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The Evolution of Brooke Ligertwood

The Evolution of Brooke Ligertwood

Brooke Ligertwood has spent more days than she can count in the studio, but there’s one particular session that stands out the most.

While filming an acoustic set for her latest album, Eight, Ligertwood had almost started the recording when the studio’s owner approached her with an old microphone in hand.

The crew had already set the stage up and the sound was exactly what everyone wanted, so she was confused about what the owner intended to do with the old microphone.  Little did she know, it wasn’t just an ordinary microphone.

“He walked right up and asked if I’d be willing to switch the microphone out for I Do,” she said. “He told me, ‘My grandfather was Billy Graham’s right-hand man. This microphone was Billy Graham’s microphone and it still has the original ribbon. I’ve had it at my house, and I’ve been saving it for when it felt like the right thing to have somebody record it on. And I felt like this shoot today, and you were the right person to use this microphone.”

With no hesitation, Ligertwood and her crew agreed. The artists gathered around a microphone in the middle of the room, focusing on the importance of not only the present moment but the moments that led up to this recording.

“We just talked for a moment about what that microphone represented, about the voice, the life of obedience that voice had spoken into, and also the words that had been spoken into that microphone, which is of course the Gospel,” she said.

“It caused us all to pause for a minute and think about the heritage that we are all standing in. Truthfully, none of us would be standing here if it wasn’t for people like Billy Graham and the generations who have gone before us who were faithful with the Gospel and their generation.”

As the day progressed, Ligertwood continued to reflect on Graham’s legacy and how his obedience led to millions of people coming to know Christ. In fact, obedience is something that she’s been thinking a lot about these days.

“I think I’m naturally a reflective person,” she said. “I think a lot about what it means to live in obedience and the consequences of that.”

Ligertwood had been spending a lot of time digging into the life of Dr. Charles Stanley after he passed away last year, when she came across his thoughts on obedience.

“One of my favorite things he said was, ‘Obey God and leave all the consequences to Him,’” she shared. “An obedience of consequence happens when you obey God without regard for the consequence, which I think is a pretty counter-cultural way to live. We’re often a real results-driven culture, but what a beautiful and freeing thing it is to live a life of faith that really trusts God with the results and leaves the consequences to Him.”

It’s a concept Ligertwood has been trying to implement in her own life. After decades of learning how to surrender to God in obedience, it’s not too hard for her to follow His lead. But when it comes to letting go of the consequences, that’s where she’s still figuring things out.

Take her second solo worship album, Eight. If it had been up to Ligertwood, she would have waited a few more months — maybe even years.

While she obeyed when she felt the Lord calling her to write new music, she wasn’t ready for people to hear them. She wasn’t ready for the consequences that could potentially come from letting everyone in on some of the darkest and most difficult moments of her life.

She still isn’t.

“In all honesty, I really wanted to wait to put this out until I’m on the other side of this incredibly difficult season where I can go, ‘I’m through it and this is how I got through it,’” she admitted. “Because that’s not my story right now. This is a record from right in the middle.”

When Ligertwood began working on this album, her life was already on a rollercoaster. Still adjusting to life post-pandemic, Ligertwood stepped away from Hillsong UNITED as the worship collective redefined itself in light of major changes at the megachurch.

Then, as Ligertwood and her family were still trying to find their footing, tragedy struck. Her mother-in-law came down with a sudden illness and died in a short amount of time.

The loss became an essential part of the album’s theme.

“It’s vulnerable to talk about because I’m still going through this season, but what I can testify to is that even in the darkness and the grief of the last couple of years for us, Jesus has been the sweetness and the sustenance and deep goodness,” she explains. “His mercy has bathed everything and detoxified the poison.

Ligertwood speaks with reverence for her current struggles, acknowledging that this project was likely more for her own journey rather than anyone else’s.

Eight brings with it like a lot of my own grief, but an equal amount of surrender and gratitude,” she said. “It’s been healing to make, but sometimes it’s a bit traumatic to talk about. Still, it has been a really beautiful process and a redemptive process.”

She trusts that there’s a deeper reason for this season of life she’s found herself in, leaning heavily on God and her community throughout her pain and confusion.

“When I’ve tried to figure everything out on my own, I’ve just caused myself more wounding,” she said. “But when I’ve brought it to him and let him into these places of tumult in my soul, I have found his healing to be unutterably profound and sufficient.”

