When Martin Smith and the band known as Delirious? crossed the pond back in 1997, having impacted a generation of UK youth with its passionate call for revival, most agree... the modern worship movement officially began. The hope of that movement and the music that came out of it—"I Could Sing of Your Love Forever," "Deeper" and a string of other modern worship standards—has irrevocably changed the landscape of Christian music in the U.S. and around the world. Long before 2009's farewell concert, Delirious? had become a self-fulfilling prophecy. They became 'History Makers.'
For frontman and primary songwriter Martin, a 20-something kid at the start and now a husband and father of six children, it was a big door to close. But an even more important door awaited. "It was difficult at first. Delirious? was our whole life. We loved it, and it was hard to say goodbye because we were still successful. A decision like that leaves a big void, but it was time to really connect with my soul again, with God and with the normal things in life. It was the right thing to do as a family, time to be at home more and to invest in different things and new people."
He and Anna, his wife of 18 years, packed up their family and moved to Brighton, a coastal town south of London, submerging themselves once again in the worship ministry alongside Matt Redman and others at St. Peter's. Getting back to a normal life after decades spent on stages around the world took some getting used to. "When you enter a transition period, there's a lot of uncertainty. You're letting go of a lot of things, bit by bit—the microphone, your influence, even some sense of your identity—but as you find yourself more dependent on God, you begin to really experience his kindness. You see him show up in incredible ways, you see his provision, discover new opportunities and favor. Things you thought were lost start to reappear. Three years on, God has given me some new things to say, and I'm so incredibly grateful..."
Set for release on April 23, Martin Smith's solo debut, God's Great Dance Floor, Step 01 is a 10 track collection of personal revival songs born out of a reinvigorated season of waiting on God. "We're loving being in a new city and all the challenges of a new church plant," Martin explains. "It's exciting to be part of what's happening here. We want to see our city changed... and out of that desire, the music's come naturally."
Recorded in collaboration with a young team of musicians at St. Peter's—part and parcel of Martin's new role as mentor and encourager—this new collection is a joyful labor of love for this seasoned songwriter/worship leader. "I see my role as different now," he says, "I want to invest in the next generation coming through, reminding everyone of what it really is to worship with our lives, serving, keeping your hands clean—I feel the responsibility of those things more and more."
God's Great Dance Floor, Step 01 evolved from EP recordings produced locally and in complete freedom—apart from the typical machinations of the music business. When you do it this way, Martin says, "You get the songs you get, and somehow, at the end of the day, they all fit together."
"I didn't just want to make a record with a bunch of great session guys," Martin continues. "That would've been easier. But we've been on a big journey in Brighton, and these songs have been written with community in mind. I wanted to encourage their lives and infuse their energy into the songs... you can just feel the energy and hear the joy in the music. I'm really proud of it."
A welcoming invitation to prodigals and pew-people alike, Great Dance Floor, Step 01 (and Step 02, set to release in October 2013) is a reminder that God's grace is for everyone. From the opening strains of "Awake My Soul," longtime Delirious? fans will hear the clarion call of Martin's voice, strong as ever, declaring a resurrection of his soul. "It's new life; it's in my DNA," Martin says of the song. "It's a summertime, poppy, joyful tune."
That's the overarching theme of the record, Martin says. "Anybody can get on the dance floor... that's the great thing about Christianity. It doesn't matter where you come from, or what you've done... everyone is invited to the party. It's all about grace."
"Back to the Start," co-written by Jonas Myrin ("10,000 Reasons"), sets the tone for the record, building from a hard reality to a full-on pop dance celebration, complete with latino trumpet. "It's a prodigal song about finding my way back to everything that matters most, finding God in it all again," Martin says. His very personal story is beautifully portrayed in the song's new concept video, featuring Martin's teenage daughter, Elle, in the lead role.
"Fire Never Sleeps," which opens the recent, critically acclaimed Jesus Culture With Martin Smith: Live From New York album, is a modern rock anthem of purification Martin wrote with Nick Herbert of St. Stephens.
The contemplative ballad "Catch Every Teardrop," was inspired by Psalm 56 and the near fatal car crash that almost claimed Martin's life, a pivotal event that led to the formation of Delirious? back in 1997. "It's a song about a mid-life crisis," Martin says, "a song of how brokenness leads to redemption."
"You Carry Me" is a song of comfort for a friend whose husband died, and "Waiting Here For You" is one of four songs for the record that Martin co-wrote with Chris Tomlin. "This was the first proper song we'd written together, and it was a great moment with a great message: the fragility of our humanity and how waiting is perhaps the most difficult act of worship."
In these and all the songs on God's Great Dance Floor, Step 01, Martin Smith delivers some of the most heart-authentic songs of his career. A man refreshed, revived and reconnected with Jesus and a staunch advocate for local church. He's a passionate model for young worship leaders of today. Still making relevant music. Still excited to play a lead role in the ongoing call to worship.
"I don't think God is worried about the platform he's given me in the past," Martin says of this season of personal revival feeding into ministry. "He's worried most about my heart. If that's in a good place, he'll use it... at church, in stadiums, wherever he will. All you want to do is be someone of influence, but it doesn't have to be on a global stage. It never did. Having said that, it's part of my life, to have that voice. And my prayer is that God will use this new music to remind people of his grace, to remind them of his heart for the poor and broken and of his Kingdom coming on Earth."