“I’m sick and tired of faking it,” gospel collective We the Kingdom growl on the opening track to their debut record. “Cages” shakes from the inside-out, an explosive and haunting primer to a remarkable set of tunes laced with doubt, hope, and ultimately strength. Holy Water contains 12 songs that run the gamut from baptismal soul-soaker “Holy Water” to the tender, vulnerable “SOS.” Each moment feels important, and the generation-spanning family band ─ comprised of Andrew Bergthold, Ed Cash, Franni Rae Cash, Martin Cash, and Scott Cash ─ mark through gospel’s vast history, weaving in needle-point harmony work and boundary-pushing sensibilities.
“This is my first record I’ve ever released,” admits Franni to American Songwriter, “and it’s really exciting. I think it’s taken my whole life to have these experiences that have led up to this record, so it feels very personal. I think even with touring put on pause because of COVID-19, we were able to spend a lot of time in the studio and really get the songs how they wanted to be.”
Holy Water, a self-produced record, could not have come at a more apt time in our country’s history. With a constant barrage of news and viral social posts, depicting tragedy upon tragedy, the record extends a bit of warmth, compassion, empathy, and wisdom. “Our hope is that people will listen to this and feel a deep profound sense that they’re loved,” says Ed, known for his work as a top-notch Christian producer and songwriter for the likes of Chris Tomlin, Steven Curtis Chapman, and Amy Grant, as well as country giants Vince Gill and Dolly Parton.
He adds, “We believe in the intimate details of every personal fight. That’s a hard thing to think about for a lot of people. I’ve gone through a lot of things that ultimately come to that. I hope these people listen, and they’re going to be encouraged.”
We the Kingdom bask in the sun. They rally behind one another, and the listener, too, inspiring a soothing sense of unwavering faith. “As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that it is so important for us to be able to bring our pain and bring our doubt, confusion, and anger to God,” Ed explains, detailing much of the album’s thread lines. “I hope people feel whatever emotion that they’re feeling and that what comes out of anger and pain is joy, happiness, and excitement.”
Leading into the record release, the band issued a string of singles, including “Don’t Tread on Me,” “God So Loved,” and “Child of Love.” Celebrating today’s (August 7) record drop, the band takes American Songwriter through five, previously unreleased tracks, dissecting inspiration and message.
Franni: I love this song. I’ve never really heard anything like it even when we wrote it. It’s sort of like what we are doing. We wrote it in a hot tub, which was kind of funny ─ you can write anywhere. I’ve noticed the model for writing is you build a track in the studio and come up with something there in the four-hour time slot. I like writing different scenarios, and so that was really cool to get to write out there in the nighttime. We were at this camp leading worship service, and we thought about cages and the idea about all the things you do to try to fit in or cover up your true self.
Ed: You hear me talk nowadays about things like the false self or these fabricated versions of yourself that we present to people and what it really means to break down into the depths of your own soul and rediscover your true heart. And it often takes a bit of a violent, if you will, activity because you really have to be intentional and take that by force. What I love about this song is the way we approached recording. We wanted it to have some angst and a guitar riff that comes in on the second verse. We felt this was just so cool, and we wanted it to represent the sound of the whole breaking free. We really tried to intensify that throughout the whole song.
Ed: That song was written probably at least a decade ago. It’s been one of those that has not left us alone. I wrote that song in the North Carolina mountains at a camp called Windy Gap. That morning, there was going to be a speaker talking about some pretty heavy stuff to some high school kids. When I woke up, it was super foggy, and it was 8:00 in the morning. I thought about the kids, and I was transported to my high school years. I was there. I mean, I could feel it, smell it, and taste it.
I could feel the pain, the hurt, and the confusion, and I just scribbled down this song in one fell swoop. It probably took seven to ten minutes, and it was done. I think it was one of those things where you know when you live a lot of life and experience. We talk about the difference in being a songwriter and a song receiver; there’s some songs you really have to get in there and crack the code, but this was just one of those that just fell from the sky.
It was a really profound experience for me. I think there’s a part of our soul that is kind of reaching out for something and crying out for truth. In a part of my story, I went through five drug treatment centers and have dealt with fighting through addiction all my life. The song just kept knocking on the door of my heart. We’ve played it over the years, and it’s just never gone stale. It’s always had a freshness about it, and the message has been timeless enough. When we were talking about our record, it just was one of those that just sort of reared its head again.
“If All I Had Was Christ”
Franni: It was about three years ago where we went down to A Young Life Camp. We just went down as sort of hired hands to do this week of worship. On the second night, one of us wanted to go write a song. So, we went down to the hot tub and pulled out our mandolin and started writing the first song that sort of started our band called “Dancing on the Waves.”
After writing that song, it felt so electric, and the kids loved it. We started to feel a lot of chemistry writing together. We were in the green room before we got to play, and we wrote this song. I love the concept that any person’s brokenness is pointed to God.
Ed: There’s been a few times in my life where I’ve felt completely numb. And I think everybody has probably experienced that feeling ─ of just not being able to feel anything or being in shock when something hard has happened. I can recall a few times where I literally thought, “I don’t know I’m never going to recover from this. I don’t know if I’m ever gonna be able to feel again.” I felt that so many times, just like a zombie. So, this song talks about that feeling and then when you feel reawakened again. It’s such a beautiful feeling when that anxiety or numbness has lifted and you feel alive again. Those are the moments and the way forward.
It makes you appreciate feeling alive in the first place, because if you’d never felt alive, you wouldn’t know what it would feel like to become alive again. I’m really happy that it made the record, and I hope it resonates with people. I also hope people feel like they can come alive again, and they’ll feel God talking to them. The way the song unfolds feels like a butterfly bursting out of its cocoon.
“You Are Heaven”
Franni: So, we started with the line about the wind blowing. It actually used to be the title of the song. The idea behind this song is the feeling once you have woken up and tasted true life ─ and not counterfeit things that promise life but often leave us just so desperate. There’s a whimsical way chasing after the land. And what if we think about the wind as the movement of God. It’s about being sensitive enough to have a relationship with Him. It’s striving to hear the audible voice of God, and even more, it is being mindful and sensitive to the fact that I truly believe that we are loved by an amazing creator. I believe that He knows and wants the best for our lives.
Photo Credit: Robbie Klein