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Intersection of Life and Faith

Unveiling a New Chapter

  • Andy Argyrakis Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2007 11 Jun
Unveiling a New Chapter
Jeff Deyo will forever be remembered for his work with Sonicflood in the late '90s, sparking the modern worship movement in America after pioneers like Delirious and Matt Redman. Since leaving the band's original incarnation, Deyo has steadily mapped out a respectful solo career as a worship artist. His album Unveil arrives after a three-year break from the studio and takes a more indie rock approach with the help of a new producer and a new record label. Christian Music Today sat down with Deyo to chat about all these transitions and how they unveiled a renewed sense of purpose in his own life as an artist.Since your last album was a live recording, was it difficult or tedious to go back to the songwriting process for a new studio album?Jeff Deyo Actually, the live thing was a little more outside the box for me, so coming back to a studio album was almost the easy part! I recorded Surrender overseas, which was something my record company [at the time] termed as a "logistical nightmare." I don't know if it was quite that bad, but the idea of going overseas to someplace you're not comfortable with was still a little out of the ordinary. You typically record worship albums live at your home church or someplace that loves you already, teaching them your songs [in advance] and then blowing the place out!Coming back to the studio was what I've been accustomed to since my days in Sonicflood. There weren't a ton of studio worship records back in that day and Sonicflood was one of the first to do that, so it's something I've always felt comfortable with throughout my solo projects. But I changed producers for Unveil, which was a huge deal for me because I'm a guy who always wants to have my hands on everything in the process.How were you able to let go of the reigns and team up with someone new?Deyo It was a big step, but I felt it was a God thing because I had been seeking out and praying, "Is there somebody I should connect with? Should I go a different route with a bigger name producer?" But it usually turns out the opposite when it comes to that. I could go with what management says and pick someone with a huge track record, working with lots of major artists. But I wanted to go with a guy who would eat, breathe, and sleep this album with me. I found Josh "The Kurnoll" Deane through a mutual relationship who was producing amazing indie stuff and hadn't really been discovered and we hit it off right away—he's amazingly talented. I gave him two songs to start, and after hearing the results, I said, "Let's do the whole thing!"Was it his idea to go with a more organic rock approach, or did you purposely try to do something different?Deyo I was like the executive producer. I had a lot of input, but I also wanted to give [Deane] freedom to do what he felt needed to be done. A lot of the ideas were his and [the way fans are going to react] depends on their perspective. Some people will think it's a whole new sound, but it's really not that drastic—not as if I started doing jazz or metal! But it's not the acoustic worship norm either, so hopefully it seems like a fresh approach. I talked to a veteran who said I was getting pretty gutsy and pretty rocky with the sound, which is cool if that comes across that way to other people.Both the Christian and mainstream music markets are shifting in a more indie direction these days. Did you feel that Deane's background helped you find a sound that's more unpredictable and artful?Deyo I think there are elements of both. For me, I wanted a marriage of [accessibility] and the fresh perspective of a newcomer who hasn't been jaded by the system—someone who wants to forget all rules and simply make great music.Are the songs on Unveil centered on a particular concept?Deyo I actually wrote the title cut a couple years ago. In some ways, I feel like this generation was celebrating only parts of [praising God]—the parts that were easy to swallow, instead of concepts like holiness and the purity of God. Those things are as important as any other theme, and sometimes we need to get on our face before him. So basically, the message is that there's a time for jumping and shouting, and a time for getting on your face and being still and quiet in the presence of God. I'm "unveiling" a desire for myself to see who God is and who I am as a Christian, and in turn unveiling that each one of us has a purpose, something I run into so much in talking with students. They always want to know what we're here for on this planet and they'll find that [purpose] through a deep relationship with God unveiled to us.Seems like the album starts out upbeat and becomes more prayerful as you go in. What do you think is the best way to pace a worship record or concert with dynamics?Deyo For me it's an ebb and flow kind of thing—tension and release, which is how life is. I'm not