Elias Dummer, former frontman and founding member of the Covenant Award-winning band The City Harmonic, will release his solo full-length album, The Work (Vol 1), on February 8. Dummer says the studio-recorded album focuses on the relationship between worship and discipleship with the premise that "disciples worship and worship disciples."
An Ontario native and Tennessee resident, Dummer is passionate about the local church, drawing inspiration from his roots with TCH, a band birthed from a local church unity movement, and from his role in helping to plant The Village, a fast-growing UMC community near Nashville. For more information, details and updates on new music, visit EliasDummer.com and follow him on Instagram @eliasdummer.
Q: Elias, thanks for doing this interview with us. Why did City Harmonic have to come to an end?
I'm not sure that we had to, necessarily, but we definitely believed it to be the right time. A year prior to the band retiring, Eric left - after years of fighting cancer and then coming back to touring life - to focus on planting a church in our hometown. This was by no means to blame, but it definitely got us all thinking...See, we started out of this thing called TrueCity: a movement of small churches working together for the good of the city in Hamilton. That was our DNA. After a few years, the reality of touring and being set up equally (we "owned" the band together) meant that we had to maintain a certain level of busyness just to keep the lights on. That meant being on the road enough that investing in our local churches became difficult.
By 2017, I had helped to plant a church in Nashville, Eric had planted a church, and Aaron and Josh were each looking to invest in their churches more and we all sought to spend more time with family. We never set out to win at Christian music or something like that - we set out to encourage the Church to work and worship together. Rather than just keep going because it was opportune, we decided to end things intentionally, sending each other on into ministry in the same way that the TrueCity movement sent us in the first place.
The cliché is that the "frontman" leaves a band to pursue a solo career, but that wasn't the case here at all. Of course, I'm making and releasing music again, but it was my bandmates that encouraged me to do so. Frankly, I'm grateful for the friendships we managed to maintain after years on the road together.
Q: Are you still in touch with your previous band mates? How are they doing?
Not every day, but yes - absolutely. Eric's church is going well and he's got this great studio set up at home now for local musicians. Josh's family is growing and he's settled into a new career. Aaron's wife, Melissa, was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and is going to be in treatment for the next year or so. So, that's obviously difficult and we're all praying with them for quick healing. I know that they would appreciate continued prayer.
Q: I believe you were involved in a church plant in Nashville after City Harmonic. What is your role in this church plant? And how's the church now?
Yes! I came alongside my friend and neighbor, Travis, and planted The Village UMC south of Nashville in 2016. So we're in our third year now and we've grown very quickly, so it's been an adventure keeping up with it all. I'm mostly involved in leadership stuff and discipling and training our worship leaders and our worship culture, where we're blending modern worship with liturgy and spiritual practices. It's been exciting to see so many people coming to know Jesus in our own backyard and to play a small role.
Q: Now you have your own solo album coming out. How did this album come about?
The new album is called The Work, Vol. 1 and it's a moment in time for me. I've been digging into the idea of discipleship; how we understand it today, what it looks like, the role we play, God's role in it all... theology and philosophy but I've been reading up on the science of learning, retention, and behavior change, too. With all that, I'm convinced that corporate worship - our various "liturgies", if you will - might be one of the most important discipleship practices available to us. Not just the sermon - the whole thing. When people see Jesus for who he is: God...well, worship is the natural response.
When we worship Jesus, we're transformed, and I believe that the Holy Spirit uses our our habits, mind and emotions in that work, too. At its best, corporate worship engages our whole selves incredibly well.
So I believe that disciples worship and worship disciples. Worship does the work of helping us see Jesus with heart/soul/mind/strength, and Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, does the work of transforming us into his likeness. Even the word "liturgy" is often understood to mean "the work of the people" - the discipleship we do together. So, that's sort of why I'll be calling my albums "The Work" - it just makes sense to me.
This album came out of the things we've gone through as a church or that I've been wrestling with as a person. Very often, they've been songs or prayers that I've needed to sing or that we've needed to sing as a community.
Take the opening song, for example, a song called Enough. I learned that our county boasts two shocking statistics. First: we're in the wealthiest county in the state.
