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Guideposts Chats with Hillsong United About New Album ‘Wonder’

Hillsong United stopped by to talk about their latest surprise album, “Wonder,” their favorite place to play live, and which band member has the weirdest superstition.

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Joel: Oh, g’day. My name is Joel.

Taya: Hello, Joel. My name’s Taya.

Joel: Hello, Taya.

Matt: My name is Matt.

JD: And I’m JD.

Matt: And we are from Hillsong United and excited to be talking to you. And we have a new album out. It’s called Wonder. And we’re very, very excited about it, and it’s something—I mean we’ve done quite a few albums now. Maybe you don’t know that. If you don’t know that, that’s great. But this one is very special to us. And we went into it kind of treating it like it was the first one that we’ve ever done and treating it like it’s the last one we’ll ever do.

I don’t know if it is the last one we’ll ever do, but that’s the way we looked at it because we just wanted to make sure that if we’re going to be doing this thing that we want to be giving it our absolute best, and I feel like we did. We’ve spent the best part of the last eight [months]—and probably best part of the last year just working on this thing and just believing that the songs are going to be something that are honest and timely for what’s going on in the world right now and what it is that, you know, God, who is never changing, is trying to say and wanting to reveal to those of us who are alive and breathing in the Earth right now.

So, you know, I feel like it’s something that is, even for us singing the songs and listening back to it, it feels like there’s a whole lot of just what God’s been doing in our own lives and our own journey and a whole lot of just looking into the future with a sense of hope and joy and a sense of really believing that God is who He says He is, that he’s doing what he said he’s going to do, and that he’s in complete control. And the future is something that we should look to full of expectation with an awareness that God always moves in unexpected ways. And so that’s kind of a little bit of the story of why the album, but we’re glad to be here.

Guideposts: OK, so some questions to ask.

Joel: OK. Do you want to take one?

JD: Yeah, is it—right, so Caitlyn is asking, what’s your favorite song on the album and why?

Joel: You start.

JD: That’s so hard.

I think—yeah, it’s so hard. It kind of changes on a daily and sometimes weekly basis for us. We’ve been able to listen to these for the last few weeks. But, at the moment, I would say there’s a song called Future Marches In, which is track three. Is that right? Yeah. And I just love the way it sounds, but even more than anything the message of that song for us even today doing this, reading the newspapers is actually quite shattering. And there’s so much in the world that can cause us to fear the future.

But the truth is if we trust God and His plan, which is the truth, we actually have so much to hold onto. We have so much hope. And so I think it’s a really fun song but also kind of helps us declare the truth that, you know, in the midst of everything going around, which, you know, we’re never meant to completely understand, but the future is bright for us. And we serve a God Who does love us.

And He has a way of turning the mess of this world into, you know, His message of love and hope. And as His word says, He’s working all things together for good for those who love Him. So we’ve got incredible hope to, as we can, march into the future. It’s fun. Future Marches In, track three. Check it out. 

Taya: Can you describe the sound of the new album? Should you take this one?

Matt: No, you got it.

Taya: Really?

Joel: Yeah, I would love to hear you describe it. So Jared asks— hi Jared—can you describe the sound of the new album? Go ahead. Go.

Taya: Yes. I’m going to say nostalgic, a little bit 90s, which I kind of love, but also futuristic as well. I think I described this once before, and I was like, there’s drums and there’s guitars. But I love it, and I love it because it’s actually quite diverse. And there’s a lot of different types of tracks as well, whether you want to just like sit and listen and chill out or maybe you actually want to get up and dance and have a lot of fun. So, yeah, I don’t know. I think there’s something for everybody.

Joel: Yeah, I think when we went into the project, we kind of just, rather than trying to over-think it or over-analyze the whole process, it was much more about going back, even just for us, and thinking about, what was it that we fell in love with when we first discovered music for ourselves? And, you know, not necessarily so much the nursery rhymes, although for some of us that might have been it, but more so just like there was a moment I think for each and every single one of us where we like—music grabbed a hold of us—um, soul.

