Northern Ireland Christian band White Stone Receivers (WSR) have recently released two new single "Thank You Jesus (You're the Treasure)" and "Forsaken." WSR will follow up these two singles with their six-song EP in May 2021. The EP is called Songs for the Wilderness.
We are honored to be able to catch up with WSR's leader Scott McKeown for this exclusive interview.
Q: Scott, thanks for doing this interview with us. Who makes up White Stone Receivers?
White Stone Receivers is a music project led by myself (Scott McKeown). Songs were written by McKeown. I also sing (along with my wife, Janeen!) and play bass on the recordings, with musical instrument input from long time friends and 'A class' musicians from the rock band 'crave' (Trevor Brimage, David Benson and Jonathan Burnside) including Steven Lucas on keys/synthesisers. Together with vocal input from all our wives! Running with the 'stones' imagery, I t's a conglomerate really!
Q: What's the significance and meaning of the name White Stone Receivers?
When we (musicians above) were planning the first (and only!) outdoor practice ahead of the recording, I was looking through scripture for a project name which would capture both the heart of God and our role in His creation story. In the middle of lockdown restrictions the verse of scripture in Revelation 2:17 grabbed me. It speaks of God Himself giving each believer, to those who He calls overcomers in Jesus name, a white stone on which He has engraved a new name for each of us.
I love this imagery as it shows both the loving, relational nature of our God in the fact that He Himself will present believers each with their own white stone and also that He personalises the stone...He gives us a new name. In today's culture where we seek/crave that 'personalised' touch, it's like God reminds us that this has been His idea from the beginning of creation.....He knows us fully and wants us to know Him personally! White Stone Receivers (WSR) captures that for me.
Q: Bring us back to the beginning of the journey, how was the band formed? What were your dreams back then?
As mentioned, I had been playing, writing and recording with the other men in crave for around 15 years. The music in crave had a harder rock sound and the songs were written from the perspective of God's influence and working in our lives. This worked for the audiences (church youth groups, pubs/clubs and festivals in Ireland and the UK) we were playing to, however God had also in parallel given me a bunch of song ideas which were written from within my local church family. I knew those musical ideas were for more for congregational worship. As a result I kinda sat on those songs for a few years, as I knew they didn't really sit in crave.
There were a series of events which led to the recording of the WSR EP ('Songs for the Wilderness' due May 7th 2021).....I organised and led an evening of singing in my local church and this included these 'congregational' songs. Feedback was really positive and the seed to record them 'at some point' was planted...that was April 2016! After this, I began praying over 'when' the recording might take place, 'who' I would be recording with and 'where'...I also began budgeting/saving for the task! The dream was simple - to get music out that would encourage believers in a format that was accessible to the church for singing in local fellowships. I was not thinking about a band/group at all...hence I am still calling WSR a music project! The task was to be faithful in recording and releasing the songs.
Between 2016 and November 2020 (when I finally recorded the songs!) there were a few circumstances that meant I was unable to get to the studio. So I kept praying and budgeting!
Early February 2020 I contacted Trevor Michael (song producer, mixer, master extraordinaire! And the man behind all the crave records) to check availability to record that year....November 2020 was confirmed and agreed with Tre Sheppard at Zero Hour Studio (Coleraine, Northern Ireland). The rest as they say, is history!
Q: Of all the countless Christian bands out there, what do you think makes your music stand out?
There are so many gifted artists and anointed songs out there Timothy! I am not sure where WSR music sits amongst those. I do however know and believe the songs were recorded for a time such as this...hence the EP title 'songs for the wilderness' and not 'songs from the wilderness', the tracks were in the making for several years prior to COVID-19, but God in His perfect timing chose a year of lockdown to enable things to happen. I believe God is going to use the songs in three ways...
1. to bless, encourage and remind His church that we are precious to Him
2. that He has not, nor will He ever leave or forsake us in these wilderness days or indeed in any life season
3. As a clarion call that we are part of His great story and plan to make all things new!
Q: Tell us about your new single "Thank You Jesus (You're the Treasure)." What is the song about and why are you excited about it?
'Thank You Jesus (You're the treasure)' was written shortly after the song 'forsaken', a middle-cross sacrifice themed tune, and focuses on who Jesus is as our victorious saviour and King....essentially giving thanks for His position now, post Calvary. We can never thank Jesus enough! Sometimes I forget that it is Jesus Himself, and not the heaven in which He now rules and reigns, that is the treasure and prize that awaits each believer. This song reminds us of these truths!
Q: You have a new EP coming out too. Who are some of the people you have worked for this new EP?
As mentioned earlier, Trevor Michael at 7Core music continues to be a linchpin in all things God has given me in music! I think we have been working together for close to 20 years! Trev has a genuine heart for the worship of God and real gifting in drawing out the best in musicians (please visit www.7coremusic.com). Trevor was responsible for the production and mastering of the 6 songs on the EP. The WSR tracks would not be where they are without Trev's input. For the mastering, I also had the privilege of working with Drew Lavyne at All Digital Mastering in NYC (www.alldigitalmastering.com). Drew has gifted ears (if that's a thing!) for getting the right overall sound for a project and he did just that for the tracks on the 'songs for the wilderness' EP.
Q: What were a couple of highlights in the making of this new EP "Songs for the Wilderness"?
For me, in the studio, it was really special to see God take these songs, written on my acoustic at home, to a whole other level! In particular 'I will follow', which is a personal resolve to follow God in both the mountain top and valley lows of life, really took on a life of its own and has become my personal favourite in terms of the song message and meaning. The studio recording experience for this EP is something I will not forget. Mainly because of lockdown and the use of masks and socially distancing etc. in an environment which is typically set up to enable/facilitate interaction!
Looking back this made the experience surreal at times....yet I think that because of all the challenges lockdown brought, it has made the finished product all the more special. We will not be forgetting this period in our lives time in a hurry....the fact that despite the dark cloud of CoVID19, God gave our families an opportunity to serve and focus on Him in this way. I am continuing to trust Him now to get the music to the ears he desires!
Q: How do the songs on this new record help our readers prepare themselves for the wilderness of life?
I guess I can sum this up in a few lines for each track on the EP...
1. Creation song.....things are broken now, but fear not, just as it was in the beginning God has a plan to make all things new, we are living in this story! That's exciting....keep focused on that.
2. Treasured Possession....God is faithful, He can be trusted. He has told us that those who trust and believe in Him are His treasured possession. This is something He repeats in both old and New Testament scriptures. Take heart!
3. Forsaken....Jesus asks that until He returns for us, that we are to remember Him, His once for all sacrifice, and live in this life forgiving and freeing others as He has forgiven and freed us. This is affirming!
4. Thank You Jesus....our natural response to all He has done for us...this is a great reminder of who Jesus is!
5. I will follow.....yes, these are difficult times, we often wonder why certain things happen to us as believers. Yet God calls us to rest on His promises for the mountain top and valley low seasons in life, and praise Him in all circumstances. We may never get an explanation for why certain things have happened in our lives, but ultimately we understand and know that Christ is better. Choose to focus and live for that no matter what comes. This is the life and heart choice which always pleases God!
6. Heal our land....a prayer to God based on 2 Chronicles 7:14. Originally penned as a prayer for Ireland, in these days is all the more appropriate for our world. Healing spiritually, physically, culturally, relationally, economically is so needed right now; I trust and pray listeners to WSR music walk away encouraged, knowing that not only is this healing always been God's plan for all people, but that He calls us to action in fulfilling His plan! Nothing will stand in his way!
Connect with WSR:
Email: [email protected]
YouTube: White Stone Receivers