Songwriter Interviews

Martin Smith of Delirous?

by Dan MacIntosh

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Although much of the United States shouted, "Turn this down!" when Delirous? first started playing concerts in America, much of the rest of the world did the right thing by shouting, "Turn this up!"

Led by the talented singer and songwriter Martin Smith, Delirous? – which broke up in the late '00s – never quite understood American Christian radio, which tended to play much softer music than most of the mainstream radio world.

In spite of these obstacles, Delirous? didn't go out without first leaving quite a recorded legacy. Songs like "Rain Down," and particularly "I Could Sing of Your Love Forever" have become modern contemporary Christian classics.

Smith is now entering a brand new career phase, that of a solo artist, and has just released the intriguingly titled God's Great Dance Floor album. Although some of the names on the album credits have changed, this new Smith material is still the lively – yet all the while worshipful – music we've come to expect from the man. If David from the Bible were writing the Psalms today, one has to imagine Smith's music would be right there playing on his iPod.
Dan MacIntosh (Songfacts): How different is it for you to write as a solo artist as opposed to how you wrote with Delirious? Did you take a different approach?

Martin Smith: That's a good question. I was talking to someone about this the other day, how my output has almost tripled in terms of songwriting, in terms of songs. We used to present 12 songs every two years with Delirious?, and I guess that's a little bit more what like a band does. But I think that now there's such a freedom to write with different people and keep that muscle going all the time. I'm not touring as hard, so it's easier to focus on the writing. But it's a great release, actually. I'm enjoying it very much.

Songfacts: When you wrote with Delirious?, did you write with Stu G or did you write by yourself? How did you write those songs?

Martin: Generally, we would have some time on our own and then we would come together. Stu and I would take the ideas and help each other through that process, and then we would take it to the band at the recording stage. Yeah, it's just different, isn't it, when you've written with pretty much one person for 15 years. And then you have a variety of people that bring different things and add value. It's just a different thing, isn't it?

Songfacts: Yeah. It certainly must be for doing it so long. Is Delirious? officially finished or is this a sabbatical? What are you calling the state of the band?

Martin: We played our last concert three years ago. So I guess it's finished, isn't it? There may be a time in the future where we play together again - I think we'd all be open to that. But certainly at the moment it's over. That season's gone, and it felt good for everyone to move on.

Songfacts: I want to talk about some of those Delirious? songs, what they are about and what inspired them. Your most popular song is "I Could Sing of Your Love Forever," and I've always wondered, was there an experience that prompted you to write that particular song?

Martin: Yeah. I remember being on holiday. This must be back in 1994, '93 maybe even. Couple of decades ago. And just having the space to sit on the side of a hill. There was a river running down below, I remember. It was a very simple song. It came very quickly. One of the very few that did come quickly, unfortunately, and it wrote itself in a sense.

It was the song that opened the doors, in a sense, for us. It got picked up Stateside, and a lot of people began to enjoy that song. So that was a blessing.

But "I Could Sing Your Love Forever," I guess it says what it says, really.

Songfacts: You mentioned that you were out in nature when you wrote it. Is that common for you to be inspired in those circumstances to write songs?

Martin: Yeah. I enjoy that. I enjoy getting away from it all and creating space. I think that's important for all human beings to create a little bit of that space in your week or your day, just to put aside and realize that things around you are a lot bigger and the problems we have are sometimes a bit smaller than we imagined. So yeah, it's great. I enjoy that. Especially as someone creative, it works really well to do that.

Songfacts: Do you have any favorite songs that you most enjoyed performing?

Martin: Yes. "History Maker" was a song that I don't think we ever dropped from the set. It just kept on going and going and going. And with each season it would take on a different meaning, as well. You'd get a whole new batch of kids coming through and another generation, and then it would mean a brand new thing again. Songs like "Rain Down," songs like "Obsession." "Obsession" was a hard song to drop. As well as "The Years Go," that was a personal favorite. I loved it. And songs like "Majesty." So I think there were four or five or six songs that were solid through the whole period of time, really.

Songfacts: It's interesting, because the band was seen more as a pop band over in the UK than here where we've always seen Delirious? as a worship group. Did you ever have any regrets that maybe the band didn't cross over into the pop realm over in the States the way that it did in your home country?

Martin: Well, I think that Delirious? was always a movement band. We represented a movement amongst young people that was worship. That's what it was, we were just turning it up a bit louder. But I think that we represented a worship movement in the UK and then that spread around the world. It just so happened that in the UK, the generation of young people got so excited about it and taking the music outside the walls of the church, that's how it crossed over into some of the mainstream things that we used to do. That was more a sense of evangelism, really. Not that we wanted to be pop stars. It was a natural overflow to what we were just doing.

