by Melissa Riddle Chalos
Home is the one place in all this world where hearts are sure of each other.
It happens all the time. A young woman and a young man meet, fall in love, get married and settle into a brand new life only to discover that ‘home,’ like love itself, is more than can be measured by a feeling. It’s not something you can build with four hands. It’s not four walls with a roof and a door with a key. It’s not a floor plan or a mortgage or a comfy, cozy chair by the fireplace. It’s not even always a physical place.
For Kim Walker-Smith and Skyler Smith, best known for their ministry with Sacramento, California-based Jesus Culture, an international outreach movement with over 70 conferences and seven full-length recordings to date, the concept of ‘home’ has always held great personal and spiritual meaning. They’d grown up in the same small town, had even known each other as children, but when they reconnected at a worship conference in 2008, boom!, it was love. Eight months later, it was marriage. But coming together as one has been a journey of faith and patience.
Eighteen months in the making, The Smiths are finally ready to birth their first musical collaboration, a worshipful, modern folk-pop collection called Home. Carved out of their unique love story, the worship life they’ve aspired to as individuals and the ministry they’ve shared as part of Jesus Culture, Home explores the intimacy of time alone and together in the presence of God, and that sense of belonging as a universal metaphor for our relationship God pursues with his children.
“Calling this album Home took on so many meanings as the project progressed,” explains Skyler. “We’ve always traveled so much, we’ve known that ‘home’ would have to be wherever we found ourselves. We didn’t want to force anything, but we wanted to come together as a couple and say something personal and honest about our lives in relationship with each other and in relationship with God.”
In that sense, Home couldn’t be more opposite than the live, corporate worship experience captured on the Jesus Culture records, on which Kim’s voice is most often associated. “From the beginning of our marriage,” Kim says, “we’ve been very intentional about blending our lives, taking every opportunity to be 100% completely together, so this album really is a defining moment for us, a creative endeavor that’s represents who we are as a couple and as worshipers who desire intimacy with our Creator.”
Produced by Jeremy Edwardson and Jason Borneman, Home is a labor of love, fusing together two very different approaches and personalities into one unified sound. Kim, who had recorded two solo records, has long been a pop fan, with a big voice and bold, dynamic on-stage presence, a songwriter who pounds out lyrics faster than most people can sing them. Skyler, a creative visual designer who plays guitar and serves as an executive team member on the Jesus Culture staff, is most at home in an Americana/folk vein, a meticulously poetic songwriter who writes and rewrites and rewrites some more.
So, much like a couple of creative newlyweds attempting to merge her floral tapestry curtains with his ripped leather armchair, Skyler & Kim Walker Smith pushed through the frustration of creative barriers to craft a fresh new sound all their own. Not only is the breadth of Kim’s vocal gift more obvious in a studio environment, but the beauty of the couple’s harmony is essential to the mix. “Looking back over the past almost two years, it’s so easy to see now how the Lord was in it,” Skyler says. “God had put this in our hearts, and even when it wasn’t quite happening, we knew he would create a blend that was distinctively us. He directed us when to start it and inspired the worship content in it, and we’ve come out on the other side with something we’re super happy about.”
From the soothing, acoustic opener of “Your Voice” to the benediction of “My One & Only,” Home is a finely tuned marriage of songs that speak to the kind of love that always pursues, always trusts, always shows up.
“…In your arms, my heart is resting,
I have found my home in you, the One I was made for…” —from “Home”
Here, themes of human love and God’s love are woven so organically, it’s often impossible to see the seams. “Unstoppable Love,” a dramatic, multi-layered effort intensified by Kim’s bold voice, began as a love song but grew into a worshipful acknowledgement of the length of God’s unrelenting mercy toward his beloved. In “My One & Only,” what started as a worship song became an intimate song of devotion between a husband and his wife.
Eleven of the twelve tracks were written collaboratively by Skyler and Kim, the one exception being “Christ the Rock,” a hymn-like declaration that builds to a crescendo of “Holy, Holy, Holy,” penned by a dear friend of Kim’s who had gone through a rough season in her life. In these and many other intimate moments on Home, Kim and Skyler open the door of their life together and invite listeners inside, hopefully to discover what is possible when your heart can be sure that it is unconditionally loved.
“I’ve always felt like part of the cost of being a worship leader on stage is in living that vulnerability out loud, showing people what it’s like to be real in worship, that what they see on stage is what they’d see of me at Home in worship,” explains Kim Walker Smith, who is expecting their first child in September. “When you’re vulnerable in that way, it can be scary, it’s a risk, but that’s what people look for and it’s what they need to see and experience, that freedom. So the outcome is so much greater than the risk.
Ultimately, she says, “That’s what we’ve tried to do on Home. These are the messages of our lives, our marriage, the songs of our hearts… We believe that realness and vulnerability is contagious and that it brings freedom.”