(Photo courtesy of Hoganson Media Relations)
Q&A: Paul Zach (God is the Friend of Silence)
By Delaney Mowers
March 23rd saw the release of the album God is the Friend of Silence, by artist and Portico Church worship leader Paul Zach. In his first solo album, Zach recorded five live songs with the help of Liz Vice on back up vocals. Produced by Isaac Wardell through The Fuel Music, this album focuses on seeking God in the silence of life. I talked to Zach about his album and the process behind it, and I hope you can learn a little bit more about Zach and his music through the conversation.
Just to begin, could you tell me a little bit about what creating music means to you and how you feel it has affected you as a person?
Paul: Yeah, for me, it’s a great way to process what I am feeling and what I am learning. Music has always been a comfort for me, just playing guitar, or playing piano. It’s just a comfort. So for me, songwriting has been a way to take what I am learning about or what I am going through, what I am experiencing with my kids or my wife, or with God, and putting that into a song. I always have my radar on, anytime I am reading a book or having a conversation. Everything is kind of fair game for possible lyrics. So I am always thinking about it.
So how do you feel that this process of creating music has affected your relationship with God?
Paul: Well, this EP is about finding God, it is about prayer, and that’s never been something I have been very good at. It has never been something I have enjoyed. For me, prayer has been a struggle. Silence has been something that for me, being alone with my thoughts, is something that I have run from and just something that I have not done. So these songs have been a way for me to really think about the importance of silence, the importance of prayer in our culture where entertainment and excitement and getting things done are important. Writing new songs has kind of helped me just realize the importance of prayer. The album is titled “God is the Friend of Silence”, which comes from a quote from Mother Theresa. I love that idea-God is the friend of silence. That is usually the last place I go when I want to find God, but that is important and where he is found a lot of times.
How do you feel like creating these songs has grown you as a person and as a Christian and pushed you more in that direction?
Paul: Just in regards to prayer, learning to, it is still not necessarily something, if I am being honest, that I look forward to necessarily. It is still not something that I love, but know it is something that I can grow to love: prayer and silence and being alone with God. I think writing these songs has healed me continue in the discipline of prayer and silence even though its not easy and even though it is not rewarding for me. I just read and hear so many people that I respect that love to pray. So I know it is one of those that I will learn to enjoy if I continue at it.
I see. So going off that, if you had any advice for listeners or somebody who is struggling with the same things, what would you tell them?
Paul: Well, one thing that has helped me is how I look at what prayer is. For me, there is four big words: the ACTS prayer. Each letter stands for something different. So A is for Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. And I know those are big words, but when I pray I start with adoration. It is a big word that means praising God for who he is. And then I go to Confession where I confess my sins and repent for what I have done wrong. I repent for the ways that I haven’t followed God and gotten lost and kind of left my neighbor. Then I go to Thanksgiving, which is just a word to say thanks. God has given me breath each morning which is enough for me to be thankful. And then I end with Supplication, which is the most common thing we think of when we think or prayer. Asking God to help me with this or give me this. I think just broadening my idea of prayer instead of just what I need from God. It is more of a relationship and more of a conversation with God than just a laundry list of what I need him to do for me. For me, going to my church and going to the pews has helped me a lot. It is a nice location and sometimes I will walk to a park and pray. So I think some practical things like that has helped.
That is a cool way to think about, definitely. So if you could pick one overarching word that describes God is the Friend of Silence, what would it be?
Paul: Probably the word simple. We did the whole things completely live. We all went to a studio in Brooklyn and recorded it completely live. There isn’t any fancy studio tricks, just me and a few of my friends recording together. I think it gives it kind of that quiet and hopefully beautiful quality that it has. It is simple songs with beautiful strings. I think that is the first one that comes to mind.
Do you feel that recording these sings live changed the feel or the power behind the songs at all? How do you feel that affected the album?
Paul: I think it did. I have been a part of so many recording where they take months and months to record because they add so many instruments. And I felt, especially with these songs, that they needed quiet and simple. And when you have someone like my friend Liz who has such a beautiful voice, it was nice to be able to hear instead of all this other stuff on top of it. I love recording all these different types of styles, so for me it was about doing something new and challenging myself to do something that was stressful. It was scary recording it live because I just new whatever we sang was exactly what we would get. So it was fun for me to just kind of be nervous, and just doing it and then leaving it.
Were you ultimately happy with how the album turned out?
Paul: Oh yes, very happy. I have said this to other people, but I just love surrounding myself with people who are much more talented. I think that really happened this time around. I had my friend Isaac who produced the album, who is such a gifted songwriter and producer. I had my friend Liz who has such great musictry of her own and such a great voice. And the string courted, who was just so wonderful, and my friend Sarah, they are so talented and successful on their own, I was just grateful that these musicians and friends would be willing to help me out with my stuff.
Ultimately, what are you hoping people get out of this album? What is your vision and your hope for it?
Paul: I hope they are songs people can sing at their churches. I sing a lot of these songs at church. I need worship at a church in Charlottesville. I hope these songs can be used to be sung together and I hope that these songs can help people in their own times of relating with God. I hope maybe my struggle with learning how to pray and my difficulty with prayer and silence can push others to continue in prayer even though it is difficult.
If your fans could remember one thing about you or about your music, what would you want it to be?
Paul: I hope they think it is honest. I think there is a lot of music out there that is saying what they think people want to hear. I hope, especially since it is worship songs-just prayers that we sing together-I am putting words in people’s mouths to say to God, if I am not honest, I don’t know why I would be doing that. So I think honesty is important, I think it is a huge concept to pray what we think God wants to hear. And I am really not interested in that. I want to be honest with myself and be honest with God. So hopefully I wrote songs that were honest that people could sing that have some depth to them. That is my goal.
That makes sense. So what was your favorite part of creating this album?
Paul: I think definitely recording it. It was just such a rush to record it live and sing with Liz and singing with Sarah and the quartet. It was so much fun.
It sounds fun! So what has been the biggest musical influence in your life?
Paul: Hhhmmm, that is a tough one. There has been a lot over the years. Some of my favorite church music has been great. I told my friend Isaac, who produced this album-he has a band-that if I hadn’t heard his church music I definitely wouldn’t be working at a church. I love his stuff, and I love the band called the Sing Team that writes these very joyful church songs. And that is another great church band that I love. Church music I love. I also like a lot of other bands, like U2 and Coldplay and Radiohead, that sort of stuff as well. But in terms of writing music for the church, those are some of my favorites.
So lastly I want to ask, why do you feel that music has the power to bring people closer to God?
Paul: I think it has the power. I would probably phrase it that it is a gift from God that brings us closer. I think a lot of things have that power. My kids bring me closer to God. Good food has the power to bring me closer to God. All sorts of things, like a beautiful sunset. I think music that is beautiful hopefully gives us gratitude that points us back to the creator of all beautiful things. Music has so many wonderful things. Singing together, when we all pray together through song, there is a power in that and when we are all focusing out thoughts together on the wonders or the mercy or the love of God, there is definitely power in that. I am just grateful to be able to be given the gift of music. I think it is just a wonderful thing.