If you’re looking for some worship-fueled musical inspiration, I encourage you to check out Ricardo Sanchez’s new live album “Taste + See”. Having witnessed the recording of this disc at San Antonio’s Cornerstone Church, floored is the word that best described by reaction. Although this disc includes delay-laden guitar parts, a six eight ballad, and plenty of get on your feet and worship songs, Ricardo is definitely drawing from his own well. This Grammy nominated, Dove Award-winning singer-songwriter expertly blends the flavors of Contemporary Worship, Funk, and Rhythm and Blues into a potent brew, served up by a power house team of musicians. Deeper than the great songs, played by great musicians, is the heart Ricardo has to bring his best unto the Lord. Whether you’re a worship pastor, worship leader, or worship musician, I encourage you to ruminate on what Ricardo has to say, as his well runs deep!
[WM] “Taste and See” was recorded live with only three days of rehearsal with the band you put together. The vocal and musical arrangements are harmonically sophisticated, and super tight. How did you pull this off in such a short period of time?
It goes back to this philosophy that I have about the difference between practice and rehearsal. You practice at home and then you rehearse with the band.
[Ricardo Sanchez] We used Planning Center Online to send out the charts and MP3’s to have them walk through it. It goes back to this philosophy that I have about the difference between practice and rehearsal. You practice at home and then you rehearse with the band. Producer Louie Higuera and I spent a lot of pre-production at his studio in Nashville. We came up with the arrangements and where we wanted to go. Once we got that down, Louie and I got on a keyboard and laid down a scratch demo of what we wanted, so the band was able to practice with those MP3’s for about a month in advance. Then we had three days to get together and rehearse what we had practiced. The rehearsal time was three days, but practice was about a month.
[WM] Which songs do you feel are going to resonate best for congregations to sing on Sunday mornings?
[Ricardo] “You Are” and “Faith” were ones that we thought will translate to every style of church.
[WM] One of the things I enjoyed about the recording was that it felt more like a night of worship than making a live recording. “You Are” was the first song you played and is also the first song on the disc. Did you position it there as a way to say, “Hey church! This is a great place to start!” Was that your intent?
[Ricardo] That’s exactly right. We postured “You Are” at the beginning of the record hoping that it would translate into something like an attitude of worship where everyone could clap on the 2 and 4 and feel like they were involved in it just as much as we were. That was the goal for it. These were new songs, but they were going to have good hooks so we could get people involved.
[WM] One of the things I love most about this disc is that the music and arrangements have a lot of musical depth to them. The band was one of the best I’ve seen anywhere, and were 100% in when it came to using their skill to take worship to the next level.
[Ricardo] The best part is that all of those guys are in churches on Sunday mornings! These guys have the repertoire to do “How Great Is Our God” and keep it simple, and then to go into some Snarky Puppy. I didn’t want to make it so complicated that the music would get in the way of the message. I believe the difference between praise and performance is the posture of our heart, and our heart was definitely postured towards Jesus in the pre-production and in creating the patterns of music. I believe that will translate to the listener.
[WM] Philosophically as an artist, you have a history and a future. This album is filled with great songs, arrangements and music that is not the status quo for where modern praise and worship is and that was part of what I loved so much about the experience. How conscious are you of not wanting to do what everybody else is doing?
[Ricardo] That’s a powerful question. Whenever I write a song, or we’re going for a live recording, concert, or worship service, what we focus on is the anointing. We look at the lyrical content and ask ourselves if the message is translating. This is a record that I can come back to and hear things that I’ve never heard before. Even in the mixing process we were hearing things that we hadn’t heard before and were deciding to pull up. On the title cut, “Taste + See”, there’s a reprise that we put at the end of the song because it just felt like a jam session and we wanted to visit it again. It wasn’t a pre-planned idea, it was just spontaneous. We weren’t intending to get away from anything old or create anything new. It was more that this is what we like. It’s different, I’ll admit that. It definitely has a little bit more chording than most worship songs, but that was our approach to it.
[WM] As a guitar player I was particularly taken with Tyler Logan’s playing. Everything he played fit like a glove, but he also had some killer chops and wasn’t afraid to use them – but only when it felt like the perfect moment. I loved his contribution on both a musical and worship level.
[Ricardo] That was why we hired Tyler! That’s just who he is. He has played with a lot of different artists, and it’s like dealing with someone with a broad vocabulary who has done a lot of reading. The more reading you do, the broader your vocabulary gets, and I think it’s the same thing with musicians. The bottom line is that Tyler is a servant. We didn’t use Tyler because he was a good guitar player, although he is an amazingly good guitar player, we used Tyler because I trust him and I love him. There’s something in him that I want to be like, as far as his character is concerned. I’m not surprised that God has elevated him and used him and that he’s traveling with different artists. He’s a monster of a person, and then an amazing guitar player.
