Interview: Jesus Culture - Derek Johnson

Jul 30 2012

The new album from Jesus Culture, 'Emerging Voices', showcases four up and coming new worship leaders. LTTM spoke to one of them, Derek Johnson, about being involved in the Jesus Culture movement and his thoughts on song writing.

For those who haven't heard of you before, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got involved with Jesus Culture Music?

Well, I was raised in a family of musicians and so I've been playing music since I was practically two years old. I actually started out as a drummer and picked up a guitar and started singing when I was 11. I'm the youngest of 6 boys and I've always had so much support from them and my parents to go after my dreams.

In 2007, I moved from Indiana to Caliornia to attend ministry school at Bethel church, where Jesus Culture is based out of. I got involved with the worship team here and eventually connected with the Jesus Culture team also. I started serving by leading worship for a few campus events with them and this past year was my first year leading at some of the Jesus Culture conferences. I really believe in what this ministry is doing and I'm excited to be a part of it.

Tell us a little bit about the new Jesus Culture album 'Emerging Voices' and what the inspiration behind it was?

Banning Liebscher, the director of Jesus Culture, had it on his heart to do a project with up and coming worship leaders that he believes the Lord is raising up. He asked me and 3 others to be a part of it and it's been a really amazing process. Banning actually has a video on Jesus Culture's YouTube channel that explains the heart behind this project (link).

Emerging VoicesWhich is your favourite track on the album and why?

It's difficult to narrow it down to one single song. Everyone brought such powerful songs to the the table and it was so awesome to see how all our songs had a similar vein that tied them together to make this a very cohesive album. I don't think I could pick a favorite (haha).

What's your song writing process?

From the first moment I started to learn guitar, I started writing songs. So song writing for me has always been a way to process what's going on in my life. So naturally, as I've lived my life with Jesus and grown in my relationship with Him, what comes out are songs about Him. There is always a fine-tuning process my songs will go through but I try to start out with what's honest and on my heart.

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

That's an easy one, Phil Wickham. He has been an inspiration to me for many reasons, the most prominent being the way he can communicate a message or story in 5 minutes. His songs always carry a clear and powerful message and at the same time, provoke people to sing along and worship God, and that for me, is what worship songwriting is all about.

Who are your musical influences?

Growing up my dad was always playing music in the house from the 60s and 70s and the band that really influenced me at a young age would be The Beatles. Currently, my greatest influences would be people like Phil Wickham and John Mark McMillan.

In your opinion, what makes the perfect worship song?

I think the perfect song has the ability to move our hearts and also move His heart.

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

For the worship leader: establish a secret place with the Lord. For the songwriter: always aim to be honest in your writing. If you're both: combine the two!

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?

Jeff Buckley's cover of Hallelujah. And then I'd search for water (haha)

What does the next year hold for you?

Well this is my first album, so honestly, I don't really know what to expect. But I know it'll be good :)

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