Stu G, full name Stu Garrard, may not be a household name to many in the Christian Music community today. But if you have been a fan of the Christian Music movement since its inception you definitely know the songs he contributed to as a founding member of the popular UK band “Delirious.” Today Stu G lives in Nashville, TN with his wife and continues to chase his musical muse and message in a new, multiple format project.
[Eric Dahl for Christian Musician] What is your Beatitudes project all about?
[Stu G] I started to think about it fifteen or twenty years ago when I was in “Delirious.” We would sit at the signing tables at shows and people would say, “Sign your favorite scripture,” and I would always put Mathew 5, 6, 7 because it was the Sermon on the Mount. That developed into a fascination with the Beatitudes, and I was thinking wouldn’t it be interesting if there were eight songs, one for each theme, that’s kind of a record. I look at the Beatitudes as promises of presence when things aren’t working out. If we look at them as things to attain to achieve a blessing it doesn’t really work. The promise is when you are in this position, “I’m with you, I’m on your side.” Don Pape, publisher with NavPress, reached out to me and said, “I’ve heard whisperings of your Beatitude conversations. Have you considered writing a book?” I said, “No, I haven’t. I’m not an author… I play guitar.” So now we’ve got a book coming out in April and it expanded the idea of the project to telling stories and getting to know people. I reached outside of where I was comfortable to get to know people who are viewed as meek.
[CM] So the book “Words from the Hill” and the album “Beatitudes” will release this spring, along with the film?
[Stu G] We’re not sure on the film. We’re still in creation mode right now, and it’s really more than I imaged. If we had realized what it was going to turn into we would have been overwhelmed at the beginning. We took the step of recording the first three songs two years ago in 2015 to see if there was a thing. My wife and I put the money up for that, and it was just dippin’ our toes in a little bit more. We came out with three amazing songs and a feeling that maybe we’re on to something.
[CM] How did Amy Grant become involved?
[Stu G] I was on the road with Michael W. Smith, and we were doing a show together. We were in the green room having a coffee and Amy said, “Hey Stu, what’s going on?” and I said, “I’m creating a project based around the Beatitudes.” She said, “Let me know if I can help.” and I said, “Would you write a song with me?” and she said, “Yes!” A few months later we were sitting down with a survivor of death row in Nashville and listening to her story, and Amy and I wrote “Morning Light”, which is about mercy for “blessed are the merciful.” Amy also said yes to recording it with me. There’s a gravity to the project that is bigger than my idea, even though it’s me that is kind of curating it. Because I wasn’t the lead singer, I don’t have the biggest amount of followers on Face Book. I’ve influenced, if I can say this, a generation of guitar players, but people don’t know me as an author, speaker, or teacher. It’s surprising that I would be allowed to run with this. The whole thing is a little bit upside down.
[CM] Michael W Smith is on the album also?
[Stu G] I’ve known Michael personally ever since we worked together on the “Compassion” record in 2008. We’ve kept in touch, and when I landed in America Michael reached out to me, and I’ve toured with him on and off for seven years. We began writing “Carry On”, which is on the record, and it’s from the “blessed are those who mourn” theme. We were in Japan at the end of 2015, and very sadly Michael had the call that his father had taken a turn for the worse. Michael left Japan and got home and his father passed. I got together with a friend of mine (Ian Cron) and we wrote a lyric to Michael’s melody for “Carry On” and gave it to him as gift. We recorded it for the Beatitudes Project. If we let ourselves mourn, our comfort will come, and that’s what the hope is inside that song with Michael.
[CM] How was it working with “Delirious” bandmate Martin Smith?
[Stu G] Last year Martin reached out to me to fill in on guitar for a conference in Philadelphia. I asked Martin about writing a song together for it, and he loved the title “Holy Trouble Makers.” It’s the theme of persecution, but I’m asking the question about what it means for us here in the West to live a life worthy of persecution. The people that swim upstream that are saying “yes” to the Beatitudes message, and “no” to colluding with the powers that be like sex, drugs, power, and capitalism – they are “Holy Trouble Makers.”
[CM] How did you solicit the McCrary Sisters to join in?
[Stu G] I had met them once before at a session in Nashville, and I was thinking we had all these men’s voices on this record but I wanted to hear the McCrary’s. I had written the introduction song to the record “Oh Bless” with Anthony Skinner. To see the McCrary’s, that have sung with legends like Elvis and Bob Dylan and a whole host of amazing Americana artists, to see them with their eyes closed and really loving the song… that was a real treat for me.
[Stu G] I run two amps at once… a Marshall and a Vox together. I’ve got an old AC30 from 1962 (pre Top Boost) and use that alongside a Park 50 watt combo. I’ve loved using my ’79 Fender Strat with Bill Lawrence pickups for this project that Martin Smith bought me years ago. I have a Gretsch Silver Falcon that’s got that big ambient sound with the Bigsby, and a Duo Jet ’66 that has been a mainstay. I have an old 1937 Dobro that I’m using on this record, and my Gibson Les Paul Gold Top Deluxe from the 70’s. I’ve got a Standard (Les Paul) that works well with the Marshalls, ala Jimmy Page. My Taylor 8-string baritone guitar is featured on two songs, and I wrote them on it too.
[CM] How did you end up working with JHS pedals?
