Sojourn Music consists of a group of musicians with backgrounds in jazz, country, and pop who came together with musicians from indie and punk rock backgrounds, seeking to serve the Church with a sense of unity and beauty. Sojourn creates new songs for modern missionary worship, rich in Christian teaching and contextualized in modern culture. Contemporary hymns, psalms, and songs of lament and praise are written by members of the Louisville, KY-based Sojourn Community.
Sojourn Community Church began with a series of conversations about church, community, and beauty. There was a resounding hunger for a different kind of church - something that was ancient and modern, beautiful and true. Those conversations gave birth to a church in Louisville, Kentucky’s urban core, a church that celebrated the creative beauty of our God and the creative glory of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, through whom we’re redeemed and restored into His family. Sojourn is now a church with three campuses in Louisville and one in southern Indiana, with 2500+ people gathering on Sundays for worship. In 2006, Sojourn launched the 930 Arts Center, a gallery, music venue, and studio space in the Germantown neighborhood which then served as Sojourn's midtown campus. (www.the930.org) Renovations of the former St. Vincent de Paul Church, a 120-year old Gothic Revival cathedral in Smoketown with seating for 900 people, were completed in 2012 and the midtown location of Sojourn moved there. Over the years, Sojourn Music has recorded multiple records of original music, and has led worship at national conferences for Advance The Church, The Resurgence, Acts 29, The Gospel Coalition, and Campus Crusade for Christ.
Sojourn Music is part of the worship arts ministry of Sojourn Community Church, along with Sojourn Visual Arts and The 930 Art Center. Sojourn Church launched in 2000 with under 100 people, most of who were in their early 20s, and many of who were participants or patrons of Louisville’s independent arts scene. This included founding member Mike Cosper, a multi-instrumentalist who became Sojourn’s Pastor of Worship & Arts.
Cosper and many of his volunteer worship leaders and musicians played in music venues around Louisville as singer-songwriters or members of various local bands, then came together on Sundays to lead worship at Sojourn Church services. They recorded their first album in 2001: a live album featuring covers of modern worship songs.
This record, The Reverence And The Noise, captured the exuberance and gritty independent rock stylings of early Sojourn services. Local worshipers bought all of the limited number of physical copies created. Due to copyright issues, Sojourn Music didn’t press additional copies or make the album available through digital distribution.
A year later they recorded their first album of original music, With The Angels. This ten-song album featured the vocals of Sojourn worship leader Jeremy Quillo, who wrote all songs but the standard “Come Thou Fount.” Band member Eddy Morris and Cosper engineered and produced With The Angels at Morris’s Ear Candy Studio – a pattern repeated for the next three Sojourn studio recordings.
Following a Christmas season record in 2003, Songs For The Advent, Cosper, Quillo, Morris and Sojourn musicians began recording a Psalm-based record which delved into several folk musical styles in America and around the world. While Quillo still sang and wrote songs for the album, entitled These Things I Remember, fellow worship leader Rebecca Dennison led half the songs and contributed music she wrote by herself and with Cosper. Sojourn released These Things I Remember in early 2005, dedicating it to Sojourn member Aaron Marrs, a graphic artist and film-maker whose ship was lost at sea while he was filming a documentary about crab fishing off the coast of Alaska. Marrs had designed the artwork for many Gotee Records albums, including releases by John Reuben and Relient K.
By 2006 Sojourn songwriters were formally meeting together, collaborating and critiquing each other’s worship songs. Near the end of the year Cosper met with Sojourn Visual Arts Director Michael Winters, songwriter Bobby Gilles (who led the monthly songwriting workshops) and worship leader Lorie Spann to brainstorm ideas for harnessing the creative efforts of Sojourn visual artists and songwriters for a Calvin Institute Of Worship grant project called “Vertical Habits.”
The Institute’s goal was to encourage grant recipients to come up with creative ways to teach worship liturgy and theology as a conversation with God – a pattern of God’s revelation of Himself and mankind’s response.
Sojourn’s resulting project was a ten-song album, ten-piece art project and corresponding devotional, all entitled Before The Throne. The songs and art pieces follow the linear movement of a Christian worship service liturgy, from the Call To Worship to the Benediction. The album featured over 20 participants, the largest-ever cast of Sojourn Music songwriters, musicians and singers.
Just prior to Before The Throne’s release in August 2007, Cosper and Gilles created sojournmusic.com as a way to sell CDs online. Gilles operated as content manager, blogging about worship leading, liturgy, songwriting and Sojourn-related news, including content from Cosper’s sermons, writings and conference lectures on faith & art. The site became a destination for many worship ministries around the country.
