Your Gateway to Music and More from a Christian Perspective
Slow down as you approach the gate, and have your change ready....
By Mike Rimmer
British journalist Mike Rimmer took time to have a long conversation with Christine Glass and Marc Byrd from the group Glassbyrd.
Rimmer: What was it that you were hoping people would get out of the experience of listening to the two of you making music together?
Byrd: We understand the American Christian audience more than we used to. Part of that has to do with Common Children ending and actually becoming a customer of a Christian bookstore. People go to Christian bookstore because they want to be reminded that they're not alone on this journey. Maybe their kids are on drugs, maybe they're going through a divorce or whatever and they want to focus on God. I hope that this record helps do that. That's the worship aspect of it.
It has been called “ethereal“ and it has been called “moody.“ It's got its rock elements but we tend to like silence. We tend to think about what's missing, and that is silence. We get screamed at by a lot of the Christian programming here in America. Everything is entertainment focused, but we think regaining quiet is an important thing. Hopefully it has that reflective mood on the record. Also, just speaking to the community, our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Letting them know that we're here to carry your burdens. That's what we're supposed to do. I think Christy's song "Wounded Healers" really captures that, in the sense that we serve a wounded healer. Therefore we should be transparent and honest about our own wounds and in that sense, bring healing to one another. I think that's a big part of the record. The record ends with the song "Peace To You" and that's probably what we are saying. It opens with "Open Wide This Window" and it ends with "Peace To You" and basically it is offering encouragement and hope and faith in the living Christ. Every Sunday at our church we do “the peace,” you're offering the peace of Christ to them by saying “The peace of the Lord be with you,” and you don't know what that person has dealt with that week.
Glass: At the very end of the record we have a choir, actually just a group of people that go to our church, singing with us. Some of them can't sing at all! But we purposely wanted to get a group of people together that we have a community with. With all our flaws, we all know each other well. With all of our struggles and some of our bad voices and some of our good voices, we're all singing together because that's what the body of Christ is.
Rimmer: It seems to me that there is a kind of a gloss to Christian music, particularly American Christian music. Everything's upbeat, everything's good, everything's happy with nice happy songs. What I like about what you do is you are writing songs that are real. I think it's ironic that there is that kind of reality to what you're doing, yet at the same time, you seem to be being pulled into a more central place in the Christian music scene than ever before in your lives. Yet you are not pulling out the fluffy music that perhaps people would expect of you.
Byrd: It's just a real honest portrayal of where we are. Faith is risky! It's a risk to believe and you have to have some ruthless trust. I do think one of the biggest problems is that we make people feel uncomfortable stepping into a church because we look like we have it all together. That is just a lie! We know each other well enough; we know that NONE of us have it together. And so that's a big part of it. I don't know how well the record is going to sell. I don't know how well it is going to be embraced in America, but I do think there is a lot of room to grow in the body towards being more transparent and honest with one another, and stop pretending that you have it all together. God tabernacles in our weakness! When we are weak, He is strong. That doesn't mean “Oooh I said a bad word! “ or whatever, that means in your frailty, in your brokenness, in your sin, God is present. I'm hoping that's what gets communicated through this record.
Rimmer: Let’s get some background. You were going to call this band Adore to start off. Why did you change your mind?
Byrd: We were going to get sued!
Glass: Ha ha! There were about sixteen other bands out there with that name that we didn't even know about. So we were forced to change it although it did capture the music for us. It summed it all up. But we've let go of that dream.
Rimmer: Now you are Glassbyrd, which is a much more sensible name.
Glass & Byrd: Thank you!
Rimmer: Since you're a Christina Glass and a Marc Byrd, you decided against Byrdglass?!
Glass: We considered that, then we considered calling ourselves The Byrds but I think that was already taken too!
Rimmer: Just a little bit! How would you sum up the vision of what you're trying to do together? You’ve both been very successful in other things. You've established yourselves as artists and it's all tied up in your marriage, but how would you sum up what you're trying to do here?
Glass: The first part of it is we have been wanting to do a little project together. We're huge fans of each other's work. Marc co-produced my second solo record but we hadn't done a band thing together. We liked singing together, we liked the sound of Marc's jangly guitars and his gritty vocal with my melodies and lyrics. It just felt right to do something together.
