Kutless' Nick DePartee on Being a Believer
By Hannah Goodwyn
CBN.com Senior Producer
Nick DePartee, guitarist for the Christian rock/worship band Kutless, loves making music that matters. Fulfilling a dream, DePartee joined the band a number of years ago and has had an incredible journey ever since. Kutless’ new album, Believer, solidifies the group’s purpose and DePartee’s mission in life to produce songs that challenge and encourage followers of Christ.
Recently, DePartee spoke with CBN.com about making the new record and why it was important to release.
Why does it seem fitting to release your new album, Believer, now?
Nick DePartee: The cool thing about where we’re at for this record is just that we learned a lot with it as a band and what it means to write songs. Ultimately for Believer, the songs started getting written and all of a sudden we saw that the common theme was that these are songs for the believer and for those who are wondering what it’s like to be a Christian.
It was not a worship record, per se, but there are worship songs and there are rock songs. It’s sonically a grouping of everything that we’ve done over the last 10 years. We finally landed in where we really feel comfortable as a band sonically. So we just wanted to write some real honest songs about the different aspects of what it’s like to be a Christian.
There’s one called “Identity” that talks about truly finding an identity in Christ and then what that really looks like in our life, and just to put all of our confidence, all of our self-worth is all in Christ. It’s only by Him that we’re able to truly have an identity and not get caught up in being distracted in our daily lives.
Believer came out of us wanting to write some honest songs about where we’re at in our walks with the Lord and where we’re at with our ministry. These songs ended up being our favorites. They’re really just talking pretty bluntly about being a Christian; so we thought Believer is a great title.
Were there any discoveries as you were making the album that surprised you?
DePartee: You always have these points you’re trying to hit and these certain goals, and those are great, but I think the best thing that happened with this album was a lot of just letting go and not stressing about those details.
We wanted to write the best songs possible, of course, and we want to have impact, but I think the biggest thing that we’ve been learning as a band is just what success really means. It’s not necessarily selling a million albums or getting on the biggest tour. Success has been redesigned for us. It’s how much of an impact does our music have and how effective are we being for an eternal spectrum, not just in an industry or in a business. It seems simple, but it’s funny that it’s taken us 10 years to really wrap our brains around where we’re at as a band and what we really want out of this and what we want to accomplish.
Of course, we want to be successful and do the big tours and sell lots of records. Every band wants to do that. But the biggest breakthrough for us has been learning that that stuff’s so empty if we’re really not doing it for Christ and to expand the Kingdom. It’s basically us learning how get out of the way and let God do what He wants to do.
Which new songs did you write or help write?
DePartee: There are about six or seven of the songs on the new album that I had any part in writing. There’s one that sticks out. It’s actually our current single. It’s called “Carry Me to The Cross.”
When it got written, I was in my room, actually, just playing a piano and it turned into this worship chorus. I was just singing “Hallelujah” over and over again and started to try to write something. I couldn’t get more lyrics in the chorus. I just kept wanting to sing “Hallelujah.” I wrote it, sketched out a verse roughly. Then the next day, I had a writing appointment with a buddy of mine named Jason Walker and another guy, Mark Stuart, who used to sing for Audio Adrenaline. So we got together and we ended up writing it, and the song ended up being on the album.
It’s basically just about how daily our walk with God is and how we can’t even crawl to the foot of the Cross on our own strength. It’s got to be God pulling us up to our feet every day. And that the same God that created the universe came down and died for us and reaches into our lives every day and does pull us up. Even in the smallest problems in our lives and the struggles that we go through, it’s God every time that is able to reach into each one of our lives and pull us to our feet and draw us back to the Cross.
“Hallelujah.” That’s a big word used a lot in the Church. What does that word mean to you?
DePartee: You get overwhelmed by the fact that massive God does love each and every one of us specifically and individually. “Hallelujah” to me is that realization where you’re knocked off your feet by trying to wrap your brain around the fact that God is real, and He’s real in every one of our lives daily. It’s that overwhelming awe of who God is; and I don’t think we have any word that can really explain that. “Hallelujah” is the intent to put that into words.
Someone close to the project said they wanted to stretch lead singer Jon Micah vocally on the album and that this was the best he’s ever sung. Did you feel musically challenged on Believer?
DePartee: Absolutely. First of all, I agree. They stretched Jon Micah in such good ways. I’m really excited about the way his vocals turned out. We had two producers on this record; one guy was Chris Stevens. He’s done a lot of work with Toby Mac and Sanctus Real and a bunch of awesome bands; he did six of the songs. He’s got such a great ear for just melody. As I went in to go do guitar parts on it, he challenged me to just be simple. He’s like, “Try to stop putting four guitar parts. Let’s put one guitar part that sounds right. Let’s not cover it up with just a bunch of noise,” you know. So he really challenged me to be simple and really to be specific with my parts, which was a massive challenge for me. It was just great. I felt really stretched.
Then Dave Lubben, who’s the other guy, produced it, as well. He’s another guy that’s great with melody. He applies almost like a vocal melody into other instruments. He really challenged me to be specific with my part, but worked with me in finding the right melodies that won’t clash with the vocal melody or won’t clash with the other parts.
God fulfilled a dream of yours when you joined Kutless. Has He given you a new dream?
DePartee: I remember the first show I played was in Switzerland. When you grow up your whole life wanting to be in a band, and all of a sudden I’m in Switzerland playing with a professional band, and we just packed out a concert hall…. I remember standing outside the venue almost being let down that night. I was like, “Man, now what? This is what I’ve been dreaming of my whole life.”
And I remember God speaking to me in that moment and telling me, “Why are you doing it? Are you really doing this for Me or is this just a dream?” That impacted me. It was the first time I really realized how unfulfilling something, even a great dream can be, if Christ really isn’t at the core of it.
Since I joined the band, I have realized that my passion is in the writing. I love writing the songs and being a part of that process. Kutless will be done one day, whether it’s in a year or 20 years, who knows, but my dream is to be a writer full-time. Bands are going to come and go, but there’s always a need for real songs and honest songs that speak to people.
Hannah Goodwyn serves as the Family and Entertainment producer for CBN.com. For more articles, visit Hannah's bio page.
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