In October 2007 Christianity Today Online published a 5 Star review of Before The Throne, which was followed by similarly positive reviews in several major Christian websites and blogs, driving sales of Before The Throne as well as traffic to sojournmusic.com. “In The Shadow Of The Glorious Cross” became Sojourn’s most-covered song by church worship teams across the country. Other songs from Before The Throne to be often covered include “My Maker And My King,” “All I Have Is Yours,” “We Are Listening,” “There Is A Peace” and “Lead Us Back.”
Sojourn responded to the newfound demand for their worship songs by re-recording their Songs For The Advent, including new material and the musical contributions of newer members. They called the reformulated album Advent Songs, and it garnered positive mentions in the Christian blogging community as well as Louisville’s major newspaper, the Courier Journal, and airplay on Louisville’s AAA radio station, WFPK for songs “Glory Be” and covers of Christmas standards “O Come All Ye Faithful” and “Joy To The World,” (the latter of which features a new melody written by Jamie Barnes).
In 2008 Cosper began conversations with record producer/independent musician Neil Degraide (who tours under the moniker Neil Robins as part of the band Dirt Poor Robins) on a major new project. Cosper wanted to “rewrite the hymnal” of Isaac Watts, an 18th-century pastor and poet often described as the “Father Of English Hymnody.”
They decided to record two full albums of songs adapted from or inspired by the hymns of Watts. Degraide would produce one album, a high-energy rock project, and Cosper would helm the second one, an earthy, Americana record. Sojourn released the high-octane rock album, Over The Grave: The Hymns Of Isaac Watts, Volume 1, in 2009. Continuing the trend of using an ever-wider community of artists, Over The Grave featured the lead vocals of six members, and many musicians, as well as eleven songwriters and nine different songwriting collaborations.
This album marked the first time a Sojourn single appeared on a Worship Leader SongSelect compilation CD (“Refuge”) or received significant internet radio airplay (“Warrior”). It also marked the first time a Sojourn record appeared on iTunes’ Top Twenty downloads list of Christian albums.
In 2010 Cosper decided to record the second Watts volume at White Arc Studios with producer Paul Mahern, whose production/engineering credits include music by John Mellencamp, Over The Rhine and many other artists. He scheduled studio time for early 2011.
To satiate listeners who were waiting for a Sojourn Music follow-up to 2009’s Over The Grave, Cosper decided to record two EPs and package them together. These EPs featured the vocals and songwriting of two popular Louisville artists who had joined Cosper’s salaried staff as Worship Directors of Sojourn Church campuses: Jamie Barnes, who entitled his EP The Mercy Seat, and Brooks Ritter, who called his The War. Sojourn released these EPs together in February 2011. Each immediately climbed into the iTunes Top Ten Christian downloads, and the song “Absent From Flesh” quickly became one of Sojourn’s top-selling singles.
Sojourn recorded The Water And The Blood: The Hymns Of Isaac Watts, Volume Two in one snowy weekend at Mahern’s studio. They played live and recorded to analog tape, giving the album a classic sound. When Sojourn released it on Good Friday, 2011, it became their longest-running Top Ten Christian album download. It was also the first Sojourn product to be released on vinyl, in a two-LP collectors edition. Like Over The Grave, this closing volume of the Isaac Watts project featured a large cast of musicians and many songwriting collaborations, including members who had been involved since The Reverence And The Noise days as well as some who had joined the community after the release of Over The Grave. The Water And The Blood became the most widely reviewed Sojourn record to date, gaining positive reviews in CCM Magazine, Christianity Today, leading Christian blogs as well as Americana and folk music websites.
During the 2011 season of Advent and Christmas, Sojourn released A Child is Born, featuring in-house recordings of classic hymns, Sojourn originals, and covers of songs written by other artists. On Good Friday, 2012, Sojourn recorded a live album at Louisville's Memorial Auditorium. The album was released as Come Ye Sinners on November 20, 2012 and again featured a mixture of Sojourn originals (some appearing for the first time) and covers.
Currently, Sojourn Music is planning to release a children’s music album and a collection of worship songs based on the hymns of Anne Steele.
From the beginning, Sojourn has believed songs for worship should run the gamut of human emotion, including expressions of grief—much like the psalms of the Bible—and all of God’s attributes, including wrath. They have resisted drawing lines between “Christian” and “secular” music, and have been influenced by everything from the psalms of David to the great hymns of the Reformation, and artists of the 20th and 21st centuries like Thelonius Monk, Muddy Waters, Bessie Smith, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Radiohead, Elbow, Over The Rhine, Wilco and U2.