Byrd: We had some songs that we thought we would do the best justice of, instead of someone else cutting them, because we write for a lot of other people. Then after being in the co-production chair on the City On a Hill_ project, it was nice to do something that was just truly us. Some of the songs had been lying around that I really wanted people to hear and they got a chance to be on this record. Some songs we wrote together, some we wrote by ourselves and it just made sense. It all blended well.
Rimmer: I want to put the album in context for readers. You mentioned the City On a Hill and right now, you are best known for the song "God Of Wonders," aren't you Marc?
Byrd: That's my claim to fame!
Rimmer: Has the song become a bit of a monster for you or are you cool with it?
Byrd: I'm cool with it. One of the astronauts involved in the recent tragedy aboard the space shuttle Colombia recently, was a big fan of the song. The morning before the explosion, Steve Green woke him up and talked to the astronaut and pumped "God Of Wonders" into the space shuttle. They played it at his memorial service. For me, it's just been wonderful to see it impact people.
When I started writing the song, I had no idea where my next dime was coming from. I was in the rock band Common Children and just opened up the scriptures and the Psalms, and during a writing period, I started "God of Wonders" and then Steve Hindalong finished it. I also wrote "With Every Breath" that was on City On a Hill 1 and "Holy Is Your Name," which Bebo Norman did on City On a Hill 2. It was great because Steve Hindalong came along and said, “Hey, I've just landed this thing called City On a Hill. Do you have anything? “
I said, “Yeah “ and he finished the lyric. He and I have just been blown away!
People were saying, “You're going to get CCLI money! You get paid whenever it gets played in churches. “ We didn't even know what that was. It's great that a song I feel came from a really honest place has been embraced by so many people. There are a million versions of it out there. So yeah, I'm grateful for it. We wondered if we should even put this on our record. Of course the record company would love for us to do that, so we did. Steve and I and Christine all said that this is probably the version we would have done, the way we would have done it originally, a little more ethereal and laid back. It was great to be able to do that version.
Rimmer: You've managed to create an album that's not quite a worship album, but it has kind of a worshipful vibe to it.
Glass: I see it divided into two parts. There's a whole half of it that's songs that are directly to God, and then there's the other half, which is reaching out to the body of Christ, to the community, just exploring that connection and that commonality that we have. Wanting to encourage the body and encourage each other, and share our wounds and our joys and our frailties with each other. Encouraging people to hang on in whatever they're going through.
Byrd: Worship is such a buzz word right now that it's very refreshing for you to say that it's a mixture. It's so easy to just categorize it and say, “This is a worship record, “ when really, it's not like a full-blown worship record.
Our idea of worship has got to broaden a little bit. Singing songs and coming together and worshipping God as a community is wonderful; it's been done for thousands of years. But we need to learn to see our whole lives as an act of worship and realize that taking care of the poor, loving one another and writing songs, whether it be about being in love with your wife, or whether it be about God, these are ALL acts of worship. Worship is a way of life, it's a lifestyle.
It's weird. We were on the fringe and didn't sell many records and now we're tied into the worship thing. Just recently, someone was pitching a song at Michael W Smith and said, “Oh yeah, you know Marc Byrd… “
Smith said, “Oh yeah, that's that worship guy “. I'm not a worship leader, so we didn't want to just make a “Worship Album. “
Rimmer: If you take the book of Psalms, the songs that we sing in church that are worship are just one section of that book. The Psalms actually cover a huge range of topics. One of the things that strike me about your album is that it does have a bit of a Psalm-like quality to it in places.
Byrd: Suffering is present in the Psalms; God's absence is even present in the Psalms. You’re not being honest if you leave that out.
Rimmer: I think you're right. Tell me about the song "I Stand Amazed."
Glass: Marc wrote that one by himself. When he wrote it, he was thinking of pitching it maybe to some other artist, but the record label heard it and fell in love with the song. The way Marc sings it; it really has a power to it. It's just more of a simple worship song to God: “I stand amazed - I stand in awe - I stand forgiven… “
Byrd: “I stand forgiven.“ That's one of the key things. The thing that makes Christianity what it is, which is grace. It's a celebration of the cross; it's a celebration of grace and our own need of grace. It's another song I wrote sitting down outside, and it's great that people are able to share in that experience.