And it was just things like, I just want to be a part of making music. And so we would chat and talk about all our favorite artists and, you know, just experiences like telling stories, like nostalgic kind of stories of like back when we were 12 and hearing a certain song for the first time and just having to save up money for like two weeks to kind of go and buy a single. And then just reading the CD booklet and like putting it on and just listen to it and repeat.

And it was like this really special thing. And I think now because we live in an age where, you know, we consume things so quickly and music’s so accessible, it’s a different experience for people. But it’s also easy now to just jump online and to kind of go in a vortex of like finding new music and experiencing something.

And so we were just thinking about that, and in the same way I guess we—the message of the album was like, what did we first fall in love with when it came to our faith? Why did we fall in love with Jesus? What was it that kind of grabbed hold of us? And I think we tried to kind of take those two things and mesh them together in a way that is honest. That’s what the album is. That’s how it sounds. And it’s got guitars and music and keys and drums.

Taya: Perfect.

JD: Rock on.

Joel: Rosa asks, where’s your favorite place to play live? You can say the front of the stage.

Matt: Thank you. Great question, Rosa. Are we talking about like geographically or—

Joel: I think so.

Matt: OK. I think for all of us there’s something special always about going to places like South America where the people are so passionate and crazy and in love with Jesus. And you go to these places, and they’re just—that’s exactly what it is. It’s something you’ll never forget because there’s thousands and thousands and thousands of people who come to the nights, and it’s just incredible.

I remember Colombia, it was pouring down with rain, but still it was just a crazy amount people, endless, and they all stayed. And they were going mental. Mumbai. I could go on. All these places.

I think for me, personally, there’s nothing like being at home just in like our local church and doing that. But I think everything’s got its reasons why, so I don’t know. For me, it would be one of those places, I think.

Joel: Christie asks, can you share a secret about another band member that fans might not know?

JD: I’m trying to think.

Joel: Let’s do it about someone who’s not here. OK, Michael Guy Chislett, for example, he plays guitar. He’s helped produce the albums. He often sleeps with garlic in his socks.

JD: Yeah, that’s a good one.

Joel: Because he, I guess, read somewhere that it makes you healthy. And his feet smell terrible, so there you go.

Taya: But does he ever get sick?

Joel: No, he rarely gets sick, so he might be on to something. There you go. Dave asks, what’s your best memory from the road?

JD: Wow, there’s so many.

Taya: I’ve got one. My favorite thing about being on the road with everyone is that we get to become like family because you’re spending so much time. So it’s either you hate each other or you love each other. So we’ve become like family.

Joel: I don’t hate anybody. Who do you hate?

Taya: I know, but like, you know, like—I don’t know. But it’s good. You see everyone at their just worst and best times, so it’s awesome. But my favorite thing is when we get on the bus, we do highlight, lowlight, and just talk about the best part of your day and then maybe like a funny part of your day that wasn’t so great but then everyone else can enjoy it. And so then it kind of makes it a highlight, so…

Matt: Depends which bus you’re on.

Taya: Yep. Bus two for life.

JD: We play charades on our bus.

Joel: Yes. Any other highlights from the road?

Taya: Tuck shops?

JD: Oh, yes. Getting—it’s like driving from one city to the next and it being 3:00 in the morning and going into tuck shops to find a T-shirt to wear the next day is always fun.

Taya: It usually has like a wolf on it or something or like—

Joel: It’s the one place I can find T-shirts that fit me as well because they always have like triple extra large or something, And it doesn’t matter if it’s pink and it has like a big—

Taya: It’s true, or like Duck Dynasty vibes.

Joel: Yeah, or a big eagle on it.

Taya: Yeah.

Joel: Yeah. Alyssa asks, what do you think your most meaningful song is or the song that has had the biggest impact?

JD: You should take that one, too.

Joel: Yeah. Well, I would hope that all the songs are meaningful. You know, there’s definitely been songs in the past I know that I’ve written that maybe haven’t been as meaningful, and they’ve never done well. They just weren’t good songs. So I think one of the things I’ve learned as a songwriter and Matty and I talk about often is just making sure that every lyric that we write, every moment, is intentional and is founded in scripture and founded in some element of revelation but also questions.

