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Artist Interview

Keith and Kristyn Getty Share Hymns for the Christian Life

By Hannah Goodwyn Senior Producer
It's been 10 years since the popular modern-day hymn "In Christ Alone" was first penned by Keith Getty and worship leader Stuart Townend. Since then, Keith and his wife Kristyn have dedicated their lives to producing more deeply spiritual hymns for congregations around the world.

Their latest project, Hymns for the Christian Life, features their signature sound and a few recognizable names joining them on vocals, including Alison Krauss, Ricky Skaggs and Moya Brennan. The Irish duo, whom now call Nashville home, spoke with recently about their record and ministry. Here are excerpts from that conversation:

Hannah Goodwyn: Hymns for the Christian Life has a "green grass" sound. Could you explain what that means?

Keith Getty: It just began really in our home when we had Irish musicians and some Bluegrass musicians, so it's got that sort of combination of it. It's an Irish sound, I guess, at heart…

Kristyn Getty: The infusion of two different worlds that actually have a lot more in common than you'd think.

Keith: That's right. Some Bluegrass and American folk sounds in there, too.

Hannah: So, it's basically your past and your present in music?

Keith: That's a very articulate way to put it.

Hannah: Could you sum up the message of the new album?

Keith: We wrote hymns for different parts of the services in church worship. Then we thought, we were to write songs that we're for daily Christian living. So, we took subjects that challenged us: community, money, work and caring for the needs of others and for . . . .

Kristyn: Praying for each other.

Hannah: You've said that you want your music to join worship with daily life.

Kristyn: The things that we sing on Saturday and here on Sunday, you know, should apply to the stuff of everyday life. That's where most of us live Monday to Friday, and how our faith interacts with the things in the path that God has given each of us to do.

Hannah: Why are hymns, new and old ones, so important?

Keith: It's not necessarily hymns themselves, but it's songs that we can pray witness to life are important. In the Old Testament, God's people sang songs so that they can understand their faith, so that they could remember their faith, so they know it both intellectually and emotionally.

The first thing we want to do is write songs that really help the Word of Christ dwell in people richly because it informs so much of how they understand faith. The second thing is that we want to write songs that unite congregations rather than divide them… songs which are easy to sing and good to sing for congregations. Then, the third thing is to try and write songs that can last beyond us. That's a huge part of what we've tried doing, what we strive towards. I don't know if we'll ever achieve that many times in our lifetime, but at least to strive towards trying to write songs that last beyond us. That's a hugely important thing.

Hannah: Who joins you on vocals on Hymns for the Christian Life?

Kristyn: One of them is Ricky Skaggs. He's a phenomenal vocalist and mandolin player. He joined us in the song "Simple Living". So, that was just amazing. It seemed like the type of song that we could do together and bring some of the Bluegrass sound and some of the Irish sound.

Then it's been just over 10 years since Keith and Stuart [Townend] wrote "In Christ Alone." I'd wanted to mark that in some way, and Alison Krauss had performed the song at a funeral a few years ago. Our paths crossed… and she's very kindly agreed to sing a special duet version of that song for this album. That was just such an honor to get to work with her.

Then, Moya Brennan is somebody that we knew from back home. She worked with us for many years before, and we were just so thrilled to have the occasion where she could come and be involved in another song, "A Mother's Prayer," where she actually sings in Gaelic.

Hannah: Tell me about that song, "Mother's Prayer." It's about your daughter?

Kristyn: Yes, we had a little girl 20 months ago. Eliza was born March 20, 2011. When you consider daily life, this has tinged our life so completely and becoming parents. We wanted to write a song about the different things that we would pray for her and the way that our parents had prayed for us. And obviously using prayer as a way to pray for her, teach her, but prayers as the best thing to do whenever you're overwhelmed with a new situation.

Hannah: What does "In Christ Alone" mean to you looking back over these last 10 years?

Keith: That song really was special for one prior reason, and that is it really introduced modern hymns to people. To try and explain modern hymns is a hard thing, but if you just say "In Christ Alone" people will get that. So that's been great.

It really helped us launch what we're trying to do with the hymns, and obviously it's been used in all kinds of different opportunities from high church and churches, to the more contemporary, evangelical churches to churches around the world.

Hannah: What's the story behind the first single from the album, "Christ is Risen. He is Risen Indeed"?

Kristyn: That was something I actually wrote with Ed Cash. He is a renowned national producer and magician, and we're just so thrilled to get to meet him, get to know him, and then just start writing for the songs. We wrote that with him, and he also produced that track. It looks clearly at the Resurrection story. It holds the pastoral greeting, "Christ is Risen. He is Risen Indeed", that Christians have been using for centuries.

It comes from the perspective of and the story of Thomas and the wrestling with doubt to the very real struggle that we have with that, but then the historical realities and the safe decision of trusting in the Lord who is risen.

Hannah GoodwynHannah Goodwyn serves as the Family and Entertainment producer for For more articles, visit Hannah's bio page.

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