Singer/songwriter Benjamin Clark has just released his third worship album "Him and Hymns." To help him celebrate his brand new release, we were honored to be able to chat with about his ministry and his new record.
Born and raised in Northern Virginia, Benjamin grew up in a very musical family. Much of his talent today can be traced back to singing in the car on long trips, impromptu family performances in front of the fireplace and learning to play the drums on the miniature toy set he received at the age of seven for Christmas. Benjamin currently resides in Lindale, Texas with his wife Rebecca, his son Micah, and their dog, Jackson. He is one of the worship leaders at his home church, Tyler Vineyard, where many of his original songs are sung on a weekly basis. He also fills in for his friend and Dove Award-winning songwriter, Paul Baloche at Community Christian Fellowship when Paul is away on tour.
Hallels: For our readers who are not familiar with you, how would you describe your style of music?
It's contemporary worship, but I try not to limit myself to being confined within that as a genre. If I hear something that is sonically pleasing, I'll do my best to integrate it into my music. There's really no conscious decision to imitate anything that's been called worship before. I think if you're making art from a sincere place in your heart, that already fits inside the ballpark of worship. I try to add words on top of that to help people know and relate to Jesus better.
Hallels: Tell us a little more about yourself, how did you become a Christian?
I have a pretty typical story-you know, raised in a Christian home and what not. I think for me, the more remarkable story is that I remained a Christian. I grew up with some pretty tough circumstances. I watched my baby sister drowned, and I lost my mom to a tough battle with cancer, all within a year of each other when I was about nine years old, and that was definitely a fork in the road moment for my dad and for my family. It really was my dad's faith and God's grace that held our family together. You can't really explain the fact that we didn't fall apart in any other way.
Hallels: You started off playing secular music before singing more faith-based/worship songs, can you tell us about the change in musical direction?
Well, I didn't play secular music per se. I was writing music from the heart, and it usually dealt with life, and being an adult, and how those things sometimes are just plain hard. There were definitely references to God in my music, I think it was just a little more subtly noticeable that He was an integral of my life. When I first started doing music full-time, I was primarily playing at bars. It wasn't necessarily a honed or refined message that was intended directly for anybody in particular. Now I feel like my calling has been narrowed down to speak directly to God's people about their everyday life. It just so happened that with a new sense of direction the outpouring of that ended up being predominantly worship music.
Hallels: Let's talk about your brand new record "Him and Hymns." Why an album of hymns mixed together with your original songs? What do you think is the value of hymn singing today?
Well, when I made this record, I really wanted to pay homage to two things: first, I wanted to make a tribute to the artists that I enjoy listening to most. This would be bands that use a lot of layered vocal harmonies. In the 60s and 70s, you had bands like Crosby Stills Nash and Young, or The Eagles. Today, it's bands like Fleet Foxes and Good Old War. Second thing was the hymnists. As a songwriter, I feel like on my best day I am hard pressed to come within a country mile of writing something as lyrically profound and moving as the average hymn. In my writing, I do my best to steer clear of clichés and trite statements that have sort of been deprived of their meaning due to overuse. For the hymnists, it was a foregone conclusion that every time they wrote a song, it was going to come from a deep place of devotion and inspiration. If at the end of my career I have written a song that my audience would consider lyrically and melodically as good as a hymn, then I will have accomplished more than I could possibly hope for.
Hallels: As for your original songs on the record, if you were to single out two of them that means the most to you, which would they be? And why?
Well, the first one is easy - that would be "When You Find Me". I wrote that song several years before any other worship song that I am still playing today, and it's one of those rare instances in writing where I really felt that the Holy Spirit was my primary source of inspiration. You know, one of those experiences where he is writing through you? Normally for me, writing is an excruciating process - if I get a line a day, I'm on top of the world. That song came together in about an hour, and it seems to impact people more than just about any other song I do. My second favorite would have to be "My Rock". I wrote that song after watching friends lose their baby to a very rare heart disease. It was crushing, and I think I wrote that song basically asking myself, "How would you hold it together if something like that happened to you?" What came out of that is basically the summation of the message I try to share wherever I go - we serve a good God who is worthy of our praise, and while we can't explain everything that happens in this life, the over-arching balance of our life is evidence of the fact that He loves us, that He pursues us, and that He wants to fellowship with us. If you can see that, and live in that truth, you get a better idea of who God is.
Hallels: You also a worship leader at Vineyard Church in Tyler, Texas. when you lead worship, do you also include both hymns and contemporary songs in your repertoire? How do you lead hymns in a way that still speaks to today's congregation?
I try to do what ever song is going to help the congregation see Jesus. Sometimes, a modern worship artist brings about a new glimpse or a new revelation, but just as frequently the lyrics of the old hymns speak to me, speak to the church in a way that is deeply profound and timeless. I grew up believing that I hated hymns, based mainly on how churches made them sound - emotionally monotone. As an adult, sitting down and actually reading them has profoundly impacted my life. These lyrics poetically express the yearnings of the human heart, no matter what era you live in.
Hallels: If our readers would like to purchase "Him and Hymns" and/or find out more about you, where can they go?
I have a store on my website, http://benjaminclarkmusic.com and I can also be found on iTunes, Amazon, and cdbaby. You can also listen to my music on Spotify. You can also contact us through our website - we are always looking for new connections, and new churches where we can come and minister.