[Stu G] I came to America with “Delirious” and we walked into a music shop and I bought an Expandora pedal, and that became the sound of the “Metamorphosis” album. I wanted the Expandora sound but with a separate boost on it, so that’s what JHS did with the Kilt pedal. Josh at JHS did fifteen months of R&D making prototypes and sending them for me try out. They had to source a new chip because the ones used in the original Expandora aren’t made anymore. We reinvented the pedal and kept that signature sound, but we improved it. We’re coming out with a second version, hopefully this year. I feel honored to even be on the JHS roster. I use my signature Kilt pedal by JHS all the time, and I was thrilled to be their first signature pedal.
[CM] How has the Worship Music Movement changed?
[Stu G] The main way is that it has become an industry. I think it was a movement and something that we were a part of, but we didn’t really know what we were doing. There wasn’t a huge Christian music industry in England. Martin wrote the song “Did you Feel the Mountains Tremble”, and we had an event that Sunday and played that song for an hour and broke all the rules. It’s a privilege to say that we inspired some of those people, and it’s humbling. There was no plan for world domination.
[CM] What advice would you give Christian musicians?
[Stu G] Ask me in five years (laughter). Advice that I give to folks is that it doesn’t come without working hard. It doesn’t come without having passion, vision, and dedication. What are you willing to suffer for? Well, I was willing for my fingers to bleed and to play with sore hands, because it’s all I wanted to do. I would say work hard and follow the things that open up. Dream big, and as the doors open, say “yes”.
[CM] Could there be a “Delirious” reunion?
[Stu G] We’re not saying definitely yes or definitely no, its kind of just one step at a time. We’ve reconnected, and it’s been fun and we’ve got an amazing song for the Beatitudes project. Martin’s got his band “Army of Bones.” We are just doing the things that are set before us. No promises for a reunion, but we’ve enjoyed reconnecting and making music together again.
[CM] How did you involve Hillsong United?
[Stu G] Delirious was one of the first groups that went to the Hillsong conferences in Australia. People like Gerald Houston and Michael Chislett, these guys were growing up together in the churches and became Hillsong United. They became superstars and have gone further than we ever did. I attended their show at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville last year and was able to see Joel (Houston). We just really connected and I went up to New York where he lives and we wrote “The View from Here.” I said, “Would you record it with us?” and he said, “This should be Stu G and United”. They were recording their record in Los Angeles at the Record Plant, so I went out there for a day and we cut that song. It’s very humbling, and it feels funny to even say that. But that is how that connection and how that song happened.
[Stu G] It’s a stand out song obviously on the record. I’m not a theologian, I’m not a scholar, and I’m not an academic, but I have people around me on the project that are those things. I was researching for the book and came across a video of a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan and a woman who didn’t know where her husband was. She said, “I’m in this situation and I have to be stronger than a mother… and I just want to be a mother.” That really stuck with me. I reached out to Audrey Assad, who is Catholic and a first-generation Syrian refugee. I told her my ideas and we had a brilliant writing session. Jesus was asked the question “Who is my neighbor?” and he tells the story of the Good Samaritan. I was in touch with the Islamic Center of Nashville to talk about that theme of the meek. I said, “Do you have anyone that plays drums with a Middle Eastern flavor for a song?” They put me in touch with a refugee family that had a son that played drums. They invited us in their home and I took my guitar and we played music together. I invited him, Hassan, to the studio to record this song. It became an epic moment, and I think one that is bigger than the record. I’m looking forward to seeing how people interact with that. We need to ask what we can do to raise the focus of folks that arrive in this country that need us.
[CM] Tell us about your Home Studio?
[Stu G] I work on Pro Tools, so I’ve got two kinds of HD. Because I’m using HD I’m still on an old system, but I love it, it’s very stable and it does everything I need. For micing amps I use a Shure 57, and the ribbon mics I use are called NOS Panther. They’re like a budget version of a Royer but sound fantastic and take a good sound pressure level. Then I sum that through API Pre-amps and I use distressors to compress it before I go into Pro Tools. That is my chain, and I have tons of recording guitars. Vocal wise, I have a brilliant microphone by ADK (a Z47) and I’ll go through a 1073 Neve and then through a distressor, then into Pro Tools. For recording acoustics I’ve got an M Audio Sputnik valve microphone, which I love for its warmth.
[Stu G] The whole of the Beatitudes project, except for two tracks, was recorded to two-inch analog tape and then transferred into Pro Tools for overdubbing/editing. We recorded to tape because the Smokestack is a very organic studio, and vintage based. The Beatitudes share human stories and we wanted the music to reflect that. Working with singers like Amy, Michael, and Audrey, we’re not using any auto tune. Two-inch tape brings warmth, especially to the drums and guitars. It’s been a nice thing on this project where we’ve recorded to tape and used the technology of digital after the fact.
[CM] Where can readers find the album, book, and documentary on the Beatitudes?
[Stu G] The album will be in Best Buy and all of the Christian retailers, and we are talking with Walmart. Keep a watch out on social media (Stu G on Facebook and Stugio on Instagram and Twitter). We’re going to have a website going live very soon for the Beatitudesproject.com, and sign up to the mailing list. I want people to help spread the word. The fact is when you’re at your lowest God is there to lift your head. Life is worth living and there is something bigger than any of us can imagine. If we believe the end goal is success, then we haven’t grasped the message that we are blessed. Believe me, this upside down message is not a test, because when it all goes wrong… well, He’s even got us then.
Stu G continues to write, tour, and record with Michael W. Smith and One Sonic Society. His passion for the Beatitudes message and project is infectious, and from what I’ve listened to of the music, I’m certain the book and documentary will be just as compelling. Much as he did with his band “Delirious”, Stu G is translating the biblical messages into universal formats so that everyone can embrace the true meaning of the Beatitudes.