|Selah | Firm Foundation Album Story
By Andrea Lucado
Twenty-two years together, eight Dove Awards, tours that have taken them from the Ryman Auditorium to Carnegie Hall, Selah is a seasoned trio who could at this point in their career write, record and produce an album in their sleep. And it would still be good. But with their latest album, Firm Foundation, they’ve done anything but. In fact, you could say Firm Foundation represents a type of awakening for the group. Set to release November 1 with new label home Integrity Music, the new album features Selah’s signatures: the beloved voices of Todd Smith, Amy Perry and Allan Hall and a solid message of biblical truth. But listeners might hear something new on this album too.
“While we still sound the same, and while our hearts are still the same—we still desire to sing truth,” says Amy, whose 14-year tenure with Selah makes her the “newest” member of the group, “I think there’s this youthfulness, excitement, passion and rebirth of who we are as Selah in this twenty-second year.”
A lot of this rebirth can be contributed to the last 18 months. After fulfilling a long-term label contract, Selah found themselves in a new chapter of their career. They began working on an independent album, but in March were approached by Integrity Music about partnering to release an album in the fall.
“It’s been an amazing, fast-paced experience,” says Todd. They started working on the album in June and turned it in by August. But the timing was perfect. While working on the independent album, the group experienced the freedom of creating on their own time and in their own way. It opened up something new and although making a new album on a short timeline with a new label felt like a risk, the risk felt right.
“We’ve never made a record this fast, but we’re different than we were 18 months ago…We’re braver,” says Amy.
One risk they took resulted in the first track on the album, “Let the Saints Sing.” While Amy, Allan and Todd have all co-written songs on albums past, this is the first song the three co-wrote together. Along with Tony Wood and Michael Farren, the trio penned an up-tempo song that sets the tone for a time of worship.
“There’s a little piece of each of us in it, and I think it turned out beautifully,” says Amy. Which is the case for the entire album. While Selah’s collections have never been restricted by genre, the tracks on Firm Foundation are as diverse as the musical upbringings and leanings as the artists behind it.
“Allan comes from East Tennessee…Amy is definitely the most worship, as far as church worship…I grew up with a lot of gospel,” says Todd. And each is well-represented on the album. “My Soul Be Satisfied” and “Always Gonna Be” give a nod to Allan’s folk roots. “Firm Foundation” features a back-up gospel choir. “Yet Not I But Through Christ in Me” sounds like a new, old hymn—something the church will be singing for a long time.
The variety is further proof of the band’s revived creativity as well as a result of working with multiple producers. Along with longtime producer Jason Kyle Saetveit, Selah worked with Chris Bevins (Laura Story, Jaci Velasquez) and Brent Milligan (Tauren Wells, Steven Curtis Chapman).
Allan says working with the different producers and their different styles was a fun challenge and something that’s needed as an artist. “It’s a fine line to walk,” he explains. “You don’t want to go so far that your fans ask, ‘Ok, what happened?’…But at the same time, you want to keep it interesting for them.”
While stylistically Selah may have veered into new territory for this album, something they’re not veering from is truth—the truth of scripture and the truth of Jesus. This core message is summed up in the chorus of the title track, a powerful anthem that declares: I will not be moved for my feet are planted in you / A firm foundation / My solid rock / You can’t be shaken / You won’t be stopped.
When Amy first heard the demo for “Firm Foundation,” originally released by Nashville Life Music, she knew it had to be on the album. Todd and Allan were harder sells, but at this point in their career, the three artists trust each other. If a song is speaking to one of them, they all listen. For Amy, the bridge, which proclaims, You’re holding me / You’re holding me steady, was something she needed to sing over her own life after having a difficult year.
“It’s a strong, strong song in my spirit,” she says. “I feel like maybe that’s why I connected with it right away because lyrically it was just reminding me of something I needed to be reminded of on a daily basis: that I’m being held, that I’m being taken care of even amidst the storms.”
It’s a timely message for any individual going through a difficult time but the song also speaks to a specific cultural moment. As Todd explains, “We are in a culture—kind of like in the days of Noah—where you’re living your own truth, doing what’s right in your own eyes and yet, there’s such a hunger for people to know that there is absolute truth. There is this firm foundation in scripture. There’s this firm foundation in who Jesus is.”
Selah wrote with this message in mind and found it in songs they cut for the album, such as the first single “Jesus Is King.” Written by Unspoken, the pop-inspired track reminds listeners of the basic truth of who Jesus is and the power he has: "Over the fears that we’re facing / Over the prayers that we’re praying / We know what we know / Jesus is king."
We know what we know, but sometimes we have to be reminded of what we know, and every track on Firm Foundation does this. Underlined by a fun, foot-stomping beat and featuring a banjo, "Always Gonna Be” reframes the gospel that is often reframed to fit the American Dream.
Todd points out how verses like Philippians 4:13 (“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”) are easily taken out of context. “Paul is writing from prison,” he explains, “he was probably chained and had guards right by him…He’s saying, ‘Whether I’m poor, whether I’m rich, whether I have plenty or I have none, I can endure all things through Christ who strengthens me.’”
“Always Gonna Be” presents this tension of suffering with Christ and, therefore, hope: There’s always gonna be the day the cupboard’s empty / The path is hard to see through worries and through doubt…But there’s always gonna be / Light that keeps on shining / There’s always gonna be a hope that keeps us strong.
It’s this hope that has kept Selah tethered after all these years, stronger than ever. They are artists. They are musicians. But they are also ministers. And entering their twenty-second year, that focus is still the same. Although Firm Foundation is being released with a new label, features new sounds and different producers, with renewed courage, the group is ready to reveal this collection to fans, old and new.
“I’m not afraid to try something new,” says Allan. “I’m not afraid to fail. It’s not a failure if the songs minister to people.”
People all over the country will have an opportunity to be ministered to by Selah this fall when they hit the road for a Firm Foundation tour as well as a Christmas tour starting in December. Expect to hear the seamless harmonies and powerful vocals Selah is known for as well as something a little different—the sound of an established trio with a powerful journey behind them and an exciting one ahead.
Firm Foundation - Selah