How does Planetshakers write those worship songs, and what does it take to be a Planetshaker? City News gets the answers to these and more questions from Pastor Sam Evans, Joth Hunt and Andy Harrison of Planetshakers.
Following the release of their albums Legacy – Part 1: Alive Again and Legacy – Part 2: Passion, Melbourne-based Christian worship band Planetshakers went on tour in January 2018, playing in Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines and Singapore. Before they took the stage at Suntec Convention Centre on Jan 21, City News caught up with Pastor Sam Evans, senior pastor of Planetshakers and lead vocalist; Joth Hunt, lead vocalist, music director and producer and Andy Harrison, drummer and youth pastor.
City News: Welcome to Singapore and thank you for speaking to us! Planetshakers released the Legacy album in two parts last year. There’s a particular track titled ‘Through It All’ that stands out for our church. Could you tell us how that song came about?
Joth Hunt: Whenever I write a song, I try to make sure that the lyrics of the song are relatable to people. I remember receiving that phrase ‘Through It All’, which we haven’t put into any song before. It’s so powerful! Everyone goes through stuff on a daily basis, and to make a decision to praise God ‘through it all’, that’s powerful. We want to put that kind of declaration in our songs to encourage people to praise Him through it all. Especially with the bridge (Even on the darkest day / Nothing will stop my praise), I was thinking about Paul and Silas in the Bible, and they made the choice to praise God no matter what and got their breakthrough.
CN: Planetshakers celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2017, and you are one of the biggest names in Christian praise and worship today. What’s your secret?
Sam Evans: Well, I really don’t know how, apart from the Lord who keeps inspiring, empowering, healing and transforming us. We just want more of His Kingdom to be revealed. These 20 years went past so quickly! We just kept following Him, stayed obedient to Him. In these 20 years, there were conferences, albums, churches that we planted. All these kept us very dependent on God. There’s just something in all of us — the fire just doesn’t go out!
CN: Is there any new vision or direction for Planetshakers after hitting the 20-year milestone?
SE: It’s gonna be more of the same!
JH: It’s a massive vision to shake the planet, so it doesn’t need much refining. It’s a big vision which we haven’t achieved yet, so we will keep on going towards it.
SE: We really want to see the Kingdom of God established. As long as there are still sick people, unsaved people or bound people, we’ve got to keep preaching His name, declaring God’s Word and worshipping until everything that Jesus showed us becomes a reality to us, all around the world.
How does the worship team work together with Pastor Russell Evans to bring about a new sound when it comes to each new year?
Andy Harrison: Everything in the church and ministry is directed by the prophetic word of God. There’s a specific Word for each year that he would receive. In 2016, the Word was “overflow”. Last year, it was “double portion”. So, everything in church takes on that journey and language. As the creative team, we take on the language as well and ask God for songs and expressions of that Word. There’s something so powerful about taking the Word of God and putting it into song, getting it into the people’s hearts and minds. That’s what makes Planetshakers’ music powerful: it’s not just a good thing, it’s a cutting-edge God thing.
Andy, as the youth pastor, what is it like for the youths in church? How do you keep things relevant?
AH: Well, we’re not reinventing anything, we’re just continuing to raise up the next generation. It’s a big part of our DNA to have the new sound, the new things God is doing. We want to speak the language of the day with our sound, opening the ears of the next generation so they can receive the Word of God through those songs. I don’t think the next generation is any different from the generation before; they’re just waiting for the right language. When we’re able to speak that language, it is powerful.
JH: We’re trying to make the music relevant, like this is what they actually want to hear. It’s not boring church music, but exciting and powerful.
We love your sound, it’s vibrant and powerful in its declarations. How do you write that “now” song of the Lord? What’s the process like?
JH: Well, we listen to what Pastor Russell is sharing his vision and prophetic words for the year. Building our own devotional lives, praying and worshipping together. We’ve written songs before he declares it, and then when he does, the Word and the song just goes together. We don’t want to write songs for songs’ sake, we want to lead that Spirit-led life and seek inspiration from Him.
AH: For me, God gives us all those supernatural ideas. The right words would come to us. We go through it together as a team, checking if there’s a witness among us that agrees with the song for that season. Sometimes the song is a great idea, but not for the “now”.
JH: One great example from the album would be “We Speak Life”. That song was written three, four years ago. Pastor Russell thought it was a good song, but not for then. Three years later, the song comes back to us again and it’s powerful when we include it at the right time. We’ve just recorded four new tracks in Malaysia, Philippines and Indonesia. Our new album will be released this year in three parts.
What’s your personal favorite Planetshakers song?
(Joth Hunt first rattles off the entire Legacy tracklist because he’s the producer and has heard each track countless times.)
SE: It depends on what season it is. Based on whatever you’re going through, whatever God’s doing in your life, that song becomes your favourite song because it becomes your anthem and theme, the song in which God brings about a breakthrough. Sometimes we don’t realise that the songs we wrote are such prophetic songs for different people going through different situations. I guess the all-time popular Planetshakers song is “Nothing Is Impossible”!
CN: We understand that Planetshakers set up a Singapore church last year. Tell us about that.
SE: Well, it’s pretty simple. We hear and obey God. It wasn’t in our plan to have a church in Singapore, since there are so many great ones! But God spoke to us. The pastor in charge was running our Cape Town, Africa campus. He felt his time there was up and as we were discussing where he could be sent to, we thought of Singapore.
AH: Melbourne has lots of international students and many get saved in our Melbourne church. They go back to their countries after graduation, but they still see themselves as Planetshakers. That’s how the idea was also birthed forth. We now have a couple of hundred people in the Singapore church.
CN: Finally, tell us: what does it take to be a Planetshaker?
SE: Laying down your lives for the cause of Christ. It’s not a scary thought, because God will place a desire in your heart to do something great for Him. You just go with that desire and God is so good. We don’t need to be afraid to surrender it all to Him. When we yield to Him, we do things we can’t do in the natural.
AH: I would just add “faith” to all their answers. Faith and obedience.