[ gospel music week 2005 ]
cMusicWeb.com: Ok, I usually don't ask this question. Where does the name "The Swift" come from?
Mike Simons (bass, vocals): The name The Swift comes from 1 Corinthians Chapter 9 [where] Paul talks about our life is a race. He says we are to run the race as if we are to obtain the prize. So it is kind of the imagery of just being aggressive with your life and your faith and casting everything else aside and chasing after the ultimate goal. And really placing your priorities where they need to be and chasing after it.
cMW: Do you feel that you are doing what you originally set to do when you first started the band? Why/Why not?
Britt Edwards (lead vocals, piano): I don't really know what we set out to do, but we started out just doing camps and retreats. And we would do these concerts here and there. But I don't think we ever set out to get the record deal and booking agent and all that sort of stuff. All of that just sort of fell into place because we were just doing what we felt the Lord wanted us to do. So we were leading worship at camps all the time and the churches that were at the camp would have us come and do a concert. So we just somehow wound up here through different people that we knew that had connections in the industry. And I still don't know what we are setting out to do yet. We are just doing whatever the Lord wants us to do.
Trae Drose (drums): I think as a ministry, we have always had the same values. The importance of respecting the platform you have been given and the time that you have on stage. To be very direct with the message of sharing the gospel. Not just if it feels ok or if it seems that there is an opening or some down time where kids are listening we will do it. Just being purposeful as a ministry we have always been very prayerful and [we have] tried to make decisions — not just guess work but pursuing things in prayer, pursuing things in a manner hopefully that God can use us best. Not to just walk through any door that opens.
So from the beginning we were doing camps and conferences, and we still are. That is still a big part of our heart. And as far as being with a label and adding booking, we wanted to put together a team that could enhance the ministry side of what we are doing. The whole band thing is what our ministry is surrounded by. Nobody wants to be a typical Christian band, of course, but we would love to be able to do some touring but also to continue doing our camps and conferences because that is when you get to invest and spend a little bit more quality time with people instead of just playing and leaving. And we still do some concerts where we don't get to hang out much. But I guess that is where we are kind of where we are at, but we are always seeking the Lord, making sure that is where we are supposed to be and staying true to that vision.
cMW: That is always a good idea!
Mike: We are not the greatest players, so we don't have the luxury of just focusing on our music. God is constantly turning us back to him. So it has to be ministry minded and focused just because we are not very good at playing our instruments.
cMW: Our motto is "A different approach to music." How does The Swift fit into that?
Mike: Our whole persona, the way that we individually and as a band approach music, it is not all about the image of the band. It does not break our hearts when people listen to the CD and we don't convey an artistic message in a certain way. We could care less about just how seriously people view us as a band or as artists, I guess. I mean music is just an absolute blessing and we are glad we get to do it. But it is completely the vehicle for us goofballs to get in front of people and just convey the message and the convictions that we have and based off scripture. Not just entertainment for the sake of entertainment. There can be Christian entertainment, which is wonderful. I love going to Christian shows. And I am not saying that everybody every second has to be quoting scripture from the stage.
Trae: But at the same rate, we don't want to get up there and just share stories and appeal to emotions either. "I was in a car accident and then I met Christ and then my life was changed." Definitely there is a place for that. But we know that our stories can't change lives. But the word of God does. Not to discredit anybody's testimony. It's not like that. But just the fact that there is power in God's word.
cMW: I read in your bio, "It's not music for music's sake or how cool you can be as a band. It's about how many people you can reach." Can you explain that further?
Mike: It goes back to the whole deal — if you take yourself so seriously in the music industry, then you lose focus and you lose your priorities and what your goal is. And when we looked at doing the new record, it wasn't, "How can we totally top ourselves and just do something that blows the music world away." We looked at it and said, "Alright, we have to be stewards of the blessing that we are given. All this opportunity to put out a record that tons of people are going to hear. It is going to be in stores. We are going to get to do radio stuff and magazine interviews and web stuff. So how can we be the most accessible on a global level to the most amount of people. What can we take away from our music that hinders accessibility on a widespread level?"
I think with that goal in mind, we made the music work for that — to just appeal to the most amount of people that we could for the sake of furthering the message that God has given us. Music and the music's direction came second to what our goal is and our ministry mindset. And it is easy for us to do that. We love to play and we can be serious about playing but it has come totally second to what we are about - what we have always been about.
