Weston Skaggs On Crafting His Own Sound, His Influences, and the Message of His New Album

Weston Skaggs

Produced by Chris Hoisington of Brothers McClurg, Joy & Sorrow Meet marries Weston Skaggs' vocation as a church worship leader and his penchant for personal storytelling. Raw lyrics set to music that doesn't mind showing off it's "humanness" draws the listener into a journey of the heart. Stylistically, the album combines classic gospel and folk, strung together with alt-country instrumentation, then set in an indie-sonic landscape. 

Q:  Weston, thanks for doing this interview with us. Tell us a little about your journey of how the Lord led you to be a worship leader and to recording this album.

A: Thanks for reaching out, Tim. I grew up in the church singing hymns and gospel songs in choir and quartets; in living rooms around a guitar or the piano or acapella in the van with the family. I have a very musical family so I've always loved and obsessed over music. Four years ago, I began leading the worship team at my church and shortly thereafter began writing songs.

This led me to take a trip to Nashville for a songwriting workshop where I met Daniel Ornellas, the producer of my EP, Dust & Clay. The EP came out two years ago and the response was good so I continued writing with a full length album in mind. Some of the songs are corporate worship but I also have a lot of personal thoughts and stories that lead me into a more storytelling vein. The great thing is that being independent, I can try and fulfill both of these inclinations.

I met Chris Hoisington and the Brothers McClurg guys last year and we hit it off and began writing together. Things went so well and I loved their studio space so much that we laid plans for a full length album.

Q:  While many worship songs today are very polished, your worship album is very different.  It has an alt-country, folk, pop and rock sound to it.  And there's a rawness to it.  How would you personally describe your sound?  And who were some of the people who helped you shape your sound?

A: Oh boy, how much time do you have? You could get me talking for hours about genres, haha. I think of my sound as "indie folk gospel in a modern setting". I think some of the greatest albums are intentionally unpolished. We recorded in the Old Bear Studio in Batavia, New York. It's in a 100+ year old warehouse across from a cemetery, tons of vibe and history there. We left the room mics running a lot to capture banter and the creaks and natural reverb of the space. It hopefully helps your mind "feel the room" as you listen. The influences that Chris and I most spoke about range from hymns and gospel choruses, folk songs of community by writers like Guthrie and early Dylan, and modern sonic landscapes of guys like Bon Iver, to the bold Christian writers of the last generation like Rich Mullins and Keith Green.

Q:  I can sense that many of the songs are very personal to you.  What were some of the events in your own life that influenced the record?

A: It is very personal, yes. I tried to tap into a lot of the turmoil that my soul feels about the state of the world right now and the state of American Christianity. The birth of my daughter, near death of my wife, and adoption of my son were the three biggest influences on the emotional tone of the record.

Q:  I love the title of your new album.  Why did you name the new record "Joy and Sorrow Meet"?

A: "Joy and Sorrow Meet" is a lyric from the chorus of 'Hammer & Nails'. As I considered a title for the record, that's a line that jumped out to me as encapsulating this whole season of life we've been through. These songs were birthed out of the sorrows of the darkest nights of our lives as we walked through post traumatic stress, depression, and infertility. But there were also the joys of the brightest mornings watching Paisley grow and adopting our son Boaz this summer. All of life on this side of eternity is just that, the relationship of joy and sorrow. The two intensify each other. There is no joy in our life that is not touched with sorrow and there is no sorrow that will not ultimately be overcome by joy for those who are in Christ.

Q:  Let's talk about the single "Out of the Wreckage."  For some of our readers who have not heard it, what's the song about?  What was the story behind this song?

A: 'Out of the Wreckage' was the first song written for this album and helped set the course for the other 12 tracks. When Paisley was born, my wife Amy had a very scary condition called DIC where her blood stopped clotting. She lost 10 liters of blood and was in surgery for the first four hours of Paisley's life. In the course of the life saving surgery, the doctors had to perform a hysterectomy which meant that we would be unable to have more biological children. In the months following as we looked to God for answers to the "Why", I read a quote from Oswald Chambers. He was speaking about the passage in Romans 8 where Paul asks "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" Oswald states that, because of the love of Christ, "Out of the wreck I rise, every time." That quote stuck with me and I knew I wanted to work that into a song to encourage others that no matter the pain in this life: "Of this one thing I am sure, the love of God will bear me through."

Q:  On this record you worked with Chris Hoisington of Brothers McClurg.  What do you think Chris brings to the record that you appreciate?

A: Chris is an old soul. We both have a love for music of a bygone era. I've never known anyone who knows a broader range of music than Chris does, inside and out. And because of that he has an immense wealth of knowledge to tap into in the studio. He's open to going in any direction and he and the players at Old Bear are all talented enough to pull it off. Whether it's a sparse early Sun Records sound or a lush indie sonic landscape, he knows how to build and accomplish those sounds that you're hearing in your head.

Q:  On a lighter note, I have read that you are a Star Wars nerd.  What's your favorite Star Wars character and why?

A: Jar Jar- Ha, just kidding! Gotta be Han Solo. What's not to like? Scruffy rascal, Millenium Falcon, gets the princess, best friend is a Wookie. He's the coolest. And there's a lot of redemption in the story of that selfish smuggler who learns to sacrifice for a cause bigger than himself.
Q:  I believe you are touring in support of this album.  Where can our readers go to find out more about your touring schedule and your music?

A: On my website, or on my label Sprig Music's website: ... We have a number of dates being added soon. If folks are interested in having me share at their church, my booking agent Daniela is the best and can answer your questions and provide more info!

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