a huge fan of hyping up kids and having all the really rocking songs up front. I do a lot of student conferences and part of my goal is to take that energy that's popping all over and direct or funnel it in one heart, one voice, and one song to the king. So it may start out hard and rocking, and then boom, from there you can take a deep breath to calm down and focus on something softer. You need both and to try to make the whole thing a journey.Does recording and performing for the iTunes generation affect the making of the album, knowing that bits and pieces of albums can be broken up as single downloads?Deyo Music has changed because the focus has been thrown onto the individual songs. People aren't buying entire albums as much anymore, going to iTunes to download their two favorite songs. Which to me is actually good pressure on the music industry, because it forces writers to up the level of quality for their songs. The downside is that some will write two or three good songs, and then make the rest of the album's tracks filler—I've certainly never done that! But it takes a lot of work to write a great song. I can write good songs every day because God has put that in me, but writing a great song is an elusive thing you have to work at with time.What led to your parting company with Gotee and switching up to Indelible Creative Group?Deyo Gotee has been amazing to me from the start. I've been a part of a massive record on Gotee and I've never been a guy who would jump ship because he thinks the grass is greener. But I really felt God leading me over these past two years toward a time for change. So I had a meeting with [Gotee president] Joey Elwood—he's my friend and the label is all I've ever known—and I asked him, "Is this still working?" He being so kind said, "We want to continue to make records with you if it continues to make sense for you," and gave me the freedom to [explore my options]. Which is really unheard of in the industry; technically, Gotee could have demanded two more albums from me [because of my contract].But after some looking and talking to other labels, I found Indelible. Their name pretty much sums up why I went with them. It basically refers to things that last—things that are eternal, that won't fade away. That's the kind of music I want to create and the kind of impression I want to make on the kingdom of God.Sometimes people put out a live album as contract fulfillment.Deyo Definitely not [in my case], and I tried so hard not to make it seem that way with our album. Even though my first love is making studio worship records, I felt like people need to take home the live worship experience. We don't just play a three-minute song and move on. There are spontaneous moments of worship too, which is what a lot of stuff on Surrender was about.Isn't Gotee also putting out a "best of" Deyo collection?Deyo Let's pass on that question! (laughing) Just kidding. Yeah and that is one of those things that's contractual. Now that I'm gone, I need to put out something. The cool thing is it's all my material. A lot of the time, people know me best for covers like "Open the Eyes of My Heart," "I Want To Know You," and "More Love, More Power." But this album focuses on the original songs I had a part in creating with Sonicflood and as a solo artist.As something of a worship music veteran, does it ever bother you how cluttered the scene has become?Deyo Some guy had the gall to tell me in an interview that the whole worship thing was all my fault. Man, come on, I made a CD and I couldn't claim that if I wanted to! I happen to look at it all as a positive. God is being praise and glorified, which is awesome. But admittedly, there is a bit of over-saturation in the marketplace.[marketplace].This isn't a perfect analogy, but think about if you created aspirin back in the day as the first pain reliever, and made billions of dollars from it. But then fast forward to the present, where there are lots of pain relievers available on the market. Imagine if you were the marketing guy for aspirin today, as opposed to the past! Sonicflood was part of the worship music resurgence, but now it's very easy to get lost in the shuffle with everybody and their brother, cousin, and uncle making worship records.Do you ever feel like other artists are stepping too much into your turf?Deyo Any time those thoughts come in, I push them aside, because this is not my turf! I'm honored by those influenced by me. People like Jason Roy from Building 429 have told me that my music has been a huge influence on them and that's so humbling. For me, it's cool to think that I've influenced a lot of artists in the same way that Delirious influenced us to create worship music in the first place!Learn more about Jeff Deyo by visiting our site's artist page. You can click here to read our review of his latest project, Unveil. To listen to song clips and purchase his music, visit© Andy Argyrakis, subject to licensing agreement with Christianity Today International. All rights reserved. Click for reprint information.