by Sam Robinson
Seeker & Servant are an alternative Christian trio from Jackson, Mississippi who have just released their debut album: Into Your Love, I Go. It’s a triumph for a debut record, and there are some glorious sounds across the eight tracks. You can read my review of the album from earlier in the month here. I got to speak at length with lead singer Cameron Wood, and he walked me through the tracks on the record, as well as shared some insight into the production and programming used to create the album’s wonderful soundscapes.
SAM: Cameron, where in the world do we find you today?
CAMERON: You’d find me nestled in our home office, in Florence Mississippi.
SAM: What’s life like there?
CAMERON: Humid, year round. It only gets cold for a few weeks and then it seems like it’s hot all year round after that. Not really much going on. If you could picture what southern living looks like, Mississippi would be the poster for that.
SAM: Now you are part of Seeker & Servant along with your brother Chandler and also friend Kody. How did you get together as a band?
CAMERON: Well my brother Chandler and I, we’d been playing music for a long time – as long as I can really remember. Not really as a professional thing, starting out just something we enjoyed. We were very, very terrible [laughs] as we started, getting to know everything. We’d just be playing music. We used to be in a different group that was fairly popular around the south-east here in America called TopherMan. And about a year ago, we put TopherMan to rest because we got asked to be full-time worship leaders for a church here at our home[town] and we just started writing music geared more to congregational worship. And at the time the drummer that we had for our previous group didn’t want to leave and go to this new church, but stay at our home church, and at that time is when we needed to find someone to incorporate to the group. We were looking for another drummer and we ended up finding a programmer instead, which is where Kody comes in. He also does a lot of percussion too, he can also do drums as well but he adds a lot with the way he programs.
SAM: Does he prefer the programming to the drumming?
CAMERON: I don’t know, it’s really interesting. He’s a very eclectic kind of guy. He likes to do both, so that’s where a lot of the sound came from. My brother and I we’re more folky singer-songwriters when we’re writing music for the church and then when he came on it kind of developed that sound you hear that’s on the record.
SAM: Your first album, Into Your Love, I Go has just dropped. Are you thrilled that it’s now out there?
CAMERON: Yeah, very thrilled. It’s been something that when we started we didn’t really know we’d be making a record within a year. We just wanted to write music for this congregation – just music that was straight from our prayer and devotion life, where we were with our relationship with God and we wanted to be able to sing from that place in our lives. And we wanted to be able to make it in a way where people could sing along too. And we didn’t really know that six months after we started with Kody that we’d be working on a record and then going to record a record. I guess it just all happened the way God wanted it to. And then six months after recording, we’ve been working up the release and – a lot happened within a year that we didn’t plan but it all fell into place. It’s been really fun, but at the same time it’s been a good opportunity to look back and just realise how much God is in control and how much we need to trust him in our lives.
SAM: Has there been good feedback from the album so far?
CAMERON: There has been. We didn’t really know what to expect when we released the record. We spend a lot of time in our prayer life leading up to the release to let God do what he’s going to do with it – his will be done. And we’ve been getting a response. I mean, you hearing about it all the way in Australia, that’s one thing, y’know. Especially here in America, all across the country we’ve been able to be featured on a few different social media type of radio – kind of like Spotify, Rdio, we’ve just been on different things that we didn’t really expect to be on or to get noticed by when we released the record. The response we’ve got from people and what they’re saying about the record is – it’s just been breathtaking in a way because it’s not anything that we expected but we are excited about it, and just want God to be glorified through it.
SAM: The album opens with a version you’ve done of How Deep the Father’s Love For Us. It’s a magnificent tune and I love what you’ve done with it. Why did you choose to open with this song?
CAMERON: Over the past few years we’ve started to grow – I know my brother and I have – a love more for How Deep the Father’s Love. Even though it’s not necessarily an old-school hymn – [it was] written in the 90s – we’d just grown a love more for that kind of writing. A hymn style of writing, if you will. Just the lyric content of songs like that I think speak even more than the music does. We just thought because the record itself is all about God’s love and it’s a journey in the sense of how we experience God’s love – we just thought what a better song to open this type of record with. A song describing how deep is God’s love. How awesome is God’s love. That is pretty much the gospel in a song – what other song would be better for that than How Deep…?
SAM: And it sounds like there’s layer upon layer of instrumentation on that track, how does that all come together? Is a lot of it in the programming?
CAMERON: A lot of the synth pads is in the programming, but when we went into the studio we wanted to try to capture most of the sounds organically. We wanted to be able to play them. A lot of the key parts are actually tracked down. A lot of the percussion and the things that you think might be programming is actually us playing. There are a lot of layers of programming in there to achieve the sound we wanted, but a lot of it is actually hands-on. We all played a role in percussion – from the different parts we’re all playing cymbals or a portion of the drum. Even our engineer was going in there playing different parts. We just wanted to create something that just was organic so you could feel the passion on the record. Not just that you’re listening to something that was created all on computer.
SAM: Where did you record the album?
