Rob Westall co-leads the worship team at Gateway Church in the UK. He is currently in the studio recording his debut worship album, and took time out in-between sessions to speak to us! And I tell you, it’s been quite an inspiring journey! Learn more about this incredible recording artist and worship leader in our chat below!
Miranda ~ Hello Rob! Happy to have you visit TBAP today. Please tell us a bit about yourself.
Rob: Hello! Thank you for inviting me and for the warm welcome! Okay, well, I’m a former BBC journalist. I am the joint leader of the worship team at Gateway Church (AOG) in Wales, UK, which is in the pretty market town called Abergavenny (also known as the Gateway to Wales). I live there with my wife, Anna, and two small children, Isabella, (5 years old) and Benjamin (3 years old); and, I am currently recording my debut worship album.
Miranda ~ You have a passion for music. When did you first decide to use it for God?
Rob: I have always written songs ever since I first picked up the guitar, even with the few chords I had managed to master! Those songs were, of course, about girls and all sorts of crazy things going on in my head at a young age, and they helped to keep me sane, I suppose. It was a way of expressing my feelings and heart.
I grew up listening to what my parents loved musically—The Beatles, Rolling Stones etc., so I learned and knew what makes a good song, and was encouraged to keep at it by my peers and music teachers.
I come from a very close family, and when my grandmother, who was a great woman of God and the rock of the family, passed away, that’s when things changed, I suppose. I remember her funeral and thanksgiving service was full of the Gospel, just as she would have loved it to be; and when I sat down to write a song to deal with my feelings about it all, I ended up writing my first worship song. It’s called Death’s Lost its Sting, which ironically enough, we’ve just started recording this week in the studio for the album. I wrote it, but hadn’t told anyone, and amazingly that Sunday, my cousin shared a scripture…it was from 1 Corinthians 15:24-25—
“When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”
I can’t tell you how awesome it was, God speaking to us like that, at such a difficult time, and, I know the song has brought great comfort to my mother and father. I suppose that was also the moment when my focus changed musically, especially songwriting-wise.
Miranda ~ When you sing, what do you hope to pass across to the people who’re listening?
Rob: I sing from the heart. I dedicate the songs I sing to God, and give Him my best and my all. We can give our best at work as an act of Worship, whether it’s sweeping up the trash or cooking a meal or serving clients. Whatever the song, secular or worship, I put my all into it, singing it from the heart, and I hope people listening will be touched by that in some way for their benefit.
Miranda ~ How has music affected your personal walk with God throughout the years?
Rob: Wow, tough question! Music is a constant in my life. I have quite an eclectic taste, so I listen to a wide range of music. One constant in all of that, however, is my focus on the lyrics. I remember going to a gig with a good friend of mine. All my friends were jumping up and down and dancing, and I just stood there watching. My friend turned to me and said, “You’re focusing on the lyrics, again, aren’t you?”
So, to begin answering your question, one of the ways in which my relationship with God manifests itself, is through the lyrics of songs, both worship and secular tunes. I remember once praying about a difficult situation on the way to work, and the song, “Ain’t no mountain high enough,” came on my earphones. The lyrics were so relevant to my situation, it blew me away. That said, I do turn off music in order to listen, quite often, too.
From a songwriting perspective, the last 18 months has been amazing. I’ve always sought God and have been led by Him as to what the song should be about etc. This period has been the most prolific period, and it’s ultimately down to my relationship with Him—that is, me getting closer to God. My inspiration comes from Him, so when I’m close to Him, the songs come, usually.
Miranda ~ Apart from the guitar, do you play any other instruments? If you do, which one(s)?
Rob: I dabble on the piano, but my voice is my first instrument.
Miranda ~ When you write songs, who’re the people you write for?—the lost, destitute, broken-hearted etc.?
Rob: Someone once prophesied over me before I wrote a song that I will write songs with a prophetic edge. Guess what? Years later, that has come to pass! I’ve written a lot of songs which are from God’s point of view sung over us with a worship chorus to respond to. I just seek to write whatever God lays on my heart, and sometimes it includes the lost, the destitute, and broken-hearted who He wants to communicate with. So I don’t have an agenda other than to listen to where He leads me, lyrically and musically. Often, I have a chord progression and melody, and I will have no lyrics, but I’ll know what the song is going to be about.
Miranda ~ Do you write all your songs by yourself? If no, who do you write with? Have you worked with any artist in particular?
Rob: Currently, just myself. But I am always open to collaborations. At the moment, I love it when people express their hearts to God. Ultimately, that’s what He desires, and what worship is all about. As it says in Scripture, everybody has a song to bring. So I’ve told the worship team at Gateway this, and I’ve encouraged them to expect songs to flow from their hearts. After all, we sing new songs in worship all the time. My cousin who is in our worship team took me at my word and sent me a recording of a song she made up on her phone, and I’m helping her record it, which is awesome.
Miranda ~ In your opinion, why should a Christian go into music? In what way do you believe they can affect the world?
