BEHIND THE SONG “Words” by Hawk Nelson


In many ways, Hawk Nelson’s sixth studio album, Made, reflects the journey the band has been on since Crazy Love released in 2011. Since then, the band has found a new label home with Fair Trade Services, longtime Hawk Nelson guitarist Jonathan Steingard transitioned into the role of frontman after Jason Dunn departed to begin his solo career, and the band of four is now a trio of him, Daniel Biro (bass), and Justin Benner (drums).

Biro, who founded the band 10 years ago, has grown with Hawk Nelson this last decade and believes all of the change has resulted in an honest and God-breathed product. “This time around,” says Biro, “we’re going through all of this emotional change, physical change, and God breathed some new songs that channeled all those feelings and doubts and emotions into these lyrics.”

As much change as Hawk Nelson has undergone in the last year, new lead singer Jonathan Steingard explains the DNA of the band is still the same. “We’re still that high energy band that a church or youth group would book if they want to have a fun youth night,” says Steingard. We want to take what we’ve been and not leave it behind, but grow it a little bit and hopefully be a lot more intentional about what we’re saying.”

I had the chance to interview Jon Steingard about their “Words,” the first hit single from Made.

Please describe the background behind the song “Words.”

It all started when our former singer, Jason, left the band about a year ago. We were on tour with MercyMe, and it was the last tour Jason did with us. We were trying to figure out what we were going to do as a band, and we were talking to some other singers and praying for direction.

Bart Millard from MercyMe pulled me into his dressing room one day and told me I needed to be the singer and why. He was really encouraging, and it was the first we had discussed the idea, so it was totally new for us. The total truth is that my mom had suggested it about a month earlier. I was like, “Mom, you think I could do anything.” Bart really took about an hour and sat me down and talked with me a while. That conversation changed the course of my entire life and our career as a band. Thinking about that was really powerful. What he did was speak into my life when it was really critical, and it changed everything.

We were thinking about that during the songwriting process. I wrote “Words” with Matt Hammitt from Sanctus Real and Seth Mosley, the producer on the album. The song is a product of a conversation I had with them, and it was a powerful moment. We were talking about how easy it is to forget how impacting we can be in the lives of the people around us just with our words. As the lyrics explain, “Words can build you up; words can break you down. / Start a fire in your heart or put it out.”

Which Bible verses connect to the message of the song?

Psalm 19:14: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.”

…Matthew 15:18: “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man.”

James 3:9-10: “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.”

What’s the main message of the song to you personally and for listeners?

We wanted the chorus to be a prayer that I want to live my life this way. I’ve seen the power that words have in my life, and I want to be sensitive to my words in dealing with other people. Also, sometimes as believers, whether in Christian music, or pastors, or anyone in ministry, sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in those things and have our families take a back seat.

We need to remember on a daily basis those people who need us. That person for me is my wife. The people close to us are our first ministry. That goes for all of us. Those were all things we were thinking about when we wrote the song. That’s also why we asked Bart Millard to sing on the song with us, since he was the one who got the whole idea started.
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For me, the chorus is a prayer and asking God for help. In Christianity, we can get caught up in behavior modification and what we want to do better. In reality, God’s interested in the condition of our hearts and our lives will flow out of that.

Lyrics:
They’ve made me feel like a prisoner
They’ve made me feel set free
They’ve made me feel like a criminal
Made me feel like a king

They’ve lifted my heart
To places I’d never been
And they’ve dragged me down
Back to where I began

Words can build you up
Words can break you down
Start a fire in your heart or
Put it out

Let my words be life
Let my words be truth
I don’t wanna say a word
Unless it points the world back to You

You can heal the heartache
Speak over the fear
(Speak over the fear)
God, Your voice is the only thing
We need to hear
(We need to hear)

Words can build us up
Words can break us down
Start a fire in our hearts or
Put it out

Let my words be life
Let my words be truth
I don’t wanna say a word
Unless it points the world back to You
(Back to You)

Let the words I say
(Let the words I say)
Be the sound of Your grace
(Sound like Your grace)
I don’t wanna say a word
Unless it points the world back to You

I wanna speak Your love
Not just another noise
Oh, I wanna be Your light
I wanna be Your voice

Let my words be life
Let my words be truth
I don’t wanna say a word
Unless it points the world back to You
(Back to You)

Let the words I say
(Let the words I say)
Be the sound of Your grace
(Sound like Your grace)
I don’t wanna say a word
Unless it points the world back to You
(Back to You)

Words can build us up
Words can break us down
Start a fire in our hearts
Or put it out

I don’t wanna say a word
Unless it points the world back to You

“Words” really reminds listeners of the power of words and the need to “tame our tongues” from James 3. The tongue is capable of use for both virtue and vice. The same mouth uses the tongue for these contradictory purposes. James echoes Jesus’ emphasis on the crucial importance of the use of words in daily life. However, James’s predominant emphasis in the passage is more negative: warning that judgment is real and that we all stumble, intending that we should humbly repent of our impure speech. He dwells then on the potential for evil rather than the potential for good with one’s tongue.

This song and the new album, Made, will truly minister to anyone struggling with self-image. The message throughout the album is to know that you don’t have to be perfect; God made you the way you are for a reason. You are beautiful, you have something to say and you are worth it. This is a great brand new collection of Scripture-based songs and declaration-style anthems designed to inspire listeners to fight the good fight of faith. “Words” articulates what it means to live a God-centered life in a turbulent world.

The takeaway is that this is not something we can do on our own, and we’re not going to always succeed in these areas and be encouraging all the time. This is a daily prayer asking God to come and change our hearts and change our lives in such a way that our behavior and the way we live flows from God living inside of us as believers.

People typically remember songs longer than they remember sermons. I love when an artist can bring the truth of the Bible into their song and we can have it be part of our lives. We think that we can fix situations in our lives, and God reminds us that we can’t fix things on our own without Him. I love to sing this song at the top of my lungs and cry out, “I don’t wanna say a word / Unless it points the world back to You.” Amen to that!

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