While she waits to see what the future holds, she’s relying on the truth of her past experiences with God to give her peace. While the amount of grief she’s working through is unlike anything she’s walked through before, she’s had plenty of practice following God’s lead through uncharted waters.

Like on her first solo record, Seven. Ligertwood said that she had no intention of ever releasing a worship album on her own. After a solo pop career as “Brooke Fraser” in her 20s, she believed that the music she created as a worship artist was meant to stay in a group dynamic.

“I think it’s so important that I’m always part of something that’s bigger than me and not just about me,” Ligertwood says. “I love being part of a team. That is my happiest spot.”

So when she realized God was pushing her to create a solo album, she was surprised.

“The Lord brought all of these songs into my life in a very short period of time, and let me tell you, I’ve been making albums long enough to know when you have a group of ten songs versus when you have a group of ten songs that belong together and are a collective statement,” Ligertwood said. “But I definitely was not trying to make an album.

“In many ways, it was my worst nightmare, but when the Lord asks you to do something, He prepares you for it. He softens your heart, He changes things. And then in the case of Seven, He spoke very clearly and very quickly.”

At the time, Ligertwood wasn’t sure if creating a solo worship album was a fun side project or something God was calling her to for a greater purpose. Months after the album was released, she found her answer.

“After Seven came out, some really devastating things began to unfold in my church community,” she said. “I’m not saying that was the whole reason why God called me on that path, but I began to maybe understand why He had started to lead us this way.”

Ligertwood admits that while she is “grateful for the shepherding of God,” she is still working through a lot of what came up during that season.

“I still get sad about it sometimes,” she said. “This is not my dream, because I love being part of a team.”

Thankfully, Ligertwood has figured out a way to maintain a spirit of collaboration, even as she pursues a widening solo career.

Later this year, she’ll also be returning to her roots and releasing new music under Brooke Fraser.

“It’s a little bit crazy, but I get to do so many fun things with my whole Brooke Fraser team,” she said. “We’ve been working together for nearly 20 years, and when you have relationships that are that deep, there’s such a comfort to that. You trust each other.”

That trust is something Ligertwood is looking far and wide for these days. While her family is still moving forward from a shaky season with the church, her team and friends have been a rock to support her through it all.

“The Lord assembled us all together in a way that only He can,” she said. “We’ve been friends for many, many years just through ministry. So it’s such an honor to do all of this with my friends, which is the best part. There’s a lot of love and a lot of trust there.”

These days, Ligertwood is laser-focused on all things honor. Over the years, she’s grown disinterested in things that have fake hype or a shiny gloss. She wants to pursue things that are real.

“When I was fully immersed in my mainstream lane as Brooke Fraser,” she said, “one of the things that I was always hesitant about was how easy it is for worship artists, and even Christians in general, to use spiritual language to load God’s name on stuff. A part of that stemmed from immaturity over the things I didn’t understand. Another part of it was also pride because I thought that I knew things that I didn’t know.

“But I was always so aware of it happening in Christian and ministry spaces,” she continued. “Now, I’m even more aware of because I’ve been around it so much, so I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to use fluffy Christian words in my ministry.”

On Eight, Ligertwood worked hard to speak the truth about her situation without adding in “fluffy Christian words.” There’s still worship and praise, obviously, but there’s also an honesty and vulnerability throughout the album that she was both terrified and excited to share.

“I’m really grateful that I get to take these songs and bring my own expression to them and bring them to life in a new way,” she said.

Ligertwood writes her music with as much intentionality as she can muster. She’s not interested in making a chart-topping megahit — not that she’d mind if she did. She’s more interested in creating music that cultivates “a hunger for Jesus.”

“I mean, that is always the highest goal,” she said. “My hope is that this record becomes a tool people can really use on their own journey with Jesus.”

Ligertwood intentionally added instrumental moments throughout the album to allow listeners to sit and hold a conversation with God. It’s a time to reflect on the good, bad, ugly, hard, easy and everything in-between moments they’ve been experiencing.

“Honestly, some of those moments are awkwardly long,” she joked. “But I’ve deliberately done it because I want people to have that time sitting with God.

“Worship is a conversation,” she explained. “Worship is seeking God through singing and speaking, but it’s also listening.

“The whole record just exists to serve you in your relationship with Jesus,” she continued. “That’s it. I don’t care if you stream the songs once or a hundred times or never. I just hope that it could perhaps fuel somebody’s hunger for the Lord.”

