Tree63's John Ellis Talks About the Need of Silence, Writing with Matt Redman & His New Album

John Ellis

Known as the frontman for the internationally renowned, GMA Dove Award-winning South African rock band Tree63,John Ellis released his fourth solo album, Growing Silent, Oct. 20 through Africa-based Christian Art Media. An ASCAP Vanguard Award-winning songwriter, this is the first time Ellis has released an album of specifically all worship songs. 

Q:  Thank you John for doing this interview with us.  Congratulations on the release of your new album. Why did you entitle your new album "Growing Silent"?

"Growing Silent" is the name of the last song on the record, a song I wrote way back during my Tree63 days, but which is only seeing the light of day now. It's a song about growing more and more silent, speechless, in the presence of God as we progress in our relationship with God. Silence is God's first language; we come with our songs and prayers and sermons, but ultimately sitting quietly in God's presence is all he really wants from us.

Q:  How do we grow silent before God?

Contemplation, contemplative prayer, a contemplative lifestyle... these are ancient Church practices which we have forgotten over the centuries, and yet we need them more now than ever. These practices are not popular, nor are they well known, and yet they encourage us to grow silent and still before God, to listen more and talk less.

Q:  How does your new album help us grow silent before God?

I don't think it really does- it's a lot of loud rock 'n roll energy! Maybe not the most appropriate title for an album full of guitars!

Q:  How is the making of this new album different than when you were making records with Tree63?

I make records on my own now, and it's a very different creative process to creating with other people. 

Q:  Matt Redman co-wrote a few songs with you on the new album.  Talk to us about how you got to know Matt.  What was it like writing with Matt?

I met Matt right at the start of my Christian journey, and right at the beginning of starting Tree63. We were both young. God was all we cared about and his songs really affected me. It was a great privilege to get to not only meet him but play music with him around the world and eventually write with him. Those songs were written in 2005 and have never seen the light of day, till now. Matt has always been a role model to me about how to carry oneself through the risky business of making music for the church.

Q:  You are also a part-time lecturer, what do you teach?  How do you balance between both ministries?

I lecture English literature, my first love, as well as business communication, academic literacy etc. The classroom and the stage are the same to me- they inform each other.

Q:  What are your hopes for this new record?  How do you wish this album would impact your listeners?

I hope I have contributed a few useful songs to peoples' lives... there are more than enough songs out there already, maybe too many, but people who liked where Tree63 was going might get something similar out of these songs... and a bit more, too.