TCB Exclusive: Selah's Todd Smith Talks 'Unbreakable'

Unbreakable, the first all-new studio release in nearly three years from multi Dove Award-winning Curb recording artist Selah, is now available for download. Produced by founding members Todd Smith and Allan Hall and longtime collaborator Jason Kyle Saetveit, the project also includes contributions from such acclaimed producers as Charlie Peacock (The Civil Wars) and Scott Cash (Dan Bremnes). Unbreakable showcases a range of newly-penned selections, hymns and classic songs of faith. Standouts of the 13-song set include “Broken Ladders,” a track of personal significance for Selah’s Amy Perry; the Charlie Peacock-produced “People of the Cross,” an anthem of Hope for the persecuted Church; the African-influenced “This Little Light of Mine”; and “Jesus Will Still Be There,” a new arrangement of the Point of Grace favorite. The project also includes such hymns as “In the Sweet By and By,” “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot/I’ll Fly Away,” and “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms,” the latter of which features 14-time GRAMMY winner Ron Block of Alison Krauss + Union Station. Todd Smith took a few minutes to talk with us about the meaning behind this new collection, the most challenging song to record and the impact the first single is making on listeners. 

Congratulations on the release of the new record, Unbreakable! Tell us, how long has this record been in the making and what does it feel like to have the finished product available? 
Unbreakable took us about three years to record. We thought we were finished last summer and ended up adding three more songs that really inspired and spoke to us. Celebrating our 20th anniversary this year, we are grateful to still be able to create music and are so excited to share the stories behind many of these songs.

Can you talk a little about the title track and why you chose it to represent this new collection?
We chose "Unbreakable" as the title track because it reminds us of God’s unfailing love, which never changes and never ends. We love the track—it’s fun and we’ve never recorded a song quite like it. It’s always good to stretch yourself a little.

How would you describe the sound of the new record to brand new listeners? And, how does it compare and contrast to your prior work? 
The album features a broad range stylistically— from hymns, to ‘80s pop, to Caribbean/African, Americana, Gospel and country influences—and it’s probably the most diverse project we’ve ever recorded. It’s similar to previous albums in that hymns are a signature for us, and we have plenty of them on Unbreakable. We also sing about issues that mean something to us, like the persecuted Church on “People Of The Cross.”

Along with the release of the first single, "I Got Saved," you have been encouraging fans to share testimonials. Can you share with us some of the impact you have heard?
The first time I heard “I Got Saved” it reminded me of when I accepted Jesus as a 5-year-old. We want people to share their #igotsaved stories on YouTube and Facebook, and we’ve already received some amazing stories from fans ranging in age from 5 to 85. One mother shared how her 8-year-old was listening to “I Got Saved” and by the end of the song came to her and said she had just accepted Jesus. That gives me chills! And there’s 85-year-old LuJean Sanders who proclaimed boldly that she is not ashamed of the Gospel and will spend eternity with Him.

Is there one particular song that has a very personal meaning for you?
“People Of The Cross” is very personal to me. I wrote it with Jennie Lee Riddle and Jordan Merritt the day the 21 Egyptian Christians were martyred by ISIS. It’s a response to that, and a reminder to the Church that Jesus promised we would suffer for His name. Luke 9:23-24 (ESV): “And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” It’s also meant to encourage those who will give their lives to stay strong as they suffer. One Egyptian mother lost two sons that day. She said if she came across those men from ISIS she would invite them into her house and show them the love of Jesus. God is glorified in our suffering and the Church grows when it endures suffering. God was glorified in Stephen’s death and when the terrorist Saul became the Apostle Paul—the greatest missionary the world has ever seen—and He was ultimately glorified through Jesus’ humiliation and death. What doesn’t make sense to us and feels like defeat is often God’s victory. I hope this song will be a reminder to trust and stay true when we follow Jesus.

Were there any songs that were particularly challenging to write or record?
“Unbreakable” was challenging to record vocally. It has a wide range, and I am hitting notes I don’t normally hit on the bridge. On the other hand, “Lord I Trust You” and “People of The Cross” were easy to record because we knew what we wanted to say. They were both inspired by stories of the persecuted Church and are a testament to the amazing writers I collaborated with: Jennie Lee Riddle, Jordan Merritt and Travis Ryan. “This Little Light of Mine” was fun to record. I wrote lyrics in Kituba, the Congolese language I speak. Our producer, Jason Kyle, and I always have fun arranging the African songs we include on each album.

If there is one message you hope your listeners take away after listening to this album, what would it be?
Jesus is in control. We walk in His power and we need to start believing that. His love is unbreakable and all-powerful and we can walk in that authority. He is the God of second chances and if we confess our sins and turn to Him we can live joyfully.