Podcast Episode #171: Deep Dive on Altogether Good with Zach Bolen

Altogether Good by Citizens is an under the radar worship song that really shouldn't be.

Jason sat down with lead singer and co-songwriter Zach Bolen to dive deep into this beautiful song and got a live acoustic performance to boot.

On the chorus lyric

The song idea started as a chorus but it sat there for a few years without the verses. I started working on it again with Brian Echelberger. It’s clearly a song that’s coming from a hard place but it’s recognizing that God is there and He’s a part of it.

It’s hard to admit that the hard things I’ve gone through have shaped who I am, that I wouldn’t be the person I am without it and so in the chorus I was really thinking about being in those dark times.

In the silence, when I am praying and I’m pleading for You to answer and You don’t, I am recognizing that God was there and He was shaping me. Then you break that into the micro and there are highs and lows in everyday. God is with us in that day, then you zoom out to a month, a year, 15 years and You see God working in the whole thing. It’s the thing that really builds my faith.

In using “You are here” and “You are there” I was trying to acknowledge a sense of time. That God is there in what has passed, will be there in the future and is here right now. It’s easy to say “God You are here” but knowing that God will be with us is a powerful thought. Even in the darkness In the weakness of my faith, in silence where we wait, you are here? That’s a hard one to say sometimes.

Why the word Altogether?

I’ve been on this kick with words and semantics. On one hand we keep trying to come up with more and clever ways to talk about God but on the other hand we sometimes don’t allow certain words to just be enough. In thinking about God I wanted to communicate that God is the fullness of goodness. He encompasses it all and I felt like altogether was a simple and powerful expression of that.

With most songs that I write, there are usually a lot of leftovers and scraps and this song has none. When I first wrote this I was definitely in the first verse for awhile. I was in the Psalms and I was thinking about that question of where could I possibly go to get away from you? How could I possibly add up all the things you’ve done for me. There is a multiplication process of my faith and it’s coming from remembering what He’s done.

On using the water metaphor of currents and waves

I remember having that idea. I think the waves and the rolling of the tide is such a beautiful image. I love to be at the ocean and the way the waves turn and regenerate. Some waves are gentle and others are devastating and I think of my personal journey is that God’s grace is this ever recycling wave that washes over us. The waves never end.

Singing about God being good in grief 

On using both I and we 

I don’t know how often I say “I love you” to God. To be honest and truly say it. It’s a choice and I feel like that’s a personal thing to sing. It seems unfair to me to expect everyone to sing that 

When I’m asking for more: healing, clarity, any craving or desire, I’m asking for more than I have and God is that. It’s found in Him.

Learn Altogether Good on Worship Artistry.

Listen to the podcast on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

Jason Houtsma is the co-founder and guitar teacher at Worship Artistry, where he is helping musicians of every level answer the call to worship with passion and confidence. Jason has been leading worship and writing music since he was 15 years old and currently serves as Worship Pastor for Mosaic Church in Bellingham, WA. He is husband to Alli and father to Bjorn and Asher.

Podcast Episode #171: Deep Dive on Altogether Good with Zach Bolen

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