Hillsong United is one of the most popular Christian bands in the world. They were birthed out of Hillsong Church based in Sydney, Australia, in 1998, and have been producing music ever since.
The band is currently gearing up to release “PEOPLE,” an album centered around the band’s name and theme of “unification.”
Faithwire recently caught up with Hillsong United’s Jonathon Douglass, better known as J.D., who is a founding member of the band to talk about their upcoming album, the importance of music, and Hillsong’s songwriting process.
J.D. is the perfect combination of humorously sarcastic, yet earnest in all that he says. Faithwire sat down to talk with J.D. about United’s upcoming album “PEOPLE,” the biblical importance of music, as well as the band’s song creation process.
The importance of music
J.D. has been with Hillsong United since the beginning. He grew up in the church, and when Pastor Joel Houston, one of the worship leaders at the time, asked him to sing, he had no idea how far his journey with Hillsong United would take him.
J.D.’s passion isn’t for making albums or going on tours across the world, but for serving God. While talking with Faithwire, he expressed how much music has impacted his life, and the unique gift that it is from God.
“I’ve heard this quote over and over, but it goes, ‘Music has this way of entering your soul without permission,'” he said. “There is no doubt in my mind that God created music, and He created music to glorify Himself and to help people.”
J.D. also pointed out that Hillsong United doesn’t write these songs for the masses’ enjoyment or even to gain recognition. Instead, they write them so that people can understand the Word of God, and see the presence of God.
“That’s always our prayer,” J.D. said. “We don’t write these songs so people will like them or even enjoy them, but we write these songs to carry the Word of God and the presence of God.”
He went on to explain that music can help bring to life the peace that goes beyond understanding that the Bible talks about.
“It’s like music is a universal language,” he pointed out. “It’s definitely amazing and so good to be able to make music and melody and do what God created us to be.”
The music creation process
When asked if he has a new favorite song on the upcoming album, J.D. said, “I love them all.”
“Is that bad,” he joked, “to say that about the band I’m in?”
Sharing a little behind the scenes of the Hillsong music writing process, J.D. explained that the process is multifaceted for the writers.
“It’s a combination of wanting it to come from a real authentic place,” he explained, “and not just trying to take a subject from the Bible and put it to music — which isn’t a bad thing — we’ve just always wanted these songs to come from a place of personal honesty.”
J.D. explained how Joel Houston always talks about how the writers strive to write the most honest songs that they can “that are from our experience, from our struggles, or from our triumphs, or from a revelation that we have gotten from God through his Word.”
“That personal honesty of the song is really important for us,” he said. “But the most important thing is that it is biblical and that it lines up with Scripture.”
Hillsong has quite the songwriting process, according to J.D. In order to make sure each song is biblically accurate, each song, and every lyric has to be approved by a group of teaching pastors at the church.
“We write these songs to be sung, and we feel like we are putting God’s word in people’s mouths,” he said. “We need to make sure that we get it right.”
“None of us are Bible scholars,” he admitted. “We are all passionate and have read the Bible, but it can be so deep and we also want to make sure that these songs can be translated and still make sense.”
“It’s not an easy process,” J.D. said, noting it is often a battle between what they want to sing versus the sound, poetry and rhyme of the song.
The team at Hillsong has multiple checks in line so there is minimal risk of misinterpretation or problems with translation.
“The songs go through a washer machine, and then also we want it to be fresh,” he explained. “That’s the challenge.”
“PEOPLE”: The new album
On Friday, April 27, Hillsong United will release their latest album, “PEOPLE.” The album includes 12 tracks and unites around the common theme of unification.
“It can be horrible reading the news every day,” J.D. said “I have it on my phone and want to be in touch with what’s going on around in the current affairs, but its also, to be honest, I think we would all agree, it can be depressing and there can be fear cast because of it.”
“There is no better time for the people of God to unite around the common theme of God and his power, his word, and the truth of his salvation,” he said.
“PEOPLE” features 12 new tracks, four of which were released in March. One of the released songs, “Good Grace,” is the song that sums up the theme of the album to J.D.
“It’s about people coming together, people, strangers, neighbors, our blood as one, really uniting the church,” he explained. “But it’s really the church, uniting humanity, and encouraging that that is important.”
Music as a unifying force
As J.D. mentioned at the beginning of the interview, music is an undeniably powerful force, one that enters our hearts without permission. Not only does it help us experience the presence of God, but it also unites people.
“I think one of the greatest plans of the enemy is to bring disunity in the church, or even within believers,” J.D. said. “We are not always going to agree on the same things.”
He explained that he even disagrees with the person he loves most in the world — his wife — and that it’s natural for people to disagree on a variety of topics, but that doesn’t mean there has to be disunity.
“I think that definitely, that is a purpose behind this project and this tour is our purpose to do,” he noted, “to teach others the importance of unification under a common God. “