Exclusive: Paul Ranheim & Kirk Sauers Reflect On The Wood Drake Sessions Debut LP

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From The Valley To The Golden Shore, the full-length debut from worship newcomers The Wood Drake Sessions, is available now to download/stream. Showcasing collaborations with such luminaries as bestselling singer/songwriter and worship leader Sandra McCracken; singer/songwriter Leslie Jordan (All Sons & Daughters); modern hymnist Wendell Kimbrough; and NPR-lauded singer/songwriter Liz Vice, among others, the album was written by The Wood Drake Sessions’ co-creators Paul Ranheim and Kirk Sauers. From The Valley To The Golden Shore features nine roots-based, organic pop tracks conveying the surety of Christ’s sovereignty despite the turmoil of the times. In this TCB Exclusive, Paul and Kirk reflect on what inspired the title of the collection, how listeners have responded to the new music and what lyric the world most needs to hear right now.

Congratulations on the upcoming release of From The Valley To The Golden Shore! How does this title reflect the full project?
Paul: The goal of the record is to share songs of profound hope for troubling times. The title was inspired by lyrics in the opening track, “Oh How Good To Be Together,” which we wrote early in the pandemic when so many churches were trying to figure out how to have services online. We wanted to recognize the hardship and misery of that moment—that churches weren’t gathering and worshiping together. Yet, we were confident that absence would make our hearts fonder for one another, and that soon we would regather again and experience a new, joyful appreciation of God’s Church. This is the way God often works. It’s in the dark valleys when we see the light of His faithfulness keeping us and guiding us to the golden shore. 

You pre-released “All Will Be Well” earlier this month. Has there been a recurring theme to the listener responses?
Paul: We have heard from a number of people who have found deep comfort and hopefulness in the song. One person said he was at a coffee shop in tears listening to the tune—specifically, the lyrics in the bridge where Jesus is saying, “It is finished, but it’s only just begun.” The cross and tomb are not simply symbols of completion. They are also promises of restoration, that from death Jesus is bringing forth new life forevermore. Easter is a foretaste of eternal joy—it’s only just begun!

You have many collaborators showcased on this project. How do you think the collaboration enhances the sound/quality?
Paul: Our goal has been to steward these songs as best as we can, and inviting collaborators creates an embodied vision for the wonderful variety of God’s people in these tunes. Our churches are beautifully diverse, and so it’s great to have men and women of different races and artists from all over the country singing these songs. We believe it makes the project much stronger and gives a glimpse into the multigenerational, transnational heavenly Kingdom of God.  

This project is the first full-length one from The Wood Drake Sessions. How did the writing experience for this project most surprise you, perhaps even exceeding your expectations?
Kirk: The biggest surprise was discovering that songwriting via Zoom was actually possible! We live on opposite ends of the country—Paul’s in Colorado and I’m in South Carolina—and we both thought writing on Zoom might be awkward and untenable. But in time, we learned to use the tool well and even discovered some big advantages to it.
Another thing that surprised us is how our growing collection of songs continued to point to the central theme of “Hope.”  We can look back on these songs and trace how God was stirring in our hearts as we journeyed and wrote much of this album through 2020 and 2021. 

How will you define success for this collection?
Kirk: It’s tempting to measure success by numbers since that’s the most tangible ruler. But success for us is faithfully stewarding these songs that they may bring the hope of God to the world. In many ways, this collection is already a success. We hear stories regularly of churches singing our songs and of individuals finding God’s hope in the midst of tragic loss or grueling despair. We hope these stories continue to spread, but we sleep well knowing we’ve stewarded the songs as best as we could have, and we trust the rest in the Lord’s hands. 

Which track or lyric do you think the world most needs to hear now in its current state?
Paul: These past few years have been historically catastrophic in our world. The amount of pain, death, anger and violence has been overwhelming. We’ve been particularly struck by these lines in “Grace Will Prevail”:

Grace will prevail
Though an ocean we cry
He is with us and weeps by our side
Till the day they forever run dry

Our world needs to know the tender nearness of Jesus. He stood at his friend Lazarus’ tomb and wept in sadness. We have a God like that; He weeps with us. Sin and death are sorrowful to Him. And at the same time, He is unleashing His life into this world, bringing hope to every decaying corner. One day all tears will cease, and His grace will prevail over the darkness. Yet in this moment, He is at our side with great tenderness, upholding us through our suffering until the final day of restoration.  

What are you most expectant for in 2022?
Kirk: We are hopeful this album will serve the Church well this year, and for years to come. Whether it be churches learning and singing these songs together in worship, or individuals discovering the album and streaming songs throughout their week, we are expectant for the Holy Spirit to do His work of encouraging and lifting hearts to hope in Christ. 

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