“Enough” Is Not Enough – An Interview with Elias Dummer
by Andrew Voigt
Elias Dummer is a CCM/Christian music solo recording artist on the rise, particularly due to his recent hit “Enough,” which recently hit the Billboard Hot Christian Songs Chart. As a Canadian formerly known as the frontman for the band The City Harmonic, Elias Dummer is not one to remain in a state of complacency. With his first studio album called The Work Volume I, he’s only getting started. CCM’s Andrew Voigt recently spoke with Elias to get more info on the rising artist’s vision for the future.
Andrew Voigt: Great to meet you officially, man! Thanks for taking time to chat. So, diving right in, you have an album called The Work Volume I. We’ll get to that in a minute. However, before this album, were you writing other music?
Elias Dummer: I was in a band called The City Harmonic. I was the frontman and the principle writer in that band. We had 4 or 5 songs that were on the Billboard charts and then broke up in 2017 after a pretty good run. Between 2011 – 2014 we were all over the world, our song “Manifesto” was played at Passion…We had a moment, ya know?
AV/CCM: What led to the breakup?
ED: A few things happened. We got together and asked, “Have we said all we have to say together?” I can’t speak for everybody, but for me there’s a sort of question of the role of pragmatism in all of this. I think sometimes with a band you can just keep going because you can. You end up rehashing the same things or the same ideas, not because they’re more interesting, but because you have nothing to else to say. I’d much rather write from a place of vision, working that out as a disciple. We decided we had said all that we needed to say together and it would be better to close the book.
AV/CCM: Makes sense. Back to your new album. What’s the idea behind the album title The Work Volume I?
ED: I’ve always loved things that have a few meanings at the same time. I love layered lyrics, I love layered songs. If I can make an album title that has layers, I’ll go for it every time. In order not to overthink that, I decided to name the studio records the same thing and do it volume style. I grew up on Led Zeppelin. My Dad is a huge Zeppelin fan and the numbered albums were on my shelf growing up. I happen to believe that when we sing songs together is way more formative than we give it credit. Not just simply because we’re repeating lyrics that may or may not be theological (I certainly hope they are), but just the mere habit of what happens when we sing and pray together in church is really fundamental to our faith.
Discipleship. I think sometimes we act as though discipleship means learning new ideas and then putting them into practice by force of sheer will. And the truth is, as folks have studied how people learn and change behavior, it doesn’t really work that way. Are you familiar with James K.A. Smith’s writing? He’s a great, great thinker. He starts with a quote of Augustine that goes something like “We are first and foremost lovers and not thinkers” (paraphrasing). The assumption of The Enlightenment was that we were thinkers and not lovers. By “lovers” he would refer to the idea of “desire.” The neuroscience definitely backs up Augustine and not The Enlightenment. We act out of our desires far more than we act out of our thoughts, which makes the act of worship and the habit of worship and the postures of worship and the things that we do and the words that we write and the melodies we choose—it makes them all vital to any kind of meaningful sense of discipleship.
AV/CCM: I’m going to safely assume that we’re going to have The Work Volume II.
ED: Yeah. Oh yeah.
AV/CCM: Your song “Enough” is probably your most popular song. Of all 11 songs on your album, why do you think that one stands out?
ED: I had just just had a conversation with one of our youth directors at church. Her name is Olivia. She actually sings on the song. She grew up in Williamson County where we planted and I believe it is one of the 10 wealthiest counties in the country. So, by any metric of the American dream, Williamson county is winning. But the truth is, if you look at the world happiness index, it’s not really working out. So, the pursuit of happiness turns out to be counter-intuitive. I do think we’re kind of obsessed with this idea of self-sufficiency in our culture, even to the point of our affirmations being self-sufficient.
The idea of like, “You are enough on your own.” To me, if that sentence is necessary and I’m a Christian, then my Jesus is too small. You read Colossians 1 and there’s this incredible statement of Christ being present from end-to-end, sustaining all things. There’s this incredible sense of a full-sufficient God. I couldn’t possibly begin to believe that I am enough, because so much of everything that I am completely depends upon His goodwill. It borders on idolatry to have it on our own shoulders. When we sat down to write this song, I was like, “Let’s just tackle all of our cultural errors.” This was literally months after our last show as The City Harmonic. I was also wrestling with these same ideas. “Am I only as good as the last thing that I did? Am I done? Am I washed up? Is it over?”
AV/CCM: Something I like about the depth of your music is that you’re not just writing worship music to pump out Top 40 hits. I think that’s needed, especially in the Christian music world.
ED: It’s not unique to Christian music. I can’t really place the blame on anyone involved. Heck, I’m involved.
AV/CCM: You’re also a pastor outside of writing music.
ED: So, I helped plant a church just south of Nashville called The Village. The Senior Pastor is my neighbor and we connected over a mutual fondness of N.T. Wright. Before we knew it, we were talking about, “Hey, let’s do this thing.” So that was that. That was in 2015. The focus of my job (which is part-time) is specifically worship and training worship leaders, as well as creating the culture of worship.
AV/CCM: Aside from career and ministry, I hear you have a pretty large family.
ED: We have 5 kids. Our oldest is 12 and our youngest is 3. We’ve got a full house of dogs and cats on top of it. I do love my dog. I’m particular towards one of the dogs, if I’m honest.
AV/CCM: You’ve mentioned before that you’re originally from Hamilton, Ontario. Being a Canadian in Nashville, how do you like it?
ED: Yeah, it’s good. I mean, Nashville’s a great city for being a creative; it’s a great city for music, obviously. Doing ministry in Nashville is pretty different, because in Canada growing up was by-and-large a post-Christian society. So, if the objective of this thing was making disciples of Jesus, I only experienced the reality of that that as a good thing. You go to church and you’re really confident that everyone in the building means to be there. Church culture is pretty different and I kinda miss that. But the church that we’ve started has been really exciting.
AV/CCM: Thanks so much for taking some time to chat, man! It’ been an absolute pleasure!
Go check out the top single “Enough” from the album The Work Volume I now available by Elias Dummer.