01 - Martin Smith

Welcome to The Beautiful Pursuit Launch Episode!

This is #01 with perpetual pioneer Martin Smith. 

In this interview you'll hear Martin speak about family, marriage, the pursuit of God, gifting, and turning things on their head. Martin also chats about his latest album and creative endeavor, Army of Bones. 

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About this interview... 

It was amazing to listen to Martin Smith - the man who's penned some of the modern churches best loved songs, speak about life, and marriage, family and his deep passion for God and making music. I loved hearing about his new project Army of Bones and how he and his band (young guys who he's basically known since they were kids) are pitching up in clubs and pubs and playing to small crowds. He believes that much in the gift God has given him and he's got nothing to prove in the process. You get the sense that he's just following his heart. 

After 17 years of making albums, filling stadiums and touring around the world with Delirious, Martin called it a day in 2009. He went home to fully be with his wife and six children. The adjustment couldn't have all been tea and cake after so many years on the road. And yet when you sit face to face with Martin, his humility is disarming. He's seemingly unaffected by all that. He's a regular guy with a soft heart. He pauses and contemplates a lot. Words don't come cheap. You feel the strength and stability of his character in all he says - and sings. 

I plan on asking everyone I interview what the beautiful pursuit means to them. Martin's answer to that question couldn't have have warmed my heart more. He so simply summed up one of the core pillars of what the beautiful pursuit is for me. Family and marriage. "The pursuit of staying together". What use are the songs we write and sing if our most intimate relationships aren't thriving and overflowing with the goodness and wholeness that is the very essence of the Kingdom of God? 

Enjoy some of the show notes and quotes below. They're gold. 

On family:

“Family is that sense of belonging. More and more you realise that family is so important and that if you aren’t privileged to be part of that culture of family – it’s hard to get through life (especially when that’s fractured)...

"We guard it like it’s a precious thing”.

On a marriage that lasts and a family that loves and honours one another:

“Its thanks to the grace of God, hard work and intentionality...

“We have a great marriage, not a perfect one, but a great one. We’ve had our struggles but amazingly we’ve always really liked each other. We enjoy hanging out. Talking is so important. Being as open as possible. Having no secrets. We’ve had our moments but we are here, in one piece.”

Speaking about Army of Bones:

“It’s a very honest account of the endeavour to stay married over 23 years...  

"Most pop music is about relationships breaking up – I wanted to write an album about staying together.”

About playing in bars and pubs:

"I don’t have to prove myself in any way. I love the church. I am a church boy. We have brought our family up in the church. We love it. That’s without question."

Lord, I need more danger in my life:

“If you don’t have danger in your life you can start to grow old a bit quick. I prayed this prayer, God I feel like I need more danger in my life – creatively, musically, and relationally. And He certainly answered that prayer. We have been playing in these little clubs and its hard work – back to zero. We’ve loved it.”                                                                             

The pursuit of God is dangerous

 "If you really want to run after Him, it’s everything isn’t it? Everything that you are is on the table: finances, relationships, dreams, everything - you take the crown off your head and you lay it on the table. And there is a danger in that because you sacrifice your own ego. It’s a hard thing, especially for a guy. It’s that constant pursuit of humility that doesn’t come naturally. There is danger in that. I don’t think the journey of faith is without danger – sometimes the constraints of church, the institution, can maybe sanitize that journey a little bit. But it’s up to every individual to fight for that. Church is not perfect because people are not perfect.”

Leading worship for the world:

“If you truly take your calling seriously – whether it’s a painter or a journalist – for me its trying to write songs that people can connect with – I don’t believe that gifting is just for the church. He gifts us to change the world. Not to be contained in a Sunday morning context. That shouldn’t be controversial. If you look at the bible – it’s full of people who exploded into the world and changed it. I have many friends who do that and it inspires me.”

About Chris Martin

“He has something of a worship leader anointing…

"We need to encourage everybody who is trying to bring hope to the world…

"If we look in the scriptures - none of us are living up to the rules so we need to be a bit kinder to one another.”

Having a homeless man living with them

“It was the most remarkable year of our lives because he would come up and eat with us every night and he had the most amazing presence with the children and was so interested in them and that put me to shame. He had no mobile phone, no email, nothing - but he had this incredible attention span. He taught us more than we taught him.”

On writing in this season

“I love the co-writing thing. I like to get the idea in solitude but then I like to finish it with a team. People always make it better.”

What are you excited about in this season of your life?

“I am looking for those 16-year-old kids, really raw, passion for God and they are going to turn the whole thing on its head again.”

Turn what on its head?

"We have learnt how to do it. Whenever the institution learns how to do something, God comes and turns it on its head. We know how to do great meetings now. Now we have amazing sounding worship. But when that starts to overtake the raw nature of passion – that’s when God always says, let’s start again…

“A lot of this has to do with authenticity. I am fed up with people writing songs that they don’t even believe in and then expecting churches to sing those songs. It’s got to go back to this really raw, psalmic nature – where it’s OK to sing about brokenness – because pretty much everyone I meet along the road is broken. We have to give them the songs of victory and joy but also of lament.”

What is the beautiful pursuit to you?

“Staying married. I see my parents are still married - 57 years later or something. That’s got to be the greatest achievement in life. And your children to have grown up as healthy people of hope and faith. That’s got to be the beautiful pursuit to me. And a little bit of making music in-between.”

Listening to: Brandon Flowers and London Grammar

Reading: The newspaper everyday and How Music Works by David Bryne

Fav song you wrote: Obsession

First song you ever wrote: Lord you have my heart

All time fav worship song: Amazing Grace, but the best song of our modern era is 10,000 Reasons – it will be the song we all go back to. 

Fav song you love to lead: No Longer Slaves (I wish I had written that song)

Fav band of all time: U2

Fav band live: Coldplay, Earls Court, London

Tea or Coffee: Cortado

Fav coffee shop: Pelicano in Brighton

Weird ritual: Yes – apparently I do a cleaning ceremony before I eat - like washing hands. 

Fav worship leader: Wow. That’s an amazing question. Everyone is so different in their own right. Darlene because she is so strong, Chris Tomlin is so childlike and full of joy. Matt Redman because he is so stately. And Tim Hughes because he has so much authority. How can I pick a favourite?  Amanda Cook.

Fav holiday destination, Corfu Greece

Fav thing to do on weekend: Watch Brighton play football

Advice to your 25-year-old self: Trust more, don’t be in a hurry, and listen to your wife more. 


For more on Martin Smith, visit his website.