(Photo courtesy of Neil Godding)
A Beautiful Blend
New Artist Cory Emery Chats on Grunge and God
By Sarah Komisky
Grunge and God doesn’t seem to mix in theory, but in reality, it’s a beautiful blend.
With a burst of raw energy, new artist Cory Emery has recently released his debut EP entitled A New Heart that is an unconventional and uncompromised delight. Take a listen and you will hear the synth dance-driven melodies of Mute Math, the grit filled vocals and guitar riffs of Citizens and Saints, the faith-filled lyrics of Hillsong, the nostalgia of Switchfoot’s early alternative sound coupled with Jon Foreman’s lazy vocal delivery, all rolled into one. Although these influences are evident, Emery has taken his own spin on things alongside bandmates Braden Brodersen and Tobey Pope and producer Brian Eichelberger. The result is catchy, honest, truthful but more importantly, as Emery put it, “gospelcentric.”
Hailing from the Northwest as a child of the 90’s with “grunge in his blood,” Emery got his start in music in a Christian pop-punk band called “Special Guest.” Profoundly impacted by an alt-rock/grunge band who led worship at a summer camp he attended, his style began being molded.
“I have always loved worshiping Jesus and spending time seeking His face and I remember telling Him, ‘Lord if I could lead worship like that I wouldn’t want to be in any other kind of band.’ Since then I’ve been in several worship bands continuing to pursue Jesus and walk in the steps He lays out for me,” Emery said.
Along with that early alt-rock/grunge band, other influences began to follow. First Switchfoot, by introduction of the song “Chem 6A” on a CD sampler, followed by Citizens and Saints, Zac Bolen, Kings Kaleidoscope, MuteMath, Thrice, Dustin Kensrue, Relient K, The Modern Post, Hillsong Young & Free, Matt Redman, Leeland, Jon Foreman, and NeedToBreathe.
“I love simple guitar parts mixed with really tight rhythms and straightforward melodies. I love the honesty that comes from grunge rock, it seems like such a good fit for worship. Jesus said we should worship in Spirit and in truth, to me, our sound is more about honestly trying to communicate what is in the heart of us to the heart of God,” Emery said.
Crediting his bandmates and producer, which whom he says he “gets to play with” for shaping his sound, Emery expands on his appreciation saying, “my drummer friend, Braden Brodersen, brings a very bold, pop-powerful playing style that really makes the kind of dancey feel on the record. Tobey Pope, our synth player, is a genius. I have never played with anyone like him. He adds a dimension to our music that I can’t even define. It’s so fun to bring songs to him and listen to the riffs and tones that he comes up with. They really take the songs to another level. Our producer Brian Eichelberger played bass on the album and his work blows me away every time I listen to the EP. Brian really knew how to take the songs and make them bloom into what they really were all along. This music would not be the same if it wasn’t for Braden, Tobey and Brian. I’m so thankful for them.”
Calvary Creative, a ministry at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa has also played a vital role in Emery’s music. Submitting questions to his friend and fellow worship leader, Scott Cunningham, Emery was able to show him his original worship songs. This then led him to be invited to record an EP with one of his all-time favorite producers. He reflects, “It was seriously a miracle and one I am still in awe of. I love the partnership I have with Calvary Creative and am so blessed that my church has invested in and supports the ministry the Lord has put in front of us to participate in.”
However, the true inception occurred years ago after Emery heard a message by his pastor Brian Brodersen on the anointing of King Saul in the Bible. 1 Samuel 10:9 notes that God put a “new heart” in Saul. There began the framework for the song and the EP.
“I was struck with the reality that living the life Jesus has invited and intended us to live is impossible unless He puts a new heart in us. We don’t just need our hearts to be changed, we need our hearts to be replaced with His. God said it this way in Ezekiel, ‘I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh, (Ezekiel 36:26).’”
When putting the EP together, the song almost didn’t make the cut due to the fact that he thought it might not work since it was written years back. The opposite was true. Emery’s producer felt the song was an important piece of the record and once the album was complete, it became clear that it was really the “over-arching theme” of the record and became the album title.
Along the lines of having a new heart, Emery also shared his thoughts on purity, stating that there is no way to will purity on our own. Much of his response comes from his own experience. He shares, “For a lot of my life I think I tried to do purity on my own. I wanted to correct my behavior, I was a believer and I knew what the standard was and I knew I wasn’t measuring up. It often seemed like the harder I tried, the harder I failed. I didn’t know what to do. The thing is, the Gospel tells us that Jesus didn’t die for us because we measured up, He died for us because we didn’t. He doesn’t withhold His love for us until we correct our behavior, ‘God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us,’ (Romans 5:8). He knows we will fail on our own so He offers us Himself. There is victory in Jesus. Just like He did for Saul He will put a new heart in us. It’s His heart of love that works purity out in us.”
Evident in his words, Emery is not only a guy with a big love for music, but also a big love for God. Yet, more than crafting good music, Emery desires to point others to Jesus as a worship leader deeming worship music not just entertainment or the song portion of a church service.
He shares, “I hope the music is engaging and exciting, but worship is about more than that. My desire every time I lead worship is to lift up Jesus so that He draws everyone to himself. I want people to walk away from the time of worship knowing that they met with God. I love concerts, but concerts are temporary. If we meet with Jesus, our hearts connecting to the heart of our Savior, eternal work happens. People’s lives are changed forever. Problems that aren’t fixable by men are solved by the work of our God. I want our times of worship to be times where we don’t just sing songs together, or have a great musical experience together. I want them to be times where Jesus is lifted up, seen, known, and working in the lives of people. People don’t need more music, they need Jesus.”
Desiring to incorporate his sound and style in the church, Emery explains that it largely depends on context. A firm believer in the concept that worship can take on many styles and be God honoring and life-giving, Emery remains sensitive to the Spirit and the audience when it comes to leading others in worship.
On the other hand, Emery isn’t afraid to get loud. He comments, “I think upbeat, passionate, and even loud worship is biblical and definitely not original to us or, Citizens and Saints, or Hillsong, or even Keith Green (throwing it way back). The psalmist wrote and invited everyone to praise the Lord (Psalm 150). To me that sounds like a pretty loud, upbeat and wild time of worship and it just happens to be the way the Lord chose to close out the Psalms.”
He continues, “The thing is, God is exciting and worthy of praise. I shout about a lot of things that don’t matter half as much as He does. I feel like it would be wrong for me to hold anything back in worshiping and loving Him. He definitely didn’t hold anything back in loving me. I’m just so thankful that I get to love Him and even more so, that I am loved by Him. It’s seriously hard to fathom, I never want to take it for granted or miss an opportunity to thank Him for it from the bottom of my heart to the top of my lungs.”
For more on Cory visit http://www.calvarycreative.org/cory-emery—a-new-heart.html and hear him live at LIFT at CCCM or Beachside Summerfest on June 10th.