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Gungor on 'One Wild Life' and why they might return to making worship music

Michael and Lisa Gungor may have sparked controversy among some Christians by saying they no longer take the Bible's stories about creation and the flood literally, but the duo have continued to draw large crowds on both sides of the Atlantic and today they're making more music than ever before. 

In this interview with Jamie Cutteridge the duo hint that their process of deconstructing their beliefs may be giving way to the beginning of a new chapter as they look at a possible return to making worship music...

You’ve made three albums in a year under the ‘One Wild Life’ banner. Why and how?

Michael: I’ve learned through this the value of energy as opposed to time. When your energy is being properly maintained, channeled and cared for, I can be so much more productive than time seems to allow. We’ve had to learn  - especially with kids - how to manage our energy and time. Doing that better than we’ve ever done it has allowed us to be more productive. This is by far the most productive year of my life.

Lisa: That’s definitely the ‘how’. I think the ‘why’ is we came out of 2014 going through a lot of struggle. Our youngest child was born with Down's Syndrome and had to have two heart surgeries. Right after that this whole social media thing blew up [Michael's statements about not taking Genesis literally caused much controversy online] and we felt rejected and hurt and victims. This whole process of coming out of that and realising we’re not victims – this journey in one year – we were writing a lot because that’s how we process life.

No matter what happens it feels like it’s not fully processed until we’ve written about it. So we found ourselves writing a lot of songs. We had too many. We said what if we did a subscription and for the year we give all the people who subscribe three albums as a trilogy? So it snowballed into this idea focussing on the whole human experience – soul, spirit, body.

Does it feel like a cohesive project?

Lisa: It does. It didn’t totally feel that way until we listened to it a few weeks ago. When you hope what you create is meaningful, makes sense and is a good piece of art, how it ends really wraps it all together. It felt like a big exhale.

Were you tempted to put it all out at once?

Michael: We had a friend Ryan O'Neil and the way he was being a musician professionally was a lot different than most musicians I know. Most people I know in the music industry have to be away from their family and friends all the time and they’re busting their asses on the road just to survive. Then occasionally you get to go to the studio and make some music.

Ryan has flipped it and spends all his day making music. I know as a fan of [his band] Sleeping at Last I’m really glad he does that. We get all this music from him. Yeah I guess I could have seen him at a show or two, but personally I’d rather all the extra music than the shows.

Over the last several years I’ve felt my energy has been out of balance. I’m happiest when I’m creating. I still love the performance. But I wanted to put more of the chips onto creativity than touring and travelling and trying to build a brand.

Lisa: We didn’t want to release it all at once because we didn’t have all three at once. From the beginning of the trilogy to now, for us it feels like we’re living this thing. It’s a whole process that we couldn’t have written about. I don’t think we could have completed the trilogy in the right way if we did it all at once.

Just recently I’ve been coming back to this idea that we’ve tried to separate ourselves from this thing and this deconstruction has happened which is a good and necessary path, and now we’re kind of in this place of wanting to create worship music again.

So does this feel like the beginning of a new chapter?

Michael: Absolutely.

Lisa: It didn’t feel like it at first. I didn’t know if it was the beginning of the end. I love our journey and where we’ve come from and the people who have been gracious enough to help us along the way. It hurt to feel rejected by a certain tribe, but that was also our own doing because we are moving on a different path. So it’s about owning your decisions and being brave enough to keep moving forward.

Are you enjoying being creative in different ways and doing things like The Liturgists podcast?

Michael: Totally. It’s all connected to each other and informed by each other. The conversations in The Liturgists are informing the music. And the music informs the podcast. It’s all connected. I wish we could do it all. I love travelling the world and creating. It’s just how much time and energy you have. I guess on some level we’re all connected and doing it through each other. I always want to do more than I have time for.

You wrote a blog recently about being hopeful in a dark world. How have you learned to do that?

Michael: Non-judgemental sight is vital. Just open your eyes. You don’t have to try and see the glory. Just open your eyes. It’s not that everyone is lying on their back in a field saying, "I’m not impressed by this." They’re just not looking. Open your eyes and see what’s in front of you without categorising everything and judging the amount of good vs evil.

Lisa: It’s not just look at the good. I think something happened to us when we went through this thing with our daughter. It’s not the biggest tragedy anyone could go through. But for us we’d never experienced the question mark over the loss of a child or surgery. When you go through things like that it forces you to decide what you’re going to see.

You read stories of people in concentration camps and they talk about it being beautiful. Why? They’re seeing each other and what is meaningful in life. It’s opening our eyes to see beauty in each other. Us opening our eyes to our daughter for who she is and not this thing our culture has assigned as a ‘lesser life’. She is beautiful and perfect and can give something to this world that no one else can. It’s opening your eyes to it all.

Michael: Part of me is thinking what’s going to happen if Trump wins, or with Brexit, Syria and ISIS? Does civilisation exist three years from now? And in the middle of that literally looking up at the moon and feeling the heartbeat in my chest. This is all right now while I’m worried about ISIS there are trillions of cells in my body cooperating for me to live. It all wants to be together. This universe of magic is happening right here, right now. Look at it all. 'Glory' is a great word for it.

Fear is narrowing your view of reality. Jesus is saying "look at the birds and flowers you’re fine, you don’t need to worry. You’re alive."

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