Hillsong Worship’s latest live recording There Is More came out on Friday, April 6. We caught up with Brooke during rehearsals for their U.S. tour, which kicked off in early April. The Hillsong Worship team will be joined by Pastor Brian Houston for all but three dates of this tour, as he shares the messages God has put on his heart from his new book (which shares the same There Is More title).
For over a decade Brooke has been an inspirational voice in worship, bringing us amazing songs like “None but Jesus”, “Hosanna”, “Lead Me to the Cross”, and more recently the Grammy-winning “What a Beautiful Name” which has over 130,000,000 plays on YouTube. Ligertwood has an uncanny ability to shoulder the kind of anointing that seems to pull you into God’s presence. More than just a singer, songwriter, and musician, Brooke truly is a worshipper. It is that heart for worship that makes her songs so special to so many.
[WM] We love that when Hillsong tours, you guys are really just “doing church”. We were excited to see that Pastor Brian will be joining you on the upcoming U.S. tour. Can you share your perspective on this?
[Brooke Ligertwood] Yes! Firstly – thanks for getting that we are a church, not a band! Sometimes I wonder if people think that is a line, when it is in fact the truest reality! We are a team from a local (and now global) church, and everything that manifests itself in sound that you end up streaming or listening to has its roots in everyday, local church. I think that has always been the strength of what we do – that up close and personal, week-to-week, seeing the Gospel at work in people’s lives thing. And obviously, Pastor Brian is our senior pastor, so having him on the tour, speaking this word that’s so central to our own church this year, I think will really frame that and have an enormous impact. The combination of worship and the word is a pretty lethal one, and we are seriously expectant for what the Lord is going to do through these nights. It’s not often we get to tour with our senior pastor, so we’re all excited that we are truly just taking a taste of home on the road.
[WM] The video for “Who You Say I Am” already has over 6,000,000 views. Did you guys place this as the first song on There Is More for musical reasons, a cue for churches to take notice of a great “Sunday song”, a combination of the two, or something completely different?
[Brooke] I’m sure we could get heavily into the what’s and why’s of opening tracks, but in this particular instance, “Who You Say I Am” is a song that has already made such an impact in our own church. It is a song that you can open a service with, close it with, use for ministry time, etc. etc. It is just such a usable and helpful song for a worship leader and can be played full band or with just an acoustic guitar with equal impact. It is a strong Biblical declaration with really accessible, timeless melodies.
[WM] We of course have to ask about “What a Beautiful Name”. Did you sense the anointing on that song as you were writing and recording it?
[Brooke] I definitely sensed something on it. As soon as Ben sung me that verse melody, I was all in. It felt holy. Ben and his wife Karalee are some of our dearest friends, and we had tried many times over the years to write together, and nothing had landed… until this song! I guess it was worth the wait.
[WM] As a worship musician, what did winning that Grammy mean to you?
[Brooke] Two things really. The first is that I felt so happy for our church and our team, because it represents thirty years of people faithfully sowing in Sunday after Sunday (and all the other days in between). By God’s grace, and visionary pastors who have always placed value on the new song and worship in the house of God, our church has had the divine opportunity to serve generations of worshippers through literally hundreds of songs. So, Ben and I, and this song, are a tiny representation of thousands and thousands of faithful people who serve Christ and others, whether anybody is looking or not.
Secondly, I was excited for the greater Church (capital C) and the opportunity for the Gospel and the Name of Jesus to have a window like this. A Grammy has never saved anyone’s soul. However, if a song about the name of Jesus winning an accolade like this means that people will listen to this song and hear this message that otherwise never would have come across it, then we must see it for what it is and pray that hearts are open and soft to hear the Gospel and respond.
[WM] I was visiting Australia when “Hosanna” came out, and you couldn’t walk into a church and not hear that (awesome) song being played on a Sunday morning. What about that song was special to you?
[Brooke] For me, the generational message was an important one, which all came from the triumphal entry scripture in Matthew 21 where it says that “those who went ahead of him and those that followed” shouted, “Hosanna!”. The idea that we can shout “Hosanna!” today because of generations of faithful saints who lived out this Jesus life before us, and that the generations that follow us will do the same according to how faithfully we live out this worshipping life.
From a social justice standpoint, I know there is a line in the bridge that a few people gravitated toward, “Break my heart for what breaks Yours.” Perhaps it helped some people understand that brokenness is a necessary and sacred part of our journey as disciples, especially when it’s not focused on ourselves, but on the heart-of-God and others.
[WM] Did you know the impact it would have?
[WM] Can you explain the difference between Hillsong United and Hillsong Worship?
[Brooke] Everyone who is part of Hillsong United and Hillsong Young and Free is also part of Hillsong Worship. Hillsong Worship is the collective sound of our church, Hillsong Church, and the focused strength of our team, which is inclusive of everyone across the expressions.
[Brooke] I am usually switching between piano and acoustic while writing. I find it helps test the versatility of the idea, and perhaps gives it some production context.
[WM] Do you have any preference to writing on your own vs. in a team setting?
[Brooke] For the first decade of writing I only wrote on my own, then in the second decade opened up to collaboration, and so wrote probably equally on my own and with others. I am in the third decade now, and I find writing with others/team comes easily, but still think it’s important to know my own writing “voice”. In saying that though, all that is first stage stuff, which must then go through the filter of, “Where does this idea find a home? Should it find a home or is it not something to be shared?”
[WM] MGC. Such an amazing talent, guitar player, musician, and producer. What are some of the things you can credit him for bringing out in you, as well as the rest of the team?
[Brooke] We could have a whole interview about the things I love about Michael Guy Chislett. His only agenda is to create the best possible art for the glory of God. He has no ego. He never makes anything about him, but always seeks to bring out the best in everyone around him, and if he has to dig to bring that out, he does not give up and is not put off by barriers that others might balk at. He is masterfully pastoral in the way he produces and navigates the sometimes complex dynamics and layers of a large team! He works incredibly hard, and forgives incredibly swiftly. I love him so much.
[WM] I saw a really fun photo of you playing Michael’s White Falcon. Do you own any electrics?
[Brooke] I have a Gretsch Tennessee Rose and a Fender Telecaster. The Telecaster is my favorite.
[Brooke] I have had a Paul Simon limited edition (#112 of #200 in the world) for about 12-13 years now, but he is too precious to take travelling anymore, so I have retired him and now he is a home/writing guitar. I love my Eric Clapton signature edition, and my husband recently bought me one for the USA too so I can keep one in Australia and one in the Northern Hemisphere, rather than flying them between all the time (which always gives me a slight heart attack).
[WM] Who are some of the artists that are influencing you now, and why?
[Brooke] Authors and thinkers have always influenced me more than artists, I think. I am re-reading Eugene Peterson’s “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction” at the moment, and re-reading “Anonymous,” by Alicia Britt Chole, which I would recommend to every single creative (or non-creative for that matter).
[WM] Any additional words of wisdom you’d like to share with the worship leaders and teams (worship and tech) who are reading this interview?
[Brooke] Fill yourself up with the Word and His presence in the unseen and the quiet, and then let the Lord broadcast His faithfulness through your life however He wishes to. Do not try to predict or craft how He does that. Surrender, submit, and discover endless joy in letting Him surprise you.