New Zealand singer/songwriter Brooke Ligertwood never had a worship album on her heart until, as she says, “the Lord made it clear He had it on His.”
After breaking sales records across six albums with Sony Music under her maiden name Brooke Fraser, and 17 coinciding years with Hillsong Worship, the Grammy Award-winning artist, and worship leader answers a producer with her latest offering to the church—SEVEN: A Live Album by Brooke Ligertwood.
Released February 25 via Capitol CMG, the fresh collection of worship songs comes highly anticipated by the gospel music community. With two decades of experience as a Christian recording artist—culminating in her position as global head of Hillsong Church—Ligertwood is at the helm of the modern worship music movement. Her songs have been globally streamed more than 1.5 billion times and translated into over 15 languages.
Through this massive global imprint, Ligertwood has sculpted the sound of Christian music; Songs like “Beautiful Name,” “Hosanna,” and “King of Kings,” have become anthemic exaltations of church communities around the world.
Simplicity is at the center of Ligertwood’s work as an artist and worship leader. Her songs, she feels, are merely vessels of Scripture intended to deliver the word of the Lord in a clear, efficient, and inspiring manner.
SEVEN falls in line with this philosophy. Simple, and spontaneous, this album project spawned from a spiritual calling—compelled by a higher power to complete this collection of prayer-drenched songs.
Ligertwood wrote these songs alongside her husband/longtime collaborator Scott Ligertwood, Jason Ingram (who co-produced the album with her), Pastor Steven Furtick of Elevation Church, Brandon Lake, Phil Wickham, and other friends.
Recorded live in Nashville, Tennessee, the awe-inducing album features a 30-piece choir that brings the recording to life for a shoulder-to-shoulder congregation feel.
Given the spontaneity of this project, Ligertwood describes the creation timeline as “mercifully un-premeditated.”
Ligertwood and her collaborators are all involved in several simultaneous projects in and around the church. So in order to get the album out the door, they needed to be efficient.
“All we needed were a few miraculous windows; one for pre-production and then one for the recording itself, and we got them,” Ligertwood tells American Songwriter. In August 2021, she and the band were granted six days of pre-production and a few days with the choir in October before rolling into rehearsal and then recording in November.
“It was an extremely concise project,” she adds.
Having approached the project with limited expectations and plenty of space for spiritual influence, Ligertwood, and her collaborators convey full-hearted venerations to help their fellow believers connect more deeply with the Gospel.
Though poetic, the metaphors employed in her lyrics are thoughtfully curated. The goal is to expand the imagery while maintaining the soundness of the theology behind the song.
The resulting impact, she feels, is the fruit of the marriage of theology and art.
“I think the marriage of any type of robust thought and art is a formidable combination,” Ligertwood explains. “ Ideas are one of the most powerful things in the world. Theology is ideas about God—in other words, some of the most powerful ideas in the world. When this type of potency can be delivered through rhyme and melody, it’s practically combustible. It becomes something that God Himself might just ride in on.”
American Songwriter: What do you feel your faith/deep understanding of Christianity adds to your songwriting process?
Brooke Ligertwood: My lived-in, wrestled with and walked-around-in faith in Christ shapes and colors every part of my life and thus anything I create—whether a conversation or a song.
I think when it comes to songwriting, people of faith who practice spiritual disciplines have a regularly exercised awareness of their interior life, which is a very handy muscle to have mobile and agile when it comes to lyric writing. I think faith also adds appropriate humility and wonder to the equation. I don’t approach a writing session believing that I am the source of the creativity, but that I am an explorer of it. It takes the pressure off and makes it an adventure.
AS: Listening to this project as your seventh effort as an artist, what do you feel has become characteristic of your sound/artistry?
BL: Through my solo work under “Brooke Fraser,” I explored a lot of sonic approaches over the vast length of time that catalog accumulated. SEVEN can’t really be put in context to that catalog because it isn’t remotely meant to be a Brooke Fraser record or anything like a Brooke Fraser record.
SEVEN is a collection of songs for the church, which is the reason for the title—the fact it’s technically my seventh solo record was not deliberate. I have had the great honor of serving the church through song, in parallel, to my Brooke Fraser for 17 years or so now through my church — under my married name for 14 of those years. I never had a desire to release an album of worship songs for the church under my own name, and still don’t. But SEVEN had to be this way because of how the songs came about and the way I knew it needed to be made and released into the world.
AS: How did you make the decision to record this album live? How did the process/final product compare to past (non-live) studio albums?
BL: I’m trying to find the right words to explain it to people reading who aren’t necessarily people of faith or who have a reference point for worship in church (if that’s you, thanks for reading). It’s challenging when it comes to explaining this album, but I’ll try.
This album is not primarily about the music — the music was and is always an entry point or an on-ramp, let’s say, to something much more. That’s not to say the music isn’t important – it’s incredibly important, and we obsessed over every detail. We spent three full days just writing the choir parts. Because every note, lyric, interval, beat, and swell in the music is an invitation.
This album had to be a live record because it was for and about, so it’s hard to do that without the sound of the church.
The church is not a crowd of music enthusiasts; It’s a vast congregation of diverse generations, backgrounds, experiences. When the church gathers to worship and that beautiful diversity all focuses on one target and units around one trajectory, the sound is unlike anything else I’ve heard on this earth. That sound is the sound that would define this record—hence, it had to be live.
AS: Are there any songs or parts of this project you feel particularly proud of in terms of your development/evolution as a songwriter?
BL: There was absolutely zero pre-meditation with this project. Its existence isn’t something I ever saw coming or tried to make happen, so I wasn’t seeking to evolve or prove anything as a songwriter because I wasn’t aware of what was happening until it had happened.
I’m not the driver of this car, just the passenger. And for that reason, I just feel extremely grateful to have been a part of something like this and am so humbled to have experienced this with the incredible team who assembled to walk this out together.
Listen to SEVEN: A Live Album by Brooke Ligertwood, below. Check out upcoming tour dates on her website.
Photo Credit: Nolan Knight