Interview with Dave Wellington
Dave Wellington has been leading worship in Elim circles for a while now and he has a new album out, grab a cup of tea or coffee and checkout his thoughts on leading.
Tell us about yourself?
Liz and I have been married since 1983 and have 3 adult children. We are currently enjoying life in rural Worcestershire. Since last November I have taken on a role at Cheltenham Elim church in charge of Worship and Missions. I still maintain good links with Regents Theological College and of course with the team at Kensington Temple where I was music pastor for 17 years.
You’ve been involved in musical worship for a number of years. What would you say to someone just starting out in worship leading?
A few thoughts on this:
Live the life of a worshipper.
You cannot be in public what you are not in private. So your public ministry needs to be built on a solid foundation of prayer, bible reading and study, and worship so that when you stand to lead it is coming out of the overflow of your heart. You are then taking people to a place with which you are very familiar.
Be an encourager and example of worship.
When a congregation doesn’t do what you want them to do, avoid the impulse to condemn or criticise. Instead use your words to encourage. Remember it starts as worship to an audience of one. Make your worship to Jesus so inviting that others will want to join you.
Conquer your instrument and your nerves.
Whatever your instrument may be, you need to know the songs you are playing/singing without recourse to the chord chart. If there are tricky chords in a song, don’t ignore them. Work on them until they are second nature to you. Rehearsal is a huge key. This implies that preparing for a Sunday worship service can’t be left until Saturday night, but will need consideration and preparation ahead of time.
If you are fully prepared musically, physically and spiritually then you have done the hard work already. You may get nervous but it shouldn’t be the nerves that come because you are worried about failure. Rather, it is the nervous energy that is common to all of us and which you can now tap into to lead people. Again, help yourself here: pick a song to start that is very familiar and well within your capabilities. It will help to settle you down.
What would be your advice for longevity in the musical worship journey?
There’s two issues here.
The first is that of longevity in worship. If you are giving out you need to replace what you have given. This starts in your own personal worship time and space. Make sure you have that in your life – a time where you develop your own personal worship with Jesus, where you sing songs to him with no one else around. Also, as a worshipper, find those places and times, perhaps conferences or events, where you can get a recharge, you can receive input for you as a worshipper and worship leader. Get insights too on leadership – 50% of the phrase worship leader is “Leader” – learn how to be a good one.
The second is longevity in music. I have been around long enough to see several passages of musical style in the church. Always be ready to learn: new chords, new voicings, new rhythms, new techniques, new… Someone said you don’t stop learning because you get old, rather you get old because you stop learning.
Who are your musical heroes, who inspires you?
If they are still around, treat yourself – book a ticket to go see them play or hear them sing. For musicians, buying a new instrument is always good, but if possible get one that is better than the one you have – it will help draw musicality out of you.
If you are a singer, book some studio time and record yourself – find someone with a decent microphone and setup who will help you see both the weaknesses in your voice (so you can avoid them where possible) and the strengths of your voice (so you can play to them).
Stay abreast of the changes in music outside the walls of the church and keep up with technology that is relevant to your craft.
You’ve recorded a new album, tell us about it?
Glory & Fire came about after many years of wanting to do a ‘best of’ album of tunes written over the last 20 years. I had been pondering which songs might be suitable as great representatives of songs I’d written and had produced a list of some 40 songs that I’d take out from time to time and dream about. But the time never felt right.
Finally, in the summer of 2015 a window of opportunity opened and Liz and I felt it was time to go for it. Les Moir suggested I work with an old friend Neil Costello as a producer. Neil’s main concern was that list of 40 songs – way too many! I needed to whittle it down to a more manageable figure.
After a pre-production meeting, driving home from Sussex and chatting with Liz on the phone we felt that the song “Pour Your Spirit out” was a key for the album. It has the line in it – ‘for more than just a glimpse here of glory’. As soon as we realised this, we had a theme; that of the person and work of the Holy Spirit. So we went back to the list and pulled out songs which ranged around this theme.
That left us with 15 songs which we were then able to choose the 13 that made it to the album. It really felt that God inspired our choices so the CD will hopefully bring listeners into His presence, encourage them and empower them to carry the glory and fire of His presence to a needy world.
Responses so far have been very encouraging from all parts of the world too: My favourite has been “This album could stop road rage”. But I’ve heard of at least two parents whose kids have taken this album to heart and won’t let them stop playing track 2!!
I always advise people to be themselves when recording and writing. Your album contains a number of musical styles and vibes. Some of which we may not hear on contemporary worship albums. Was this deliberate? Is this a part of your unique sound?
The first full studio day the core of musicians (all awesome players, by the way) asked me about what I had in mind for the style of the album. I wanted it to sound different to the contemporary worship albums out there which are becoming a little homogenised and musically a little bland, boring or perhaps just slightly lacking in challenge, something all the musicians there agreed upon. The songs are musically more complex, a little richer chord wise.
I suggested that as a starting point we head for a bluesy feel, perhaps a bit more like John Mayer but each song was ultimately allowed to find its own shape. It was a fascinating process. Rather than play full on demos of the songs, Neil played the stripped down recordings of me and a guitar to the band who then worked out how to play it and what it might feel like.
We tracked the main body of all the songs in the first week then added the relevant overdubs for acoustic and vocals. The roughs at the end of that first week were a revelation – whilst they had been written so many years apart, they now sat together as if they belonged.
Of course where they really came into sharp focus is when we added BVs. We brought Lawrence Johnson and his team of Gospel singers in to give the songs some soul. They loved the songs and really delivered quality vocals – 8 songs in one day - incredible work rate.
Julie Costello joined us on another day and our voices blended so easily for the remaining 5 songs. It was a real joy to work with all of these musicians and singers! Neil has an amazing collection of guitars and instruments – some real classics, and there is nothing quite like a Les Paul, Gretsch or Strat through some valves with a little crunch (all the guitarists out there nod in agreement!) or an old Hammond played through a real Leslie speaker to give a track some feel.
As for ‘feels’ the sax was exceptional, such breath and air on it. Returning to your question though, I think the years at KT took me on a musical journey that Londoners would resonate with – it’s a real fusion of music, culture, style – a microcosm of the world as a whole, so whilst the album does feature shades of Gospel, Soul, Rock, Jazz and so on, all of the tracks fit together beautifully, instilled with a sense of the rich tapestry of musical variety that is our heritage.
What does 2016 look like for Dave Wellington?
2016 will be a good year. We will continue to promote the album here in the UK and abroad because we know these songs have been a great blessing wherever they have been used. Whilst I have various dates in the diary, I am available for further concerts and ministry.
If the album is a success, who knows, there may well be a follow up album for 2017. There’s still plenty of great songs left to rework. I’ll be writing some new material too I hope in my new project studio at home.
Of course one significant development here in Cheltenham is that we’ve been involved in a building extension which should be opening in February – that’ll be quite exciting, taking the team here on a journey in worship, living out in community the things that I teach.