CAMERON: We recorded in Orlando, Florida. It’s about eleven-and-a-half hours from where we live. So we travelled… Our engineer who’s originally from Nashville where we’ve recorded previously with other groups, on and off, he moved to Orlando and we enjoy working with him so much. And he has this chemistry with us – we didn’t want to lose that – so we travelled to Orlando so we could keep him on as our engineer.
SAM: And was it a fun process to make the album?
CAMERON: It was definitely a very fun process. It wasn’t that strenuous a process either. Sometimes when you’re preparing for it you don’t really know what to expect. You can plan as much as you think you can, and then you get into the studio and things change. For us it was a really good experience all the way through from changing some parts around to just working on new things, and even incorporating our engineer who’s also a great musician to help us out with some things. It was a great process – we tried to incorporate a lot of prayer and God in the whole process as far as what went on in the studio. It helped that a lot. It was probably the best experience that I’ve had in a studio since I’ve been recording and writing music.
SAM: Can you tell me the story about where the band name Seeker & Servant came from?
CAMERON: Yeah when we left the group that we used to be in, Chandler and I were going through different names trying to find something that kind of incorporated who we were as individuals moreso than what we would be as a band. And we looked to different places of Scripture and I kept finding a recurring theme. And that was as believers we seek God constantly but we’re also servants at the same time. Serving God and serving people. And y’know, we just put those two together: seeking and trying to grow in our knowledge of who God is; and serving him at the same time. That’s really where that name was birthed out of.
SAM: As I listen to this album, I feel like it’s a pretty alternative sound for a Christian album, which I find really refreshing! Would you agree with that?
CAMERON: Yeah. We didn’t want to try and copy anyone at all. The world is filled with music. There’s so many artists out there with the age of the Internet anybody can record a song these days. It just seems like it’s getting to a point where originality is starting to become harder to create – your own original sound. We had influences from many different groups, people we enjoyed listening to. But we didn’t want to become copycats. We wanted to try to develop something that we enjoy but also as well as being something new into that type of market or scene you would put us into.
SAM: Who are your musical influences?
CAMERON: We listen to a lot. We have some secular groups that we listen to that influence our sound. One is M83. All three of the guys in the group, we love M83. And we love music like that. So a lot of our electronic side would be from that style of music. And we like a lot of folk music too. We definitely like Hillsong and things like that – they’re a staple when it comes to worship so you can’t really put them out either, they’re in there. We listen to so much music on a day-to-day basis – literally whenever we come together to meet we’re talking about bands that we’re listening to or bands that have been in our CD player for a week. It constantly changes… But from the folk – for this record we listen to a lot of the folk genre of music but at the same time a lot of the big atmospheric electronic music too. I guess that mix together is what helped produce the sound of what you hear on Into Your Love, I Go.
SAM: And M83 did do a film soundtrack for Oblivion, so you never know, you might do that one day too?
CAMERON: Yeah! We have got some our sound leaning to almost an ominous cinematic type of sound and we actually love a lot of soundtracks from movies and things, especially some of Hans Zimmer’s work. We wouldn’t say that it couldn’t be in our future. If it was, glory to God for that as well.
SAM: Our Soul’s Cry, what’s the story behind that song?
CAMERON: Our Soul’s Cry was actually written before Seeker & Servant was ever envisioned. [Laughs] It was a song written by my brother Chandler. We finished it up – actually we were playing a church camp during the summer one year. It was about two years ago. We finished it up there, I was on piano at this church camp in some of our downtime, and we just started playing and finishing up what he had started writing. Our Soul’s Cry really – I guess you could say is the first thing we ever wrote that opened a way for Seeker & Servant. It’s definitely a very mellow sound compared to the rest of the record. It’s very raw. There’s no electronic or any pads on the song, it’s just simple acoustic piano and a little bit of percussion.
But the song actually for me, and I could say also for my brother as well, that song speaks about who we are in our hearts. And we wanted to include it because that’s what we feel like on a day-to-day basis as Christians. We feel our souls and our hearts longing for God more and more, crying out to God more and more, and knowing that regardless of any circumstance that he is there. Cling to him, whether we’re faced with temptation or we’ve failed or sinned against God, anything like that – he is our rock and our foundation. That really sums up who we are as Seeker & Servant that we rely totally on God.
SAM: The song Let Me Not has a lot of whistling on it, I imagine if you were to do that live it’d be difficult?
CAMERON: That’s actually Kody. That came completely out of nowhere. We were listening back to some of the recorded tracks when we were in studio listening to some spaces that we could fill in, that we felt were empty in the track. Kody was actually sitting on a couch, started to whistle and – I was like – we need to put that on the track! Then I think the other guys were like ‘Yeah! Sounds awesome!’ so we did it. I can’t remember if he whistled all the way through. I think there was a portion of it – but whistling for that period of time would be definitely very difficult to accomplish. I think some of it is looped, after a period of time. We wanted it to continue going through that part, it just adds something different.
SAM: And have you done that live?
CAMERON: Well, live – I think we’ve tried to experience some of the whistling. Live, that is programmed. We might get to a point eventually where we become professional whistlers and we can accomplish that feat. But at this moment in time we have not.
SAM: You’d need a massive glass of water there ready to go to keep that going.
CAMERON: Yeah, definitely.
