Interview - Phil Wickham

In a year that saw a wave of new musical talent flood the Christian music scene, Phil Wickham is an artist that stood out. His music is infused with a deep love for Christ that permeates through a choice of meaningful lyrics and uplifting melodies.

While on the Remedy Tour with David Crowder Band and The Myriad, Phil Wickham took some time out to chat with us about his latest album Cannons and share some of the great works God is doing in his life and career.

CT: Saturday was the first time that I saw you in concert! It was really awesome!!! You come right out and lead the audience in. What do you do to prepare and get into the right mindset prior to performing?

Phil Wickham: I always try to plan some time to be alone, whether its 5 minutes, sometimes its 30.

Right before I go on stage, I like to spend some time by myself and with the Lord, and remind myself of what he has done for me, and everything He has done in my life. Reminding me of where I have come from. Everything that has happened that is good is from Him. So I remind myself of all the blessing that He gives. He has saved me and pulled me from the grave.

Such a big of part it for me is bringing myself back to that place of thankfulness and humility, both those two things are really important for me to be able to go out there and be the minister I want to be. So thankfulness so the songs can be sincere and won't just be something that I do every night, but will come from a heart that means it and comes from a heart that wants to sing it.

And also the humility part, I think is a big part to be able to draw people in and hopefully not be seen, but let the Lord be seen, felt, tasted, touched and smelt. I want to constantly be reminded of the fact that everything I have has been given by the Lord. I have been saved. I have done so much, but I have been forgiven of it all.

CT: At that concert you took a moment to teach the chorus of Cannons to the audience. The lyrics are so picturesque. Could you share the meaning behind the song?

PW: I will tell you the story, but ultimately, I pick songs from different categories. I want them all to facilitate a moment where people can encounter God. Whether that be with a song that incites response, or a song that are a response themselves.

So Cannons is a product of the fact that I wanted to write a song that people could sing along with and enjoy and respond to with what's happening in their lives.

Cannons was written under the stars one night, just looking up at the stars and thinking that the universe itself is acting like a worship leader for the human race if we just take time to look around us and look above us.

It always causes my heart to feel greater things and my mind to think of higher things, of God, and His Majesty and His creativity and everything about Him.

So I just equated the "song that the universe was singing" of his glory, it's kind of like how it's exploding with His glory and His fingerprints all around like cannons in the night. So one of the first things that came to me was that there is this massive song going on around us that is leading us, if we just take time to look and to listen and it will lead us to a deeper place with God. So it was a mixture of cannons and explosions join in with it, that is kind of like the meaning.

CT: Do you have a particular method to how you compose a song? Is there a particular place you feel most comfortable composing?

PW: No, there is no particular place or method or formula for me. Usually, I'm very much a "melody first" kind of guy. I'll write the melody first so I am always 5 or 10 steps ahead with 5 or 10 completed melody songs but with no lyrics, or even thought about what I'm going to write the lyrics about.

I usually stash those away and that will be a song with all the chords, all the chorus and the bridge and the verses and I will kind of sing out nonsense, kind of phrases and syllables and I'll record it like that.

So when I'm more inspired lyrically, then that's the part that I really need to mull over and think it over. It's definitely the most trying part, to finish the song lyrically. I can do a bunch of melodies and chords and the arrangements in the songs and stuff. But the lyrics is where I really take a long time in doing, so I kind of just stash those nonsense songs away until I am lyrically inspired then I'll pull them out and attach the lyrics to the melodies.

CT: How do you attempt to remain sincere as a Christian artist and honest in your music? Do you find that it's easy to get swayed by the music industry?

PW: In some ways, I guess it must be hard to stay level, if you start to believe what people are saying every night after the show "You're great, you're handsome, you're this and you're that."

The biggest thing is to not believe it; you need to brush it aside. And many people, including me, when you hear it enough, it's hard to just brush it away. You start thinking yourself a little better than others, you start thinking that you actually have something great to offer.

I just finished reading through the book of Matthew, and there is just no way that I can't stay level when I'm reading through Matthew and reading what Jesus did for me on the cross, you know what I mean?

There is no way for me to not have a level, even in my haughtiest of moments to read through that and remember what God did for me on the cross. That'll immediately bring me to a place of reverence and thankfulness and humility.

I think that if we want to attribute to God, we have to take time to hang out with Him and listening to Him. So that's the biggest thing, I have to be in the Word and reading it and listening to God and taking time to spend time with Him and that is just the basics things. That and pray and make sure there's guys around you that love you enough to tell you to stop being a jerk.

CT: How do you feel that you have grown while working on this album?

PW: Those kind of "how have you grown questions" are always challenging for me. I definitely know I have, there has been a lot of growth and challenges to overcome. I feel like I'm growing even in answering of these questions with you. I feel like the Lord is teaching me stuff right now, you know?

