Podcast Episode #179: Bryan & Katie Torwalt on Writing Songs Like the Psalms

Bryan & Katie Torwalt join the podcast to discuss their new live album "I've Got Good News", how the recording process was different than other projects, and how they balance writing vertical and horizontal worship songs.

Jason and Kristina recall their live recording experiences and have a good laugh.

On the vision for the new project

We love to change things up. This is the first live album we’ve ever recorded. We wanted it to be as live as possible, we even got a choir. We’ve had gang vocals before, but this was the first time we had a choir.

Since being home a lot, we’ve been listening to a lot of live worship music and have noticed how the atmosphere around the home changed when we do. So we wanted to create a project like that, something that can be listened home and feel real.

In other projects we often have a lot of layers, with guitars and instruments. But on this record we replaced those layers with just a single instrument. It’s been a fresh take, which has been a lot of fun.

On comparing the studio process and live recording

For a studio record we come in with much developed songs. We go in and see what happens. For a live recording, the songs need to be done before we press record. 

There is something special and real that happens in real time when recording live. The songs are done and the arrangements are loosely finished, so a lot of things still happen in the moment. It’s a much more vulnerable experience.

On the crowd knowing the songs

We sent out very rough demos to people that were attending. A lot of just us at the piano writing music. It was very valuable to us because people came in with experiences with the songs. 

On arranging for live environment during practice 

We had a week of rehearsals with the band we brought in, and that whole week we had to review all the arrangements reminding ourselves what would happen with people. 

It did feel scary because sometimes you want to bring in tracks and layers. I’m glad we didn’t, because although that landscape is beautiful, we had some special moments with actual piano playing.

On songs for congregation and personal worship

The common thread we were intentional about while writing was everything is through the lens of Jesus. It’s helped to provide biblical context prior to leading the songs since they can be a bit abstract. 

We brought in some friends that we trust theologically to review our songs. We want our music to serve the Church and homes, so it’s ok if something will only work in the car while another song works with a congregation. We found ourselves in that tension and in the end think it’s ok because we found that we need that.

It’s like David and how he processed in the Psalms. He reminds the soul, the spirit and then he gets vertical and begins to praise. After a human experience, you can’t help but well up with vertical praise. 

On feeling the freedom to writing both types of music

It’s very vulnerable to write about where you’re at. My favorite songwriters are those that choose to be transparent with their music and writing. That only comes from a place of authenticity, it’s something I’ve gotten more comfortable as I’ve gotten older. 

We’ve realized through the years of how much we’ve learned about God through the music we sing. So we’re aware of how much the music we write can impact someones life with Jesus.  

On what’s next

We’re going to rest and breathe to hear what God is speaking. We’re not trying everything we can say that hasn’t been said, but saying the right thing in the right season. 

Listen to the podcast on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

Follow Bryan and Katie Torwalt on Instagram.

Kristina Kislyanka leads worship and student ministry at her church in Washington state. She’s passionate about songwriting, producing music, and growing community within the Church. Kristina is a member of the Maverick City Music Choir. 

Podcast Episode #179: Bryan & Katie Torwalt on Writing Songs Like the Psalms

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