the interview

Interview: Paul Baloche On God's Mercy, Authentic Worship Leading, And His Brand New Album

Paul Baloche is a seasoned worship leader with a gift in teaching and pastoring other budding worship leaders. He offers practical and spiritual coaching and provides excellent insight into how to lead out of a healthy heart for Jesus. He is also a prolific recording artist. Indeed, his new album 'Your Mercy' has just been released, and we think it is brilliant. Boasting intricate, theologically rich songs combined with a warm, stripped back, harmony-laden sound, this is not an album you want to miss out on! HelloChristian.com caught up with Paul about his new album, and gleaned some worship leading wisdom from him. 

So you have just moved to New York City, and that is where you recorded the new album as well. What has God been leading you into this season, and how has it all worked out?
Paul: "We are originally from the North East outside of Philadelphia which isn't too far from New York City. Years ago we moved down to Texas to work with YWAM and a lot of different missions groups. I became the worship pastor at a local community church. We started having more kids and started doing some itinerant ministry. We stayed there and it became a great home for us. We were there for 25 years. Then our three kids grew up and gravitated back to the North East. Two of them live in Manhattan and one lives outside of Philly. Our Church was in a healthy place and the next generation was in a good place to take it on. One day, my wife and I thought "wow, there's a lot of empty bedrooms in this house." So we thought let's sell some stuff, give some stuff away and then we move to a one-bed apartment in New York! It was kind of like hitting the reset button. It's been exciting spiritually and relationally. I hope that comes out in the new projects."

Wow! So was there a definitive moment when God told you to head to New York?
Paul: "I think it was seasonal. I think that often times we think God's going to drop a parchment from the sky and say "do this." Sometimes people do get a strong word from God. But other times it happens differently. I love the scripture that says "don't lean on your own understanding but in all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your path." So another way I find I can hear from the Lord is just daily acknowledging him. If you have a desire rise up, it's good just to offer that up to the lord. You've just gotta keep taking steps. We took one or two, then a few more. We put the house up for sale and then boom! Things just start clicking and you feel a green light from the Lord."

Why did you choose to record the new album in New York?
Paul: "Well, it first started with where our heart was. Also, two of our kids were in the city. We thought that at the stage we were at in our lives it would be exciting to record in New York. I've known many pastors for many years in this area. We thought yeah lets just try here. So I started attending the local church. I will play in and lead sometimes. You know, it's just a new experience for me coming into a church and not leading worship every week. Just sitting in the 4th row with my wife and being led in worship; it's been really healthy this past year just to show up and be led in worship. It’s been healthy for my spirit."

The new album 'Your Mercy' is a fantastic, stirring record. Was there a vision to strip it back and create a live acoustic album?
Paul: "Well, the Church that I’ve been attending this past year, it's acoustic guitar based. There’s always a cello, viola, sometimes a bass player, a french horn. So there's not much electric guitar. A lot of my previous albums have been that classic rock. I don't think there's anything wrong with that. But there was sort of an organic, peacefulness and simplicity in the way the songs came about for the new album. The temptation is to overdub. To put another electric guitar on there, and another synth on here. But I really tried hard on this album just to minimize the overdubs, and capture something organic in the studio."

You can check out a trailer of how the album came together here.

‘Your Mercy’ is a massive song, and a great title track. How was it written?
Paul: "Well it’s really a testimony song that a lot of people can relate to. We wanted to emphasize the mercy of God. We thought about it for our own lives. We can all relate to a time in our lives where we took a wrong turn, and we made a bad choice. But then God’s mercy interrupts us! “Arms open wide, you ran to me with your mercy,” one of the lyrics goes. It's like the prodigal son aspect. We think that if we stray from God then he’s going to be mad at us, or he’s going to shame us. But scripture says “even when we’ve been faithless, he remains faithful.” It’s such a beautiful picture of a Father running to the son who has really messed up. “You saved me, you raised me, no greater love than this.”

“Your loving kindness leads me to repentance" is a lyric that really struck me. What does that mean to you?
Paul: "Well it's right there in Romans, and it's a beautiful reminder that God does not use fear, guilt or manipulation. Perhaps we were raised in Churches that tried to use those techniques. But it's good to know that God’s heart is about loving kindness and the displaying of his love. God demonstrated his love through Christ's death."

"Lord, let your kindness just lead us to repentance. It’s really just a prayer of the heart."

Is there one particular song that feels very significant to you on this new record?
Paul: "Well, the album is still so new, so all 12 feel like my kids! You know, the opening song is Psalm 92, and just verbatim scripture - a happy, lighthearted song. I think sometimes in Church we can get so intense. We still need songs of joy. And Psalm 92 says “It is good to praise you Lord, and make music to your name, oh most high!”

"So I love that, and then the second song “Once For All” was a co-write with Matt Redman. That comes out of Hebrews Chapter 10. There is really an emphasis on how in the old covenant it was all about blood sacrifice. Just sacrifice, sacrifice, sacrifice. And the writer of Hebrews is saying “no more,” the finished work of Christ, once for all. Once for all he died that we might live again and experience salvation. So, Matt and I probably exchanged 50 emails back and forth writing those verses. We really wanted this to tell the gospel again in the freshest way possible. To really let the lyric inspire people and let them paint some pictures in their minds. We breathe again this mystery “Behold this King so innocent, a crown of thorns upon his head. And feel his heart, his heart of grace. Behold this man of suffering, who bore the cross and all our shame.” It really was important to us, so I hope it does inspire worship in the hearts of the listeners and the worshippers."

You have spent a lot of your career training other worship leaders. What have you learnt? And what would be your top tips for budding worship leaders?
Paul: "Don’t neglect the basics. We have to be a people of the word. Find a way to get in the word daily. Memorize some scripture. Especially if you’re involved in worship leadership, open up the Psalms which is the vocabulary of worship and take different translations. Read them out loud! The Psalms were meant to be sung, so go ahead and put a melody to it!"

"Make sure you’re accountable to a handful of believers who know you well and inspire you. There are refreshers in life and there are drainers. Make sure you identify a couple of people in your life that refresh you and refill you. Before we minister to the congregation we must cultivate the habit of ministry to the Lord which comes from 1 Chronicles 16. Where we spend time, like the priests used to do, just ministering to him in private and in secret. I’m actually in my walk-in closet here! Because it’s quiet and very small! To use the KJV, Jesus said “when ye pray, go into the closet and pray to your Father in secret.”

"It's so important, so that when you stand on a platform in front of others, it is an overflow. Just spend time praying out loud to the Lord. The invisible God. That’s where the rubber meets the road. Do we really believe in this invisible, immortal, omniscient God? He is a person and we can show up and minister to him, speak out to him without an audience, without a congregation. That will change your heart over time. You’ll sense more authority, more favor, more anointing, you’ll just sense something's different. More like spiritual ownership when you stand on the platform. Not in a prideful way, but in a very deep spiritual way. And you'll also start to cultivate a love for the people you’re serving, a supernatural love, God’s love. You may see the guy who is always grumpy, folding his arms and not singing. But somehow God will give you the ability to look through that wall that he’s put up and you will have empathy with him."

"Lord may we bring something authentic and life-giving and fresh each and every Sunday, by your grace."

Paul is going to be heading off on a Christmas worship tour across Northern Ireland, starting in Belfast on 3rd December. Make sure to pick up his new album ‘Your Mercy’ here.

Check out a trailer for the album below. 

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