So here we are on a Friday 13th, but we do not offer horror, we offer more good music. Today we have got some music not only good for your ears but also good for your soul. Allow us to introduce, These Thousand Hills. Featuring brother and sister Joel Smith and Rebecca Conn, independent Christian music band These Thousand Hills passionately creates worship music specifically to serve and encourage today’s Church. Join us as we talk about July 4th, starting the group, faith + spirituality = music, and so much more!
@skopemag: Where are we talking from today and how was your 4th of July?
TTH: (Becca): We’re coming to you from our small, rural hometown in the beautiful North Georgia mountains. (Joel): My 4th of July was quite memorable as my very pregnant wife was due any moment; I thought I’d planned out just the right spot for my family to watch the fireworks and also make a quick exit if needed. Instead, we got stuck in what felt like the worst traffic jam this little country town’s ever seen. Thankfully my baby girl waited until the 6th to make her grand entrance!
@skopemag: What does being an American in 2018 mean to you?
TTH: Being an American in this day and time is a blessing; we still enjoy the freedom to be who we were called to be without hindrance. We still are the land of the free.
@skopemag: I love how you are siblings. How much music was played in your home growing up and what artists/bands were played the most?
TTH: Becca: Our early childhood was colored almost singularly by our father’s magnificent collection of classical music from the likes of Mozart, Dvorak, and Pachelbel. We were also steeped in gospel songs and Christian standards at our grandfather’s church each Sunday, which was also the first place we sang together as children.
Joel: And then there was Christmas, when the house reverberated with the great carols and classics which came flooding down from the loft in the home that our father built with his own two hands. Our mom somehow managed to nab tickets to Les Miserables and Phantom at the Fox in Atlanta, which was a game-changer. As time went on, we spent many hours listening to: Michael W. Smith, Amy Grant, the News Boys, DC Talk, Jars of Clay, Blues Traveler and Counting Crows.
@skopemag: What happened or inspired you that made you decide to jump all in and start the group together?
TTH (Becca): 10 years ago, the thought of us forming TTH would have been ludicrous. I had fallen away from church, enjoyed only mainstream radio, had no experience singing professionally, zero capabilities playing an instrument, horrible stage fright, precisely 0.1% knowledge of how to hold a microphone (much less sing into it properly), and had never even once been part of a band. Joel, on the other hand, had developed tremendous musical talents while I was away studying at Emory, and He was thrust into the forefront of church praise and worship at a very young age because it. Hearing him sing and play acoustic for the first time after moving back to our hometown- it resonated so powerfully in my spirit, I knew I had to be a part of it. I started singing background vocals almost immediately, and wrote my first original song within 6 months of that day, watching Joel scrawl out the chords and create the music I couldn’t produce on my own. All those years ago God spoke a message to me so clearly, I could neither believe it nor shake it. The God I’d abandoned for so long quite literally told me that my brother and I would write songs that would lead people to Him across the world. I just couldn’t fathom the possibility. I couldn’t even say it out loud, except to Joel, who at the time was not so certain that I hadn’t eaten some bad sushi. But here we are, with worship music impacting fans in countries everywhere. To list all of the miraculous things He’s done to bring us here could fill a book, including the two of us co-leading worship together through the craziest set of circumstances, having Phil Joel (Zealand Worship/Newsboys) hear us there and become our mentor and executive producer, having our debut EP funded entirely by an anonymous first-time visitor… the list goes on and on. We just try to hang on now, fully trusting God with the crazy adventures to come.
@skopemag: Where does the name – These Thousand Hills – come from?
TTH: It’s actually found in Psalm 50, where (to paraphrase) God reminds us that He’s not interested in our meaningless religious offerings, because there’s nothing we can give Him that He doesn’t already own and hasn’t given to us first. The only thing we can offer, and the only thing that He’ll ever accept, is to be first in our hearts. This message – authentic relationship instead of religious pretense – is central to our music. Secondly, the name is a nod to the beauty of our region here in the foothills of the Appalachians, and it reminds to continue to boldly pray and pursue the vision of seeing more worshipers rise up amongst “these thousand hills” that we call home.
@skopemag: How did your faith & spirituality begin to take form through your music?
TTH: Our music is driven by our faith and our creative process begins and ends with prayer; God brought us together as worship leaders and songwriters and we feel that He has given us the vision to inspire and encourage today’s Church. There are times songs are born because God is moving in a particular way, or the Holy Spirit is speaking something specific, and you want to celebrate and convey it, but you can’t find a song to do it justice, so you write one that does. There are also times where the insatiable desire to express our gratitude, awe and trust in the One who has saved, healed, and transformed everything in our lives so dramatically overwhelms us and we simply must write a new song of praise to Him. God has given us a unique connection as siblings to understand what the other is wanting to express, and then fill in the gaps in whatever way is needed. For both of us, when we close our eyes and strum a chord, the words just come.
@skopemag: I love your song & video for ‘Loudest Praise.’ What inspired that song and what is the message?
TTH: Well I so loved the expression in the old hymn, “Come Though Fount”, that says: “steams of mercy, never ceasing call for songs of loudest praise,” because that is exactly how it feels when Jesus comes on the scene and forever alters your life. It calls for songs of loudest praise, and we should never be ashamed to express it.
@skopemag: You released ‘Come Alive’ in 2017. How was the response from that collection and any plans for a new album?
TTH: We’ve had a miraculous response that’s seen our fan base grow from around 200 people to 30,000 within a few months of its release. We have heard such encouraging feedback from our own community, but seeing it encourage people and take off in Brazil in such a big way was a really shocking blessing. It speaks to that word God gave us all those years ago about our songs reaching people across the world. Watching it unfold has been beyond incredible, and we are so excited to see what happens next!
@skopemag: So many people are losing faith in life these days, what can you speak on this and how faith has helped your lives?
TTH:Things are very confusing these days. Humanity has made big strides in technological science and the world is connected like never before; it makes the idea of crying out to God for help increasingly irrelevant to the world; still yet, at the end of the day we are all inescapably flawed humans who make atrocious mistakes and find ourselves unfulfilled and losing battles of depression, addiction and misery that we all wish we had the power to overcome but can’t. But there is One who can and longs to, and at the end of the day it’s God’s relational grace that we all need and are all offered freely- the gift of forgiveness and restoration and love. To some that thought is altogether offensive, to others it’s ridiculous, and many blow it off as myth. For us personally, we’ve been changed and seen God move so powerfully that no one can take that away, and our faith grows throughout seasons of both joy and pain as He faithfully walks with us and shows the way. We encourage people to reach out to God wherever they are and experience the adventure and satisfaction that comes with true faith. The Bible says God can make a way when there is no way, and we want to encourage people to put their trust in the One who always stays true to His promises.
@skopemag: What is coming up for These Thousand Hills and where you @ online?
TTH: We’ve just completed two new songs which should be released very soon (one of which hits on the theme of loudness again!). We are also working with a larger collective of amazing musicians and worshipers, and are working towards producing a new album within a year’s time.