[WM] Let’s go back for a minute. I saw Delirious at the Creation East Festival when you first hit the stage with a big show in the United States. There were 50,000 people there. When you walked on stage I was standing right there to the side and I got turned on to Delirious live for the first time. Tell us, what was that like when you first hit that big American crowd?
[Martin Smith] I remember it very clearly, but I also remember that we were making a transition from being an English worship band in a church to trying to play on these big stages. We’d never been to America before, and suddenly we walk out on stage to 50,000 people, and we were trying to figure out how to take what we normally do in an intimate setting with 500 people and do it on a massive stage.
That was a huge learning curve for me. I don’t think those early trips to America went that well. I think that God showed us a lot of grace and God still blessed it, but I don’t think it was that great sonically, or that I was a great front person. I just didn’t know how to perform for those big crowds. It took me two or three years of coming to America consistently, watching other people and learning, to gain a bit more confidence.
[WM] I promoted three of your concerts in a row in the Great NorthWest. I would watch you, and at one point in the night you would sit down and play the keyboard. You would play a song and, I swear you would just tilt your head, and it looked like you were just waiting for the Holy Spirit to lead you for where to go next. Were those mostly spontaneous times or was there a set-list the whole way through?
[Martin] We did have a set-list, but we would always go off and find these moments where we would try to connect with the people in a way that was exactly right for that night. It was like, “God, what do You want to do tonight? What do You want to say to these people?” And it was different every night. That was what Delirious was about. We could play our songs and do a pretty good job of that, but when we went off the script… that was where the magic was. We’d all enter these moments of chaos, and then something would come out of it that was beautiful.
[WM] It was special. Bring us up to date now since Delirious. What have you been doing and how did you make the relationship connection with Bethel Church in Redding, CA?
[Martin] In 2009, Delirious played its last concert in London. It was sad, and happy. It’s not always easy to end things, and it was a difficult decision to make. It affected 5 families, and 17 children (6 of which are mine), so it was a tough thing to do.
I had about a year then. Not a year off, because I was still in the studio doing various things, like helping out a guy named Tim Hughes with his record and writing for him. But I came off the road and I wasn’t away anymore. It was an amazing time. I made that decision for my family and for my kids, and I think that we’re walking in the fruit of that. Thankfully, I’m still married and I still have a friendship with all of my children. Being on the road is tough on families, so I made the decision and I stuck to it, and it’s been good.
[WM] Tonight at the opening of this OutCry Tour you said something to the audience that set up the evening. You said that you didn’t want the night to just be another Christian event or worship night. You wanted them to walk away different.
[Martin] I hope that didn’t come across as dishonoring, because we all love Christian events. But I think over the course of my life I’ve done so many of them, and we are only on this planet for a short time. I want every moment to count and for God to touch people every time, and not have it just be another tour where we do our thing and get back on the bus. These are real people’s lives, and I want it to count. They are going to go out and change the world, so I want it to touch people.
It’s been great to connect with Bethel. I’ve known those guys for many years, and some of them grew up on the Delirious music, so it’s been amazing for us to connect. I’m a huge fan of what Brian and Jenn are doing, along with the other guys, like Jesus Culture.
I’ve kind of been the guy who is weaving in and out of everyone’s worlds in the last 7 or 8 years. One minute I’m with Jesus Culture, then I might be with Bethel, or the Hillsong gang. I’m enjoying writing with different people and, hopefully, being an encouragement as well.
[WM] You’re kind of a statesman now! You played a new song tonight. Tell us about it.
[Martin] I’ve been wanting to write a “Come, Holy Spirit” type of song now for a long time. Some of the younger guys in my church and I were writing some songs. We have a new project called Bright City, which is like our own version of Bethel. It’s on our own label, and it’s fantastic music and sounds great. I’ve just been helping out with that, and the song “Come, Holy Spirit” is on that album. I co-wrote it with several other people.
[WM] From day one you’ve written your own songs. Tell us about your approach to the craft of songwriting.
[Martin] I still love songwriting, but these days it’s become more collaborative. Interestingly, my output is probably more than it was in the Delirious days. When you’re in a band and you’re on the road so much… some people can write on the road easily, but I’ve never found it to be easy because my heart is always focused for the night. From the moment I wake up I’m thinking about what I’m going to say that night. So, I find it difficult to write when I’m on the road.
Delirious would release a record every 2 years with 12 songs on it. But it’s nice now to get into a different season where I can be working on 50 or 60 songs a year, but with more collaboration and team writing. I may send songs to Chris Tomlin or Jason Ingram, or different people around the world, and I’m really enjoying that.
[Martin] If you’re writing with people that you really like and respect, usually you will both land in the same place. It’s actually quite rare for them to steer it and take it off in an odd direction. Normally, you arrive together. Sometimes you’re writing with a particular artist in mind, and maybe it isn’t a song that I would do myself, but I know that it really fits them.
I’ve been working with an amazing singer and songwriter from Ireland named Kathryn Scott, and that’s been a 2 year process of writing and refining. And at the end we recorded a live record at her church in Ireland. That should be coming out in 2018.
[WM] Do you have any other projects on the horizon?
[Martin] I’m going to try and record a live worship record as well. I’m trying to figure out how to do it. I’ve got all of these new songs and I just want to get them out.
[WM] Will that be under “Martin Smith”?
[WM] So, if anybody wants to see what you’re up to, where can they look for more information?
[Martin] You can go to www.MartinSmith.tv to see more information. I’m also in a more mainstream Rock n’ Roll band called Army of Bones. I felt like God was still asking me to step out and not just sing to church people, so we’ve been playing in clubs around the U.K., and different shows around the world. It’s been going well. It’s small, and gloriously underwhelming, but I love the music and it’s given me a whole other set of songs to express myself with.
[WM] What would be a last word of encouragement you have for young worship leaders and songwriters?
[Martin] Be authentic. Write the songs that you genuinely feel you can sing, rather than what you think people are going to like. I think it’s a bad mistake to write for the audience. Well… it’s not wrong to have that in mind, but the majority of the song has got to be from your gut in order for it to connect. There are more and more generic sorts of songs that are happening now, and it needs to change.
[WM] I agree. Thank you for your time with us!