Trae: Being a good steward of the music industry — to not just put it out there for our pleasure because we want to make unique different cool music. We can use our computer and come up with our fun quirky stuff and do our funny videos on our website if we just want to be artistic and funny and goofy using the platform. But [we are] using the platform we have been given to move the word forward.
cMW: What is one difference between leading worship at a conference and a regular show or at a camp?
Britt: I think different places you go are — each church is going through a different things. Some churches may be doing an outreach campaign, another church may be doing a building campaign, another youth group may be gearing up for their mission trip, another group may be coming off of their mission trip. So I think it is important to know where the body is that you are in. If you have a church that is coming back from a mission trip or something and they are just real hyped up because they have been serving the Lord really hard for a couple of weeks. They are all super excited.
You come into those things and it is very easy to lead worship. A lot of times we will be doing a song and we can just move back from the mic and the audience will take it so it becomes its own thing. And then there are some places where you have to give them the fun little happy clap your hands song and try to get them into singing. And it is almost like pulling teeth. But I think the key too is to make Christ the focus. Because if we are just trying to get kids hyped on happy fun songs, we can get them to sing and we can get them to participate, but that wouldn't mean we are getting them to worship.
So for us, we try to incorporate the reading of scripture a lot in our worship. Hopefully if there was anything that would get a Christian excited, it would not be what the Christian artist said, but what the Lord has said in his word. He has given promises and encouragement's and challenges from the word. I think that word tends to soften people's heart and put them in the right focus. Because that is the challenge really — being in a band. Because when the curtain opens and when the lights come on, everybody automatically is focused on you or is focused on the screen.
The burden or the weight of the worship leader is to try to get their focus off of what is going on the stage or what is going on the screen. It is a challenge sometimes because you have all these spotlights and these lights flashing everywhere and all this stuff going on the screen and then your job is to get those people off of that stuff. So you are almost fighting. That is what we do for worship type things. We would rather not have the lights dim low and have all those crazy lights going on stage. We do concerts were we ask to leave the house lights on. [We say], "Don't worry about renting lights." Because a lot of times we feel that is sort of getting people to focus on the stage or we are trying to create this mood or whatever. There is no mood that should be set except for Christ and what He has done.
Mike: In worship and in the whole leading worship realm, there is a common misconception. We hear it all the time. People come up to Britt and say, "Boy you really took us to the throne tonight. You really led us to the feet of God." Those people are genuine in their intentions. But I think people expect the band to take you to this higher place. Yet the bands responsibility and duty — if you are leading worship — all focus and direction and attention is to be placed on Christ and then from there, by glory and attention being brought to Christ, and all honor and respect and homage being paid to Christ, then that is how you get to the throne room.
Christ is the only mediator between God and man. There is no worship band that can take you to the throne room or to the feet of God. It is Christ himself. We are learning to change the perspective of leading people to God and to the throne room, to effectively lead worship, you have to make Christ the center of focus. I know that sounds kind of simple and like a no-brainer to a lot of people. That is one of the biggest things I have learned in leading worship and that whole realm.
Britt: I think one of the things that we really try to do, and we never set out to do this, but the whole thing with we want the house lights on and we don't like a lot of production [and] we don't like a lot of crazy things going on the screen because we don't want to create an environment that these kids could not replicate in their own churches. We do not want kids to leave and go back to their church and say, "Man, our youth band stinks!" We want them to go back with their focus right. So it does not matter who you have on stage or what you have on screen and it does not matter if they have two little ghetto lights on their stage in their youth group. But we want to teach people how to create a genuine worship environment that has nothing to do with production and all that stuff.
Mike: I know in my own life, when I separated myself from the local church and went on a retreat and I was exposed to this giant production thing. That was an avenue that the Lord used to totally speak to me on a different level. Because there is an experience that you can have in an enormous group of people when you are exposed to an incredible band and people are that are strong leaders that speak with authority and lead with authority. There is a balance there. So we are not saying that one is good or one is bad. You just have to learn what is appropriate. I guess that just comes with leading under the direction from the Lord when things are moving. When to totally stop all the production and lights and bring the house up and just play with the piano and vocal and let the crowd do the singing or whether to go all out with video and stuff. It is a lot of common sense and a lot of just being led by the Lord. There is a good balance in everything.
- Kim Flanders
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