The Beatitudes showcases 18 new tracks (plus 2 bonus tracks) from multiple GRAMMY and Dove Award-winning artists, leaders in their respective genres of Christian/Worship music from Stugiology Music with management, marketing and distribution through The Fuel Music. The full Beatitudes album is part of The Beatitudes Project (#TheBeatitudesProject), which is also a book, Words From The Hill (An Invitation to the Unexpected) from NavPress, and a documentary film, View From the Hill, currently in production.
The project is the culmination of GRAMMY-nominated, Dove Award-winning musician, producer and author Stu Garrard's 15-year excavation of these "blessings at the bottom of life." Performing with Garrard on the record are Amy Grant, Hillsong UNITED, Matt Maher, Audrey Assad, Michael W. Smith, Martin Smith, All Sons & Daughters, Amanda Cook, Propaganda, The Brilliance, Anthony Skinner, Terrian Bass and Becky Harding. Collectively, these artists have sold more than 62 million records, won 11 Grammy, 90 Dove Awards and amassed dozens of hit songs and millions of followers on social media.
We are honored to catch up with Stu Garrard for this exclusive iterview.
Q: Thank you for doing this interview with us. Why the Beatitudes? What is it about Matthew 5 that inspires you?
It's my favorite scripture. I think there is something for every human being in here. Jesus said, "I am the way." In the Beatitudes, He shows us what "the way" looks like. That when things are broken and impossible we are blessed with "presence." God is on our side.
Q: This project includes a book as well as a music album. How was this project conceived?
Many years ago when delirious? would tour the USA, people used to ask me to write my favorite scripture when signing CDs. It was always Matthew 5-6-7. The beatitudes came into focus for me as there are eight themes and I thought we'd make a record exploring those themes. Delirious? finished and I began to see them as different, surprising and subversive announcements of "what is" when life isn't working out. I had some conversations and my book publisher heard about it and we started to talk about what a book would look like.
I went to the Holy Land for the first time in 2013 and was really impacted by that experience. I came back from that trip and wrote the first song straight away. From then on, I just started creating.
Q: The album itself is stunning: you have Michael W. Smith, Hillsong UNITED, Amy Grant, All Sons & Daughters, Brilliance and so many others on the same record. How did you go about recruiting such great talents to sing on the record?
Thanks. All the artists on this record are my friends. We've either worked with each other over the years or been aware of each other's work. I would call or have a conversation and explain the project with them. Most of the time, people would ask, "What can I do to help?" And I would say, 'Want to write a song?" Often, I was shocked when they said, "Yes." I really believe that making a collaborative, community project also speaks of the upside-down message. I'm not saying look at this amazing thing Stu G has done, but rather, it's about opening our eyes to the people around us. We need each other to work this life out. I am better when I'm with others.
Q: Any interesting stories you would like to share while you were working with these great artists?
Too many haha. A couple of stories... Amy Grant's work ethic is incredible. She came in the studio and her and I sang the song "Morning Light" to the musicians. She stayed the whole day and sang every time someone played through from the top, including when the string section was recording. She just wanted it to be perfect!
Propaganda took me to lyric school. He had written a first verse, but wanted to wait until we were in the studio together to collaborate on the second verse. It was such a privilege to watch Prop craft a lyric on the fly. I was amazed.
Q: Let's talk about the book "Words from the Hill." What's the book about? How does it complement the record?
In some ways, the book is the backbone of the project. I weave my own story of the journey with the Beatitudes with connected stories of people I've met along the way, who somehow have helped me understand what these announcements mean looking through a twenty-first century lens. The stories and discoveries influenced all the songs, some coming directly from the stories of these people. I want to encourage the reader with the amazing good news that even in the lowest places of life God is on your side and you can hear the invitation to carry on, lift your head and live a different way.
Q: Care to share maybe one story from the book so as to give our readers a flavor of the book?
Yeah. I'm amazed by my friends at Thistle Farms. All the women are survivors of trafficking, prostitution, drug addiction...life on the streets. When Dorris was 12-years-old a crazy person walked in her house and shot her Mum and Dad. Her Dad died on top of Dorris trapping her underneath his body. This trauma and tragedy, spun life off course for Dorris who found help and relief in drugs. One thing led to another and that led to a life of prostitution, rape and abuse. Dorris was afraid of dark doorways and alley ways and so used to walk down the middle of the road looking for business. Dorris got her life back through Thistle Farms and the community of women there who have taught her that there's no greater force for change in the world than love. To Dorris, mercy looks like living without the drugs and abuse, being fully loved and leading her church choir.
Q: How have the Beatitudes changed your life over the course of making this project?
I think through the project and the research, I have discovered the Beatitudes to be very human, earthy announcements that make a difference in the here and now and not just a set of spiritual virtues to strive to attain a blessing. The Beatitudes have helped me open my eyes to the world around me in a new and different way, to see "the other" as my neighbor.