I live in Franklin, Tennessee, an area of the South rich with history. It was the site of the Battle of Franklin, a brutal conflict in the Civil War. Thousands died here. I was sitting at the piano reflecting on that and a scene played across my mind. I visualized a young soldier returning home after the war, and I started seeing it as if it were part of a movie. Out of that experience, a soundtrack was born-the score for the movie that was playing in my mind. The same theme returns again and again throughout the record.
In my mind, I see that same movie, and this is part of the score, a quiet, tranquil moment. It features a wonderful violin solo with me playing piano underneath. It's just a real moment.
Carol Ann was a long-time, close family friend who died recently, suddenly, in a horseback riding accident. That experience just rocked my world. At the memorial service, I sang “Friends.” Well, Carol Ann and her husband Bill were there the first night I ever sang that song, in a small-group Bible study 19 years ago. That's how long we've known each other. That night, I came home and I was just a wreck. I sat at the piano and I cried. But out of that painful moment, I wrote this song. It's been a tough couple of months, but you know what? We're just passing through. This is not our home. And there are better things ahead of us.
I've been playing this all year and it's turned out so incredible. It was one of the first songs I wrote for the record. It came together in about five minutes. I'll never forget it. I can't even describe what I was thinking about, and I don't know why I called it “The Giving,” but people seemed to really love the title. When I play this tune I just feel like I'm pouring out my heart to God through my fingers. That's the only way I can put it.
"Hibernia,” which is the Latin word for Ireland, is the most Irish thing on the record. It's flute and fiddle and big orchestra and drums-it's Ireland all over! A really joyous tune, inspired by my desire for so long to go to Ireland; that, and watching movies set in Ireland, like “Waking Ned Devine.” One day I was sitting at the piano thinking about Ireland, and this is what happened!
“Letter to Sarah”
I ran across a letter, which is one of the most famous Civil War letters. A young Union soldier named Sullivan Ballou is writing his wife, giving her a warning. He doesn't know if he's going to make it. But what a letter! Sullivan loved God and he loved his wife and family, and he writes one of the most beautiful, poetic letters I have ever read. Like a movie, I envision the intense battle, and the soldier writing this letter to his wife. This song is the soundtrack to that letter.
As I visualized the battle scene, Braveheart must have been on my mind. It's that same huge sound.
“Cry of the Heart”
For a long time I called this tune “Dark Piano.” There have been so many difficult things over the past year or so. One day I sat down at the piano and began improvising. I was feeling a bit down, and when I feel that way, sometimes it's music that touches my own soul in a way that nothing else does. I wrote the song right then, on the spot. It's just this haunting tune on the piano. We added cello, which brings this little tug and tension to the song, a bit of agony. I think it's really powerful, and felt it was real important that this song be on the record.
“Prayer for Taylor”
Taylor was an 11-year-old boy in my son's class, and we finally lost him to cancer. That was so hard. But I remember one night our prayer group went over to Taylor's house. We talked and visited a while, and then my wife was praying with some other godly friends. Taylor was upstairs; he had already lost his leg to the disease. The cancer went away, but then it came back. As people were praying, I sat there, feeling like I didn't even know how to pray. I was thinking, “Oh, God, you know I believe you can heal him. I believe without a doubt, but Lord. .” I don't know, I just felt lost. I got up and walked over to this upright piano in their house and as I sat there, I just started playing before the Lord. In the three or four minutes that I was playing, I wrote this melody, which, to me, was my prayer for Taylor. Believe me, there is some sadness in the song, but we know what the final score is. Taylor just got to heaven ahead of us. He's the fortunate one. It may be bad for us, but it's good for him.
The first part of the record has that cinematic feel, then there's that Irish influence. The last couple songs have a more contemporary feel. “The Call” has a very European sound-not really dance, but it does have a groove under it.
I was trying to figure out how to include something that might sound familiar. I got a little creative and came up with an instrumental version of “Thy Word.” It has a different twist, but I think everyone's going to go, “I know that song.”
“Free Man” is a little “Jeff Beck meets Michael W. Smith,” if you can imagine that. I think it's a great ending to the record. But you also hear a haunting melody of “Freedom” at the end of the number, which just ties the whole thing together.