Worship leader Jeff Deyo once fronted the popular modern worship band SONICFLOOd and in 2012, Deyo released his fourth solo album, Moving Mountains. JesusfreakHideout.com's Michael Weaver got on the phone to talk to Deyo about his new album, his ministry, and his thoughts on the latest ventures of the dc Talk boys...
This interview took place on: August, 2012.
*laughs* Yes… Well, I, you know, I put Unveil out five years ago and that was a big passionate topic and subject for me; it still is. Just the concept that through the power of God having our spiritual eyes unveiled to not just the "churchified" version of God's glory, but just the truth and morality and Godliness and loving your wife and all of that stuff. So, I've just been traveling and doing all of that. And of course the music industry is a little different now than it was 10 years ago, 12 years ago, whenever it was, we put SONICFLOOd out [JFH (Michael): Oh yeah]. You know, it's a big difference, so in general my music career hasn't been going as well as it was, so just trying to do what God wanted me to do; just passionate to raise up worshippers and disciples and stuff. So, really just trying to seek the Lord as to the next move. I had changed from Gotee Records to Indelible with that last record and just feeling like God has lead me to a change and that company really didn't do that well either. So, just going on this journey and really trying to find ways to just influence and impact people. So one of the things that I've been doing… God lead me to this whole teaching thing, which really I was a teacher all along and didn't really know it within my writing, within my song writing, within my singing, you know, I'm always teaching. I would find myself learning and then wanting to impart that stuff to people. So, one of the things I did about four years ago was start a thing called the Pure Worship Institute. That has just been a heavy burden on my heart to raise up musicians and singers who would honor God. Our little slogan is "Equipping and training musicians to honor God with their songs and their lives," not JUST their songs. I think that's one of the things I've been disappointed with as I've been out rubbing shoulders and stuff. Whether it be church leaders or musicians or famous musicians or whatever, you're kinda disappointed sometimes with what you see behind the scenes [JFH (Michael): Absolutely.] compared to what you see on the stage. I've always endeavored to be the man off the stage that everybody thinks I am when they see me on the stage. That's a lot of work and a lot of seeking God and getting on your face and repenting and all that stuff. Just wanting raise up another generation; God just laid that on my heart to stir up this younger generation to be totally focused on kingdom principles and understand that their talent is not their own. That's a simple principle, but it just seems like so many musicians, whether they start in a church and then go mainstream and they're big-time and get worldly or whatever. Everybody kinda thinks that they own their talent [JFH (Michael): Yeah.] when in reality our talents have been given to us and we are stewards of those talents and we are going to be held accountable for what we do with those talents. So, I'm just trying to pour that into a generation and raise them up. The Pure Worship Institute has been something I've been doing every summer. It's a week-long university -- I call it a "mini-university." It's training and equipping; we're training them spiritually and practically to be what God has called them to be in their area of giftedness. That has then lead to me teaching at North Central University here in Minneapolis. It was just something that was so far off my radar I couldn't have imagined. *laughter* If you would've told me I was going to teach at a university five years ago I would've laughed in your face, you know? I always joke about it and say that God drug me up here kicking and screaming from Nashville and I think I stopped kicking. *laughs* I trust Him with all my heart, so I know that being here, even though it may be a bit uncomfortable... At times it feels small because of some of the cool things that God has allowed me to do in the past. We have about 1,200 students, but, man, this is about multiplication for me. Just like PWI, I'm pouring into the students. I know the vision. I'm pouring into students and then we're sending them out. Equipping them and then sending them out to do their thing and they just keep coming. Every year new students come and we pour into them and train them. So I'm trying to multiply myself. I guess to say that, you know, maybe half way through your life if you're really seeking the Lord, maybe you spend the first half of your life doing what God has called you to do and then you start getting passionate about the second half your life wanting to leave a legacy and helping other people to do what God's called them to do. I think that, even though I'm not done doing what God's called me to do or anything, I never will be, but I just now have really seen the importance of mentoring and fathering and helping other people; empowering them and equipping them to do what God's called them to do. So, that's kinda what I've been up to. I would love to have made more CDs sooner, but definitely felt like that resources weren't there and timing and God's "Yes" was not there. So, I felt this time was the right time to make this CD. I still wrestle with that, honestly, but just stepping out on faith and believing that this Moving Mountains is a message and a heart cry.