I have never been able to answer these questions, it's so hard for me, because I feel like every moment is something special and something new where God is teaching me: "Phil, stop this! Phil, look at what I'm doing here! Phil, look at how I've blessed you or, Phil, remember Me in this."

CT: So not just though the album then.

PW: Yeah, it's not like I'm some super holy guy. I definitely am being reminded during the day of His goodness and His blessings. It's also something different and awesome that He gives me or shows me.

CT: What's your personal favorite song off the Cannons album?

PW: I don't have a favourite on the record. There were other songs I wanted to put on the CD. I definitely wanted there to be 12 songs and I kinda knew what I wanted each song to be about before I had them written. Like number 1, I wanted it to be this kind of song, and number 2, 3 and so on.

I really feel that each song fulfils a purpose. My favourite one to perform live is True Love. I call it my "Gospel in song-song". It's like Easter every time I sing it. It's the gospel, but it doesn't just end there. When I sing Jesus is alive, Jesus is alive, He rose again! I can't help but help but smile every time I sing it; I've sung it so many times now. It always connects with the crowd too.

There is something powerful in the Gospel; we're told that the Gospel is power and the path to salvation. So when I can sing it out to a crowd over a PA, it's really amazing.

CT: How has the Remedy tour with David Crowder Band and The Myriad been going?

PW: It's been amazing, I've been on the bus with The Myriad and we have become such great friends and they've written for me, and I've written for them. It's been so amazing to hang out with them and see them play every night.

The Crowder guys have been awesome too, since we're on different buses, we see each other at sound check and until we get on the bus and stuff. It's been so gracious and so thankful for what they've done. They're such gracious and sweet guys.

The people, themselves, are really what make the tour for me. Just the amount of goodness that are in the people in this tour. And secondly, the venues have been incredible. In New York - you know, you were there - it's like in midtown in the Hammerstein Ballroom.

And just all over America: The Fillmore in San Francisco, The House of Blues in LA, its been such an amazing experience to play at places that I never thought I would perform at, as a Christian - worship -leader - artist guy. (laugh).

It's all been sold out, the crowds have been awesome, and so it was really fun. I can't complain much about this tour, so that's really cool to be able to say that.

CT: What has been the most memorable moment so far on the Remedy Tour? I'm sure there was just a ton of awesome moments, but is there anything that will just stand out for you whenever you look back on this tour?

PW: My mind goes in different directions with this question. But as far as the "wow, this is amazing moment" was at the Wiltern in LA. I grew up in Southern California and the Wiltern was the coolest venue to go and see bands at. So the fact that I was playing there in front of around 2,000 people and people that I knew and knew me and people that were always rooting for me since I was little. So it was really cool to have all these people that I knew and people that I didn't know.

So it's like the area that I grew up in and to be able to perform there and have all these people sing out these songs with me, was great!

By the time I hit True Love, that's the song that I end with every night; I couldn't help but get all teary-eyed. I was so emotional and happy and excited.

On a completely different note, when you said "memorable moment", I thought of this. There is a guy in the tour and he had a kidney stone. There was one night, he was back stage and he had to pass it. And me and a bunch of guys and They Myriad were just rooting him on and he was just screaming out so loud, because it's so painful. That will just always stick in my mind and I just never, ever want to have a kidney stone in my life because of that moment!

CT: What can fans expect from you next?

PW: Well, I've been with the label and management about what the next year's gonna be holding. The dates are filling up with a bunch of one-offs, all through the spring. Its gonna be flying here, driving there.
I'm not sure how soon it's gonna be, but I definitely have it on my heart to do couple of different things.

I want to write a lot more even though I won't be recording the next album for another year or so. But I'm going to be getting ready for that this winter.

Also, I wanted to do a live acoustic on the worship side of things. It's been on my heart to do this. Maybe invite like 400 people and pack up a little room and record the responsive worship songs. So, just getting up with my guitar and singing a couple of songs and sharing devotion about them. Ultimately, making a cool, live worship acoustic experience.

For a couple of reasons, I wanted to make it available to worship leaders around the world and also include the chord charts. I want to make it very acceptable and easy for worship leaders to pick up. I want to put all the chords on the CD; you can just pop it into your computer. You can download whatever chord charts you want for any song. And maybe even film it and do a little DVD about it. Just something that people can put on, listen and worship to, something that can make crowds really loud. I guess this is the next thing that we will be working on.

What is your favorite verse?

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28)
Where Jesus are talking to the people. It portrays the heart of God in such a sweet and kind way. It can mean so much to so many different people. I love it when you get a glimpse into the heart of God.

Again, it's really hard for me to just pick one, because there are I feel like there is a different verse on my mind everyday. But this verse has meant so much to me. That Christ said Come to me, all you who are weary, all you who are tired, you who are broken, just come to me and I will give you rest. It's such an invitation!

We should see it as the grandness and majesty of God that He can give an invitation to the lowly. To the people that are at the end of the rope, Jesus says Come, all you have to do is come to me. God is so kind, and its so worth it, to get to know Him!