Singer-Songwriter Phil Wickham Chooses Campus Setting for New Music
By Doug Carroll
GCU News Bureau
Plenty of music gets made on the Grand Canyon University campus, but recorded music? Not so much.
That changed this week with the arrival of Christian singer-songwriter Phil Wickham, who took up residence to record some of the songs for his next album, tentatively titled “The Ascension.” Wickham, 29, of San Diego, managed to work GCU instrumental and vocal students into the mix, and he concluded his stay Thursday evening with a concert at Thunderground.
Wickham says he began work on the album — which is due out in late summer — in January, initially writing about two dozen songs. After making a cut to 11, he decided he wanted “a little more live sound” and talked with Scott Fehrenbacher, GCU’s senior vice president for faith-based marketing, about recording on campus with student singers and musicians.
“Scott and his team have been awesome to work with,” Wickham says. “They understand music and get excited about the possibilities. GCU really got behind this.”
The Music Department’s New Life Singers sang backing vocals (“They were awesome, they just killed it,” Wickham says) and all manner of percussion was incorporated, including a gong on the song “Tears of Joy.”
“We went into the percussion room and just picked up whatever sounded cool,” says Wickham, who did solo vocal tracks during the day and brought in students in the evening, working mostly out of the Media Arts building.
Like most of his music, “The Ascension” will be a worship album, although Wickham says he doesn’t set out trying to write songs that can be replicated by church worship leaders. His influences come from such mid-1990s performers as Matt Redman, Tim Hughes, Sonic Flood and Delirious?.
“Not until this (career) was happening did I think I’d be one of those guys,” says Wickham, for whom this is the eighth recording project. “I don’t think I had a vision or a dream for this. I just loved music and I loved leading worship, from the age of 13.”
He raves about what’s happening on the GCU campus.
“What separates this school is the openness,” he says. “It’s an environment created for an awesome education with Christian values. … This is a welcoming place for all students. It’s real. Even the pool with kids hanging out at it, that’s real.”
Contact Doug Carroll at 639.8011 or [email protected].