Influence Music is a faith based record label and artist collective birthed out of Influence Church in Anaheim Hills, California. The team comprises of Matt Gilman, Melody Noel, Michael Ketterer and Whitney Medina.
Rebels, the newest album being released by Influence Music on 7.19.19, is a departure from the typical worship sound and substance, taking a head-first dive into a melding of pop sensibilities and a raw, immersive exploration of the plight of the every-man in his or her pursuit of the Divine.
Directed at those who feel left out, hurt or rejected by the church, this album communicates a heart of deconstructed worship through narrative, sung from a place of genuine encounter. This album "gives people permission to doubt", says Jordan Sarmiento, Influence Music's Music Director, "because we sing about how God is not afraid of our questioning, but welcomes it because he can answer us in that authentic place".
Q: Thanks for doing this interview with us. Let's start with yourselves: who is Influence Music?
Influence music is a worship label and artists collective born out of Influence Church in Anaheim, CA. The artists are Matt Gilman, Whitney Medina, Michael Ketterer and Melody Noel. We love the possibility of the Church being able to produce the most ground breaking, excellent and creative content that the world sees and hears. Our motto is "Soli Deo Gloria" - for the glory of God alone. That's why we exist!
Q: With all the worship bands out there, what sets your music apart?
None of us came with an "agenda" on how we should sound - I think that is why God was able to orchestrate this in the way he did! Our collaboration came about in a way that was purposeful yet accidental at the same time.... purposeful because of how intentional God was in uniting us, accidental because we didn't have the "goal" to birth a new sound. We just wanted to make music for Jesus that we thought was cool. We all have very different musical backgrounds. Melody's background in pop music pushes us to get the most colorful lyrics we can muster & hooky melodies, Michael who brings the raw heart and grit that we all grew to love from United Pursuit, Matt who know the bible inside out from his time at the International House of Prayer, to Whitney who uses simplicity and energy to grab the heart of the listener and really carries the DNA of Influence Church.
Q: What's at the heart of your new album "Rebels"? If you were to sum up the theme of the album, what would it be?
The idea for Rebels was inspired from a morning devotional that we had during our writer's camp in Big Bear, CA. We talked about how God's love is dangerous in the way that he calls us into the darkest places to shine his light. The subject inspired an anthem about needing to rebel against the culture and not go where it's cool and comfortable, but go where no one else will dare to go. Thematically -this record is about adopting the spirit that Jesus was operating in; His fearless and adventurous spirit that goes after the hurting, the broken, and the lost.
Q: Tell us more about your new song "Redeemed." Why are you excited about this song?
Our desire for "Redeemed" is that it would be a song of hope for the broken souls in the world looking for direction. Jesus didn't come to save the righteous. He came to seek and save the lost. To dine with prostitutes, tax collectors and sinners. This song, in many ways, captures all of our stories. All of us have been wounded or broken. Maybe some of us are, or have been, on that prodigal path. But the love of Jesus is constant, regardless of our journey. We hope that all that would listen would sing it as their own story, their own anthem, and their own expression of gratitude for the redemption we have in Jesus.
Q: Your press release says that many of the songs are directed to those who have been hurt by the church. Does this come from personal experience? How do these songs speak to those who have been hurt by the church?
Yes - We have all had experiences at different churches that have been hurtful. I think if anyone is at church long enough - it will inevitably happen. This album is a powerful declaration of our devotion to Jesus despite walking through things that we will not understand on this side of heaven. It's easy to forget that although the church is a body of people being the hands and feet of Jesus, it also operates as a hospital for the broken in spirit - therefore you encounter a lot of hurt people. Hurt people tend to hurt other people! In this album, songs like "Honest" give permission to the "doubting" believer -who finds him self or her self at a crossroads because their hurt has led them to a place of questioning. "Hallelujah" serves as an anthem to sing even when you don't understand why life sometimes pans out the way it does.
Q: In one of your songs "Honest," you say that it's okay to lay our questions before God. But isn't doubt unbelief and wrong?
Doubt and unbelief mark the valleys that almost all believers walk through - after all, how strong is ones faith without it being challenged? "Honest" is about being real with God and not giving the enemy an extra foothold of shame in your life by being secretive about the questions you have. Part of surrendering to God is bringing the hidden areas of our heart to light, once they're in the light - his truth will shine on it. The heart posture of "Honest" is similar to the man in Matthew 9:24 who cries out to Jesus "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief". In that passage we see that Jesus does not reprimand the man for crying out to him and admitting his difficulty believing but instead performs the miraculous. Songs like "Honest" are important in the way that David writing Psalm 22 is important - if he hadn't written the song saying "God, my God why have you forsake me?" - then what would Jesus have said on the cross?
Q: I really like how the album colors outside the box especially with the poetry of "Soil and Sky." How did this track come about?
The idea of having musical and spoken word interludes on the album stemmed from our idea to have a short film accompany "Rebels". We were really inspired by artists like Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar who made beautiful visual albums to their music. The narrations and interludes served as a way to tie the whole story together. When thinking about someone who could execute this properly, "Propaganda" was one of the first artists we thought of. We let him know the idea of the short film and the placement of the interlude on the album and he came up with all the lyrics to "Soil and Sky". He is brilliant!
Q: How do you wish this album would touch and impact the lives of your listeners?
Our hope is that people in the church are awakened to the truth that Jesus didn't pick and choose who deserved His love. He dangerously and fully sought the dirtiest, least deserving people to save and share the gospel. We hope this record causes an awakening in the heart of the believer. And we hope that the honest lyrics, and intentionally crafted melodies grab those who don't know Jesus yet. He's not afraid of their darkness or questions. He is absolutely head over heals in love with his kids and he wants relationship with all of them.