Northland album release article: “International Music Collaborations” By Jon E Clist
It wasn’t that long ago that David Lyle Morris ticked over the half-century on this planet. For many people, this is one of those milestones that signify the slowing down in order to take a long look back at all that has been achieved so far. With 14 albums already under his belt, Morris shows no signs of slowing down and in turn, the new season of his life sees the release of yet another collection of songs about how faith and hope temper the struggles of this world. As Northland is about to release, Morris is ready to attempt the simplification of elements of his life in order to ramp up the energy towards his ministry work.
The middle 11 of Morris’ 15 albums focused heavily on worship in their style and direction. Coming from his many years travelling to a wide range of countries while working alongside well-loved worship leaders such as Graham Kendrick, Robin Mark and Darlene Zschech. It was through these adventures that David Lyle Morris stumbled into a long-term musical relationship with the beautiful country of Finland.
Morris first visited Finland in nineties with Graham Kendrick. Back then he was spending his time working as Kendrick’s PA while also playing in his band. It started off leading worship in a youth summer conference that in turn opened up a stream of ministry for many years to follow. “I had admired Finland as a military kid, and seen photos of their white-clad soldiers battling the Russians in the snow during the Winter War of 1939-1940”, says David Lyle Morris.
In more recent years this connection with Finland has led to an important directional adjustment for Morris. A new season returning him to his roots in the musical style of the Blues, as a songwriter writing songs to touch the hearts of those on the fringe of the church, the broken, the seekers, those in need of healing. “I think over the last seven years in particular, we have found in increasing measure that our faith in Jesus is all about wrestling to find his hope in suffering, as opposed to a theology of victory and prosperity. In a song we wrote for a gorgeous girl in Finland, Amanda, who lived for one day on earth, we say ‘God does not count the value of life by the number of days here on earth – for there’s eternity’”, shares Morris.
It seems a well-balanced partnership comes from this new lyrical direction and the heavy influence of his Finnish collaborators. The Finnish sound has a beautiful yet painful sense of lament, with the influence of Eastern Europe through it, as these are a people who have suffered much. For Morris, there is a strong connection with this, through not only the stories of those around him but also that of his wife’s own struggle with cancer. Dark days of pain and struggle washed over David and his family and yet the hope of the Lord lay firmly wrapped around them like a soft and warm blanket on a cold winter’s night. Of course, it has been said that out of great pain comes great art and this is profoundly evident on Northland.
However, it is not just the merging of musical styles and sounds that have influenced this new release; it is also about the people. As with his previous album Endlessly, Northland sees strong partnerships growing with other Finnish songwriters such as Anders Liljestrom. Anders not only partners in the song-writing duties but by day is a well sort after luthier. The modern day technology makes it easy to throw song ideas back and forth across the massive distance between New Zealand and Finland. This is evident on the track entitled Medals. This song was lyrically inspired by the experience of David’s Father and his time-fighting in the Second World War. His was a brutal short war that included a period as a prisoner of war in Germany. Morris knew that it was time to write a song for his father and therefore jotted a few lines down while on tour around Finland. The resulting lyrics were then emailed to Liljestrom who in turn crafted a chord structure for it to bring life to the words. The rest, as they say, is history. Northland is by definition an international collaboration that proves beyond a doubt, that often a team is more valuable than the sum of its individual parts. Something that David Lyle Morris has learnt to embrace throughout his music career.
Whilst the focus of his albums may have slightly changed of late, David’s calling to worship ministry is still very much his passion and sees him spending his time travelling not only around New Zealand but also to far off shores to share the lessons that he has learnt.
When asked what the future might hold for him, Morris says, “Definitely a time to kick on! There is a new energy you can find as your kids grow up, to do the things you have dreamed of – and you get to work with awesome young people, who fire up your spirit and imagination with their creativity and naivety”.
Jon E Clist is an announcer at Rhema Media and can be heard hosting the Homegrown Kiwi Music Show every Saturday Night at 6pm on New Zealand’s Rhema.
When did music lose its innocence?
Sure there have always been streams of the music industry that have been pushing the boundaries and that’s great but doesn’t it seem that everything has just been condensed down to love and hate?
It’s like we have taken the prized bull and boiled it up until all we have is an Oxo cube… do we really want beef stock rather than the bull itself?
