A few weeks ago I came across an album called Psalm Songs, Vol. 1, put out by The Corner Room, aka Adam Wright. I hear hundreds of albums each year and when one stands out, it’s obvious. Psalm Songs stands out.
These aren’t congregational songs, but Scripture songs, word for word from the English Standard Version. It’s really difficult to set longer Biblical passages to music without making it sound forced and un-musical. Adam and friends overcame those obstacles. Combining elements of bluegrass, new country, pop music, and folk, these songs are musically fresh, skillfully played, and a joy to listen to.
After listening to the album five times through, I wanted to find out more about the man behind the music. Adam came to know the saving grace of Christ in college, and now lives in Birmingham, AL with Jessica, his wife of almost ten years, and Nora Jane, their two year old daughter. They have another girl on the way. He’s been the chief musician at Cahaba Park Church (PCA) for 7 years and plans the liturgy each week, oversees the musicians and sound technicians, leads on Sundays, and writes and records original songs. Through Corner Room Music he also seeks to serve and resource other local churches. In other words, he’s a busy guy.
But he was kind enough to answer a few questions for me:
Where did the name “Corner Room Music” come from?
My church purchased a historic house and conference center to be our church home. I was graciously given two rooms in the corner of the house: one is an office and the other a recording studio (and the quietest room I’ve ever occupied). The Corner Room seemed a fitting title.
What’s the story behind the songs on this album? Are there any you were particularly affected by when you wrote them?
In the spring of 2014, our senior pastor, Murray Lee, announced a 16 week summer sermon series on the Psalms. I began to think of ways to incorporate Psalm 1 into the different parts of the liturgy. The first week, I spent a few hours trying to set Psalm 1 to music. I read the passage continually, thinking about its character and style, a songwriting structure, melody, and chordal accompaniment. I eventually completed an arrangement that seemed “true” to the text – and I absolutely fell in love with the process.
The next Sunday, we played the song and then Murray preached a sermon on the text. It was powerful. After seeing people’s response, I committed to writing each week. By the end of the summer, I had set 13 Psalms to music. The following summer I wrote seven more, and I chose ten for Psalm Songs, Volume I.
God has used this writing process in my own life. Most weeks I had memorized the passage before the worship service the following Sunday. Now, I pray them driving in the car, I sing them to my two year old as she falls asleep, and I use them to praise God in personal and corporate worship. These songs will always have a special place in my heart and continually draw my affections to the Lord.
How can people incorporate these songs in their services?
Due to the complexity of the arrangements and vocal range, Psalm Songs weren’t written with congregational singing in focus. I actually tried to include one in our corporate singing and it fostered more of a spirit of confusion than worship! They’re definitely more beneficial when the congregation is listening to the Word being sung. But I would love for any of these to work corporately – I challenge someone to prove me wrong!
The musicianship on the album is superb. Who was involved?
I had never produced an album before and it was liberating to be able to take the reins and bring these songs to life. I was thankful to have Act of Congress bandmates Tim Carroll, Chris Griffin and Connie Skellie on several tracks – making music with them is absolutely a joy. Ricky Skaggs’ fiddler, Andy Leftwich and bass legend, Byron House also made significant contributions. Brian Murphy and Ashley Spurling, who have produced great hymn rewrites over the past decade through Red Mountain Music, were also a welcome addition. Jason Elgin of Synchromesh Studios mixed and mastered the album and did a beautiful job creating one cohesive sound from so many different styles.
What other kinds of music have you done or do you plan to do?
This summer/fall The Corner Room will be releasing a five song EP of hymn rewrites and original worship songs called “What Great Mystery.” As with Psalm Songs, we’ll release the album with lead sheets and chord charts for use in other church worship services. I’ve also written songs for Act of Congress in the last ten years. If you’re a fan of acoustic groups like Nickel Creek, then this band might be for you.
BE ONE OF TEN PEOPLE TO WIN A FREE DOWNLOAD! Leave a comment on this post telling me what one of your favorite Psalms is in 50 words or less. I’ll pick five comment for originality and 5 at random. You have until Sunday night at midnight (approximately). I’ll announce the winners on Monday morning. UPDATE: I announced the winners here.
I thank God for his gifts and am looking forward to seeing how he’s going to continue to use Adam Wright and Corner Room Music in the future to serve the broader church. In the mean time, here’s one of my favorites from Psalm Songs.