Hymns of The People
Our friends Nathan and Nathan and Becky (that’s right—two Nathans!) just released an album, and basically I think you should download itright this second. It’s fantastic.
Becky is a singer and songwriter and worship leader with Aaron at Willow, and her husband Nathan is the bass player in Aaron’s band–there’s a chapter about him in Bread & Wine called, appropriately enough, “The Bass Player’s Birthday.” And then the second Nathan is an old friend of ours who’s a super-talented musician and producer who grew up in this area and played with Aaron and bass-player-Nathan and Becky, and then recently moved to Seattle.
We adore all three of them, and we adore this album. I love to get a glimpse into the behind-the-scenes of how creative things get made, so here’s the story behind it, written by bass-player-Nathan:
“Hymns of the People started in our living room. We’re all inspired by different types of music but we all also agreed that the deep connection to Christian history that hymns offer inspires us. Most people in our generation are missing out on that history, and there’s very little inspiring music being made right now that is focused on hymns. So we decided we wanted to be a part of the movement that changed that.
We split the project into roles. Becky would dive into the old Covenant hymnal that she used to sing out of as a little girl and find hymns that deeply connected to her. She would demo them keeping the integrity of the melody and then send the song to Nate and me. The melody is the backbone to all the hymns we recreated. No matter how we crafted the arrangement, anyone who was familiar with the hymn would be able to sing along.
We picture a family listening to these hymns where a grandmother would be able to sing the hymn because she has been singing it her entire life while the granddaughter listens because the arrangements and music speak to her.
Once a handful of hymns were chosen, then Nate and I would work on arranging them. Nate Yaccino was working in Seattle at major recording studios while working on major projects with bands like Soundgarden. After we landed on three hymns Becky and I booked a flight to Seattle.
We scheduled our trip for 5 days. We spent the first two or three days in Nate’s practice studio located above an old fishing dock and worked on the arrangements; Nate on drums or guitar, Becky on guitar or piano, and me on bass. We’d first hash out the tempo of the songs and work out any kinks in the arrangements. We then made a rough recording, typically just acoustic guitar and click track. Then we’d head to record in the studio for two or three days.
The first phase of hymns (How Firm A Foundation, Come Ye Sinners, and Come Thou Fount) were recorded at Avast Recording Company (known for the recordings of Fleet Foxes, Band of Horses, Death Cab for Cutie, Soundgarden, and the Shins). The second phase (All Things Bright and Beautiful, Doxology, To God Be The Glory) was recorded at Robert Lang Studios (known for the recording of Nirvana, Dave Matthews, Eddie Vedder, and Warren G
We arrived early and recorded late into the evening, often 12 hour days. Nate Yaccino played a major role in the studio session. He jumped from producer to drummer to electric guitarist. Nate and I would struggle through the often complicated and intricate arrangements and then Becky would step up to the microphone and sing the hymn in just one or two takes.
Upon completion of the first two phases, we needed album art for the project and we decided to use the talents of one of my high school students. She’s an extremely talented 17-year-old with an unbelievable imagination. She spent a weekend listening to the hymns and she came up with the album art that included a narwhal with a mustache and a monocle drinking tea at the bottom of the sea while listening to a phonograph!
The final product of phase one and phase two are six of the best songs we have ever recorded. They meet the vision of the project in every way possible, deeply connected to tradition while being creative and inspirational.”
I’ve been listening to this album constantly, and my kids love it, too. Sometimes in the car, Henry asks for “rock & roll,” but sometimes he asks for “something gentle.” He means this album, and that’s the perfect way to describe it. It’s beautiful and gentle and deep, the perfect thing to serve as a soundtrack for this snowy season.
And we’re so lucky, because Nathan & Nathan & Becky are giving us a free download of one song, only here. It’s one of my favorites. Here’s a link to buy it on itunes, for more information about the project, here’s their site, and if you’d like to follow them on Twitter, herethey are. I hope you love it as much as I do. XO–S