Keith & Kristyn Getty Irish singer/songwriters and recording artists Keith & Kristyn Getty are among the preeminent modern hymn composers of this generation. Best known for “In Christ Alone” (penned by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend), the world-renowned hymn has been recorded by numerous artists over the past decade—including Owl City, Natalie Grant and Newsboys—and is a classic sung in churches around the globe.
I recently had a phone chat with Keith, where we were able to catch up on life in the Getty home.
John: Hello, Keith. Could you share a little bit about your background.
Keith: Sure, well I come from Belfast in the north of Ireland. I grew up in a Christian home and learned music when I was about ten, and I have been involved in it ever since. After college I went into the music industry professionally, and wrote hymns in my spare time and fell in love with a girl called Kristyn. Soon after, we got married—when I turned 30. We quit the music industry work to focus exclusively on writing and developing hymns.
John: Then together you set out to inspire so many people all over the world, in a sense, to rediscover a deeper theology in worship. Is that something that you guys set out to do from the beginning?
Keith: Well, that's a very kind thing to say. I guess at some level we were trying to do that, but we never could have imagined the degree to which it would have happened and we're very grateful for that.
John: When you look at the discography of the songs that you guys have produced, what do you think is the most important song you have written in your history?
Keith: Well for me, obviously, the most popular and significant hymn in my history as an artist was the first one I wrote, which was “In Christ Alone.” The ones that I'm most excited about, of course, are the ones that I'm working on at the moment. We are working on three or four new songs, looking at subjects such as prayer and passion and different things I mentioned. I’m very excited about those.
John: How did it come about that you and Stuart Townend have been able to work together? Are you part of a network of songwriters?
Keith: Well, Stu was introduced to us by our publishers, and that really was the most significant production partnership that we ever had, in the sense of being able to work with someone who is older and really was a guide to me. So I'm always grateful for that relationship and what it brought. Other than that it has just been people that I have met along the way who I enjoy spending time with. That’s how those things work out, I guess.
John: What is your overall goal in going into the songwriting process? You mentioned the fact that you're currently writing a few. What do you hope to come out of those songs?
Keith: I guess with the songs that we write there are two or three real things that we're passionate about. One is what you so eloquently mentioned earlier which was to write songs that teach the faith. That's what hymn singing and God’s people’s singing has been throughout history, throughout the Old Testament that led their faith. Martin Luther and John Calvin talked about catechizing the congregation through what they sing. Luther had a vision of reforming the Church through the preaching and the singing of the Word, so that's a really important thing to us. But all of the music is congregationally central, which is important to us. And we would love to write music that blesses others… that perhaps has an opportunity to last a little longer. So, those are our goals, at least, and if we could achieve any small amount of that, we would be more than thankful.
John: So in that process, as you just said (I 'm going to paraphrase a little bit), Calvin and Luther talked about teaching or helping the congregation grow in the theology that they are singing about, and that to some extent, that is your goal in the songwriting process, right?
Keith: Yes, absolutely.
John: I know that you have been here in the states as well as over back home. Do you guys travel all over the world?
Keith: We travel mostly in the West. For the most part, we work in the USA. We spend a couple of months back in Ireland every year. We tend to do concerts in the UK on average, every couple of years, but primarily work throughout North America.
John: Would you say that you reside here in the United States now?
Keith: Yeah, our main home is in Nashville, but we have a little tiny place on the coast of Ireland, which we go back to, to hide and write in the summer.
John: Keith, do you and Kristyn have any children?
Keith: Yeah, we are just so thankful to have a little girl called Eliza Joy.
John: That's wonderful.
John: As you and Krysten hear new music coming from various music labels, are you worried about the worship music “scene?” Are you encouraged by what you're hearing from other artists? What are your thoughts as a songwriter?
Keith: On one level, of course, it's not my business what other people do, and certainly most labels are simply commercial companies trying to sell music. So, the weight of that is on the church and on the writers to write music that is rich. To look for music that is rich and to desire music that is rich, and I think if that becomes an overwhelming desire, then other things will follow.
John: So in other words, maybe we do have some room to grow in our worship here in the West?
Keith: Oh, absolutely.
John: Are you guys book readers?
Keith: Yeah, my wife is more so than I am, but I do enjoy reading. I tend towards reading biographies and books more on vision and leadership and that kind of thing. And then I also read poetry. My wife tends more towards reading novels and she enjoys that very much.
John: Have you guys toured with other artists in your past, or is it primarily just you and Kristyn together?
Keith: Really, yes. When we go to the UK we bring Stuart Townend with us because he is so much a part of what we do. When we tour in America, we always have done it ourselves. We have had a few guest artists, like Ricky Scaggs guested on the Christmas tour, Buddy Greene guested on the Christmas tour and we have a couple of people guesting with us at St. Patrick's at the Ryman in three weeks’ time. But, for the most part, we tend to just work with our own team. We've also been privileged to have a wonderful band and so we've been trying to develop their identity in the show and are trying to emphasize their own personal brilliance, which has been really inspiring for people, and we thoroughly enjoy that.
John: Keith, thank you for taking the time to chat today. I so appreciate it.
Keith: Well, thank you so much. Thank you, indeed.
John: God bless you. Bye-bye.
Keith: Bye-bye. Thank you back.
Hymns for the Christian Life
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