Avid fans of worship music would immediately recognize that Darren and Jessie Clarkes are the scribes behind the Vineyard song "I Love Your Presence." This worship staple has over 15 versions on iTunes and over a million hits on YouTube. This also led to Darren producing a few records for Vineyard Music. Darren went on to tour the country with Jeff Searles in the band 'Everyone', opening for bands like Delirious and SonicFlood.
Around this time Darren and Jessie got married and founded Modern Music Academy which they ran full time for 9 years, teaching guitar, song writing, recording techniques and artist development to young adults and adults. Together as Darren and Jessie Clarke, they have released an EP and they have just released their brand new full length studio worship album "Hand of God."
We are so honored to catch up with the Clarkes for this exclusive Hallels' interview.
Hallels: So grateful for your time. I believe the both of you started off with Vineyard Music where they have recorded your song "I Love Your Presence" which has over a million hits on YouTube. How did you become involved with Vineyard Music?
My (Jessie) Dad is a Vineyard Pastor in the UK so I grew up in that stream of the church and in fact Darren and I both were 'discipled' or mentored in Vineyard churches and to this day our 'DNA' is impacted deeply by the Vineyard worship Ethos and values. But we ended up (too long of a story here) both in CA in a Vineyard church and a team of us ran 'The Burn Service' which was a Sunday night service, along side a great friend of ours Ryan Delmore. God started to bless that with a strong sense of His presence and lots of songs and a real culture of worship. Because it was making a few waves in the area, I think some peeps from Vineyard Records (then based a few hours south of us) heard our demos and came to check out our worship service. I guess they thought it was something they wanted to document and share because we ended up recording a few records with them and getting a publishing deal. But we're talking 15 years ago maybe when Darren and I were just dating. That's the season we were in when we wrote 'I Love Your Presence', our first co-write before we were even married.
Hallels: Now you've released your new album "Hand of God." How would you describe your sound and music? Who would you say are artists who may have had influenced you?
That's always really difficult to answer and I think sometimes other people are better at answering that question than musicians are for themselves. But Darren is a true-blue guitar players' guitar player so the songs are always guitar based and as a kid he used to watch Fleetwood Mac Videos, so (especially on this record) you can hear the influence of Lindsey Buckingham especially in Darren's raw fingerstyle songs. And the Fleetwood Mac reference isn't a bad one in other ways in terms of lots of harmonies and sing-able melodies. Our songs aren't as anthemic as a lot of the worship songs out there today, and I think that's simply because we've tried writing those and we just can't do it! It's not what comes out of us. We look at each other sometimes and wonder where the weird music we make comes from.
I will say that other Worship Leaders who have influenced us have influenced us more in ethos and approach than in their sound. Having both sung and played with Matt Redman in our formative years, he has and continues to be an inspiration to us, as was Martin Smith and Kevin Prosch in the early days. We were inspired by the songs that rich in both Spirituality and Scripture. Prosch taught that we should look to Heaven for new sounds and not to the world. We love that philosophy of course. We should always be creating something that's beautiful and authentic and honoring to God and not just trying to sound like anyone else. When we write it's either a pure 'this is what's coming out of us' or it's a specific act of service for the congregation that we're serving. What does our church need to sing right now? What do we need to sing? What's the cry of our hearts? Let's write something beautiful to help us all connect to our Creator.
Hallels: What was the greatest blessing and the greatest challenge in making this new album?
Good question. The greatest blessing in making this new album is firstly some of the songs that came in the process. They are truly a gift to US let alone anyone else. They bless US and are a testimony to US of His goodness and grace and faithfulness. We've been in places where we've had no songs in us and thought we'd never write worship music again so the redemption of this record runs deep for us. But we have to tell you, we didn't have any backing from a label or a church funding the project (which is sometimes the case), so we absorbing the costs ourselves, paying for babysitters and it was taking a long time and all the time we spent on this record, we couldn't work on anyone else's projects (Darren is a music producer). So basically it was a financial challenge. We have a family and live in a stupidly expensive town. But a friend of ours, who has actually sponsored a few Worship Leaders' projects, came alongside us and said he would pay US to finish OUR project. Truly this stuff never happens - who does that??! - and he asked for zero return. He's not our rich Uncle or anything, just a believer and lover of Jesus who wants to give back and invest in the Kingdom of God and in Worship specifically. So we were incredibly blessed by him and by God, that he would provide a way for us to make music for Him. It was like an endorsement and a blessing from Heaven that he wanted us to finish this project.
Hallels: Do you have a single released off this album yet?
No there's no single. The whole things just out there and we hope that it will spread further out into the church and that the songs would take on a life of their own and that the record would be meaningful to people. Which one do you think would be a good single?
Hallels: Many of the songs on the record thrive on deep spiritual intimacy between God and us. I am thinking of songs like "Talk to Me" and the title cut "Hand of God." How do develop that kind of spiritual intimacy? And how do you convey that intimacy in your songs?
The kind of intimacy that 'birthed' those songs came directly from wrestling and struggling and grappling with God, in times of hardship and questions and loss and silence. Someone once said something like '80% of success is just showing up' and you can relate that to our relationship with God. And actually to all relationships. Sometimes all you can do is just show up, and keep showing up. When you go through really hard stuff, where you can't see and you can't hear and there's not much to hold onto sort of a thing, you just have to plonk yourself at the feet of Jesus in surrender. And just be there. And stay there. And keep coming back to that place. Not turning away or shutting down. But bringing yourself before the Father, whether it's to shake your fist at Him or weep on His feet, without words. It's just showing up before Him. I think there is a whole ton of Intimacy that comes out of suffering together with Him, with People, and going through things together. It breeds closeness and depth. A lot of songs in the church these days are the victorious loud anthems but there's a place for the more lamenting, psalm -like songs too, that convey a deeper heart of worship and surrender. We don't have an agenda for any type of song really, it's just what came out of us.
And in terms of how do you convey that in a song.. I'm not sure I think it depends but one thing we have learned in leading worship is that as we take the church deeper into an intimate personal place in a worship set, the songs get simpler and less wordy so people can chew on them and make them their own, fill the spaces with their own heart's noise instead of ours or the song writers. There's not enough space in our lives these days to be spiritual or get face to face with God so we talk about ways we can build that into our worship times intentionally. More space - more 'quiet' in the music. We're always holding back on the temptation to over-produce or fill the spaces with sounds. Live and in the studio.
Hallels: I believe the two of you are also worship leaders. Are you serving as worship leaders in a local church? And do you go to churches and help them lead worship?
Yes we lead at our local Calvary Chapel along with a few other worship leaders. We try to mentor the worship musicians a bit and we are trying to build a worshipping community here. We have and do go to other churches when we're invited if all the logistics fit together. We've taught workshops and stuff like that. We actually have a real heart for worship leaders and musicians because it's a really hard job and it's actually a tough time to be a worship leader.
Hallels: If our readers would like to purchase "Hand of God" or/and find out more about you, where can they go?
They can buy it pretty much anywhere they shop for music or stream it from our website, DarrenandJessie.com, and there's more about us there. We're also uploading Lyric / Chord videos to YouTube for worship leaders to play along with the songs and will have the resources for worship leaders at our website too.
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