After a stellar 2016, Hillsong UNITED are back with their new album Wonder. Jessica Morris caught up with them and discussed the inspiration behind their nostalgic new project.
The cover art for Wonder is so distinctive. How did you come up with it?
Matt: The whole vibe of the album is nostalgic, so that reminds you of the music you fell in love with for the first time when you were a kid. We wanted to re-create something that would remind us of albums when we were younger, in little things like the song titles on the front.
Jad: And the little hi-fi stereo thing (on the front). It’s like, “Who puts that on stuff?” We do!
What does Wonder mean to you?
JD: Sometimes it’s easy to look at the world through the lens of wonder, but really the majority of the time it’s just a choice. And that’s an amazing thing. We actually have the choice to live through wonder, to do what Jesus taught us, which was, “If you want to enter the kingdom, you have to have that child-like faith”.
Taya: The whole theme of Wonder is having childlike faith and being in awe and wonder of who God is, and where he’s going to take us. And when you have that kind of perspective, when you’re looking at it—it doesn’t really matter what the circumstance is—that should encourage you to walk forward in a faith-filled kind of way.
The track, ‘Not Today’, is a power anthem. Where did it come from?
Matt: We had one line, which was, “Fear is just a liar running out of time”, and Joel Houston (lead singer) always makes things better and said, “Fear is just a liar running out of breath”. From this stemmed the idea of having God in his rightful place and putting the devil in his place. We give way too much credit to the devil for a lot of things, and as people who believe in God and trust that he is above all things, we have the right to say, “Not today”. It’s a fun song, but there’s a strong theme behind it.
UNITED has been a band for 17 years and between a movie, international tours and no. 1 albums, has had a lot of success. What has stayed the same?
JD: I think the way we all started the journey, none of us would have expected this whatsoever. We just started playing it in our youth group, writing songs that we were aiming at our youth group and hopefully the other people in our suburb. So the fact that music has travelled and had an impact on people the way it has—no-one is more surprised than us.
The Bible says, “Love God, love people”, so it’s to bring glory to God and to help people. And the best way we can help people is to point them to Jesus. We’ve started in the church and remained in the church, and I think that’s what our strength has been.
Who has inspired you musically?
Jad: Guys like Reuben Morgan, Ray Badham and Steve McPherson. We love and respect them because they really did forge the path for youth worship. One of the best things about [being mentored] by Reuben is I got to lead with Reuben, and I got to learn with Reuben, and I got to watch him be a dad. I got to watch him be a leader, and be a man. The best teaching happens almost through osmosis—just being and serving together is the greatest thing. It’s one of the best things about being in church.
As told at Hillsong Conference 2017.