Jeff: Well, at the university I'm doing music, so I'm teaching classes like songwriting. I'm teaching a worship leading class. I'm teaching a class called Music Ministry Philosophy, which I love. It's kinda everything I wished I had learned before I moved to Nashville *laughs* about how to survive in the music world and in ministry and all of that stuff. And then a class called Performance Prep, which is such a powerful class. It has to do with folks that just think musically. They think if they just get into the practice room in college and they learn all the notes on a page and do all the dynamics correctly and play all the notes right that when they get on the stage it's going to be the best performance of their lifetime; they forgot about the people and that they actually have to connect with the people and the spirit of people and that there actually has to be emotion involved and all that stuff. So, it's just trying to take people from the practice room to the stage. It includes things as spiritual as the anointing, or how you work with that or how do you stir that up and how do I engage people in an audience and not leave them bored to tears and stuff like that.
Jeff: And then I work with all of our worship teams as well. We have a bunch of different worship teams. One of them in particular is our top team, audition only, is called One Accord, and they spend 18 months with me, or three semesters. We work the first semester and they lead in chapel; we have chapel every day. We're writing songs and then in spring they record a CD at our McPherson Studio and they put it on iTunes and all that. Then they travel during the summer for the school, representing the school, and doing ministry at camps and churches and all that stuff and then come back and do a little more in the school in the fall the next year too. So, there's a lot of stuff going on with all of that.
Jeff: Yeah. Man, you know what? In my worship leading class now, we just started the semester, I always start with the foundational stuff, you know. If somebody was to come to me and say, "Hey, Jeff, we want you to teach one session, one seminar, to worship leaders," my go-to session all the time, the first thing, is what I call The Authentic Worshipper. Really that is where it all starts. There's a passage in Matthew Chapter 23 where Jesus is talking to the Pharisees. We usually don't think of Pharisees because we don't see Pharisees, or potential Pharisees, of course neither did the Pharisees see themselves as the bad guys in the story. *laughter* But He comes in and He's like, "Look, guys, you're messed up here and you've got everything backwards. You are cleaning the outside of the cup and you are neglecting the inside of the cup." And He's like, "You shine on the outside; they're always pretty." That outside of the cup, of course, represents the person that everyone sees on the stage or just in public or whatever. Then the inside of the cup represents your heart and who you really are, you're integrity and all that stuff. The cool thing about the scripture is that a lot of people that on a stage or musicians or worship leaders or even preachers think, "I just don't have time to clean the inside of the cup AND the outside of the cup," so then the inside always gets neglected because you want to look all pretty and shiny on the outside. Well, Jesus goes on to say, "If you will clean the inside of the cup then the outside will be clean too." So right there is a massive time-saver because you don't even have to worry about cleaning the outside of the cup if you clean the inside of the cup. We neglect it so much. So I would say that to worship leaders who are desiring to be a worship leader in the future and to those who maybe have lost their fire or forgot why they're doing it or getting too busy or all that stuff. Man, get back to the basics. All that means, cleaning the inside of the cup, is just spending time with Jesus. At the end of the day there's no substitute for spending time with God and really, truly, I call it digging the well. Let me give you one more analogy. [JFH (Michael): OK.] Digging the well is the same thing as cleaning the inside of the cup. When you have your time with God, you're given a shovel and it's like you're digging a hole in the ground, or in your life, and you looking for water; you're digging for water. Of course, the first time you start digging that hole it can be kinda difficult because the ground's hard and dry and all that stuff. Digging a hole can be no fun, of course. As you dig, then you hit water at some point, if you persevere, you strike water and that water is representation. In John it tells us the water is the river. Rivers of living water is the Holy Spirit. If you touch that point with God where something genuine happens and you go deeper in your relationship with God and the Spirit of God, through the rivers of living water, it begins to fill up your cup, or fill up your inside, and, of course, keeps that dirt soft. It keeps your heart soft. So, you dig the well, then… A lot of people think when they get on the stage as a worship leader they think that that's their time with God and that's not the case. When you're up on the stage you're a servant. Leadership we know is servant-hood. That's what leaders are and we know that from the biblical examples that Jesus gave us. So, it's as if worship leaders get up on the stage and they almost throw a towel over their arm like a waiter or waitress would, you know? They're there to serve the people; they're not there to spend their time with God. Of course, they should be worshipping God and they should be encountering God and all that stuff, but they're there to serve others as they encounter God. [JFH (Michael): Exactly.] So, the shovel then gets taken away and what you get when you're in public is, you get a pitcher. The pitcher is what you can draw from the well and whatever's in that well is what then you have to offer the public. So, if your well is full and there's fresh water in there then you put your pitcher in there and you draw that out and there's anointing, there are rivers of living water flowing out from within. But if it's there awhile and your water is either stagnant, or not existent, and your well is all dried up, you might end up with a pitcher full of dust or dirt and that's what you have to offer the people as a leader. That's why we end up getting that fake "churchified" religious thing going on in our churches sometimes. It's because, honestly, people just aren't digging the well and they're up there presenting their shiny outward thing that's hollow and empty on the inside. Those are the keys. Of course, everybody's always quick to say, "Oh, I know, I know, I know I need to spend with God, but seriously, what advice do you have, Jeff?" *laughs* I just come back to that, you know? Then I read in Matthew 6 where it says, "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness" and all of that other stuff will take care of itself.
