Interview: Kees Kraayenoord

Aug 25 2011

Dutch worship leader, songwriter and speaker Kees Kraayenoord has grown to become one of Holland's leading voices within the church. Last year he released a best-of album drawing songs from his seven albums, featuring collaborations with songwriters like Graham Kendrick, Noel Richards, Chris Eaton and Aaron Keyes. LTTM decided to find out more about the man.

For those who haven't heard of you before, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got involved in making music?

My name is Kees Kraayenoord (Case Krayenord). Born as a son of a fisherman, I grew up in the Dutch 'Bible Belt' in Katwijk aan Zee (a traditional fishers town) and was introduced to Christian music at an early age. My parents encouraged me to make music and sing. After a stormy period in my life during which I turned my back to God and the church, I came to a personal faith in Jesus Christ. I soon started leading worship in the youth group of my church. More and more my passion and heart for worship was being stirred up as I would lead worship in the attic of my home church.

Therefore we (my wife Nicole) decided to study theology at a Dutch university. I truly believe the fact that leading worship is a ministry that God wants to anoint and bless. Just like pastors and missionaries prepare themselves for ministry, I feel it is imperative that worship leaders also prepare themselves for this particular ministry. Because of this I got involved in both church work and various bands as I was asked to be a (backing) vocalist for several (worship) artists and projects.

Flevo Festival (a big Christian youth festival where about 10.000 people gather for a weekend with great bands, speakers and all kinds of other activities), invited me in 2002 to lead worship for three of the services. In 2003 I got invited again and they decided to record the worship services. As result of these recordings, my first CD 'This is my cry' was released in October 2003.

What's your song writing process?

As a pastor and preacher, I usually write with an open bible. Trying to hold in mind what people go through in life, what they need to hear and realize in a worship song. I love to co write... so I'll take my ideas to other writers and worship leaders and then try to finish a song together.

If you could work with any song writer, who would it be and why?

That would be Bono... (I know, not in a million years!) I love his lyrics. They are so real and raw. Listening to U2 is like having a conversation with Bono. It's like he's with you in the room, sharing his dreams and fears as a friend would do.

What has been your career highlight so far?

That's a hard question... One great opportunity for me and my band was being the 'support act' of Michael W. Smith, 20.000 people were gathered for this special concert. But the last couple of years I was also asked to lead worship at the EO youth day. 35,000 gather for a day of music, worship and teaching. That has been very special too. But these two examples are highlights because of the big crowd. I also remember other 'highlights' when I had the opportunity to just pray with just one person after a concert. These moments are just as important and encouraging for me as standing before a stadium filled with people.

Which do you prefer, playing live or recording albums?

Playing live... no doubt about it. I want to feel and experience the worship of God's people with His people.

Who are your musical influences?

I'm not sure. I love U2, Coldplay, Ray Lamontagne and Gavin Degraw. But I listen to all kinds of music: Rock music, J.S Bach, folk, country. I love it all. Thinking of other worship leaders, I think Matt Redman and Tim Hughes have been very inspiring and had a great deal of influence on my leading and writing.

In your opinion, what makes the perfect worship song?

Well, it should be easy to sing for a group of people, with enough theology to have depth and still be understandable for a Sunday morning crowd. A perfect song is about God, His character, and will draw people closer to His heart.

What advice would you give to any aspiring worship leaders or songwriters out there?

Lead at your local church and write for the local church. Especially when you're young, you want to go out, travel, perhaps even become the next worship rock star. But to be honest, there's no place like home. And that's also true when it comes to the local church. And remember: worship is not about pursuing a career, but pursuing a Person!

You're stuck on an island, it's hot, you only have enough battery life left to listen to one song on your mp3 player. What track is it?

Where the streets have no name, U2.

What does the next year hold for Kees Kraayenoord?

We'll be recording a new album in the fall of 2011 in the UK (with Kingsway); we have several tours planned in the Netherlands, celebrating 10 years of ministry; we'll be releasing a Dutch Christmas album, I have many speaking opportunities, I'm going to Ethiopia for World Vision, etc. So, I better get to it!

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