Rimmer: You've got to tell us a bit about your love story. You got this artistic relationship going on, but fess up a little bit! Did you two actually get together while recording Christine’s second album? Is that how it happened?
Glass: We first met during the recording of my first album.
Byrd: Yeah, we MET!
Glass: And we wrote a song together. We were on the same record label together and our A&R person at the record label put us together to write. The song that we wrote was supposed to go on my first album but then I had too many songs and so it got cut. It ended up going on Common Children's second album, a song called "Whisper." We saw each other here and there after that. We knew we had a lot in common and we became friends.
Byrd: Christy came in and sang on the second Common Children record, and that's when the romantic aspect of our relationship started. Then we dated for what…two and a half or three years?
Byrd: Got married in….
Glass: September! I have to remind him!
Byrd: Umm yeah, I know it! September 23rd 2001. It's been great.
Glass: We're huge fans of each other. It's nice to be married to someone that you respect so much.
Byrd: And we also get to tour together too, so we're not apart.
Rimmer: Now that you're in a band together, you've got to tour together haven't you?!
Glass: Even when we're fighting we have to tour together!
Rimmer: I was going to ask about that because my wife and I used to present radio programs together and of course, sometimes we would fight and we would have to go out on air. So sometimes, as the news was coming to the end and the program was about to begin, we were repenting to each other! Kind of going Is there something of that in the way that you two relate to each other?
Byrd: Oh yeah, I mean, we're married!
Glass: One example is when we are in the studio. We both have strong opinions about what we like and what we don't like, and how we want to do things. We've both made records apart from each other, so we have our own ideas of how it should go. But when Marc co-produced my second solo record that was the first time that we'd worked on a whole project together. We had our tense moments! Making the Glassbyrd record was less so. I'm not sure why, maybe just because we've gotten used to how we work together and we've got a little bit better at it.
Byrd: Tension can also create a magical moment in studios.
Rimmer: It's a bit more dangerous though, isn't it? When it's with a band and you fall out with your bass player or something, you can just sack them!
Byrd & Glass: Ha ha ha! Yeah!
Rimmer: Does mean that your artistic lives together are just another part of your lives together? Generally, all couples go through those kinds of working out with other, learning how to compromise and learning how to create the best out of what you've got together.
Glass: Exactly. Before we got married, I'd thought about that. I thought “If we're going to be working together and living together…we're going to be TOGETHER a lot! “ and when you think about it, most couples are not together as much as Marc and I are. They're working at their jobs and they go to different places, and then they come home at night. But it's been surprisingly wonderful. I have to be honest, of course we fight and of course we have our tense moments and everything, but somehow we get through it.
Rimmer: It sounds ideal. The creativity that comes out of those tensions is a good thing. There is a sharpening that takes place. Sometimes, if one of you has a strong opinion about something and you say, “This would be better if we do it that way,“ that is actually helpful, isn't it?
Byrd: Oh yeah. Having objective and outside opinions other than your own is a good and healthy thing. Whenever you are creating a record, if you respect the people you are working with, they are all going to bring a different color to the painting. That's going to make it better. It's great to have a sounding board. The truth is that when we're writing songs or whatever, if I'm stuck, I always go to Christy first and say, “What do you think about this? Where should it go? Do you want to finish it?“ It actually makes song writing less stressful.
Rimmer: Tell me about "This Window."
Byrd: "Open Wide This Window" is a song I wrote with Steve Hindalong. It's a good title for the record because it captures what we're doing and what we're trying to communicate, which is that the window and the dramatic words “open wide this window “ are about flinging open the window of hope and faith. Take away the “open wide “ and we're still aware that sometimes, there's only a crack in the window. You can only get it up so far but still that faith and hope is there. It would be really easy to wallow in our doubt and sin or whatever, but at some point, you've just got to open wide the window and walk out with this trust and risky faith. Faith is not necessarily seeing the light at the end of the tunnel but walking out there in the darkness, believing that there is a light.
Rimmer: Is there anybody else in Glassbyrd? Do you have any regular people that are part of the band, or is it just you two?
Glass: We have a guitar player, Andrew Thompson, who normally plays with us, but we don’t get to take him this time. We're doing a tour with Jars Of Clay and Caedmon's Call but we're not able to take him with us because of space on the bus. There are only two spots. So we're doing a more stripped down thing and we're going to use Caedmon's percussion player.
Byrd: And their guitar player.
