart and mind defaulted straight back to the old gospel truths of the hymns. They loved these songs and still do! Hymns bless me too and I knew I wanted to bring them back around somehow.
What do you hope listeners take away from your music?
I want older and newer generations alike to tune in to the timeless Truths that weigh heavy in these hymns. I hope listeners will be encouraged, knowing just how good God is. Many in the church today have never heard these old songs and I’m trying to change that. They’re too good to be forgotten, too strong to not be sung and too transformative not to be heard.
How was creating Hymns Anew similar and different from your debut album, My Passion, released almost two decades ago?
Creating 'Hymns Anew' has been similar to my first major release in several ways. My first album was produced by some very talented artists, and likewise this time around I'm creating in the studio with Nathan Nockels, which has been a blast. It's refreshing to create with like-minded people and have fun doing it.
One thing that’s different this time around is that I don't feel the pressure I felt back then. A little older and little wiser, I feel a bit freer to create what's within me.
What are you most looking forward to in 2020 aside from the release of Hymns Anew?
In the past four years, I've tried my hand at launching new businesses and tech-startups, and I have several I'll be launching this year that I'm excited about. I'll also continue writing and recording additional hymns, as well as other songs. Be on the lookout for more from good 'ole Sammy Ward!