And I think it’s OK to have questions when it comes to God. I think sometimes we get really good at feeling like we have to have all the answers, especially as Christians. We’re like, well we have to have all the answers or else we’re not mature or something. And, you know, I look at, you know, Jesus. He always responded to questions well, and He often responded with a different question. And I think sometimes He knew that if He was going to give a direct answer, it would be misinterpreted by those because there’s so many different people who could hear His voice. And so people love to, you know, apply what they hear to however they—whatever their worldview is and what they’re thinking.

And I think that, you know, kind of songs serve the same purpose in many ways. So a lot of the songs that we write often they pose questions of God, sometimes subtlety or in a subversive kind of way that I think helps people, especially within the framework of music and art, to connect with something deeper than our brain, which I think God’s always after. He’s after our heart.

And so that’s been a cool thing, and I think what is actually the coolest thing about it is when it comes to the biggest impact, you can talk about a song based on like, I guess, earthly measures, you know, how many records it’s sold or how many people listen to it on Spotify or whatever it might be. And I think there’s impact in that, for sure, but I think it’s foolish of us to measure an impact of any song or anything when it comes to God or the Kingdom around how the Earth measures things.

And so I think the impact of a song might be that no one ever sings it in churches and no one ever—it doesn’t, you know, kind of break any records, but, you know, when you hear a story about how a song connects with someone in a supernatural way in their greatest hour of need, to me that is an impact that’s eternal. And so, you know, if you want a quick answer, it’s probably Oceans because it’s one of those songs that has gone places that we never could have imagined us going or even the song going. It’s done amazing things.

But just yesterday we talked to a girl, who came up to us randomly, and she burst into tears, and then we burst into tears because she was saying that a song called Prince of Peace that hasn’t kind of broken any records, but her mom was dying, and she’d been in a coma for a number of weeks. And they played that song on repeat in her room.

And this girl told us that she woke up from the coma after the doctors said that she was never going to see the light of day again and said goodbye to everyone and that she loved them, and then she passed away. And she talked about how the song had helped her and her family through that season. And it was like this amazing moment of closure. And I think that, to me, is more valuable than anything, so yeah.

Rob asks, who’s your favorite artist right now?

Matt: I’m thinking. I can never remember.

Taya: Chance the Rapper’s pretty rad.

Matt: I can never remember. I have to go through my Spotify list. Actually, Harry Styles is killing it for me. Not just a good singer. It’s true.

JD: I like both of those.

Joel: Tom asks, if you weren’t in the band, what would you be doing?

JD Easy. I would be—well, the band also means I’m working in church, which is what we do and that’s what I want to do. But if it wasn’t that, I would be hosting a travel show on television.

Joel: I would watch that show.

JD: Yeah. Getaway. Remember growing up watching Getaway?

We had a show in Australia called Getaway, and I was like, that is either that or be a water slide tester. That’s another thing I’d like to do.

Joel: Great. Anyone else?

Taya: Reality? I’d probably still be selling clothes. I loved it, though. I love fashion, and I love people so…

JD: Retail or reality?

Taya: Oh, retail. Yeah, I know.

Joel: You could be a hairdresser as well.

Taya: Oh, thank you. Maybe don’t ask Matt that because I gave him a really bad haircut once, so I probably wouldn’t be doing that.

Matt: No, she creamed me.

Taya: But if I wasn’t doing this and say like I had no voice and I wasn’t in church, like working in church and stuff, I would be a triathlete. I would really try.

Joel: You’d try to be an athlete. Very good. Ba-dink-shhh.

Taya: I always wanted to, yeah.

Joel: I love it. I’ve never heard that before. It’s brilliant. Do you mean like you’d try to be an athlete or you’d be a triathlete, like you would swim, run, and ride bikes?

Taya: I’d try to be a triathlete. Yeah, so it’s like run, run, run—eat, eat, eat—bike, bike, bike. Eat something.

Joel: I would be a try hard athlete.

Matt: I don’t know. I’d probably be landscaping still.

Taya: OK. Oh, that’s it.

Matt: That’s it.

Taya: Oh, thanks, guys.

Joel: Bye, everyone. We love you.

Taya: Bye. We’re friends, I promise.

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