We Are Heirs, consisting of songwriter Eric Defend and vocalist Ben Bylsma, have just released a new EP titled 'Awaken Me'. With a passion for engaging with others in God-given musical expression, they combines cinematic and orchestral styles with a contemporary worship format to create songs that are deeply emotive and impactful. Louder Than The Music chatted with Eric to find out more!
For those who haven't heard of you before, can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got involved in making music?
My name is Eric Defend, and I am the songwriter and producer for We Are Heirs. My day job is actually something entirely different - I work as a Mechanical Engineer and design hydraulics systems. I spend my free hours with my wife and three children, and my remaining time I spend on my other big passion: music! Music has been an integral part of my life since I was young. I started out on piano when I was 9 and then learned guitar at age 11, playing at church and youth group. Now I volunteer as a worship leader at my home church in Urbana, IL. I formed We Are Heirs in 2019 with lead vocalist and fellow worship leader Ben Bylsma to bring my music beyond the walls of our church, with the hope of encouraging and inspiring listeners around the world.
Tell us about your new EP 'Awaken Me' and what the inspiration behind it was?
'Awaken Me' is about being awakened from the false promises of the world to experience the good and true promises of God. The lyrics to the title track were inspired when one night I woke to the sound of a loud thunderstorm. It reminded me of how God throughout the Bible would use a terrifying storm to bring humbling and a posture of true reliance upon Him. While those storms were in the literal sense, many of us experience other kinds of storms in our lives; periods of vulnerability, uncertainty, and fear. I believe God can use these events to make us realize our brokenness and need for a savior. My challenge to listeners is: what if God is calling you, desperately trying to wake you up?
What message would you like people to take from your music?
Ultimately my goal is to create songs that glorify God and draw us to Him. I hope that through my music others will be encouraged, inspired, and uplifted by the truths of Scripture.
How would you describe your style of music and what are your influences?
I would say it falls under the contemporary worship style. I am also a big fan of cinematic/orchestral music, and I heavily incorporated these sounds as well. Artists that have influenced my work include Keith & Kristyn Getty, Matt Boswell, and Andrew Peterson.
What's your songwriting process like?
I would definitely describe it as iterative; always going back and forth between the different elements to make sure they work well together. This is especially true for writing worship songs, because I have many competing goals. For example, the melodies should be interesting and engaging, yet also easy to learn and singable. My inspiration for songs has originated from many different elements - a compelling lyric, a melody, even a rhythm that I think conveys an idea well. I am always playing with new ideas and jotting them down or recording them whenever I can!
If you could work with any songwriter, who would it be and why?
I would love to work with Andrew Peterson because I am always impressed with his lyrics. I find it challenging to be creative in this area of songwriting and I think I would learn a lot from him.
How would you define success in your career as an artist?
If I am able to bring one soul to Christ I will have succeeded! My hope is to magnify the splendor of God so that we will be drawn into His presence.
What is your favorite album of all time?
The Face of Love by Sanctus Real.
You're stuck on an island, it's hot, you only have enough battery life left to listen to one song on your phone. What track is it?
Place In This World by Michael W. Smith.
What does the next year hold for you?
I would love to be able to release another EP later this year. The music is written - it just needs recording! I would also love to begin setting up a live album recording. The more support We Are Heirs has from fans, the more we will be able to achieve. I really encourage everyone to spread the word about our music. We can't do it without you!