Misty Edwards knows how to write a worship song. She has written a decade’s worth of them in her role as a worship leader at the International House of Prayer. But with seven traditional worship albums behind her, Edwards is exploring a different side with her new release, Little Bird.

We talked to her about the album, the constraints of traditional worship music and the benefits of asking tough questions.

Little Bird feels like a pretty significant departure from some of your past stuff. Is that how you feel?

Yeah, for sure. The last few albums I’ve done have all been live. Even the last studio album I did was what I would call “live in the studio.” This is a studio album. It’s a lot different. I wrote the songs in solitude, as opposed to collaborating with other worship leaders like I’ve done in the past. It was much more reflective, more just journey-type songs. Even the artistic approach we did was a lot of the organic kinds of instruments and a lot of the analog-type things. So yeah, I would say it’s quite a bit different.

There’s often a very narrow idea of what’s considered worship music and what isn’t. Would you call this a worship album?

I always like to [call the traditional style] “corporate” worship, because I think anything done before the eyes of God is worship. We all know that.

Taking care of your children is worship, if you’re doing it in His eyes. But corporate worship—as far as the chorus-type songs that everyone can sing along with—this is definitely not that. And I didn’t want to do another album like that at this point in my life. I value that so much, but I think there’s so much more to music, and there’s so much more to poetry and art and expression under God than just chorus-type songs you can sing in a congregation.

How do you think your fans are going to react to the change in your sound?

I think some of them are going to really think I’ve lost my way, even though it’s not like I did a “secular” album. I don’t know what they’ll think, but they won’t like it for sure.

But I think there’s another percentage—I don’t know how large it is—of worship leaders that feel really frustrated creatively. They’re tired of writing the four-chord chorus-type song and they’re looking for an outlet. So I’m hoping I can give that group of people courage to think outside the box. And, hey, it’s all worship. You don’t have to choose one over the other.

Is there some sort of middle ground between what you call corporate worship and what you’ve done with Little Bird?

I love the corporate family gathering. I think, as a worship leader, just trying to learn to dance between what we would call prophetic music or the Little Bird type songs and then the corporate songs. I wouldn’t get up on a Sunday morning and just do my Little Bird album from top to bottom. But I could maybe throw one or two of those songs in my set list. I think the room could be touched by that.

God loves the human heart, the whole gamut of emotions, not just the high praise. He loves it all. He’s not some kind of egocentric being just waiting around for us to tell Him He’s beautiful. That’s not our God. It’s the interaction. I find that journey-type songs create that interaction sometimes.

If I’m leading at a conference. I find it challenging because the expectation of the people is they want to move, they want to jump or they want to clap. I find it challenging, but I keep trying to push those limits.

Have you ever written something or considered writing something that’s very honest and true to your relationship with God, but then find yourself being like “I don’t know if I can say this. I don’t know if the world or the church or my audience is ready for these kinds of thoughts and emotions yet”?

Yeah, for sure. I would even say on Little Bird, there are a couple songs I just didn’t put on there just because I thought maybe a little too vulnerable or too honest.

Could you see yourself doing it in the future? Could you reach that point?

Yeah, I’ve thought about it. You know, change my name and do something.

Start a punk band or something.

You tease, but you never know.

When people listen to Little Bird, what do you hope they walk away thinking about or feeling?

I don’t know if it’s the agenda I started out with, but now that it’s a completed product or project, whatever you want to call it, I think I want them to walk away asking questions about God. Not necessarily with me feeding them conclusions, if that makes sense.

I love to evoke questions in the lyrics that I choose so that people have to really think about it and figure out what they believe. So I hope they’re asking questions about God, and I hope they walk away with a clear testimony of God’s mercy.

I’ve tried to capture the tensions of the majesty and the holiness and the mystery of God, but at the same time, the dirt and the earthiness of our lives without any contradiction. And if they can somehow walk away with those two realities, that seem extreme polar opposites, I think I have done well. Because that’s all of our story, you know.

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