Daniel Renstrom leads music for the college ministry at Providence Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. Hr recently sent me a copy of his new album Produced by Nathan Nockels, Adore and Tremble combines traditional hymns by Isaac Watts, John Newton with original material for a modern worship experience combining elements from rock and folk, highly reminiscent of many of the Passion releases..
I recently caught up with Daniel to talk about his new album, his music and its influences. Here’s what he had to say:
- When/how did you first begin writing your own songs?
I’m probably not like most songwriters, in that i didn’t really play guitar that much or write music until later in life….after college. Soon after college, i started helping lead musical worship for the college ministry at my church, Providence Baptist, in Raleigh, North Carolina. That’s about the time I started having a huge desire to write music. As we would learn and process things, I would find myself wanting to put these ideas into music…. that all started about five years ago. The songs off of this CD are almost all songs that we use for corporate worship in the Providence college ministry or ones that reflect what we have been learning during teaching times.
- For those who haven’t had a chance to hear your music yet, how would
you describe it?
I write almost everything from the acoustic guitar, so I think the final shape of the songs probably reflect that… Acoustic guitar driven pop/rock, to give it a title. I had the huge privilege of working with a guy named Nathan Nockels on this CD. He’s a killer producer. Nominated for all kinds of awards. He definitely gave the whole project a much more polished sound.
What role does music play in your own life?
I think my above answer about writing music probably wasn’t completely honest about my involvement with music. I grew up in a very musical family. All of us kids took piano lessons, sang at church, etc. All of those things contributed to music being very influential in my life. It’s interesting too… i really feel like art/music has helped me express so many things inside my brain in the last few years. The title song from my cd, “adore and tremble”, is a good example of this.
“Adore and tremble” is a hymn written by Isaac Watts, that I redid. It’s like a poetic retelling of Psalm 2. Psalm 2 talks about how the wrath of God will be poured out on those who see God as inconsequential. But the beauty of the rest of the psalm is that God invites sinners to repent….to “kiss the Son” and turn away from sin, towards God in Christ. I wanted to communicate that message with the words and the music. So, in the part that talks about God’s wrath, I tried to make it very minorish sounding, with chord voicings that sounded like they were coming after you. But then I made the chorus, which is a hope-filled invitation for us to turn to God, open in to major voicings. So I guess the point is that art has allowed me the opportunity to talk about things that are pretty weighty and has given me multiple ways to express it.
- Who are some artists who have influenced you?
Man this is a hard one….so many. David Wilcox, Counting Crows, Keith Green, Patty Griffin, Shawn Colvin, U2 definitely, Radiohead, Makoto Fujimura, Dave Eggers….there are so many others. This list might lead you to think that I have always had my finger on great art…which is far from the truth. I too went through an 8th grade C&C music factory phase…just like you did. Haha.
- How does your faith influence your music?
The majority of the things I write are for corporate worship so faith has so, so much to do with what I write. It’s an interesting thing to try and express faith in music. I feel like we succeed when we put a lot of thought and effort into phrasing things well. I think that a lot of typical Christian phrasings get old after a while. So, it’s important for me to work hard at phrasing these songs about our faith. Honestly, that’s one of the reasons I love working with old hymns….their wordsmithing is incredible.
- What is your view of “Christian” music?
I see no division between the sacred and the secular-as Christians we are to glorify Christ in all that we do. Regardless of what arena artists are working within, we’re all called to same standard of excellence and holiness.
- Are there any artists you think are getting this mix of Christian faith and music right?
Well, I think Sufjan Stevens is doing an incredible job of fusing these two together. Songs like “For The Widows In Paradise For The Fatherless In Ypsilanti” do such a great job of this. It seems like Derek Webb is really conscious of this as well. Another person who is really great is Brooke Fraser. Her CD Albertine is amazing. One other guy that I’ve always looked up to with this sort of thing is Robbie Seay. He’s writing some really great music and he’s never cliché lyrically…which I’ve always liked.
- What’s next?
I hope to keep writing music. I’d like to have the chance to do a full-length version of this CD sometime soon. Baby #2 due in June. So yeah, that’s it…come visit us in Raleigh sometime.