Releasing the first single from your debut solo album would cause any artist to feel fear or anxiety, but worship leader and songwriter London Gatch felt something different.
When “Jesus Only You” released in May 2018, London says, “I can’t even describe the feeling of freedom that I had. I feel like, in a lot of ways, it was the expression of worship I was always meant to express.”
The single has proven to be the first of many tracks on New Stories, which is set to release January 2019, that reveal London to be a seasoned artist who knows who she is, who is honest in her expression of her faith, and who is committed to ushering others into their own unique expression of worship.
But this boldness and vulnerability—so clear and evident on New Stories—were long-awaited fruit for London, gifts and talents hidden beneath the soil. Until now.
London spent the better part of the last decade on staff at Elevation Church, a multi-site church campus based in Charlotte, N.C. She was also a part of their chart-topping worship platform, Elevation Worship.
“I wore a lot of hats,” she says. “I was one of the live creative directors, worship leaders, songwriters, over vocalists, auditions…so it was a very wild, crazy ride.”
When London felt God calling her to something new in 2016, she didn’t know that something new would lead her away from Elevation. But she trusted what God was saying to her: “I felt so strongly that He was speaking to me, ‘I’m preparing you for something new. I’m going ahead of you and I’m making the plans. I’m planning your trip, and I’ll send you the itinerary.’”
That itinerary included several major life events for her and her husband, Lance, over a short period of time. First, they felt called to transition away from Elevation Church and Elevation Worship. Then, they gave birth to their first daughter, Tilly. Next, they moved home to Charleston, S.C., where they both grew up, and rejoined an old church family. And finally, London signed with BEC Recordings’ new worship label, BEC Worship, to write, produce and release New Stories.
New Stories chronicles London’s inner faith journey since transitioning away from full-time ministry. Eight years on staff had led to burnout and anxiety, as can often happen for pastors and ministry leaders. London says she felt “spiritually frozen.” Now, in this new place and new season, she says, “I’ve finally been defrosted.”
New Stories is a testament to this, how the soil can turn from frozen to flourishing, how our minds can turn from anxiety to peace, how the voices in our heads can turn from lies to truth, and how our hearts can turn from bondage to freedom.
“Jesus Only You,” co-written with Jesse Reeves and Aaron Robertson, captures not only the journey London’s been on the past year and a half, but how she got there. The song begins with Only You can make it right again / Only You will make me whole within / No more fear and no more pain / There’s freedom in Your name / Hallelujah.
“That song is very much a cry and a prayer for emotional healing,” says London. Anxiety was a part of her story for a long time, but she’s experienced deep healing in that area of her life, and she says she has seen Christ’s healing in a new way—not as something we have to wait for, but as something we already have access to.
“God wasn’t sitting around waiting for me to break before He healed me,” she explains. “[Jesus] died on the cross so that I can have healing already…he already made me new.”
Being made new is just one of several basic truths listeners will hear expressed in a new, fresh and honest way on New Stories, which is due to a new depth London has experience in her faith.
“[God’s] been giving me a look back at the foundation of my faith,” she says, “And he’s reminding me of some of the basic principles of what we all believe: What does it mean to be a child of God? What does it mean to be loved by him?...I feel like he’s showing me stuff in a brand new way.”
The fruits of the Spirit, freedom from lies, our identity in Christ—all of these basic truths appear on the album, but none of them feel trite or dry. Instead, several tracks on New Stories feel like scripture-rooted mantras listeners can sing over their lives to remind themselves of who they are and who God is.
“You Never Walk Away” is one of these powerful mantras, singing of God’s faithfulness to us and who He made us to be. The lyrics were inspired by Isaiah 54:10, which says, “For even if the mountains walk away and the hills fall to pieces, My love won’t walk away from you.”
When London read that, she thought, “That is the best line. I want to sing that over myself.”
With co-writers Josh Silverberg and Lindsey Sweat, she wrote, You sing me out of my deepest grief / Above the fear and above the lies / Not even for a moment have You ever left my side / Your love will never walk away from me.
On the bridge, London’s vocals are powerful and clear, declaring, My God, you will deliver / My God, almighty healer / I stand upon Your promise / On every word of Your lasting love.
“Even post writing that song, I’m starting to learn a lot more about what it means to be delivered from the darkness,” says London. “I feel like I’m continuing to see dark stuff that I’m being delivered from.”
Emerging is that clear and powerful voice, one that sounds sure of what she’s singing, not because she has it all figured but because she knows she doesn’t have to—another lesson God has taught her in this new season.
London explains, “He’s never said, ‘You have to be perfect.’ He said, ‘You just have to love me, and I make you perfect through your belief in me, through your faith.’”
This candor and vulnerability makes London’s songwriting as personal as it is worshipful. Echoing David’s style in the Psalms and based on Psalm 23, the slow-tempo ballad “Shepherd” expresses both anguish and hope: In the worst trouble I’ve ever seen / When I couldn’t even dream / You planted me a seed / Of passion and vision.
The title track expresses an equally vulnerable and honest sentiment, asking God for new stories of wonder, new stories of signs, new vision of breakthrough. Lance, London’s husband, first used the phrase “new stories” during a time of prayer with friends from church.
London recalls, “My husband said, ‘I feel like I’m still living day to day off old stories of what God has done in my life…I want to have new stories. I want to have fresh stories of what God is doing.’”
One of the new stories London and Lance are a part of is the recently launched worship label at BEC Recordings. London, who joined Elevation soon after it started, says it’s exciting to be a part of something knew again: “We get to be a part of something on the ground floor…The family there is amazing. We all fast together once a month as a label in prayer that God will move and that His will will be done with the music that’s coming out of it and the ministry that’s coming out of it.”
BEC Worship and London are on the same page, both seeking God’s will first in ministry and in music, resulting in a beautiful partnership where artist and label are as dedicated to the work as they are to what fuels it.
It is clear that London is exactly where she is supposed to be. Her once-frozen faith has certainly thawed, and New Stories is proof that what lay beneath is a worship leader who is worshiping and creating from her own unique voice and in doing so is inviting others to do the same, to find the expression of worship we were always meant to express.
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