Living Room Songs
Our Interview with Housefires
Starting as the worship expression of Grace Midtown Church in Atlanta, the music of Housefires has since traveled far and wide, being echoed by thousands of churches throughout the world. With songs like “Good Good Father” and “Build My Life,” Housefires has found a way to express the heartbeat of today’s worshippers. We sat down with Tony Brown, Nate Moore, Kirby Kaple and Jonathan Jay of Housefires to hear more about their journey firsthand.
Tell us how Housefires began.
NM: Housefires started as an expression of the worship going on at Grace Midtown church in Atlanta, GA. We were all in community together – writing songs and leading worship not only at Sunday services, but also in homes all throughout the city during the week. Housefires was simply a way to capture some of the songs and God-breathed moments that were happening all over our communities in Atlanta.
Things really exploded for you guys with “Good Good Father.” Describe what that season was like.
NM: That season was so incredibly powerful! It’s unreal to see a song that was birthed in a small gathering of worshippers in a living room in Atlanta reach the Church all around the world. It was so encouraging to see how God used that song as an anthem and message in so many communities, churches, and lives.
TB: I remember getting an iPhone video from a friend at that time. It was kind of blurry, but it was a video of a Franciscan monk singing “Good Good Father” in a procession for the Pope as he entered the chapel in New York City in his visit to the States. Later that year, while I was leading worship in Belfast at a friend’s house, several monks came in to join us. One of them was the same monk from the video. Those days were special and feel very serendipitous in a way.
There were a number of other recorded versions – Casting Crowns, Big Daddy Weave, Zealand, and many more. It was also the #1 song on the CCLI Top 100® for U.S. churches in February and again in August of 2017. How do you put all that in perspective?
KK: Sometimes it seems like God speaks to the masses in themes. It was obvious through many songs at the time that God was speaking to creatives about His endless goodness. It was and still is a revelation we are humbled to hold and help steward for others. To provide language for people to grab ahold of, so the revelation sinks in deeper, is the greatest privilege.
It looks like “Build My Life” is on a similar trajectory, it’s currently #6 on the CCLI Top 100®. What’s the story behind that song?
KK: Pat and I began the chorus of that song in Scotland while traveling on a mini-tour and doing ministry at local churches. We were inspired by the fact that if we don’t have God’s heart, what are we doing? I love the quote by C.S. Lewis that says, “God walks everywhere incognito.” If we’re not filled with His heart and led in His love, we just may miss Him. I think people resonate strongly with this song because it encompasses multiple dimensions of worship. It starts with this deep revelation of Jesus, His worthiness, His holiness. It moves to our response, to that revelation and what that means for how we live our lives with those around us. And finally, it brings us to an anthemic declaration of decision, “I will build my life…” It’s rare to have a song do so much. As a worship pastor, I find that this song is a perfect response to almost any message.
Talk about the new project.
KK: Ahhhh!!! We’re so pumped about this new album! I feel like these songs were crafted with and among our Atlanta worship community more than any other album. During past recordings, people were hearing some of the songs for the first time. This album is completely different. Our community almost helped craft the songs with us for months before we captured them. The night of the recording felt so free and relaxing in His presence. We weren’t stressed or worried about how the songs would land. It was super refreshing.
TB: This is our fifth record, which is wild to even say out loud sometimes since records were never the goal. What’s really special about this one is that some of these songs and choruses predate our first album “Housefires 1.” Heart songs from our living rooms that have been around forever and even years later still resonate and make their way onto projects. That feels authentic to us that we are still very much inspired by the thing that started it all.
JJ: We are super excited about the new songs. A few of the songs on the new record are songs that we’ve been sitting with for a few years, and it finally feels right to release them after all this time. For me, it’s a reminder that the fires that God started in our community a long time ago are still alive and burning. I’ve always loved that so many people can connect with songs that were written for a specific season in our own lives or our family’s lives. I really do hope that these songs touch people the same way they’ve touched me.
Kirby, what inspired your song, “I’ll Give Thanks”?
KK: I can’t help but wear my heart on my sleeve. Especially with worship. Even more so with writing. My husband and I have been trying to start our family for the last seven years. We are FINALLY pregnant! This song was written during the last year or so of our struggle. It became my anthem as Jay, Tony and I crafted this song together. I love that this song lifts our eyes from our circumstances without denying our season. I love the line that says, “this season doesn’t tell my story.” There’s always more. We can only see so much at a time while God sees it all. Our whole story. This song speaks to deep pain but makes you feel lighthearted at the same time. This is still my favorite song to lead.
You recently shared on YouTube a live version of “Coming Home,” a powerful song about the Prodigal Son’s return. Truly incredible. Tell us the story behind that song.
NM: The lyrics of the bridge came out of a spontaneous moment in a house church gathering where Tony was leading almost ten years ago. Tony captured that night of worship on his computer and showed me the recording shortly after it happened. I remember being so moved by the lyrics that he sang: “it feels like coming home for the first time in a long time”. Those words have stuck with me ever since! The last several years I’ve been really captivated by the story of the Prodigal Son again and naturally, a handful of songs that I’ve helped write have been inspired by that imagery and story.
Last summer, several of us were on a writing retreat in Charleston and we were tossing out ideas that we could write songs around. We started to talk and write about the love of the Father as we developed other song parts and pieced them together to fit that theme. Out of nowhere, I remembered the old “feels like coming home” lyrics. It felt so special, even years later, and it fit so perfectly into the song we had been writing that day! I love how God leads us to combine older and newer moments together to form this song – there’s something really sacred and powerful about that.
TB: “Coming home,” the chorus and bridge are tags that I’ve been singing for years in my friends living rooms. The prodigal story and the search for home has always been something that I’ve found inspiration in. I’ve never met my father and always struggled with feeling that I belong somewhere. The idea of being found by him not just in salvation but in the everyday places of life where I still am prone to wander has been something that held me firm. The truth that He not only finds us but He runs to us and gives a kiss and the shirt off His back to cover us, that’s the father I never had, that’s the God I need over and over.
JJ: Songs like “Coming Home” speak to the universal human condition that we all find ourselves in. A fundamental need to be known and loved. Watching people encounter the bridge of “coming home'” is always the best part of the night for me, because they can’t help but smile a little bigger at that part of the song. Some of the best things in life are the hardest to put in words, and rightfully so. God meeting me on my proverbial road has always evoked feelings of nearness, purpose, and a profound sense of belonging. I hope that this song can give people a little bit more language to describe the love of our Father.
Any glimpse into what’s ahead for Housefires?
KK: We’re continuing to host our monthly worship nights at Grace Midtown in Atlanta, and we plan to release music more consistently in the future as we begin to live capture all of our worship nights! We’re constantly writing with amazing friends and some of them just may jump in from time to time!
TB: We’ve always hesitated to define what this thing is. Mostly because we all hold it so sacred. We’ve always seen it as an expression of what the Spirit was doing amongst us as a community, which is why the emphasis is always been on the songs. These moments together are what make Housefires “House Fires.” I think we’re going keep those coming.
NM: Our plan is to continue writing songs about what we’re learning with God and what we’re seeing Him do in our families and communities. We are also going to continue to host and lead monthly worship nights back in Atlanta. Those nights feel like the truest expression of our ministry and we’re so excited to keep them going! Our worship nights are where we record all of our music so we’re definitely planning on releasing some more moments and songs from those nights in the future!