Secondly, we also have the second-highest teen suicide rate in the state. In other words, a place that looks like it should be winning at life has also bought into a vision of life and success that's letting us down...letting our kids down. Jesus calls us to more than the American Dream - he calls us to find ourselves and satisfaction in him. It's something I struggle with, like anybody, but it's something I know I need to know in a way that goes deeper than useful information. So, I got together with Jeff Johnson from Passion City Church and Tom Eccleshall from KXC in London, and we wrote Enough. This song has been powerful for our church, and for me, so I'm excited to put it out there.
Q: How is your new album similar or/and dissimilar compared to the music of City Harmonic?
So I've always played both the guitar and the piano, but I approached The City Harmonic in my mind as a piano-fronted band. Also, with TCH there was always an element of the interaction between us. Sometimes that worked for us, sometimes against us. But it was always there. So while I'm sure doing an album on my own - writing and recording the majority of the instruments myself too - will have just as much going for it as against it, it's a different sort of thing.
It's still my voice. I'm writing the songs with some friends. A lot of what I loved about The City Harmonic is there - but it's not going to be exactly the same nor would I want it to be. It's funny, I've always thought that - even in my own listening habits - I don't want a band to change or grow all that much, but I don't mind when solo songwriters try different things. In my mind, I've always had different rules for what I want from a band than I do from a person who's releasing music. I've spoken with other folks who, when they think about it, kind of think the same way.
So I intend to be a person, following Jesus with all I've got, and trying my darnedest to put that into words and melodies and music that help other people do the same.
Q: One of the most fascinating songs to me (at least from a lyrical stand point) is the title track "The Work." What's the story behind this song?
The Work (It Ain't Easy) is a song that sort of picks up on the theme started by the opening track, Enough. In the song - and in life - I'm really wrestling with the idea that Jesus tells us to come and rest, and yet here we are hustling to become something out of our own effort - our own goodness. At the end of the day, Jesus won't look you in the eye and say "I resurrected...but did you hustle? Were you the best?! Did you work hard and prove your worth? Did you vote for a particular political party?".
No, I don't think so. Grace goes both ways. We're forgiven of our sins, yes, but grace, by its nature, also means that we can't earn the incredible gift that we have in Jesus. We didn't work for it. We don't deserve it. Yet, here we are... alive in Christ, who has done the work for us once and for all... if only we'd learn to come and rest.
Q: My favorite song has to be "The Simple Truth." Indulge us on how this song came about?
I think it goes without saying that we live in a complicated time in terms of truth - a time when many can't even agree on the objective facts around a situation. Forty years ago, folks trusted that the story they were told was true - and that simply isn't the case anymore.
But "truth" still has this really interesting connotation to us as being a fixed, objective thing that exists outside of ourselves. Now,I don't believe that truth is less than that. But I do think we need to remember that truth is more holistic than that - it's more than facts that exist outside of ourselves.
The word itself comes from "troth" -- "betrothed" shares it's roots. In fact, a word that (five hundred years ago) was translated in the KJV as "truth" or "true" - emeth - is now most often translated as "faithful" in modern translations. We've lost an important part of what it means to be true, and have settled for "facts about things". It's cheap, and allows us to say we "believe" something to be true, without being faithful to it.
So, I'd like to think that truth isn't just about facts, it's about faithfulness, too. It's believed, yes, but also lived and honored. It's a noisy world and truth seems hard to find sometimes. It's incredible that we can hold onto the faithfulness of God - truth that's more than just facts alone - and respond in the only appropriate way I can think of: love.
These past couple years have been crazy, and I sat down with Kory and Emily from Red Rocks Church and that was all we could talk about! How noisy and confusing it all seemed! What has never been noisy to me, is that God is faithful -- true. That's the simple truth.
Q: How has this album challenged you in your own faith journey with God?
It's been scary to move beyond the safety of the record label and bandmates and all of that, but I'm happy with what's come of it. I wanted to be more transparent - to have no excuses. The result is an album that I'm proud to say came from an honest place, and if all it ever does is help a few people follow Jesus better - then it's well worth it.