To a point, we can expect that from the secular music industry… cliche after cliche, remix after remix of a song that used to be famous when people still used to play music and sing music as if it was a craft that was about connecting people rather than just making a quick buck… with the sole focus to make people famous.
I can understand that from the secular music industry… but when did our church music become so obvious and bland?
I’ve listened to Kiwi singer/songwriter and worship leader David Lyle Morris for a couple of years now… and the first thing that comes to my mind is ‘innocence’.
David has this amazing ability to craft songs that would have stood alongside the great artist such as Air Supply, James Taylor and Carole King.
His writing is honest, it’s heartfelt, it’s thoughtful and with the fear of sounding condescending I am tempted to use the word ‘sweet’.
In fact, the first time I saw him lead worship with just an acoustic guitar, I closed my eyes and I could almost imagine what it might have been like to worship with King David (if he played a guitar not a harp!)… there is a real authenticity that some people try to mimic but that you just can’t fake, and when you are around David Lyle Morris you just know that his heart is to help turn your eyes to God.
The album ‘Endlessly’ is a well-crafted album and the album starts with ‘Start of something new’ a song for his co-writer Anders Liljestrom’s boy Eino.
It’s a really honest song talking about the excitement and the forward-looking nature of a Dad excited to share in the first moments with his son and the legacy that the Father wants the son to take up… Lines like “This is the start of a family tree, you’re the little branch under me” show the simplicity of David and Andrers’ lyrics while at the same time casts great imagery.
In fact, this album is full of so much imagery, and not in a daunting and heavy way but in a way that helps you relate with the song. In fact, it really enhances the songs. Songs like ‘Caledonia Girl’ reminds me of James Taylor… the storytelling, the melodic way that the music draws you into the story.
Endlessly is an honest album… Songs like ‘Open my eyes’ really start to showcase the pureness of David’s vocals and the team around him just gently push, and nudge the song to enhance its colour.
Do you know what an album sounds like when you can tell that each instrument and layer and nuance of the song is there to make the other instruments sound better?.. it sounds like ‘Endlessly’.
It’s full of space… it’s full of meaning… it’s uncluttered and real.
Maybe David Lyle Morris is New Zealand’s own shepherd worship leader?
Maybe David is our new contemporary version of David the shepherd boy?
Wanted to send you some thoughts on your new album.
I got a good chance to digest it over the last week or two while I was ensconced painting ceilings in our house as we renovate.
I love the opening track ‘Start of something new’- I definitely connect with it regarding my growing relationship with our wee Sam (just turned 2 last weekend!)
Caledonia girl is such a great track, the instrumentation sounds so full – such a classy sounding arrangement. Great vocal line too.
There are some really uplifting melodies throughout – songs that feel like you’ve known them for years and years, yet you’re only hearing them for the first time! Like ‘I will be holding your hand’ and ‘When love lies broken’ – there’s a timeless quality to them.
One thing that struck me was the ability of some songs, like ‘Desired Haven’, to create really strong images in my mind – the music seemed to conjure very vivid visuals for me – which I think has a lot to do with the arrangement and production, the soundscape you’ve created. ‘Open my eyes’ is similar really. Speaking of Open my eyes, the electric playing on this album is absolutely inspired. Really tasteful. Love the vocal only part of this song too – very brave to have nothing but your naked vocal there, but then it sounds great so what’s the risk!
‘Three things’ got me thinking about how the Blues tradition might actually help us recover the lost lament tradition – it lends itself to more heartfelt pleas, more confrontation – this song really opened this genre up to my imagination. I think there’s a lot of exploration to be done here.
‘Well of life’ is a real delight. It makes me happy to listen to it. You can hear your joy coming through so clearly. The title track ‘Endlessly’ is a bit like that too – the instrumentation seems to put a bounce in your step. It leaves me smiling.
As a whole, the album is such a great piece of art David. Congratulations mate – I hope you’re stoked.
Anyway, just wanted to send you some thoughts and reflections on the album
David Lyle Morris’s newest album, released on March 12, is pregnant with promise.
He’s written the 14 tracker to encourage the listener to promise to spend more devotional time with God, and filled it with music with is overflowing with God’s promises of grace and love.
Morris, who has spent three years on this project, recently told Challenge Weekly the album had “a very intimate acoustic guitar emphasis; it is more like having me in your lounge, this kind of intimacy rather than the big live worship which some of my other albums have”. Such intimacy, it seems, was discovered by the likes of legendary blues musician Eric Clapton more than a decade ago when he recorded his Unplugged album and sparked a whole series of albums by artists abandoning the big band sound for the acoustic guitar.