Jeff: Totally. It's like a tour guide trying to take somebody on a tour that they've never been on before. *laughs* You know? How good of a tour guide are you doing to be if you've never been on the tour yourself? [JFH (Michael): Terrible.] You gotta spend time with Jesus so you can point out the way for other folks.
Jeff: Yeah. Sure, man, jump around; whatever you want to do.
Jeff: *laughs* That's how I grew up, with organ and piano. Go ahead.
Jeff: Yeah. Man, amazing story, honestly. The short version would be something like: I grew up in a Christian home passionate for God, but honestly didn't grow up in today what we'd call a traditional worshipping church. I grew up in church and hey, we sang a couple hymns standing up, a couple sitting down. Great songs, but I never saw those as moments where I was trying to encounter God or have a relationship with God or those types of things. I was passionate for God and grew up in a great family and the church was great, you know? I never put together that you could actually do music, especially music that you liked, because as you mentioned I grew up in a church where music was piano and organ and pretty much drums and guitar were taboo. You know, devil's music kinda thing.
Jeff: Yeah. *laughs* It never even dawned on me that you could actually do that in a church. I saw that as something you did outside. My parents were awesome and they exposed me to lots of different kinds of music. I listened to pop secular music, but they also exposed me to Christian music. I was a huge Michael W. Smith fan; a huge dcTalk fan. You know, Steven Curtis Chapman and all that stuff. I listened to all that and also loved Phil Collins and Genesis and Chicago and all that stuff back in the day, but I saw that as stuff that you would outside. When it came to the point of me deciding, "Well I want to be a musician as a career," the only thing I could think of was, they only career path I have is "rock star for Jesus." You know? *laughs* That was the only thing that existed. My music minister at church, it's what we called him, he wasn't full-time, he was a volunteer. There wasn't anything or any other way to make a living as a musician really, except, to either be in education, which ironically I'm in now, or be a rock star for Jesus. That was my little box that I put everything in, you know? So, when we were in Zilch we started doing one worship song and that worship song was "Lord, I Lift Your Name on High," which ended up on the SONICPRAISe album later, but we started doing that song. It was just kinda of a fad thing that everybody was doing in bands back then. If you remember, everybody kinda had a little acoustic worship set you did at the end, [JFH (Michael): Oh yeah.] or whatever. It was just kinda like a little spiritual nod to God in our little Christian concerts, but something happened in that one song, Mike. Man, we did our 10 Zilch songs and then we did that "Lord, I Lift Your Name on High," which to me was kind of a cheesy song. The music arrangement was totally different; it was like a Radiohead-esque type song that we did and changed up the chords and stuff. When we started playing that song the atmosphere in the place totally shifted and you couldn't deny it. People were coming down to the altar crying. The very thing that we prayed would happen through our concerts was happening in a way that we never anticipating happening. Again, I wasn't used to people coming to the altar. I wasn't used to people raising their hands. It was a very conservative background I was from. At first it was a little weird for me to see this happening, but, man, I'll tell you what, very quickly we started leaning into that song. We started cutting songs in the set in Zilch so we'd get to that sooner and we'd stay on that song for 20-25 minutes or something, which was a long time for us. Now I'll do a song for an hour. *laughs* That was like, "Whoa, this is something God's doing here" and you realize you want to be a part of that. The thing that was so cool about it is that when we did that song I didn't have to be cool. I didn't have to be somebody. I didn't have to be a rock star. There was no pressure on me to perform or whatever because people were lost in God; they didn't even care what I was doing, you know? While we did that the record company, Gotee, they saw us do that little set with that song at the end one night. They were like, "Your songs are great, but there's something about that last song." They didn't even recognize what it was, but it was like something is going on here, you know, and we want more of that. So, "Would you guys consider doing more of that" is what they were asking us basically. They challenged us to do a whole worship CD, which at that time we were totally against. If you listen to the last little bits on the SONICFLOOd album, the first one, we talk about this issue on the CD there. We put it on there because we had a meeting at Barnes & Noble to tell the record company, "No we don't want to make a worship CD because we don't want them to make us into a worship band." We saw that as "un-evangelistic" if that makes sense. It was like, "How can we change the