Q: Which Bible version do you use?
A: I (Shane) use a combination of Bible translations, primarily the ESV, KJV/NKJV, and NASB, to put the lyrics together. I also study the Psalms extensively using commentaries and the original Hebrew to make sure we are capturing “the essential meaning of every verse.” I do not follow any specific translation word for word, though some songs may come somewhat close. I try to balance faithfulness to the literal text with the aesthetic quality of the song.
Q: Are you really planning to put all 150 Psalms to music in a collection of 15 albums?
A: That is the current plan, God willing. This is a mission God has laid upon our hearts, and we will pursue it until it is clear that He does not want us to continue. At the current pace, which could speed up or slow down over the years, the project will be complete in about 25-30 years.
Q: How are you going to set Psalm 119 to music?
A: It’s going to be a rap song.
Q: How do you write these songs? What is your process?
A: I (Shane) start by studying the Psalm, and usually memorizing it in several versions. I spend a few days/weeks praying over the verses and meditating on them. During this process of meditation, study, and solitude, the melody of the opening line or one of the Psalms’s key lines will usually develop. I begin to form the chords behind that melody, and I follow those ideas until the Psalm (or the song itself) demands a shift in movement. The songs often write themselves, since the emotions and ideas of the Psalm flow so cleanly from one to the next. It’s clear when the Psalmist becomes upbeat, or troubled, or experiences a moment of peace or breakthrough. Capturing these emotions with the language of music is the most satisfying part of the process.
After the basic structure of the song (chords, lyrics, and music) have been established, the songs go into a “pre-production” phase. I bring the band together that will be recording the Psalm, and we rehearse and workshop ideas until we find an arrangement that we’re all pretty excited about. In the studio, even more refinement happens in the “production phase,” where we bring in other instruments, harmonies, and production ideas that flesh the song out even more. It is a prayerful and thorough process from initial songwriting to finished studio product. Even after the studio, the songs are undergoing constant refinements, lyrical improvements, and embellishments, and you would hear those changes live.
Q: Who is in your band? Like, your real band?
A: The only constant in the band is me (Shane). Sometimes I play solo events and concerts just by myself if the event can’t afford a band or if not enough players are available. The core band on Volume 1 consisted of myself and some friends I was able to recruit: Sean Albertson (electric guitar), Nathan Phillips (keys), Judd Albrecht (bass), and Andrew Campbell (drums). Between Volume 1 and Volume 2, Nathan moved to Colorado, Andrew moved to Minnesota, and Judd got heavily involved with another musical project, so Sean and I put together a new core band for Volume 2: myself, Sean, John Kelly (keys), Matt Tims (bass/keys), and Chris Hill and Dave Penn on drums. Dave was in the process of moving to Massachusetts and Chris was about to get married, so I had two other friends, Shane von Holdt (Psalm 19) and Jordan Loftis (Psalm 18) help finish the album.
The Psalms Project’s vision from the beginning has been to be a community project, a community band that testifies to the unity of the church, the diversification of gifts, and the abandonment of self to the glory of God and the power of His word.
Q: I’ve tried to set the Psalms to music, but it’s really difficult. Which Psalm was the hardest for you to write?
A: A lot of them were a challenge, but Psalm 9 definitely took the longest. Overall, the process took about six months. Psalm 9 was originally written as an acrostic (meaning each verse begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet), which sometimes makes the ideas of the Psalm less linear. The Psalm just has so many ideas, twists, and turns – it was always hard to know where to take it next musically because it offered so many possibilities. Some parts of it are among my favorite parts of any of the songs. Most people assume Psalm 18 must have been the hardest (50 verses long), but it actually came together pretty quickly, and once the main movements were composed, it almost wrote itself in just a couple of weeks. Psalm 18 has a very clear narrative structure, which made it surprisingly easy to write.
Q: Can our organization hire you for events?
A: Yes. Simply send an email to email@example.com.
Q: Where are the albums recorded?
A: Volume 1 and 2 were recorded at Cathouse Studios in Sioux Falls, SD, where they were engineered and co-produced by Mike Dresch, one of the best in the business. Mike’s expertise with engineering and sound production, combined with his passion for worship and the Psalms, has made him an irreplaceable member of The Psalms Project team, and one of the most intrinsic elements of the project’s success.
Q: Do you audition singers or musicians for the albums?
A: Yes. However, all of the singers and musicians so far have happened to be friends or acquaintances with whose work I was already familiar. We are always searching for the very best talent to contribute to the albums. If you would like to audition to sing or play on a song on one of the albums, please submit a high-quality video or audio recording to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will consider you if we think you have the right voice or instrumental sound for one of the songs.
Q: When will the next album be out?
A: Recording for Volume 3 has been completed, and it is set for release on Thanksgiving Day, November 24th, 2016!
Thanks for the questions and support!