Exclusive: Keith Getty Explains How Exploring Irish American Roots Inspired ‘Confessio’ Album

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Iconic Northern Irish Christian modern hymn writer Keith Getty of Getty Music releases his new album, Confessio – Irish American Roots, with wife Kristyn on October 29. In 2020, Keith and Kristyn Getty traced their journey back to Northern Ireland and the Scots-Irish-American roots of their hymn writing. During this time, they had the chance to revisit with their daughters, the people and places, lessons and practices, hymns and folk tunes, melodies and poetry which are part of their beautiful heritage. They learned about their own Scots-Irish history and how that music and faith heritage flowed to America and influenced church, folk and popular music alike. The album contains songs filled with traditional Irish-melodies and instrumentation, brand-new songs as well as timeless hymns arranged with the signature sound that is only The Getty’s.  The album features the lead track, “Pass The Promise” which is a new-anthem that is instantly singable, guest artists including Alison Krauss (“In Christ Alone”), Sandra McCracken (“All My Heart Rejoices” “Pass The Promise”), Kirk Whalum and Dana Masters (“Amazing Grace”), as well as classic well-known hymns that all have the soundtrack of the green hills of Ireland. In this TCB Exclusive, Getty shares how exploring his Irish American Roots and collaboration inspired this latest release.

Congratulations on the upcoming release of Confessio – Irish American Roots! Can you share about the album title and your personal desire to connect with your Irish American roots in music?
My wife and I went home to Ireland last September and stayed for 10 months. We are from there and have a home there. We wanted to take our daughters and when we realized we had a year off touring, we figured we may as well make the most of it. The album is a diary of that – what inspired us to write hymns and songs and music and faith. And Confessio is by St. Patrick, who is the first Irish hymn writer and brought Christianity to Ireland. It is fascinating to see how Irish Christianity and Scotch-Irish Christianity has gone primarily to North America and around the world as part of the missionary voice.

The album is a mix of new songs and arrangements of traditional hymns. Why was it important to you to include both of these on the same project?
Our whole life has been writing modern hymns. That’s what we’ve done but this project is more older hymns but also a few new ones. And then with the Irish American thing, we did a remix of the recording we did with Alison Krauss (“In Christ Alone”). We also had the likes of Ricky Skaggs, Sandra McCracken, and some African American musicians. There is a whole moment to where “Amazing Grace” was written and so we did a version of my wife singing with guests for that one too.

This album is marked by many guest artists and collaborations. How do you think that enhances the sound and overall quality?
A mind stretched by a new idea never returns to its original shape. And I think that’s true with musicians that come into your life. None of it was calling someone up and begging. Dana Masters has been Van Morrison’s vocalist for decades, so she’s wonderful at blending. And then Kirk Whalum is probably the greatest saxophone player, and he’s been doing his own blog of helping people read and interpret the Bible. So we thought it would be cool to get these people together. How they interpret songs is a bit more passionate than we would, which I think is cool.

Allison Krauss and Ricky Skaggs too. I think Ricky is the most important voice because when we first moved to Nashville he came to one of our concerts and sat in the front row. He clapped the whole night and invited us as guests to the Opry and he really introduced us in a living way to how music formed in the Bible belt of America: bluegrass, Appalachia and hymn-sing. There is such a unique connection, and we’re excited for that to be added to this collection. 

Sandra has a much more clear form of songwriting. I tend to be very complex with the chords I put in, and she is much more clear with her gorgeous melodies. I think she and Kristyn have really started to release some fresh music as well.

For you, what is the unifying theme that ties the tracks into a project? Did this evolve as you created, or was it part of the original vision?
It did evolve – going home to Ireland for a year halfway through your life, getting a sabbatical and writing a diary. That’s what it was. “Amazing Grace” was recorded in my friend’s fish and chips shack. My friend owns a fish and chips shack with a lovely view of the sea, so I asked him to block it off an afternoon. We had actually just driven over to Donegal to see the monument and we came back that day and recorded in the middle of the afternoon. We were exhausted but something about it just clicked. 

“It Is Well With My Soul” is featured in the film “Sabina”, which is coming out soon. It’s the closing credits for that movie and they asked to record. It was just an evolving thing. We didn’t intent to write an album, but it just came so profound to us that we decided to release this album. And then next summer, we will release Christ Our Hope In Life And Death, because it ended up being two albums.

Which lyric or track do you think the world most needs to hear now in its current state?
I’m thinking a lot about “Pass The Promise.” It is one of the new hymns that Kristyn and Sandra wrote. The chorus goes:

Pass the promise
To our sons and daughters
God most high, God our Father
We bear witness

I’m a father of four, and we wrote this as the last song when we came back to America. We were just talking about life and I’m not even sure it was a real writing session, but it just came together. To me, it completes the project. This represents 17 centuries of Christianity in Ireland where generation after generation of farmers and musicians and pastors and teachers have passed on to the next generation and encouraged them to spread the word. Northern Ireland, where I’m from, is small – smaller than Nashville, TN in terms of population. But when you walk those coastlines and look at those cliff edges and you realize that so many believers and so much came from this place. Almost half of the great American hymns are written from Irish related immigrants. They have brought more missionaries to the world, but it’s just an amazing thing.

We want our four daughters to know the good news of Jesus. We want them to know the Gospel and its beauty. Whatever challenges they have in the next generation, we want them to have that joy and confidence that was there in the Bible. 

How will you define success for this collection?
When we started, we really just wanted to write the modern hymn. I think as we’ve gotten older, our music has become much more a collective of hymn writers. We have 8 or 9 songwriters now with our company. We are now equally concerned with people knowing the great hymns of our faith from the past. If you learn the hymn ‘Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty,’ you can also learn lots of modern worship songs that say ‘God You are holy.’ But ‘Holy, Holy, Holy’ is better poetry, better theology, sings more simply, and you will still be singing it years from now. It’s an investment that keeps giving. 

What are you most expectant for in the remainder of 2021?
On a personal level, we want to be growing in our faith, growing in our humility and our love for people. In terms of the work, our next three years are all about getting people excited about the hymns of the Christian faith. This fall we get to do it with some writing but a lot more of taking it out. The whole Christmas tour this year is all about the Irish American hymn carols, so it will be a lot of fun to do.

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