Even with twelve years as a successful Christian music artist under his belt, Aaron Shust takes on new territory with his latest project: his first live album. Shust's new record for Centricity Music, Love Made A Way, is scheduled for release March 10. Working with producer Nathan Nockels (Matt Redmond, Chris Tomlin), Shust delivers both familiar worship anthems and powerful new songs in the 11-song collection. This includes Shust's latest single "You Redeem," which is currently top 40 at Christian Radio and rising.
For Love Made A Way, Shust features vocalists such as Matt Hammitt, Christy Nockels, Grayson|Reed's Molly Reed and For All Season's Emily Hamilton on the album. Listeners will recognize classic praise songs such as "Ever Be," "Cornerstone" and Shust's career staple "My Savior My God," but they'll hear them performed like never before- an intentional decision from Shust.
These new songs came from Shust's inspiration to write bold music celebrating the Lord and proclaiming His strength. This is seen in the declaration of God's power to turn trials into blessings in "You Redeem," as well as the humble trust of God's promise to guide in "Lead On (King Eternal)." All of the songs reflect Shust's desire to lead worship for a worthy, unfailing God. While this radiates throughout all the music of the singer-songwriter's decade-long career, Love Made A Way delivers the message in a captivating way that will connect with listeners from start to finish. For Shust, it's been a challenging adventure worth pursuing.
Q: Aaron, congratulations on the the release of your first live album. Why did you decide to cut a live worship album?
Thank you! Twelve years after recording my first album in April 2004, the timing just seemed right. I'd been encouraged for a few years to make a live recording, but it wasn't until my label, Centricity Music, strongly encouraged it. That's when I began to embrace the concept of playing some of my standards that I've been doing in concert for years, in addition to some new songs, with a live audience and capturing all those voices.
Q: Where was the album recorded? And tell us what were your reflections of the recording night?
We recorded at The Tracking Room in Nashville, Tenn., nestled just south of downtown and right next to my favorite pizza place! The crew on staff is highly professional and a joy to work with. It helps when you feel welcomed and that everybody there is enjoying themselves and not just showing up for another grueling day of work. By the time the crowd showed up, we had played through these songs for five days and were ready to hear voices added to it. It was overwhelming at times to see people worship God, especially via the new songs. One of the more transcendent moments was at the end of "You Redeem." It's the only time throughout the entire evening that the response wasn't applause or cheering, but absolute silence. Sometimes that can be a bad sign, but this was an utterly holy moment.
Q: You've also got Nathan Nockels to helm the record. Being a fan of Nathan's work with Chris Tomlin and Christy Nockels, what did Nathan bring to the record that you appreciate?
I have admired Nathan's work for a long time with Chris, Christy and Laura Story just for starters, but what he's done with the annual, live Passion albums definitely drew my attention. There are a lot of moving parts in a live recording and to manage those well takes a level of brilliance few possess. The moment I knew I wanted to work with him, however, was after listening to Keith and Kristen Getty's live album, Facing a Task Unfinished, which is a spectacular album. I looked on the back of the album (yes, an actual CD) and who produced it? Nathan Nockels. Nathan brought an easy-going approach to the execution of every stage; pre-production, rehearsal and the actual event. He kept us laughing, but he kept us on track and on time. He would often say matter-of-factly, "Hey guys, let's make music!" It was so focusing. It reminded me of the wonderful, fun, privilege we have to coordinate sounds, in a little community called a band, and create something beautiful.
Q: Being a worship leader yourself, what do you have to say to congregation members who only love the hymns and will not embrace the newer worship songs?
I've found that the problem more often lies with those people who only love newer worship songs and snub hymns. Both, however, are problematic. We should embrace what is GOOD and TRUE. It shouldn't matter if, "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing," was written in 2017 or in 1757. What matters is whether or not it's full of truth and if it's musically sound. Does a song align with what God has revealed of Himself in Scripture? There are some songs, old and new that are so full of beautifully delivered Truth, that I find myself less concerned about the music. Who cares whether it sounds current, modern or cool? Not everyone will agree on what makes a song sound pleasing anyway. It's dangerous when we accept a song just because it's new, and equally dangerous when we reject a beloved song from our history just because it's old.
Q: What's the role of new worship songs in the church today? Is there a place for them?
There is absolutely a place for new worship songs in the church today. We are commanded to sing new songs to the Lord. (Psalm 33:3) To sing Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs (Eph 5:19). "Spiritual songs" in the Greek, is the word ode meaning spontaneous, unrehearsed songs. Therefore new songs! Whether or not new songs written today will survive and move into the category of "hymns" 200 years from now is irrelevant. We are commanded to sing new songs. And if past generations didn't write "new worship songs" we'd have no hymns to speak of today.
Q: Tell us about a few of your new worship songs?
Thank you. I wrote 15 new worship songs for this record and we chose four that we felt fit the best, with each so special to me in their own way. "Lead On (King Eternal)" professes my faith in God's sovereign ability to lead me into what's unknown to me, but not to Him! "You Redeem" reminds me that God not only has bought back my soul at the cross, but He also redeems my situations. Like when Joseph confessed that even though his brothers intended harm, God intended it for good. (Gen 50). "Heartbeat" reminds me of the parable about the man who found the treasure in a field, sold all he had to purchase and possess that field, so the treasure would be his. I want my desire and pursuit of God to consume my every breath and my every heartbeat. "Belong" is a prayer confessing I can do nothing without Him. We ask Him to breath life into our bones and to replace our hearts of stone with hearts of flesh. I always want to package my songs in a way that is conducive for singing along so that my prayers and praises can become yours as well.
Q: You have also covered "Cornerstone" and "Ever Be" on your new album. Why did you pick these two songs?
I recorded "Cornerstone" in 2012 on my Morning Rises album and "Ever Be" in 2015. They have been staples in all my concerts ever since. I enjoy identifying and recording songs in the church that minister to me. It gives me an excuse to play them night after night. On Love Made A Way, I chose two more, "Death Was Arrested" (from North Point Community Church in Atlanta) and "Resurrecting" (from Elevation Church in Charlotte). Both of these songs speak deeply to my soul and it's my honor to sing them.
Q: Being your 12th year in Christian music, as far as music is concerned, what are your plans for your second decade?
Would you believe 12 years? I remember talking to Bebo Norman in the back of his bus in 2006, and he was so amazed that he'd been doing this for 12 years. I remember thinking how unlikely it was that I'd still be making music like this after 12 years. So, I consider it a blessing and a responsibility to sing His praises for as long as I live, even if nobody wants to record it. God listens. But if my prayers and praises can give voice to other people, if I can give people a song to sing that continues to magnify who God is, I will. One song at a time.