“Rapha,” the impassioned new single from acclaimed singer/songwriter and worship leader Stephen McWhirter and GRAMMY and Stellar Award nominee Jason Clayborn, is now available from Lula Street Records (Integrity Music). Penned by the duo and produced by McWhirter, “Rapha” is an anthemic celebration of the name and nature of God the Healer. Drawing from a range of classic rock, Motown, pop and Gospel grooves, Stephen McWhirter and Jason Clayborn’s signature soul-drenched sound has been met with critical acclaim, carving a unique space in today’s worship landscape. In this TCB Exclusive, the duo reflects on their collaborative efforts, the songwriting process for the new single and how they hope “Rapha” impacts and inspires listeners.
You co-wrote the new single “Rapha” together. Is there a moment that stands out in your memory from the writing or recording sessions?
Jason: We were getting together every Wednesday and doing live writes on Instagram and Facebook.
Stephen: We were writing in front of people, which is an interesting thing to do. We were being very real about it but in the moment we started talking about that in writing music, I’m working on something that I need to say, not that I’m trying to teach only. I really need to believe this. So we were talking about healing – I’ve seen God heal. I was a meth addict and radically healed from a life of addiction, but I’ve also seen people die from cancer, and it’s a very real conversation. For us, we need to declare who He is despite what we see. He doesn’t change. We may not always see what we want to see. There’s a lyric in the song that’s “We’re leaning on Your power, You’ll do what can’t be done / Either now or forever, we know it’s gonna come.” It’s our way of addressing what you do when you can’t see it. This hit us while we were recording how big this conversation is.
Jason: And there are so many different styles of healing. I found out last night that one of our church members, prominent at one of our campuses, killed himself. He had PTSD. And I have a friend who is traveling back and forth to Baltimore to get treatment because he has a rare type of cancer.
Stephen: We’re coming out of two years in a pandemic. And there are a lot of people who don’t realize that they’re struggling with depression. Especially with teenagers and young adults. God is real and He really is peace and a healer. There isn’t a cure-all that comes from man.
How do you hope this single will impact others?
Stephen: At the end of the day it’s not just about people hearing a song. It’s about people listening to it and thinking about God. Someone said something to me once that sounded super confusing at first: “Do you want to be healed or do you want to know the Healer?” Do you want a total utilitarian exchange or just love God and know Him? That’s something that is eye-opening. You really get to know Him. That’s our hope.
Is there a lyric that means something different to you now than when you first encountered it?
Jason: “Either now or forever we know it’s gonna come.” The phrase says it’s ok if you don’t get healed here and now because in eternity you will be healed. How many different ways did God heal in the Bible – all the different times and ways he brought about healing. So this song shares it could come now or forever, but you get to build a relationship with the One who heals.
Stephen: We released this song on July 8, which was the birthday of a close friend. It wasn’t on purpose; I didn’t know it was her birthday. She had been diagnosed with cancer, and three days later she died. I played the funeral last Sunday and talk about a lyric that you didn’t know was going to be so personal for you. And that’s the reality of this – this is all really short this side of eternity. And sometimes you see His hand on things because I couldn’t have planned that out. It’s one of the most impactful lyrics we’ve ever written. And on accident.
You also released a music video – why was it important for you to pair “Rapha” with a visual component?
Stephen: It’s as simple as sometimes music doesn’t exist if you don’t have a video. We want as many people to hear and encounter this song as possible.
Jason: And with it being a corporate worship piece, everyone can sing and declare it. So we have people wondering what other attributes there are to God and how to know them.
Stephen: Throughout the Gospels, you hear this message. And John 3:16 is an example saying that we should want eternal life. And then in John 17:3, Jesus is praying for the disciples to have eternal life, which is to know Him, the one true God. Knowing Him changes everything. You can know about me, but not know me like my wife and kids know me. There’s a different intimacy there, and when you apply that to the Lord, you don’t second guess who He is because you know Him.
Why do you continue collaborating on new music? What do you think you can produce together that you are not as able to apart?
Jason: Honestly, this is my brother. And I feel like this is what God wants us to do. It’s kingdom – it’s not him trying to make me who he is or me trying to make him who I am. We are who we are in the kingdom and coming together to allow God to create through us. We are having a great time, and I get to worship and praise with my brother. We have all kinds of conversations. It’s a brotherhood and I think it’s very organic what God is doing with us, and why not drop music when we sound great together.
Stephen: If it wasn’t fun we wouldn’t be doing it.
Where are you currently drawing inspiration, either musically or spiritually?
Jason: The Bible. Are we singing and saying what the Lord wants us to say, or are we just searching for a good song? We want to sing what He wants to say.
Stephen: We both love worship and gospel, but I couldn’t pull out one thing that I draw from.
What are you most expectant for in the remainder of 2022?
Stephen: We just released “Rapha” and recorded a total of eight songs, so we’ll be releasing singles throughout the year. We have another one coming out that we wrote with our friend coming out in September, and then Christmas stuff.