world with worship, you know? That's not what we want to do. We want to go out and whatever…" *laughs* It was just such a weird box that we were in. So, we decided through God doing all kinds of wild stuff… We decided to do a worship CD, but it was going to be a Zilch worship CD. So we started recording it and getting the songs together and all that stuff, which was a wild process, but about halfway through the recording process, a couple of months into a four month process of recording that CD, God was showing us that He was changing our name. We were like, "Zilch is not the right name for what I'm doing here." Zilch meaning nothing... God wanted to do something else. Long story short we went through this whole process of trying to figure out what name we should have and came up with SONICFLOOd, that's another whole amazing story how that came to be, but in the end we even chose a name before we realized what it meant. After we chose it we realized it was taken from Revelation 19:6 which talks about the sound Heaven and how the sound of Heaven is like many mighty rushing waters; the sound all of creation coming together to worship God. That's a sonic flood. It was like, "WHOA!" If you stand behind Niagara Falls and you here that white noise sound, *mimics the sound of a waterfall* that's like the sound of worship in Heaven; the sound of all creation worshipping God. It was like, "Wow, that's a sonic flood." The intention honestly was that we would do one worship CD as Zilch and then we would go back and keep doing the rock stuff that we had been doing, but God totally changed our plans. That CD took off and honestly we thought, and even Gotee thought, "Man, if we sell 10,000 CDs that would be awesome." We had no understanding of what God was about to do and switch things and change things in our lives, let alone culture and all that stuff. Yeah, man, so that's the short version of the story. *laughs*
Jeff: *laughs* Honestly, I always chuckle a little when people ask me that question because people do, you know. You're like, "Gosh." Worship started, number one, before creation even started and worship has always been "modern" as far as hopefully relevant to the culture it was in. Hymns when they first were written were modern. That's the thing that we don't understand. We look back and we think of those hymns as, "Oh, those were the good old days" and whatever. Those songs were rebellious and the organ itself, the history with the organ, was totally the devil's instrument before it came to be received in the bars and the pubs. Everybody thought that we were bringing the devil's instrument into the church. Isn't that ironic? So, modern worship… I mean my goodness. Of course I love it because I can fill in the gap with the story I just told you and you can see very clearly that we had nothing to do with planning any of what God did. *laughs* We didn't have a clue what we were doing. Thankfully, God was changing our hearts to worship and it so happened that it resounded in the nation and on the earth. I hold very loosely to the idea. I mean, I'm very grateful that I was a part of something like that and honored to be a part seeing what God did through that, but, man, just a tool in his hands, bro. Just a tool in his hands, you know?
Jeff: Well, you know, I think in the last four or five years I've been through a lot of junk and stuff in my own life, meaning like pain and trials and stuff like that that are just circumstantial. You know, just stuff that happens to you. So, in processing all of that, going through suffering and changes and trials and things that have been difficult, a lot of the songs on this record were born out of that. Struggles and then in the midst of struggles desiring to still have joy and all that. This record for me is definitely a record for people that are going through stuff, you know? Our country has gone through stuff so much in the last few years and a lot of people are struggling, whether it be with sickness or finances or whatever difficulties. The song "Moving Mountains" was not originally going to be the title track, but I'm so glad that it is because it made sense to make that choice. With that song I wanted to hit head on a scripture that, honestly, a lot of times we try to avoid and that's the scripture in Mark 11:20-24 when Jesus says, "You can speak to the mountains and they will be cast into the sea." I mean, how many of us have seen mountains fall into the sea? Anybody? *laughs* You imagine the faith that it takes for those things to happen. You're just like, "Wow, that's not me" and you kinda disassociate with that. It's time to reclaim the word of God in that area and say, "Look, we have mountains in our lives," whether it be things that we create ourselves or just circumstances or just pain or suffering, whatever it is, and be able to rise up by faith and speak to the mountains and see them removed and cast into the sea. Those things that may be keeping us from Jesus or just trials or whatever it is. Addiction, depression, whatever it is in our life, and believe and take God at His word. I think that's really what this record is about is taking God at His word.
