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Elevation Worship's Chris Brown Promises 'There's a Better Day Ahead' Amid Unsettling Times

Elevation Worship
Jacob Boyles/Paul C. Rivera

Elevation Worship

New album "Graves Into Gardens" arrives Friday.

Though much of Elevation Worship’s 11th full-length album, Graves Into Gardens, was recorded before the coronavirus pandemic hit, a last-minute addition, written during the global shutdown, gives the album a new urgency.

The 11th full-length from the musical arm of Charlotte’s Elevation Church comes out Friday.

Eleven of the 12 songs on the set, distributed via Provident Label Group, were recorded live, while single "Rattle!" was recorded in a rehearsal setting, with the band practicing COVID-19-necessitated social distancing.

In addition to "Rattle!," which was released last week, three songs have already arrived from Graves Into Gardens: the title track (featuring Brandon Lake), which debuted at its No. 12 high on the streaming, airplay and sales-based Hot Christian Songs chart dated March 28; "The Blessing: Live" (featuring Cody Carnes and Kari Jobe), which entered at its No. 3 best on April 4; and "My Testimony," which started at its No. 25 peak on April 18.

Dating to the act's first Billboard chart entry in 2010, when Kingdom Come debuted and peaked at No. 17 on Top Christian Albums, the act has notched four No. 1s on the survey, among nine top 10s, as well as five top 10s on Hot Christian Songs and four on Christian Airplay.

Ahead of the release of Graves Into Gardens, Elevation Worship frontman Chris Brown sat down with Billboard. From his home in Charlotte, N.C., where he is currently hunkered down with wife Beth and their two children, Joah (9) and Adelaide (7), Brown shares how the album was created in the midst of a pandemic.

Crazy times… First, how are you holding up?

I'm good, man. I've got two school-aged kids and my wife's doing home school with them for now. They're normally in school, so this is different, but the kids are loving it.

Tell me the timeline of when the new album was recorded, since for the most part it's a live album.

Most of the songs were written last year and recorded live at our church in January. Initially, we were set to release it in the beginning of April. We adjusted and ended up adding two songs,  "Rattle!" and "The Blessing," that were written and recorded around the time the pandemic was hitting the U.S.

"Rattle!" was not done live. How did that go?

We basically recorded it at a rehearsal. We essentially got onto one of our stages here with everyone positioned eight feet apart from one another. We wrote it about three weeks ago. We worked it out as a band, pressed record, captured it and went right to mixing it and decided to put it right at the top of the album. So, yes, it wasn't recorded in a studio technically, but we did it with everyone all together in the same room.

On "Rattle!," the energy sounds like a call to arms.

It was written during quarantine, primarily over voice memos and Zoom calls back and forth. There just became a significant energy around the song really quickly. It felt like we had all been in quarantine and we're pent-up, on a roller coaster of emotions. It's like, the news is on and we're up and down with good news, bad news, fear and anxiety. So, yes, this song just came out as a release of emotion and a call to arms. I just wanted to say like, 'Hey, it's gonna be okay.' My faith in God says there's a better day ahead. All of us are kind of burying different expectations right now. We're having funerals and…not being able to walk across the graduation stage or not getting to go to prom and then more serious issues that people are dealing with. So "Rattle!" is a giant release and response to everything that we've experienced. We felt like it just had to open the album.

"The Blessing” hit No. 3 on Hot Christian Songs and received over 10 million views on YouTube. Why do you think it connected so quickly?

Wow, I didn't realize that it charted like that. We wrote it on the last day of February. We weren't intentionally trying to write a song that centered around a priestly blessing that's found in the Old Testament. Within two weeks, this pandemic was a reality here, and so, to be honest, it's kind of hard for me to not think about how God just lined that song's timing up for exactly when it needed to be heard. The whole message of the song is to flood people with encouragement.

Elevation Worship has had four No. 1 albums so are there hopes that Graves Into Gardens will arrive at No. 1, or is that something that you try to not pay attention to?

Certainly the human part of me says I'd love to have a No. 1, so I'm not trying to sound too pious (laughs). Our flow here is that back when we recorded these songs in January, we had performed them in our church, so we know how they're working as far as how people are connecting with the message and how they're being ministered to through the music. Our whole purpose in recording an album is to get the songs out so people can play them in their homes.

How is this album different from your other projects?

It is by far the most live-sounding album we've done. Beyond that, it's a good evolution of who we are. It's diverse musically. You've got "Rattle!," which is like a Stone Temple Pilots-sounding, 90's-rock theme, and "Never Lost" is pop-R&B. It feels very authentic to who we are as a unit.

You moved the album's release from April. Did you consider waiting longer to put it out?

Not really. If anything, we were itching to get it out as quickly as possible, mainly because how in sync the message seems for this time.

What do you want people to take away from this album?

I just hope that when they hear it, they really can believe that there's always a better day that's coming. The reality is that we just don't know what life's going to look like six months from now. This is where our faith comes in when we're writing these songs, that God specializes in resurrection. That means, it might feel like we're staring at a completely dead situation right now, but God specializes in turning things around.

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