Behind the Song: Fortress (Psalm 46)

A couple years ago, I was a part of a short-lived songwriting group put together by some people at my church.  We met once a month and had an optional homework assignment based on a prompt assigned at the previous meeting.

One month, the prompt was simply "finish a song"--something that you had already started that had lain dormant.  I ended up picking up a seed of something that I had started based on Psalm 46, which has a repeated refrain in it (The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress).  In addition to the Psalm text itself, I pulled in some references to Matthew 16 ("...on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it") and Revelation 22 (the description of the new Jerusalem with the river and the tree of life).

As for the music, I generally tend towards slower, quieter songs, but in this one, I tried to push myself toward something more upbeat and rock and roll.  My personal bass is soft and woofy, so I used one of the studio basses that had a much brighter, punchier tone.  Zach Vinson (piano) came up with the fun sparkly part that he plays in the third verse, along with the descending piano line in the bridge--he fills up so much sonic space that I forget that there's no actual electric guitar on this song.

For some other little bits, I came up with the vocal line that Emily Roig sings during that bridge, as well as the bullet mic lo-fi texture that subtly doubles the melody at the very end of the song.  Troy Dixon (engineer) suggested the little "oh" that I sing before the first chorus.  Also, this was one of the songs that I wanted Evan Redwine to mix, to push it more in a shiny, polished direction, texturally setting it a bit apart from the rest of the album.

As I was planning the album as a whole and getting ready to start the recording process, this was the one song where I didn't already have a specific singer in mind for the BGVs like I did for the rest of the project.  I had gotten to know Emily shortly after she moved to Nashville a few months prior, and I had sung with her in a couple different church contexts--her voice has some versatility in terms of range and style.  When I eventually asked her to sing on this track, I knew that I wanted a pure, straight tone for the harmony part, and I love what she came up with.  She was just the right voice for the song.