Hillsong Worship's Brooke Ligertwood On Act's First Studio Album in 15 Years: 'Music Helps Wake Us Up'

Courtesy of Hillsong Worship
Hillsong Worship

Ligertwood discusses 'Awake,' out today (Oct. 11).

Hillsong Worship, the worship music collective that serves as the musical arm of Hillsong Church (and sister act to Hillsong United and Hillsong Young & Free) releases its first studio album in 15 years, Awake, today (Oct. 11). The 12-track set is the act's first full-length studio set since Faithful in 2004.

Not that the outfit has any sort of an aversion to releasing albums; to the contrary, since 2004, Hillsong Worship has posted 27 appearances on Billboard's Top Christian Albums chart, generating six No. 1s, among 14 top 10s.

In the singles department, the act has scored two No. 1s on Christian Airplay and one on Hot Christian Songs, the latter of which combines streaming, airplay and sales data. "What a Beautiful Name" led Christian Airplay for nine weeks and spent 37 weeks atop Hot Christian Songs beginning in 2017, marking the third-longest domination in the latter list's history. Earlier this year, "Who You Say I Am" topped Christian Airplay for two weeks.

"King of Kings," the lead single from Awake, ranks at No. 23 on Hot Country Songs (dated Oct. 12). On Christian Airplay, it jumps 46-36, up 88% to 380,000 audience impressions in the week ending Oct. 4, according to Nielsen Music.

Hillsong Worship member Brooke Ligertwood co-penned "Kings" with her husband, Scott Ligertwood, and Jason Ingram. She sat down to chat with Billboard from her home in Los Angeles, while multi-tasking: she's making appearances to promote Awake and getting ready to head to Nashville for the 2019 Gospel Music Association's Dove Awards on Oct. 15. "Who You Say I Am" has been nominated for worship song of the year and the group will also perform at the event.

Hillsong Worship is also getting set to hit the road, embarking on a concert tour with Casting Crowns and Elevation Worship, starting Nov. 1 in Memphis and wrapping Nov. 23 in Hartford, Connecticut.

Check out the Q&A below.


So, 15 years between studio albums. Why so long and why now?

Well, good question [laughs]. As part of the church, we're creating music that will not only be sung in our Hillsong churches, but all over the world in many other churches, too, so that just lends itself well to live recordings. But for Awake, we had been looking for the next thing, so it just made sense to go into the studio now.

Was it uncomfortable at all, after mainly releasing live albums for so long?

Well, no, because some of the Hillsong Worship members also work with Hillsong United, which is primarily a studio band. But, even on our live albums, there's still a lot of production work on the records that we do in the studio.

How long did it take you to finish the new album?

About six months, and we recorded in two locations: our Orange County, California, studio and then some in Sydney, Australia.

And are you pleased with the outcome?

Yes, thrilled, but a bit traumatized [laughs]. We had multiple mishaps with storms causing power outages and all kinds of crazy little discomforts that kept happening at the Orange County studio, so I'm a touch traumatized, but, yes, essentially, I think we are all thrilled and looking forward to people hearing it.

First single "King of Kings," which you sing, is bouncing up the charts, and sounds great on the radio. Last time we talked, you said that you're not really a chart-watcher. Is that still the case?

Yes and no. I think we have a great relationship with radio and it's so important what they do, but at the same time, we're creating music that will connect with people at church. We're not trying to record hits. But I also keep up. I get a radio report every week from our label [Capitol Christian].

"What a Beautiful Name," which you wrote and on which you sing lead, is one of the longest-leading No. 1s in the history of Hot Christian Songs. Does that bring a degree of satisfaction, that the numbers reinforce that so many people are gravitating to your music?

Yes, of course, it's amazing, and I am humbled just hearing that. And while it's not the initial priority, there's a great satisfaction in creating something that connects with people wherever they are on their journey.

I've heard from so many people that you really value your relationship with Christian radio programmers.

What they're doing is so significant. I want to be accessible to them.

Christian radio has also made a noticeable shift in that it is playing a lot more worship music as part of the overall mix. I think your group has stirred a bit of that transition.

Well, I think that there's been a cultural shift, and with such volatility, in some senses, in the world that worship music, that style, makes people feel invited and welcomed. Our hope is with this new record that people that listen will feel that.

Also, radio is such a central force. Take a city like Seattle, where Christians are not in the majority; Christian radio is really main connection point for them to be part of the community.  

All you have to do is watch one of your concert videos to see how the audience is so connected and part of the experience. Do you feel you were able to capture that in a studio setting this time around?

Yes, and that was the goal going in, capturing the environment, where it still sounds like us.

What are you hoping for your fans to get from the new album?

That if they're in turmoil, the songs bring them closer to God. We all can be lulled into numbness, and music is one of the things that helps wake us up. That's what I hope.

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