We caught up with Sean from Bellarive, who shared his thoughts on worship, gadgets and musical influences.
1. How would you define Bellarive as a band? Do you see yourselves as a worship band or rock band with vertical lyrics?
Our hope is that people would see and embrace the idea that we are most definitely a worship band. The best defining and innate quality of a worship song is that it is sung directly to God. The question is not so much a matter of exactly how it sounds, but to Whom it is being sung. Worship songs are prayers. Sonically, we cover a fairly large landscape but we find that to be very important. That’s how life is right? It comes at us from all different directions. I think the goal is to find a way to worship God through every circumstance. We would love to play a small role in helping people do that.
2. Do you write some songs for corporate worship and some for artistic appeal, or is it all the same to you?
I think we are most inspired by the complimentary nature of a song. For us, a song is comprised of an extremely important sonic piece and an extremely important lyrical piece. Both carry equal weight and heavily affect each other. They are inseparable. So, we do our best to try and find the perfect synergy of those two elements. We try not to force a song one way or another. Instead, our goal is to support the song in whatever seems to be its proper home. Some songs are born for a corporate setting. Others carry the most impact for the kingdom by sitting in more of an introspective space. We believe humans desperately need both.
3. What trends to you see emerging in church worship?
I sense a pull toward songs with a more focused and personal lyrical nature. . One of the ways people receive a worship song as more than just “lyrics on a screen” is for it to be an actual testimony! We see this modeled for us all throughout the Psalms, which are really the largest biblical resources we have for worship music. They are not so much generalized statements as they are personal encounters. When a song is written from a personal vantage point, I think it actually helps make it personal for other people. It sinks in past the skin.
4. The band does a great deal of student events. What do you sense that young people want/need in worship?
Young people are full of life and passion. I think it’s important that we have worship songs that allow students to be “all in”. Students are not interested in bumpers or guardrails. They want to sings at the top of their lungs until they lose their voices! It’s important to craft songs that allow for that type of commitment and engagement. Sometimes in the church we have a tendency to be a little too cautious. Young people don’t want to hold back. They have no desire to play it safe. The songs that really resonate with them are the ones that are honest, and sung with the deepest conviction.
5. You guys travel most of the time now. How has this shaped you as worship leaders versus leading in the same church every week?
I think in a lot of ways it helps expand instincts and heighten spiritual sensitivity for different worship environments. It has helped me lead with a more fully present mindset. When you only have one night with a community, trust must be built as quickly as possible. Discernment and timing are very crucial elements. Those skills and sensitivities are developed and honed more quickly when you are placed in environments that demand them. It is a very interesting dynamic. In a lot of ways we have become our own little church. We share life together physically and spiritually. Without that type of community, spiritual health on the road can be very difficult.
6. Tell us about your writing process? Do you write alone or with co-writers? What instruments and/or gear to you use?
Worshiping God through song is one of the most sacred and integral parts of my relationship with Him. It mostly happens alone. For me, songs are prayers. These prayers help me process, and they help me hear God more clearly. Whether I am pondering some new revelation about God or sorting though a personal trial, I let the process happen. Most of the time, in the midst of all that, a song rises to the surface. I feel like songs, particularly worship songs, are gifts from God. They are filled with truth and that makes them eternal. In a sense, they are too sacred for man to have much of a hand in their origin. It’s not about trying to write a new worship song as much as it is about being available for God to help you hear what your soul is already singing. We spend a lot of time on the musical/sonic landscape of songs. For us, this is an equal part of the writing process. As a song is taking shape, we will make a full demo of it. Something that we think captures the musical sentiment of the song as well as the lyrical direction. It’s all about finding the right space.
7. What are the elements of a great song in your opinion?
Amazing worship songs come in all shapes and sizes. That in and of itself is such a testament to God’s creativity. The ones that stand the test of time seem to all have a unified heartbeat. For the Creator, they say thank you. They give Him glory and elevate His name and renown. For the creation, they help make us aware of the immediacy of His presence, and they remind us of His promises. We need reminders.
8. Bellarive is always very compelling on stage. How do you use this as a worship band to be compelling but not too showy?
For us, this topic always comes down to one thing: motive. If it is in your heart the need to be seen, then you will indeed be seen. Our intention is to sing to God, to give Him everything and to not hold back. We find that this passion and commitment helps create an environment for others to do the same. When that happens, we all begin to disappear. I think that is what worshiping in spirit and truth is all about.
9. Who is a dead musician that you would most admire?
This is a tough question…. I really like the simple song writing of Tom Petty and James Taylor. They are still alive and well but that’s about as far back as my inspiration goes ha ha.
10. Besides your phone and computer, what gadget could you not live without?
We have one of those remote control Drones for aerial video footage. That thing is pretty awesome.
11. What apps, software, instruments, or other tools do you recommend?
We are huge fans of Reason and Abelton. Live programming and sampling is something we really enjoy. Those two programs come in handy a lot! I am playing a Yamaha cp70 piano these days. We run it through a bunch of delays and reverbs and it creates a really dynamic sound. If you are willing to put up with how heavy that bad boy is, then you should check it out!
12. What’s your workspace like?
Our main practice room is the back room of my house. We have a makeshift recording studio set up most all of the time. It’s nothing fancy, but when inspiration strikes we are ready to go.
13. Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert? How does it affect your leadership style?
To this day, I’m still not sure if I am an introvert or an extrovert. If you polled the people closest to me you would probably get pretty evenly mixed reviews. Weird… I think no matter what type of person you are, in order to lead worship well you must establish trust and you must believe what you are saying. The Holy Spirit does the rest.
14. Any advice you want to give to other worship leaders?
1) Sing with your soul. Don’t be reactionary. Follow the song the Lord is revealing to you. His timing is always better. 2) Find rest in God. Nothing else, with every passing day, an endeavor that will become more and more difficult. Nothing is more crucial.
15. Fill in the blank. I’d like to see (worship leader) answer these same questions.
Martin Smith or Marty Sampson