Jeff: I've been calling the generation to stand up, to rise up, because when we get to the bridge in that song, "Moving Mountains," this is just a cry. "And not in faith we speak and the mountains move as we believe." It's just a cry, a chant, a shout of people to stand together and take God at His word. That's part of it, then also the song "We Delight" would be kinda what I was saying earlier, to find that place that in the midst of my pain I'm still going to rejoice. I'm still going to worship God because He's still worthy and I know that my true life is hidden in Heaven. So, whatever I'm going through now I know the bible says that my trials now are nothing compared to the joy that I'm going to experience when I get to Heaven. So I find delight in that and it's kinda the opposite thing going, "OK, in the midst of my pain I'm going to worship. In the midst of my struggle I'm going to exalt my Creator." And then you have a song like "Rescue Me" that is for that person who is at the end of their rope and they literally have nothing left. They feel empty, broken, they have nothing; they don't know where to turn. This is that last desperate cry, it's the last one, where they say, "Come and rescue me. I can barely breathe; I'm down on my knees. Come and rescue me." And to see that He does that in people's lives is amazing to me.
Jeff: Yeah, it does, man. I mean it's pain, blood, sweat, and tears. It's all of me poured into that record and what God's been doing in my life and growing deeper and just all of that. It's huge. Yeah…
Jeff: You know what? I'll honestly say my experience with Gotee and with Indelible was nothing but awesome. Gotee gave me all the freedom you could ask for, honestly. I honestly feel like I've pretty much been able to do whatever was on my heart from day one. I don't know if every artist can say that, but I'm just so thankful. In doing the independent thing there are hard things about that and there are some good things about that. The fact that you get to own your own masters and stuff and you can do whatever, however, whenever and all that… That's nice, but, again, it wasn't that much of a departure. There are some nice things about having a record company that I do miss. Like being able to have the potential for a greater platform-and there's still potential for a greater platform, even with the independent thing, but you have different resources than you have with a record company that you don't have necessarily as an independent. I kinda look at God as my record company right now. *laughs* Certainly, North Central has stood beside me as well in this. I recorded most of the CD at our studio there and also some in my home studio. They've invested in me as well and they see the fruit of that in raising up students in our school and sending me out to do ministry and stuff. It's been fun. It's kinda the trendy thing now to be independent, so I guess that's a good thing in and of itself. *laughs*
Jeff: Yeah, I mean, I'm not waving the flag, you know? "Independent!" you know, *laughs* or whatever. I always saw the benefit of the relationship factor too with having the record company. Those are, in general, really good experiences for me.
Jeff: *laughing* Oh my gosh. It… It's amazing, honestly. I mean, you could never have guessed, but you could almost have guessed it, you know? *laughs* How perfect could it be. You can almost see the tour developing, right? This is going to be the tour of all tours. The only tour that could potentially surpass this would be if SONICFLOOd got together. *laughs harder* This tour, my goodness can you imagine? Toby Mac headlining and Audio Adrenaline and Newsboys opening. That's gotta be the last big Christian tour.
Jeff: It is weird. It's crazy, man. I mean, I had only heard about the Audio Adrenaline thing a couple of weeks ago. I don't even know. Are they in the studio already, or do you know?
Jeff: Oh, man. That's so funny. That's so funny and you know having been around those guys all this time: Toby with Gotee and then me doing a movie with K-Max, I don't know if that's on your radar or not, that's one of the things I did about three years ago. He and I and Kerry Livgren and then a bunch of other actors were in a movie called "The Imposter," which is currently on Netflix and all that good stuff, but that's one you gotta check out if you haven't checked it out.
Jeff: Yeah, man, I'm in that movie. The three of us kinda star, as they say, but it was a fun experience-a very interesting one to say the least. So, having rubbed shoulders with those guys in different settings it's hilarious to see all this developing with those bands and stuff.
Jeff: You know… I've said a lot. I think my heart would be that this record would be something that could truly encourage people, whether it be in a corporate setting or just in their personal private time with God, and just allow that word of God to be that bedrock foundation again. One of the things I included on the record, which I usually do, but with each song there are scriptural references that go with each song. My dad was listening to the CD, and honestly it really moved me because he was brought to tears and was just like, "Jeff, this thing just so bathed in scripture. It's just like you're singing the word of God over and over again." One of the songs, "Shake This Place", is from Hebrews, I think it's Chapter 12, where God actually says, "I'm going to shake the earth and the heavens and only the things that are eternal are going to be left standing." So, that song is kinda coming into agreement with that statement saying, "OK, God. Do what you said you were going to do. Shake this place. First of all in me, so shake off the things that are in me that are not eternal and then do it to our nation, do it to this earth, so that you will reign and the things that are of God will remain." That's the focus of this record. It's just getting back to the heart of the word of God and letting God do His thing in our lives and trusting Him to do that.
Jeff: Yeah. There are so many voices and it's so easy to get distracted and miss the focus and the Bible says many fall away. Many will be deceived in the last days. The only way to keep yourself from that is to stay in the word and stay in a relationship. Dig the well, baby! *laughs* Clean the inside of the cup and the rest of it will all work itself out.
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