I think in America that was probably harder to recreate because of the size of the country, and also we didn't have the same history. So your record label presents you as something and I think that's fine. I think we adapted that to North America and enjoyed playing in all the churches and at the festivals. There wasn't an awkwardness about that. We just adapted to it.

Songfacts: I'm old enough to remember when worship music was defined like the Maranatha label. In fact, I went to Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa for quite a few years, and so I'm pretty familiar with that era. It seems to me, though, that when Delirious? came along, worship music really changed to be much more guitar oriented. Do you feel like your band was a part of the reason why worship music evolved to where it's come now? And a second part to that is, did you have any resistance from people that thought maybe you were a little bit too loud for worship music when you started making it?

Martin: [Laughing] That's funny. Are you talking about then or now?

Songfacts: I guess then. Not so much now, do you think?

Martin: Yeah. I think what's interesting is one thing we never quite understood was American Christian radio. You know, the whole sort of softness of that. That's probably why we didn't have much success, because our music was written around that big guitar thing. And of course in that genre you've got to take it out. But it might have been other things, as well. We were English and we were who we were. We'd go to Australia or Singapore or Brazil and other places around the world, and it was always like, "Turn this up." And North America was always, "Let's turn it down."

And so again, we had to learn to adapt to that. I think there were some moments where in the UK we were doing these incredibly creative tours in mainstream venues, and then we would hop on a plane and come and play in churches. And none of the songs would work. They belonged to a different culture, almost. That's okay.

I think that's the thing, though, that Delirious? was able to adapt in different environments. And also that is part of what we did and that's part of what we should do is adapt to different countries and different crowds. You pick the right songs that translate. That's been my part, anyway, because people are going to show up and see you, then you should be willing to adapt enough to make it great for them, as well.

Martin Smith calls his belief that anybody can get on the 'dance floor,' the album's overarching theme. "It doesn't matter where you come from, or what you've done... everyone is invited to the party. It's all about grace." In other words, Martin has applied the dance floor and party metaphors to his album title to help explain the Christian doctrine that everybody's invited into the body of Christ, so to speak.
Songfacts: I want to wind things up by talking about the new album. Where did you get the idea for "God's Great Dance Floor," where did that come from?

Martin: I'd had that line for a couple of years. I always knew I'd put it in a song, but just never knew when. The church in general has forgotten how to dance. And of course we were talking about the past and history, and probably moments where we look back when our own church existed, and probably things were a bit freer or things of the spirit were hitting the church and its freedom. Then you have a season in the '90s where everything gets very professional. And this whole excellence thing.

Now we look back and probably see that some of that has squeezed out, some of that rural kind of passion, and we've turned our congregations into consumers rather than worshipers. So I think that's coming again, though. We've realized that when a community gathers together, it has to have that sense of freedom and expression. That is at the heart of gospel. So God's Great Dance Floor is common to everybody, it doesn't matter where you come from. Now's the time, let's get back on the dance floor. And this is not about professionalism. This is about getting down.

And the second part is the story of the prodigal son. It's just a fantastic story where he as the son is coming back and embraces the father. Of course he can hear music playing in the distance, a celebration. Consecration always leads to celebration, and that's something that we're discovering again is the celebration. Where there's joy of freedom, that's very attractive to people. There's life there.

Then the third thing is grace. God's Great Dance Floor is about grace. It's about everybody's welcome. Everybody. And that's the great thing about "Dance Floor," is it doesn't matter how good or bad you are, you can always give it a go. And I think that's God's heart. I think the dance floor is the threshing floor, where God does a lot of healing in us.

So before I launch into seminar, that's probably it.

Songfacts: Do you consider yourself a good dancer, and if so, what are you best moves?

Martin: No. I'm a really bad dancer. But my best move happens when He dances with me.

It's a little bit like when you go out with your wife and she's looking amazing. And you're thinking, no one's looking at me, I could be wearing anything tonight, but as long as she's looking amazing, I'm fine. And I think it's a bit like that - as long as God's in the room, we're fine.

April 26, 2013. Get more at martinsmithmusic.com
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Comments: 1

  • An Old U.s. Marine, Frank from Los AngelesI LOVE Delirious, saw them twice in Anaheim,CA. I'm glad Martin is still performing. GOD bless you and encourage your daughter to keep singing, she has a lovely voice, must get it from dad.
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