For Ligertwood, she’s actually not focused on creating a long-lasting musical legacy. She said if she never writes music again after this year, she trusts it’s because God has something better in store for her.

“I’m not trying to build anything,” she said. “I’m not trying to build up a legacy as Brooke Ligertwood. At this point, it’s just obedience and surrender, obedience and surrender on repeat every day of my life.”

She chooses to walk in obedience with God, taking one step at a time. Sometimes the step is toward a dream she’s always had, or sometimes it’s a step in a direction she would have never taken on her way. Wherever she’s led by God, though, she’s happy to stay along for the ride.

“If He told me to wrap up my music career after Eight, then I’m fine with that,” she said. “I’ll do whatever he wants me to do. Maybe I’ll be a baker, or I’ll become a full-time reader. I’ll become a librarian. I’ll do something else. But I’ve always said I don’t mind what I do for the Lord. I’ll do whatever He wants.”

This mindset isn’t new. It’s one Ligertwood has been putting into practice for years. She even sang about it years ago, in a worship song called “New Wine.”

In the chorus, she sang, So I yield to You into Your careful hand. When I trust You I don’t need to understand. Make me Your vessel. Make me an offering. Make me whatever You want me to be.

“I don’t want to cling to my idea of how I think God will use me,” she said. “I want Him to use me however He wants to, because ultimately, that’s the place where I will find the most fulfillment and satisfaction this side of Heaven.”

Of course, it helps that Ligertwood is a naturally inquisitive person. She’s constantly asking questions, researching answers, adding to a seemingly never-ending pile of books to read (“I’m reading five different books right now, and they could not be more different,” she said) all in the pursuit of truth. She’s inspired by King David, who she considers a fellow kindred spirit when it comes to an insatiable curiosity for God.

“David was absolutely a person of inquiry,” she explained. “He was not a perfect man, but he had a heart after God. One of the beautiful ways we can see that throughout his life is that he just kept, he never stopped inquiring of the Lord.”

In the Psalms, David has seemingly thousands of questions for God: “O Lord—how long?” (6:3). “What is man that You are mindful of him?” (8:4). “Why do You hide in times of trouble?” (10:1). “Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill?” (15:1).

It’s why Ligertwood isn’t afraid to ask God questions, either.

“I made that decision a long time ago, and it’s something that I’m committed to,” she said. “I never want to assume what the Lord wants. I always want to ask Him, ‘what do you think about this Lord? What do you want?’ He’s usually pretty good at putting up a giant red flag or a wall or a green light or opening a door or a window. He’s really faithful in the way that he leads us.”

There is one question, however, that Ligertwood knows she doesn’t need to ever ask God.

“One thing I don’t think we ever have to question is are we called,” she said. “Because the answer is emphatically, ‘Yes!’ If God has saved you, He has called you. We are all ultimately called to one thing, which is what we call the Great Commission.”

Of course, how that calling manifests in one’s life is a different issue. For now, Ligertwood knows that she’s been called to lead worship. Yet even within that calling, she feels an exciting pull in many directions.

“That single calling that we all have — which we are graced for, which we are filled with the Holy Spirit for, which we are led into and which sanctification helps us kind of stay on track with — that calling also can have multiple assignments,” she said.

“I think sometimes we put pressure on ourselves to determine if that calling means we have to choose one vocation or choose one thing that we do,” she continued. “And I just don’t know if it’s always that simple. For some people, it might be, but I always just think like, I won’t be doing this forever, but when I’m not anymore, that doesn’t mean I’m any less called.”

During this season, Ligertwood is embracing the opportunity to be a voice for a generation seeking after God. Some days she still can’t believe that’s her calling.

“I’ve been so honored to get to write even a single song that a church would sing,” she said. “It is so crazy to me that I have been able to be part of so many songs over the years, both through my own church community and then other church communities. It’s a complete honor just to serve, and then they can do with it whatever they want.”

Ligertwood is still taking the time to figure out when that calling could change, but until then, she’s resting in the present, knowing that God will reveal the consequence of her obedience when the time is right.

“One day, I’m going to be the old weird lady in church going up to the young people asking if they need prayer,” she joked. “And I cannot wait because I know that will be my assignment in one season. But for now, I have peace knowing that if I give my attention to yielding to the Lord and getting to know Him more, and if I genuinely desire to be in His will, it’ll be really hard for me to miss that assignment. Because when you’re asking for it, it’s actually really hard to miss it when it’s the desire of your heart.”

© 2023 RELEVANT Media Group, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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