Morris, in taking such an approach and adding just a few other instruments to the mix, has come up with a very gentle album which had me turning the volume up so as not to miss any nuance as I listened while I drove.
Of the 14 songs The Stolen Years, inspired by Joel 2, resonated with me the most because it offered such hope. Then, I discovered a hand written note from Morris on the envelope in which the CD had arrived. “Track 3, Stolen Years, a good one for Christchurch – God can restore!” It included God saying, in its chorus: “I will repay the stolen years, soothing balm for all your fears/Wipe away every tear/I will restore the wasted years, sweetest music to your ears/Through the gloom, light appears”. And one of the choruses includes the wonderful guarantee: “Everyone, call on the name of the Lord and be saved”.
The first track, Glory to the God of Grace and Truth, introduces the listener to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is followed by Be Exalted, Father, in which Morris adapts lyrics from an A.W. Tozer poem to praise the trinity. You Are Good Lord follows The Stolen Years and compares Christians to “trees planted by the water” in a time of drought.
If you thought George Matheson’s hymn O Love That Will Not Let Me Go, written in 1882, was moving try Morris’ adaptation. Matheson said of the hymn: “It was the quickest bit of work I ever did in my life. I had the impression of having it dictated to me by some inward voice rather than of working it out myself. I am quite sure that the whole work was completed in five minutes, and equally sure that it never received at my hands any retouching or correction. I have no natural gift of rhythm. All the other verses I have ever written are manufactured articles; this came like a dayspring from on high.” Morris’s version is quietly contemplative.
O Lord You Are Our God is a reflection on Isaiah 25, Embracing on Joshua 22. Dancing In Heaven was written for the funeral of Jane Peters, a family friend who had multiple sclerosis. Good Shepherd puts to music Jesus’s promise to lay his life down for his sheep. For Such A Time As This reflects on Morris’s time of ministry in Finland.
Change Me was written for Morris’s baptism, in England, in 1986. Your Kindness Calls Us To Repentance speaks for itself, as does Harvest Fields of Finland where Morris obviously had so many God times. Holy Spirit of God, which closes this album, is a benediction of types as it asks “Holy Spirit of God, fall upon us”.
This is, indeed, a beautiful album.
***** Reviewed by Chris Gardner – Challenge Weekly NZ March 2011
David Lyle Morris talks to Challenge Weekly reporter Michael Hamilton about his new release ‘Devotion’.
Prolific and popular New Zealand singer/songwriter David Lyle Morris has completed his 13th album. I caught up with Morris at his house recently to chat about his new album Devotion and his plans for this year. You wonder how Morris finds the time to make an album. He is active in ministry and manages to pop up at events around the country, the most recent being Parachute Music festival in January and last week’s the New Zealand Christian Leaders’ Congress, where he led worship.
He was enthusiastic about Parachute and said it was great to see worship artist Chris Tomlin and preacher Louie Giglio ministering at the event. “They have had had a positive influence on music and the youth scene in the United States in recent years,” he pointed out.
Morris also recently did some ministry in Finland, and he now plans to go to several cities where Rugby World Cup match events will be held, to hold concerts. He takes any opportunity he can to minister in churches around the country.
Devotion was three years in the making and, says its creator, has “a very intimate acoustic guitar emphasis; it is more like having me in your lounge, this kind of intimacy rather than the big live worship which some of my other albums have. “The emphasis is on Scriptures that have helped me, my wife and some friends, in issues we have been through. This includes grief over marriages, death of peers, family issues — and the whole economic recession which we have been going through,” explains Morris. The music on the album, he adds, would work “really well in a devotional”. “It is good for listening to during a person’s devotions or quiet times. It is intended for all Christians, but I believe God will minister through the music and lyrics to people facing hard times”. “Maybe we are being thrown on God in a new way. It is a time to trust God. We have to turn to God. God can renew, restore, refresh in miraculous ways. There is hope and we can trust in God.
“The deliberate intention was to identify with people’s pain in the songs so that they can find release from what they are feeling, and more importantly in the spiritual sense that the biblical lyrics should bring healing when people soak in them. The music is helpful, and has a Finnish string trio included”.
