The Psalms Project began in the summer of 2006 in White River, SD, near the Rosebud Indian Reservation. I was on a mission trip there with a team to support a pastor serving on the reservation, and during a quiet time of worship and prayer, I suddenly felt compelled to set Psalm 1 to music. The music came easily that day, and within half an hour, I had a chord structure and melody I liked for the first three verses. I thought the song was odd and unconventional in structure, but I liked the lyrics and the song’s meditative tenor, and I even began to have grand delusions of setting all 150 Psalms to music. I knew that the idea of the Psalms set to music was nothing new, but I became tantalized by the idea of all the Psalms in their entirety being set to music, including the essential meaning of every verse, instead of gutting and censoring the Psalms and isolating some verses from their context. I also was intrigued by the idea of making these songs stylistically listenable by combining modern, familiar instrumentation with unconventional structure and style – a marriage of King David’s vision with modern worship music. There is tremendous power in the spoken Word, and perhaps even more so when sung.
Initially, though, I didn’t get very far. After finishing Psalm 1, I came up with a chord progression that I really liked for the beginning of Psalm 2. However, I only got a few verses into it before realizing that this whole Psalms-set-to-music thing was going to be very, very hard. There were Hebrew idioms that needed to be untangled, and the marriage of melody to lyric was not coming as easily as it was before. So, I put Psalm 2 on the shelf, where it stayed for almost three years.
In the spring of 2009, with the dream of trying to set the Psalms to music now far out of my mind, I committed myself to memorizing Psalms as a spiritual discipline. As I lay in bed one night reciting Psalm 2 in my mind, the words came to life. I began to see the connections between the verses, why this idea came after that idea, and the overall message of the psalm, now clear, reverberated deeply within me. “This should be a song,” I thought to myself, and after quickly realizing that Psalm 2 originally existed as a song, I remembered the chord progression I had written years earlier. Equipped with a fuller understanding of the psalm, I began to compose a new melody. As I realized things were falling into place, I hopped out of bed at 1 a.m., headed downstairs, and finished the first section of the song before retiring for the evening. When I picked up the writing the next day, more thematic chords and melodies were born, and my Psalms dream, the vision I’d gotten in White River, was more alive than ever. As spring turned to summer, the vision of The Psalms Project no longer seemed merely possible – it seemed inevitable. By the end of the summer of 2009, I had set Psalms 1-5 to music. The Psalms Project was a reality – with, I thought, some legitimate potential.
After Psalms 9 and 10 were set to music in the summer of 2010, I sensed that I had enough material for the first album. Since this project had always been about making the Psalms heard in as complete and quality a format as possible, a vision quickly developed of incorporating as many artists, singers, and musicians as possible to contribute to the project as a testimony to the diversity of the Spirit’s gifts, the unity of God’s people, and the power of His Word. I enlisted over 25 of the best musicians available, including ten lead vocalists (to give each Psalm its own “voice”), to contribute to the recording of Volume 1: Psalms 1-10, which was released in January of 2012.
At the beginning, The Psalms Project was mostly a local church “pet project.” We would have been happy simply to pay back the recording costs, which were significant for a fully-produced, professionally-recorded, 60-minute album. But it was quickly evident that the music was striking a chord with people. Orders were coming in from all over the world. A local as well as an online audience quickly developed, showing us that there was interest beyond our local community.
Encouraged by the response of Volume 1, I continued writing, aspiring with every Psalm to take the writing to the next level. Then we released Volume 2: Psalms 11-20 in 2013. Sales and online followers continued to increase as I geared up for what I knew would be our biggest project yet: Volume 3.
For Volume 3, I began reaching out to talent outside our local area, including Grammy nominees Phil Keaggy and Jeff Deyo. Helped by contributions from them as well as almost 20 new musicians, Volume 3: Psalms 21-30 was released in 2016.
By this time, it was clear to me that the project had taken on a life of its own, and would be continuing as long as I could continue to write. Volume 4: Psalms 31-38 was released in December of 2019, and we are already looking forward to Volume 5.
Beyond edifying the church with the inspired Word of God set to music, another vision for this project has always been to support Gospel missionaries in the most unreached areas of the earth. I have always felt that for this project to truly be about God’s glory, it needed to be about His mission, to bring justice to the orphan, the fatherless, and the widow around the world, to spread the Gospel of Jesus’ death and resurrection on our behalf to give us new life in Him. There is no greater cause. By purchasing or promoting this project in any way, you are contributing to the Great Commission, even if you do not directly participate in the writing, recording, or live concerts. There is tremendous peace and joy in being a part of something larger than ourselves. Thank you for joining with us.
“And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, even to the very end of the age.'” – Matthew 28:18-20