Singer/songwriter and veteran worship leader Aaron Williams recently released his highly anticipated full-length debut, The Hope of Christ. The Worship Initiative release was produced by Williams and Alan Thomas (joan) and features 10 pop-driven live worship selections extolling the boundless grace, love and rest offered by the Savior. Williams co-penned each track, with additional songwriting contributions from Shane Barnard, Jason Ingram, Jon Egan and Benji Cowart, among others. In this TCB Exclusive, Williams reflects on his recently released album and shares about being a co-founder of Dwell.
I want to start with your project that was released about a month ago, The Hope Of Christ. Do you recall when the first seeds of this project came to you?
In some ways, this project is a culminating moment for me as a songwriter. Some of the songs have been in my back pocket for a couple of years, and the bulk of the songs came when writing for the project. But it really was interesting seeing the themes. Until I put all of the songs together in a list, and looking at them and the lyrics altogether, I didn’t see the very strong theme. It relates closely to my life story over the past few years, walking through a handful of hard things with sickness in family and losing a couple of people that I love, the ebbs and flows of life. It’s different to think about hope in Christ and to live it out in the hardest moments. As I was writing the songs through my life’s journey, the theme of the hope of Christ, which ended up being the title of one of the songs, emerged and was clear.
What inspired the title and cover art? How does this reflect the full project?
The theme inspiration came at the end. Honestly ‘The Hope Of Christ’ didn’t feel overly original, which was a struggle for me. But it felt like the right thing and summarized the whole project. And when I sat down with my friend Danny, who designed the artwork, and he was asking about the album. I took lyric samples and sent them to him, and he thought it needed to look like an old revival poster or hymnal because to him he felt these songs were time-tested. It was cool for me to hear him talk about it that way.
Is there a lyric that means something different to you now than when you first encountered it?
“Abide” is my biggest song at this point in my career. I wrote it about two years ago, and the huge shift with the song is that it was first an acoustic, personal song. And I thought that was all that it was, just for me and my journey. And about six or eight months later I was in a songwriters song share night and my cowriter on it, Aaron Keyes, told me that I was going to play “Abide.” My song was toward the end of the night and immediately when I started singing the verse, everyone started singing with me. And by the time the end of the first chorus was over, it was real apparent that something special was happening. After singing it, I realized the song wasn’t just for me. My resolve at the end of the night was that I was going to record the song, and it just happened to line up with the calendar that it released during COVID. And I think a lot of people were feeling the need for abiding. We were in isolation, but isolation and abiding aren’t the same thing. You can be alone and present to God. So there was something about people feeling that and the deeper call of learning to remain, that the song has now become my most widely sung song. What I thought was a singer/songwriter song has turned into more of a corporate anthem.
With this being your first project under your own name, how does that impact your definition of success and how you view the project?
I really think there is something to the journeys we are all on. Songs tend to mark seasons in my life, and I tend to write my best songs out of those honest moments. Overall, this project has felt like a culminating point in my journey where I’m taking a few songs from the past and then writing in the current season. I’ve felt the calling for so long, since I was 15 or 16, to write songs for the church. And I’ve had that opportunity writing for different projects and for church, but this felt like the Lord saying “I didn’t forget about this dream that I gave you.” It took longer to materialize, but it feels like a milestone marker. I feel so grateful. The idea of success has a personal side, so no matter what metrics of success, I’ve gotten to this point. God has been faithful and these songs contain real parts of who I am. I hope this doesn’t sound trite, but there is a whole portion that it doesn’t matter how successful it is, because it just is. And then the other side is that there will be critique and tangible avenues of success. I’m trying to take it as healthy as I can – I’ll learn and grow through it. People have been sending encouraging words about the songs and their impact, which are wins as well. So I’m trying to take the data of streaming and those ways to gauge success along with the words of the real people listening to the songs.
In addition to your work with The Worship Initiative, you are also the co-founder of Dwell. Can you share a little about these groups and why these communities are so important for you?
The community aspect is huge. When the vision was pitched to me for The Worship Initiative and what we are creating here, it was a like-minded community of artists that care for one another as much as they do their own projects, and have legitimate friendship to write songs out of. In some ways, I think it’s a dream for artists to not be writing in a vacuum all the time, so we a year into that vision, and I’m super encouraged. Everything we are dreaming up is happening. Just a few weeks ago we looked back on the past year, and I almost forgot some of what we had done.
Dwell is the same way, but in a little bit different space. We do music, but also events and retreats. The goal was to find out how to meet people in the everyday moments of life. When you think that church is generally 1-1.5 hours of the 168 in a week. So in the 167 other hours that I’m living my life, how do we help people connect with God in all of those moments. That’s been the definition and direction of Dwell – how to teach people how to live a life with God in the ordinary.
What are you most expectant for the remainder of 2022?
As an artist, releasing music into the world feels like it’s a newborn. People are just hearing it for the first time, so I’m excited to lead the songs in churches. I have a lot of events lined up this fall – different places and contexts. So now it’s leading the songs and getting to watch God minister to people. You never know what that will look like – a season of harvest. Simultaneously, I’m starting to work on the next project at the same time. I’m excited to start writing and see what this next season’s songs sound like and feel like.