SAM: Now, Into Your Love, I Go, it’s a great record. Is there a key message or big idea to the album?
CAMERON: When we started writing the record, we knew we had a general theme. And we came up with the title for this when we started writing the song, Into Your Love, I Go. And as the record began to develop we began to see a journey the record kinda took on. One is starting with the first few tracks – just experiencing God’s love; and then when you hit Let Me Not and Meditate, it’s almost like meditating or studying God’s love; and then the last part of the record is being joyous in it and fully experiencing God’s love. It’s almost like a journey from the beginning to the end that wasn’t planned at all.
Before we even went to the studio we kinda knew the track listing we wanted because the way that the songs led into one another it did create that journey and we wanted to keep that on the record. So that’s why Into Your Love, I Go is the last track because – once you become a Christian, once you become saved, you’re entering into God’s love. That’s a big thing. We wanted to capture how large and how big of a thing that is through music.
SAM: The song Meditate (Psalm 1) is instrumental, it’s short, it’s sweet. What’s the story behind this song?
CAMERON: This song started out completely as a programmed song that Kody in his spare time was creating. And he’d do this from time to time, if he came up with something that he liked or heard. When we got together for practice he would demo it for us. And then if we liked something often we would try to transpose it to the full band. With this song, we loved it. At first we thought maybe it could end up being a full song. Then as we got to finishing up the record writing process, we just felt we needed something almost like a breath in the middle of the record. And that’s what Meditate was for us. We were like – let’s just leave it as an interlude track, as that moment to where you can take a breath and meditate on what the record has been telling us so far before we jump into the last half of the record.
SAM: And it’s called Meditate (Psalm 1), why Psalm 1?
CAMERON: Well, Psalm 1 is really meditating on God’s word. That’s what Psalm 1 talks about… the name is straight from there.
SAM: Cameron, we’ve started doing something in 2014 called the FAST FIVE. I’m going to throw five questions at you. Are you up to the challenge?
CAMERON: Ha, yes, let’s try it.
SAM: OK. Question 1 – When you were younger, what did you want to be when you grew up?
CAMERON: A musician.
SAM: Ah! Living the dream. Question 2 – What’s the last movie you saw, and was it any good?
CAMERON: Last movie I saw was Saving Mr. Banks, and I did like it. Probably not as much as my wife. But I did think it was a very well-written movie.
SAM: Question 3 – If you could collaborate with any musician in the whole world for a track on your next album, who would you pick?
CAMERON: There’s an artist named J.T. Daly. He’s in the band Paper Route. They’re from America. We actually would love to try and get him to actually produce and help write our next record.
SAM: Question 4 – What’s your favourite book of the Bible, if you have one?
CAMERON: James. James is written to already-believers as a way to recess your life. Are you really walking with God? It’s a great thing for me to read – I love reading it throughout the year just to help me re-evaluate where my life is, and am I truly walking with God?
SAM: Final question! Question 5 – What album can’t you get enough of at the moment?
CAMERON: Ummm… Well, the record that I’ve been listening to the most of lately is from a band, who are actually an independent band out of America. They’re called Air Review. And I’ve just found them a couple of weeks ago – it was a Spotify ‘if you like this, listen to this’ type of thing. I get caught in that wormhole sometimes listening to music. And I’ve been listening to a lot of the record. It’s one from start to finish that I will listen to over and over again. It kind of reminds me of our record in the way that it’s built.
SAM: You’ve released this album at the very start of 2014, what have you got planned for the rest of the year?
CAMERON: Well, Kody is finishing up his last semester of college right now. And he’ll be finished out in May. So right now as far as touring goes, we’re planning on doing something. Here we have spring break which is in March, and we’re planning on doing a house show run where we just take some of our gear and have really raw and organic sessions in some houses across America for a week or so. Then we don’t plan on touring heavily with this until the summer. So our plan right now is promoting and marketing the album. Getting some more reviews of the record in magazines, some write-ups of what we’re doing. That’s the plan that we have currently. Then in the summer, hit touring pretty heavily for the rest of the year.
SAM: Would you like to tour this record outside of America one day?
CAMERON: Absolutely. Actually, another big market is Europe. There’s the Good Christian Music Blog and we got connected with him and he just started really liking what we did. He had the rights to stream the record first so it actually streamed in the UK before it even was over here. That was really cool. We have people from Spain, we just had someone yesterday buy something from Australia. [Laughs] We’re not going to say we won’t tour, we’d love to do that if God makes a way for us to tour outside the United States.
SAM: The last track on the album is also the title track, Into Your Love, I Go. It’s bright, it’s anthemic. What should we listen out for as we hear this song?
CAMERON: My favourite section is when my brother sings the second verse and as it starts to build. I just love the drop. The drop – I feel like, you’re almost ready to be submerged by what’s being sung there. The music altogether hits at the same time. It’s a track for me, when we wrote it, I wanted people to almost close their eyes to. And be taken away by what’s going on in the music. A good place to do that – if you want to start closing your eyes – I’d say do it in the second verse, and let it take you from there.
SAM: Cameron from Seeker & Servant, thank you so much for your time today and talking us through this wonderful record. All the best for the year ahead.