You guys, I am so happy to finally tell you about James Block's music! When I got my hands on his new album Selah, I put it in my car stereo and I don't think it's left since. His music is peaceful and beautiful and his lyrics are straight out of Scripture. It is reminiscent of the music King David must have played when he wrote many of the Psalms. If you are a fan of piano and keys you are going to love this album! The best way I can describe it is refreshing, both his style of music and how I feel when listening to it. He has a busy tour schedule but James was gracious enough to answer some questions for us after returning from Switzerland!
How long have you been writing and performing music?
I have been playing music and leading worship for many years but I wasn't writing a lot of music and I wasn't performing my own songs until recently. It all started about 2 and a half years ago during Sukkot. During that Sukkot, I found myself opening the scriptures to a different passage everyday and a new song would come as I meditated on the passage. By the end of the seven days of Sukkot I had seven songs, one for everyday. Since then I keep getting new songs... sometimes every month. At first, I just played them for friends and at our home group but since last year, when I finished the first album, we (my wife and I) started touring and performing. It is hard to call it performing. It is more like leading worship.
Is anyone else involved in song writing or performing?
My wife plays a very important part in giving me direction with all my creative ideas. She is my second set of ears because she has a good sense of what songs or melodies are worthy of using in my recordings. You might say she is my producer :-). She also does backup vocals sometimes and always plays Djembe when we are playing live. I would be half of what I am without her. I also have some other musicians that have played on my albums. Like the viola player, Elisheva Ruf, who is amazing! She also played on the Instrumental Album (called 'Kingdom Instrumentals'). My brother often plays the bass for me on the recordings and I have also had my sister sing harmonies on a few songs. In the last tour we did in Switzerland we were able to have Elisheva playing viola and violin with us. It was an amazing tour!
Describe your music style…
It is a bit hard to describe. The style is basically modern praise and worship music. The music is written for personal and congregational worship. My first album is very piano based but the second will be a more guitar based band style with more energy.
James and his wife Liz.
Was there a specific concept or idea behind Selah?
I sing a lot of Psalms and the word, Selah, appears all over the Psalms so it was a natural fit. I think the word is very beautiful and mysterious at the same time.
Can you share the importance of the clear Hebraic perspective in your music?
Well, I guess if you are singing the scriptures you are definitely going to have a Hebraic perspective because the scriptures are Hebraic. But apart from that, I'm maintaining the major theme of the Hebrew Scriptures which is the restoration of All Israel and I'm using the original Hebrew name and title for our Creator. I'm not replacing the word Israel with Church or YHWH with Lord.
It’s a close call but I think my favorite song is Psalm 131, can you tell us a little about that?
I always start writing a song with a little melody or chord progression that I've been playing around with. This song started with that melody on the guitar that you hear in the intro of the recording. From there, I often get a phrase from scripture that goes with it. In this case, I kept hearing the phrase from Psalm 131 'My heart is not Haughty, nor my eyes lofty' so I went to the chapter and finished the song with the lyrics in the Psalm. The chapter is very short so I ended up going off into another passage from Psalm 46:9,10 for part of the chorus and the second verse but it was something that just flowed naturally out from my Spirit. The trick for me is to meditate on the psalm till it gets deep in my spirit. Then it just flows naturally out into the melody and rhythm of the music.
Psalm 131 is beautiful how the author starts very personal and then ends up singing about all Israel. That is something that I like to see in worship music. Much of modern worship is very 'me' centered and is missing the corporate identity and theme of Israel. The more we focus on the bigger picture of the restoration of Israel the more our problems seem so small and the more we are filled with hope and purpose. We have a corporate identity as well as a personal identity and it needs to be a part of our worship and intercession.
(This made for a lovely afternoon.)
What is your favorite song from the album?
They are all special treasures to me that always encourage me but I would have to say that Psalm 139 is still my favourite because I love to hear those words every morning. It is usually the first song I sing when I'm leading worship because it always sets people free to worship. No unclean or unloving spirit of rejection can stick around when that song is playing! It really washes your mind.
You moved from Canada to Israel a few years ago. What is your favorite thing about living in Israel?
My favourite thing about living in Jerusalem is that I always get to experience Shabbat and the appointed times in the City of Elohim. It is here that you can feel it the most. I'm glad to finally be Home!