[WM] Your bass player, Justin James was a last-minute addition, and he absolutely blew me away! My only complaint on the record is that you can’t actually hear the low end like you felt it live. He is all over the low notes and he just knows what to play, and when. How does having a bass player like that impact what you’re doing?
[Ricardo] Justin comes from a musical family, his brother is Eddie James, who is a popular Gospel artist. I met them in Arizona when I was a youth pastor at a church in Scottsdale, Arizona. Israel Houghton was the worship pastor there, and Eddie James was the worship pastor at a church across town. Eddie has a bunch of brothers, and Justin is one of them. Justin allows me to sing notes that I normally wouldn’t sing. I love the quote by Sting, “A chord isn’t a chord until the bass player decides what to play”. That’s Justin. When Justin lays down a note, it allows you to melodically move to a place that you normally wouldn’t go. That’s what Justin adds to us and that’s who he’s been in my life. He’s another one of those guys who out-serves me.
[WM] So, are you saying that the depth of their character and having a servant’s heart is really what comes through in their playing?
[Ricardo] That’s the case for these guys, yeah. To me, success doesn’t change people, it simple reveals who they are. These guys would be the first to admit that they’re not perfect, but they love God, their families, and are active members in their churches. I learned a long time ago to surround myself with people that are musically better than you, and it elevates your game.
[WM] Stepping out in front of a band like that is a bit like steering a freight train, and you’re the engineer. Some folks might get intimidated, while others might get cocky. What sort of things do you do to prepare mentally, spiritually, and physically as you put on the engineer’s cap?
[Ricardo] You don’t change anything, as far as I’m concerned. You be who you are, number one. I’m confident in the gifts that God has given me. These guys know who I am. You’re absolutely right, it is a freight train, and it was more about steering than pulling or pushing. I knew that I could go into any song and go any direction and these guys would follow. The biggest thing for me was to keep it simple and do what we’d rehearsed. For me, it’s about preparing beforehand and deciding how deep I wanted to go with the songs.
Like you said, these guys are monster musicians. You can Google them and see who they are. But more so, it was about keeping perspective on why we are doing what we’re doing, who this is for, and to keep on reminding the guys of that.
I thought about what scriptures I wanted to pull out, and asked God to show me. Every morning that we got together we had a devotional, and it was what kept everybody on the same track. We cast vision for this record, but kept it in the perspective of what we were doing. We taught out of the book of Matthew. One of the first devotionals we had was about Zacchaeus. The bottom line was that Zacchaeus was a sinner. He was a tax collector and most of the people hated him, but Jesus wanted to hang out with him specifically. Jesus will go anywhere that He’s invited. So, the challenge to the team that morning was, “Are you inviting God into your heart, number one, but into this project? Are you allowing Him to speak to you? Do you have the right spirit to invite God?” I reminded them that the reason that we feel unworthy sometimes is because we are! The only way that we are worthy is through the blood of Jesus. He made us worthy, He allows us to be worthy, and He counts us as worthy through His blood. So, the end of the story is that Zacchaeus ran ahead of the crowd. He couldn’t see Jesus because there were so many people around. And I reminded the guys that sometimes it’s hard to see the anointing. It’s hard to see the purpose of this thing because of the flesh that gets in the way, and because of people that get in the way. They say, “You’re so great! How do you play that?” And sometimes you have to run ahead of the crowd to see the purpose and the reason. I told the guys, “Let’s prepare our hearts to see Him. Let’s get away from the noise, spend time with Him in our hotels, just worship Him. Tell Him that you are inviting Him into the project with you.” Zacchaeus placed himself in a position to see Christ, but he also placed himself in a position for Christ to see Him.
Worship leaders need to hear this: soundmen are a part of our worship team.
[Ricardo] Worship leaders need to hear this: soundmen are a part of our worship team. Armando Fullwood, with WAVE out of North Carolina, did our front of house. Armando has done a handful of Israel’s recordings, along with BJ Putnam, Smokie Norful, and Bishop Jakes. The engineer was Danny Duncan with Vanguard Recording. Danny and Armando have worked together on countless projects. Those guys have an idea of who we are. It wasn’t just about me wanting certain things, it was those guys saying, “We are your ears out here. You hired us, and you can trust us. Let us make this work for you”. Having those pre-production meetings with our sound guys and talking through the set and the songs, and having them be involved with our other recordings was really beneficial. We could be bringing down heaven on that stage, but if nobody can hear it, then what’s the point?