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Songwriting
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Song Stories

William Matthews, Steffany Gretzinger, Jenn Johnson, and Brian Johnson

0:51:34 · Songwriting

Brian, Jenn, William, and Steffany talk about the stories behind the songs and the journey that brought about some of those Bethel Music songs you know.

Song Stories

Steffany Gretzinger, Brian Johnson, Jenn Johnson, William Matthews

Come to me – Jenn Johnson:

Jenn took a keyboard in to her room to write and asked the Lord what He wanted to say.

In the context of many natural disasters occurring at the time, the Lord told her he wanted to communicate that these were not caused by Him, and He wanted to assure people and to bring them to Him.

It was a collaboration between Jenn, Steff and John on the arrangement.

Jenn writes by hearing the heart of God.

You Know Me – Steff Gretzinger:

The “whoa’s” were all William Matthews. He was singing them on another song, but Steff really felt all of Heaven and Earth singing it.

This song came from intense personal revelation from God to Steff in a raw moment in worship after the death of a friend.

The song was a process of healing.

Steff also writes from a word from the Lord.

Brian shares that he and Will like to linger in the chord progression of a new song when they lead it because they will often several new ideas for more new songs as they are playing.

Hope’s Anthem – Will Matthews:

Will typically writes from a spontaneous moments. But this song was written purposefully, alone in his room.

He played a melody line on his guitar and was caught up by it. He was singing it for himself, not writing a song, but then it ended up writing itself. The verse just flowed out of him. The song was written in about an hour.

The original first line “He’s awakening the dead in me, by calling forth my destiny” felt familiar to Will. When he looked it up he found a similar passage in Romans.

The song was very tender to Will, he played it for a few friends before he brought it to Brian and Jeremy.

Christa Black helped him write a chorus.

This song took 2 sit-down sessions to write. It held meaning for everyone Will played it for. Bob Hartley had been giving Bethel lots of hope-themed words in that season. The message took over to write the song.

Love Came Down – Brian Johnson:

The chorus was written years earlier, during water baptisms. Brian got the bridge for it in Bath, England. Then hearing his dad preach in Las Vegas years later he got inspiration for the verses. Jenn and Brian worked on it together at one point. And then Jeremy helped him finish it off. It was a true collaboration.

It’s really important we don’t get frustrated in the process. Often God is using the process and time taken to write the song.

You don’t just write songs for other people, you write songs for yourself. God works the songs out in you. You are putting yourself in your song. It becomes a life message.

If you sing a song because you embody it, because it’s your cry to the Lord, it’s contagious. Its relatable.

God I Look to You – Jenn Johnson:

Jenn used to sing “God I look to you, I’m so overwhelmed” when she was having a bad day and needed to feel Him. When the time came to write for the album, God spoke to her about the declaration she was making over her life, so she switched the lyric to prophecy over herself “I won’t be overwhelmed”.

Ian McIntosh had sent some chord progressions to her and one of them fit perfectly.

The “whoa’s” and the “Hallelujah” came when they sang it live.

You get a lot of ideas in worship.

Your Love Never Fails – Brian Johnson:

Brian first got inspiration for this song while leading a song from the We Believe album. Jeremy and Christa Black both came to him with ideas and helped write the rest of it.

Brian suggests that the first thought, the first idea, right out of the gate, is usually a great idea.

Sometimes you have to go with your gut. Sometimes the mind can get in the way of your gut instinct.

To Our God – Brian Johnson:

In the middle of leading worship in England Brian came up with a great idea for a song, so he found someone who had recorded the worship set (where he had been singing it out).

He finished the song a week before recording it for an album, in worship at church. The bridge just came to him in the moment as he sang it out.

God gives us something and we steward it, and we let God do the rest.

Freedom – William Matthews:

While in Florida leading at a church, the pianist lead a really great rhythm and it inspired both William and Steff with the chorus. It originally sounded quite reggae but the overall sound was changed to more indie rock for the recording.

William had 2 hours to produce a song idea for Brian and that’s where he came up with the song.

Christa Black wrote the 2nd verse when he asked her for ideas.

A lot of songs don’t make it to an album because they’re not finished. So many songs just aren’t ready. The only songs that make it are the anointed and finished ones.

The value of co-writing is powerful. Team creates a beautiful perspective. Co-writing takes the anointing on someone else’s life, and their belief systems, and you’re crafting a beautiful, healthy song.

Some of your best ideas are going to come from “piggy-backing” – when someone has an idea, and you get an idea from their idea.

There’s a humility that needs to come to all of us in songwriting. Co-writing can be the difference between a finished song and a half-written song. You need to find that balance though, if someone’s idea doesn’t fit with your gut instinct for how the song should sound, you need to stick with your gut