Hillsong Young & Free launched six years ago as (another) youthful worship music outlet from Australia’s Hillsong Church, cut from an electropop or synth-centric cloth as compared to the moody rock of their forebears, Hillsong United (launched 14 years prior). The Hillsong platform provided an immediate audience for the band’s club-ready compositions, and the first two albums charted on multiple continents.

Six years later, founding member Aodhan King says III, the band’s latest release, shows a more mature than the past two releases, We Are Young & Free and Youth Revival.

“Most of the time, the songs will dictate the direction,” says King. “The overflow of the writers and the people involved dictates what a project will be about. For this one, we’d been gathering songs for the last year-and-a-half. In that process, we discovered this album is about growth.

“We’ve been at this for five years, which for some isn’t a long time, but it is for us,” he continues. This whole album is a reflection of us. Youth Revival was a prayerful declaration of we wanted to see happen all across the world. We were praying for things, and while writing it, a lot of us were going through a lot personally. So I think this album is the story of God’s faithfulness from that album to this next, a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Young & Free have circled the globe more times than they can count in just a few short years, moving them between continents (and Hillsong church plants) on a very regular basis. The experiences gained have not only shaped their music and ministry but has also accelerated their growth as individuals who make up the worship collective.

King says “Highs and Lows” is the song that most represents the band’s growth for him. Its acknowledgement of the shadow side of life reveals those experiences within the band’s members. Instead of singing glossy songs of God’s grace and protection, they’ve lived long enough to reach out for it themselves.

“When you’re younger, you can write songs about God and love yet not really have a grounded concept of what those mean. You haven’t gone through things to really understand the depths of God’s love because you’ve had a chill life. It’s easy to sing lovey-dovey songs. Now that we’re getting older, we’ve lived enough life now to go through things and see how God can restore it on the other side. That song is about the ebbs and flows of life and the consistency of God through it all.”

Such global travails are not lost on King and the rest of Y&F, even if it seems like it could become commonplace. He says his first “pinch me” moment came from singing at the famed Radio City Music Hall in New York City back in 2013, but the group regularly fills the calendar with such dates today.

“Being in new cities and getting to do this is always crazy. I think as a team we need to keep that perspective because the moment it becomes familiar or we think it becomes easy or that we can do this in our own strength, that is the moment that you lose what it’s all about.”

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Matt Conner
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Matt Conner is a writer/editor living in Indianapolis.

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