Rob: Music is powerful. It can sometimes communicate what words cannot. Having a Godly influence in the music world is therefore important. Ultimately, though, it boils down to this: you should go into music if it’s the right thing to do in God’s eyes. I think you simply have to follow where God is leading you. What’s the point, otherwise? My advice is to seek the counsel of Godly men and women to test things out directionally, and discern the right road for you. God has given us so many gifts and talent, and it’s great when people use these gifts for His glory in whatever line of work they do. Ultimately, true fulfilment comes when we are doing God’s will. Seek Him first in everything. I’ve had a few members of the team leave because they’re moving etc., and I try not to get too emotional about it. If they are following God’s will, that’s all that matters. That’s my heart.
Miranda ~ Who are the people that have influenced you in music the most? In what way has their ministry affected your life?
Rob: You don’t ask easy questions, do you? Haha! Wow! I mean, it’s unfair to pick just one person. There have been so many inspirational people—from my parents, friends, family members to former and present pastors. It was cool to support Dave Bilborough earlier this year. I grew up listening to his worship music, and he was so encouraging and full of great advice. I also greatly admire Mat Smith, Paul Baloche, and Matt Redman too, not just for their music, but the way they serve. I will however single out my good friend and former pastor, Mike Sutton-Smith, who leads Lifepoint Church in Swansea, South Wales, UK. As a young Christian, I called him one day when I was struggling and feeling a bit down, and he simply said: “Rob, whenever you feel like this, pick up your guitar and worship!” Awesome advice! Mike and others have encouraged me to seek God first in everything, and that is the approach I take into my music and ministry. It so simple, yet profound. I think, us, humans, tend to overcomplicate things all the time!
Miranda ~ In becoming a professional music artist, what can you say are the misconceptions people have about a career in music, especially in regards to one that can lead to fame?
Rob: I’m not really sure. I suppose if you play your songs all the time, people may think you are doing that because they are your songs. I just try to be myself as much as possible, although, I naturally battle against worrying too much about what people think. In my case, I treat my songs like sharing a prophetic word. I get them weighed up lyrically by Godly people. I faithfully share them, and use what God has given me. I’ll also happily throw one of my songs out of a set to play the right song that God is leading us to play. That’s what it’s all about. I suppose in playing your own material, and especially when trying to get your songs out to as many people as possible, there could be the perception—along with the fame example that you gave—that one may find it difficult to keep one’s feet on the ground. That’s not always the case. Joseph’s brothers thought he was a showoff, and look what happened there. All you can do is be accountable, and do what God says. Focus and try not to worry or make yourself too aware of how some people may perceive you, good or bad.
Miranda ~ As a music artist, what has been the most difficult time for you in your career? How did you overcome it? What lesson stayed with you afterwards?
Rob: I suppose it’s now. I am faithfully recording my debut album. I have a wife and two small children, and I have been blessed with these awesome songs, and I’m following what God has told me to do. I have no idea what the future holds, which can be scary and exciting at the same time. Yet, I have faith that God provides, and that as many people as He wants to hear these songs will hear them and be blessed. So, in short, the lesson is to trust God, even if it looks and feels like things are impossible. In fact, a few weeks ago, I wrote a song called, Faithful One, which was born out of this situation, and it’s one of the best I’ve ever written…so my good friend, Chris, tells me!
Miranda ~ What one moment in your life can you say was the most inspiring? How did it shape your life forever?
Rob: The birth of both my children was awesome. Obviously, with Isabella being the first, and it all being so new to me, that was amazing. Caring for a helpless child, feeding them, doing everything for them was amazing. I had a lot of time to reflect with the lack of sleep I endured, too! I concluded that she (and now Benjamin) are more important than me, and in doing so, I realized how selfish I used to be.
Miranda ~ What are you most grateful for—generally/presently?
Rob: My family and home.
Miranda ~ What advice would you give to someone who’s just starting out in music?
Rob: Enjoy yourself and believe in what you’re doing. Listen to advice, but don’t let it affect your ability to be creative and try things out yourself; people will not always get it.
Miranda ~ Is there anything you’d like to say—anything word of wisdom at all—that wasn’t covered by the above questions?
Rob: I think you grilled me sufficiently! Thank you, once again, for this opportunity, and if what I’ve said has struck a chord with any of your readers and/or can help anyone in a small way, please get in touch!
THIS or THAT
Coffee or Tea? Tea, but it has to be Green Tea! (I’m on a health kick!)
Vanilla or Chocolate? Easy! Chocolate!
Fruits or Salad? Tough one…salad with the right dressing!
Jogging or Pushups? Jogging
Rain or Snow? Snow. Please, I’m fed of the rain being British!
Spring or Fall? Fall, as it’s my birthday, my mother’s birthday, and my two sisters’. It’s like Christmas time.
Breakfast or Dinner? Dinner.
Blazer or Leather Jacket? Blazer these days!
TV or Magazine? TV
Books or Movies? Movies
Thank you, Rob, for stopping by today!
About Rob Westall
Rob Westall is a Christian singer songwriter from South Wales. He leads worship at AOG’s Gateway Church in Abergavenny and has two beautiful children Isabella and Benjamin with his wife Anna. Music and lyrics have always been an important part of Rob’s life. He has sang professionally all over the UK as a solo artist and as part of several bands and worked for 15 years as a BBC journalist and broadcaster.
In 2014 an intense spiritual encounter led Rob back to the heart of worship and he has been prolifically writing worship songs ever since. “I see worship songs as tools which help people to express themselves and their heart to God,” says Rob. Connect with Rob on twitter and learn more about him on his website.