Morris said he felt that a key song was The Stolen Years, based on Joel 2, saying that God would restore “the years that the locusts have eaten”. The singer said the song had the sense that God wanted to restore people, that his heart was to replenish and restore people, so we could have hope even when all seemed lost.
The song Dancing In Heaven relates to a woman, Jane Peters, who was wheelchair-bound with multiple sclerosis. Jane, who was the wife of Auckland pastor David Peters, died in 2007. “Jane lived a beautiful life and I was asked to write a song for her funeral,” he explained.
You Are Good Lord is based on Jeremiah 17 and the promise of God that “we can continue to bear fruit even through dry times. As Christians we can have a greater hope than people who do not know Christ and who rely on material things”.
Be Exalted Father was inspired by a poem written by A W Tozer in his book The Pursuit Of God. “It speaks to our materialistic age, especially in these challenging times and is a prayer that we place God above possessions, friendships, ambition, family, health and even life itself. I read the poem and it totally blew me away,” added Morris.
DEVOTION ALBUM INTERVIEW CHALLENGE WEEKLY NZ 2011
A singer/songwriter who began life as the child of military parents and had lived in three countries by the age of nine has continued his international wandering as a singer and teacher on worship.
David Lyle Morris released this his 12th album in 2010. Morris called his latest album Lifestory, because the songs recorded on it chart the journey of his life over the last 22 years, “through grief and to a new birth”. Tracks on the album were recorded with different backing bands and in different countries, so a range of musical styles is heard on the album.
Lifestory was produced with the help of Integrity Music in Singapore and, says the artist, “looks back at my life, ministry and my journey of discovery in music and worship”.
So what makes Morris tick? Well for one thing, he has a desire to see people have a more child-like faith. “In the West we can lose this; we have to worship with our whole heart, mind, soul and strength. I plead with Western cultures, that people need a childlike abandonment, and a total trust of God as a loving father who doesn’t need to be continually questioned. Sometimes we over-analyse. ‘Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so’ — if we really know this as adults, especially in Western culture, we would have a lot less stress and be a lot more liberated,” says Morris.
“I find music a great language for undoing people, giving sheer exuberance and the trust that you see in children. So I pray that God will keep me young in spirit. We need to allow God to soften hearts, to not be cynical. We need to be like the kids whom Jesus took onto his lap. God wants us to allow him to hold us and carry us”.
Being part of renowned UK contemporary Christian worship leader/composer Graham Kendrick’s band and ministry for 13 years has a lot to say about Morris’s love of touring and leading worship. “Kendrick taught us theology and music on the road. We went to Nigeria, Russia, France, Czech Republic and many other countries. The band had people of different nationalities.”
The artist recently returned from releasing his album at the most significant Lutheran Church in Finland’s capital of Helsinki, The White Cathedral. This month he spent a week checking out Willow Creek Church in the United States.
Morris frequently travels to Finland, Ireland and Fiji. “I have ministered several times in Singapore, Hong Kong and the US. Certain countries hold a special place in my heart as it is a thing God does. God put Finland on my heart. I first went there in 1993; something happened…I had a good connection with the main Church in Finland, the Lutheran Church.” Morris says he goes there to, “Encourage new life in the more traditional churches; it is good having tradition and the more modern going hand-in-hand. It is great using ancient tunes, but having new lyrics and a modernised tune”.
Some of his songs have even been translated into Finnish and French, and are in the process of being translated into Chinese languages.
Morris loves teaching others in seminars about worship. “Worship is such a key in God’s Kingdom. I teach about worship and the importance of having passion in worship. We need to release passion in our worship, especially in our Western culture. We can be so inhibited. We need to be open and open to surprises, and to expressing emotion in worship — including pain, grief, suffering as well as victory and praise. I write in this area. My album Trust, released in 2007, is built around the theme of suffering and finding rest in God in our trials and battles. It is okay to express our pain in worship. God will lift our heads so we find his joy”.
Morris has another concern. “I have a plea to the older generation: to pray for, support and mentor the younger generation. I am saying this over and over again. We mustn’t disconnect with young people because we can’t understand their language or things in their world. Increasingly people need fathering and mentoring, in an increasingly fractured society.”
This busy musician certainly has no plans to slow down and has already started work on his next album, to be called Devotion.
He also hopes to add new countries such as South Korea to his well-worn itinerary and will be visiting a few Korean churches around Auckland this year.
LIFE STORY INTERVIEW CHALLENGE WEEKLY NZ 2010