Songs As An Offering to God: Vertical Church Band's Jon Guerra Talks About His Solo Debut "Little Songs"
Part of the Vertical Church Band, singer/songwriterJon Guerra has one of the most gripping voices you'll ever hear and is one of the most intriguing artists you'll ever meet. His intelligent and sensitive approach to songwriting is on full display on this debut full-length album, Little Songs, which hits stores on April 21, 2015. Little Songs is the perfect combination of upbeat songs that can be played with the windows down, and introspective melodic songs that cause the listener to look inward and upward.
Hallels: I've read on your bio that you have sang jingles before. Any particular ones we may be aware of?
JON: I did jingles for Comcast, All State Insurance, and several lesser known companies. Nothing as ubiquitous as the Mcdonalds "Ba-da-pa-pa-pa", but if you live in the Chicago-land area you've probably heard some of my jingles.
Hallels: How did you get involve with Vertical Church? What's your role there?
JON: I was invited to a writers retreat with Vertical Church Band after running into an old friend at a wedding. I didn't think it would lead to anything significant, but of course God had different plans. After a couple of my songs were chosen to be on the Live record "The Rock Won't Move" I was asked to be a part of the band. I'm now a songwriter and worship leader with Vertical Church band, which is a ministry of Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicago. HBC is my home church where I still serve as a Sunday morning worship leader for part of the year. It's one of the most fruitful, creative partnerships.
Hallels: What made you want to release a solo album?
JON: I had songs that were worshipful, but not congregational in nature. I brought those songs to VCB and they loved them, but knew they weren't a good fit for that band. A few people at Sony/Provident caught wind and were also very encouraging about the songs. Truly though, it took me several months to come around to the idea of making a solo record with that material. At first, I didn't see the point. After a ton of prayer and conversation, I realized that I could give testimony through song in a way that would be helpful to others and fulfilling for me. It was only a nudging at first but has since blossomed into conviction. I believe God has called me, for this season, to give testimony of his love and grace through songs on solo records.
Hallels: Why did you entitle the album "Little Songs"?
JON: It's called 'Little Songs' after the first track on the album called "Every Little Song." The lyrics pretty much sum it up: "And so receive my words/ and so receive my tunes / they are my best, they are my first fruits/ until I see your face in heaven's great view / these little songs are what I have for you/ they are the best that this little child can do/ so, for now, receive my heart through every little song."
At the core, my songs are an offering. God has given me Himself, and in turn I give him my best efforts, my best poetry, my best melodies (though even my ability to write songs is from Him, but that's for another interview). That offering is also for others, wherever they may be on their faith journey. I always write within ear-shot of my friends who don't believe the Good News, because Jesus always did his ministry within ear-shot of those who didn't believe. "Little Songs" are my best attempt to be faithful with art and ministry at this stage in the game.
Hallels: How is this album different from your work with Vertical Church?
JON: Fundamentally, these songs aren't intended to be sung by a congregation. A few of them are, but not the majority. They are songs that I sing to people, not necessarily with them. My intention is still to lift their eyes towards something bigger, but in a different way. Inspiring art is the goal. I believe worship is incidental to inspiring art, so in that sense it's still a worship album. But crafted, beautiful art is the goal.
Hallels: What do you want your listeners to grasp after hearing this new album?
JON: I want my listeners to be delighted. Whether by the melody, the lyric, the production, it doesn't matter. Delight is God's super power, and I'm trying to follow in his foot steps. The widest doors into the kingdom are labeled Delight and Awe, which are both a species of joy. Of course, radical love and goodness proceed from Joy. "The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field." So the goal is joy, via delight. Whatever else comes from that is up God.
Hallels: If you have to pick three songs you are most proud of from the record, which would they be? And why?
JON: Every Little Song: it's the most concise and most resonant with my heart at this stage in the game.
Stained Glass: i never get tired of singing this song. The image of God's penetrating and transformative love is so simply yet refreshingly communicated. I wrote it with my friends, so I don't feel self-aggrandizing saying that :-).
Ever Chasing God: it was one of the first songs I wrote for the record and the demo is essentially what you hear on the record. It represents a lot for me personally and as a writer. The writing just sort of happened one sunday afternoon. Not a ton of editing. It felt and still feels like me and when my close friends responded well to it, i thought to myself "hmmm...maybe I can do this whole art/music business/ministry thing and still be me"
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