Charles Billingsley is no stranger to the Christian music industry. His accomplished career has included a two-year tenure as lead vocalist for award-winning vocal group Newsong, and a lengthy list of solo performances (sometimes averaging more than 200 concerts a year) across the nation and beyond. With seven full-length recordings, Charles has continued to build a loyal following over the years, and is recognized as one of Christian music’s most powerful inspirational vocalists.
With such a musical history to his credit, it hardly seems right to say he’s “just getting started.” But that’ s exactly how Charles feels. So when the time came to record his newest project, Secret Conversation, Charles knew exactly what he wanted to do. He saw the kinds of songs that seemed to resonate most with his audiences as he traveled across the country, and he wanted to be a catalyst to help bring the church body to a new understanding of worship. It’s a slightly new direction for an artist who finds himself in a new stage of life.
With the help of longtime friend and producer Don Koch, Charles set out to craft a brand new collection of songs that would not only celebrate who Christ is, but ponder His magnitude and greatness. It was a goal he and Don had in mind from the very first discussions about the album.
“Worship is not a fad,” says Charles. “It’s biblical. I think we now have a generation who wants to know who God is. They’re searching for real truth and real life. So the songs are completely vertical in nature. We intentionally wrote every song straight to God.”
“Charles is one of the few artists who can walk into so many different scenarios and make them work,” Don says. “His audiences range all ages and denominations, so we wanted this album to stylistically be able to hit all of those areas. As we started working on this CD, I knew one of the things people loved about Charles is that he can do a lot vocally that a lot of performers just can’t do. So I felt like we would be leaving a stone unturned if we didn’t keep part of that quality. Part of the worship experience is someone taking you to a place you haven’t been before, and those are the kinds of songs I think we ended up with on this project.
One of the major songwriting collaborations for Secret Conversation came about unexpectedly when Charles invited Don and co-writer Brian White to travel with him early last year to a three-day youth event where he was performing in the small town of Altus, Oklahoma. The host church had set aside a special room where the three musicians would be able to write and work on the album during their three-day stay. As the three spent time crafting the lyrics and music for the new project, the church’s youth group kept a steady prayer vigil in another room of the church. One song that came out of that experience was "A Loss For Words." It's the first radio release of "Secret Conversation" and shot straight up the charts to hold at #1 for three weeks.
“Those three days were amazing to all of us,” Charles shares. “I think we wrote almost half of the songs on the album during those days at that church. God was truly directing that time, and we came away with some of the project’s best material.”
“I’d never been in a writing experience like that before,” Don adds. “The record-making process is a collective effort. It’s not only about what God is speaking to that artist, but also what He’s speaking to all of the people involved with making that record. We would all have these collective thoughts and then just start walking down the road with some of those ideas. I think God was faithful to take us where he wanted to go with these songs.”
Secret Conversation is a cohesive mix of musically captivating songs that relay a profound message of truth, hope and faithfulness. The energetic, gospel-infused “Psalm 71” and “More of You” both come complete with a powerful gospel choir, while songs like the singable “Fill This Place,” “Your Love for Me” and “In the Secret,” are sure to become live worship favorites. “The Altar,” “In Your Presence” and “In the Room” all become powerful anthems as they blend beautiful instrumentation with Charles’ dynamic vocal range.
In addition to his work on the new album, another new chapter opened for Charles as he moved his wife Shae and two sons, Caleb (4) and Cooper (3), from Atlanta, Ga., to Lynchburg, Va., where he accepted an invitation by the late Liberty University President Dr. Jerry Falwell to join his staff as worship leader at Thomas Road Baptist Church and as artist-in-residence at Liberty University. As part of his tenure at Liberty, Charles spends time leading worship with Liberty’s 7,000 college students each week, and facilitates the school’s newly-added Praise & Worship degree.
“This has been a great time for my family and me,” Charles shares. “It has allowed me to be more selective and focus on investing in other people for the first time in my life. For all these years, it’s been wonderful to see lives changed as a result of the concert ministry, but I love the fact that I am now having the opportunity to influence and invest in people over the long-term. In some ways, it feels like I’m just now starting my ministry.”
Charles says he could not be more excited to be working with a brand new generation of worship leaders. As Liberty’s numbers continue to grow each year, and as a worship movement continues to rise among a new generation worldwide, the timing could not have been more perfect, Charles says.
“It has been wonderful to teach every one of these songs to these kids on campus and for them to take them to their home churches, and so on. This next generation coming up cares very little about performance—they want to get involved and tuned into the worship. This is all about continuing to serve the church with new songs written straight to Him. There’s always a new song to be sung to the Lord.”
Charles continues, “I think we all have one common goal in ministry—to see lives changed. These are songs that will help us do that, but it’s important for us to remember that worship is not just about music. It’s a lifestyle. I hope these songs will spur believers onward to live that lifestyle of worship. But when the record’s over and the rubber hits the road, we must have that ongoing relationship with Him.”
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