Rimmer: But Marc, do you miss the band thing? Obviously with Common Children…we all miss Common Children by the way!
Byrd: Oh thank you!
Rimmer: Do you miss having a band thing going on?
Byrd: I do. It was weird doing the shows with Glassbyrd at first because I was in a band with guys who were so in sync. It was such a chemistry and you get used to playing with each other. It's comfortable and so the longer you play together, the less risk there is because you learn what the next move of each person is going to be. In that sense, I do miss it and the camaraderie that comes with it. At the same time, there's the other side of the camaraderie, which is the tension and traveling together. It's wonderful memories and it's great, the three record that we did, the third one being one that we made ourselves. I don't suppose anybody hardly heard of it, though. Right now, this is a wonderful thing because I'm experiencing it with Christy and you just mature. There's a place where I will always love Common Children and who knows? Maybe we'll make another record. There have been stranger things that have happened.
Rimmer: If your wife is a fan, you've almost got to do it just for her!
Glass: Exactly! I need some more love songs written about me!
Rimmer: And what about you, Ms. Glass? Having been your own boss as a solo artist, and now going into a duo situation, that's different too, isn't it?
Glass: It is and honestly, I think Marc bears more the weight of the burden of Glassbyrd. He sings more of the songs and he plays guitar on everything, as opposed to me, who's just playing on one or maybe two songs. I try to be more of a support to him and do whatever else needs to be done. There are a lot of things that I can't do for him. He's more the leader of the band than I am and I'm comfortable with that.
Rimmer: Does that mean you're Linda McCartney to his Paul McCartney then?!
Glass: I don't know if I'd say that!
Byrd: She sings a lot better than Linda!
Rimmer: You make it sound that way though. That you're kind of joining “his thing.“
Glass: I definitely have a big part in it. I have several of my own songs on the record, I'm very involved in the recording process and my ideas are prominent on the record. As far as all of my vocals and all of the background vocals, I do all of those.
Byrd: You play piano.
Glass: Yeah, I play piano on the record but I don't know how to define it. What do you think honey?
Byrd: It's both of us. There are a lot of songs that we write that will never make it on any records. Those are probably a little more personal and Christy has a lot of those. But with this project, we want to relate with the Christian audience. Christy's songs are wonderful and I wouldn't change a thing.
Glass: Marc writes hit songs better than I do. Everybody has their own opinion on which songs they like and I'm sure I have some fans that really like my music. But just as far as radio, hit songs and things like that, Marc is extremely talented.
Rimmer: You're saying that Marc writes really good commercial songs but what really intrigued me about your own album is that you have this kind of ethereal thing going on. I'm not saying that as a criticism but the Christian audience particularly struggles to connect with that sometimes don't they?
Glass: Absolutely. I am a huge fan of subtly in all of its forms. My favorite band is Innocence Mission. They are amazing. The female singers that I love, they're very subtle singers. They're not belting it out, they're not screaming.
The type of sermons I like to hear are not screaming sermons. I don't want someone yelling at me. I respond more to a quietness and to subtlety. Like you said, American audiences don't respond to that as much. It's not that I don't like any strong voices. I love Marc's and Marc has kind of a gritty, raspy, raw, strong voice. But I do love subtlety.
Rimmer: Tell me more about the song “I Love You More."
Glass: I wrote "I Love You More" out of a time of worship. I was sitting in my room praying and thinking, and I started playing on my guitar. I couldn't express what I wanted to express to God and so that's what the song is all about; telling God that I love Him more than I could ever express in a song, or in words, or in music, or in life, or in any relationship.
Rimmer: Finally, is Glassbyrd an ongoing project or is this just a one-off album?
Glass: It depends on if it sells!
Byrd: Ha ha! That's true! I'm presently working on City On a Hill 3 with Steve Hindalong, as co-producer. Then we go and do some tour dates and then we finish up City. We've always said that if it makes sense to keep doing this, then we will. A lot of depends on whether the record company thinks it's selling enough to let us do another one or not.
Glass: We'll continue to make records in some form or fashion. Whether it's solo, or Common Children, or another Glassbyrd or whatever…
Byrd: You just may never hear of them!
Glass: Ha ha! You'll have to search!
Rimmer: They'll be available somewhere on the Internet!
Byrd & Glass: Yes exactly!