- Come Ye Sinners
A live album recorded by Sojourn at Louisville's Memorial Auditorium on Good Friday, 2012 and released November 20, 2012. It features a mixture of Sojourn original songs (including three never before recorded) and covers of other popular worship songs. This album was executively produced by Mike Cosper, with Paul Mahern engineering and mixing the tracks.
- A Child is Born
Another collection of Advent and Christmas songs, recorded primarily at the 930 Arts Center, featuring a combination of Sojourn originals, traditional Christmas hymns, and covers of songs written by other artists.
- The Water and the Blood
During a cold, snowy week in January 2011, a group of Sojourners trekked up through nasty roads to Bloomington, Indiana. There, they had the privilege of working with producer Paul Mahern (who has worked with Over the Rhine, The Fray, John Mellencamp, T-Bone Burnett, and many other artists) recording an album that had been years in the making. They recorded live on an old tape machine, creating and album that is warm and intimate — a true “record” of what happened: a band making music, responding to one another, and singing together. It’s raw and rough around the edges, much like Sojourn itself is. The songs are re-imaginings and adaptations of the hymns of Isaac Watts, the “Father Of English Hymnody.” Watts was an extraordinary pastor and poet. These songs, these snapshots of the gospel, can profoundly help us to see Jesus as more beautiful and more believable.
- Split EP - The War & The Mercy Seat
A double-EP of ten worship songs, including “Absent From Flesh,” “Rock Of Ages,” “Approach My Soul, The Mercy Seat” and “Whom Have I In Heaven But You” from these acclaimed singer-songwriters and humble worship leaders.
- Over the Grave
In the midst of the Reformation in England, Isaac Watts recognized that people needed to see the gospel in the psalms and hymns of the church, and they needed to sing them in language and metaphors that they understood. In this, he became not only the father of the modern hymn, but the pace-setter for contextualizing the gospel for the people of God.
As musicians, pastors and songwriters, Sojourn's desire was to explore the hundreds of hymns that Watts wrote during his lifetime, to learn from the incredible range and depth of his lyrics, and to re-envision those songs with modern language and melodies.
- Advent Songs
Original and Traditional Christmas Songs from Sojourn Artists, including Jamie Barnes, Dirt Poor Robins, Brooks Ritter, and more.
The emphasis here is on the already/ not-yet tension of Advent, the season of waiting and anticipation before Christmas. Advent comes to us in the darkest season of the year — a season when the nights are long, the days are cold, and we look with anticipation for the return of the warmth in the spring. The songs have both a dark sense of anticipation and glimpses of light dawning in the face of the Christ child.
- Before the Throne
Sojourn’s 2007 worship album connects the worship practices of the Church gathered to the ordinary stuff of daily life, a life lived before the throne of God. This life is a rich and varied experience of adoration, confession, thanksgiving, prayer for guidance, prayers of repentance and communal sharing of God’s peace, blessing and love. Comprising one classic hymn and ten new songs for worship written by members of the Sojourn community, “Before The Throne” is the group's most ambitious and collaborative project to date.
- The Things I Remember
The 11-track collection of aesthetically diverse songs of faith, pain, longing and reflection based on the Psalms features worship music by Sojourn community members Mike Cosper, Rebecca Dennison and Jeremy Quillo. With stylistic influences ranging from the mountains of Appalachia to the villages of Asia to modern American rock, this record attempts to reconnect modern listeners with the language of the Psalms, reflecting the diversity of creation and exploring the tension between faith and doubt, triumph and struggle, laughter and lament.
- Songs for the Advent
Sojourn's first attempt at a holiday-themed album featured a mixture of original Sojourn songs and arrangements of traditional Advent and Christmas hymns, interspersed with instrumentals and a reading of John chapter 1, translated by Sojourn member Robert Plummer. Many of the songs were later partially or fully re-recorded for Advent Songs.
- With the Angels
Sojourn began with a series of conversations between a group of people hungry to experience God in an authentic community. The first original songs that Sojourners sang together were the raw, Bible-infused songs of worship leader Jeremy Quillo. Nine of those songs, in addition to the classic “Come Thou Fount,” are featured on this, Sojourn’s first studio album, with Jeremy leading a diverse, energetic band through praise, confession, questioning and fulfillment in Christ.
- The Reverence and the Noise
Sojourn's first album, recorded live. The album received only one pressing, has never been distributed digitally, and most copies were bought by early Sojourn members.
- Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. "Vertical Habits: Relational words that expand worship language", Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, September 14, 2007
- Smith, Peter "Sojourn Community Church balances 10 years of faith, arts, service", Courier Journal, September 19, 2010.
- Moore, Russell. "Beyond Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole","Russell Moore" December 6th, 2008.
- Banister,Christa. "Before the Throne", Christianity Today International, September 23, 2010.