One House Music’s new EP hopes to be Christian music for a non-Christian audience

(RNS) — With an eclectic mix of R&B, pop, gospel and hip-hop, the new EP “Eyes Up” from One House Music, a collective from the Los Angeles-based church One: A Potter’s House Churchis explicitly designed for non-Christians.

The mainstream electronic sounds are paired with messages about relying on God, overcoming addiction and finding courage in dark times. And the counterintuitive combination seems to be working: “I’d Be Lying,” an Afrobeats-inspired single featuring U.K. Christian musician Sondae and Grammy-winning songwriter and music leader Mitch Wong, has already been featured on Spotify’s hugely popular New Music Friday playlist.

“I’d be lying, I’d be lying if I said I don’t need your love,” the chorus repeats over a syncopated dance beat. “I’d be lying, I’d be lying if I said I don’t need you, God.”

Touré Roberts, who co-leads the church with his wife, Sarah Jakes Roberts (daughter of Bishop T.D. Jakes) and founded the One House music label in 2020, said he never imagined being an influential church leader shepherding a music collective.

“If you would have told me that I’d be doing it about 25 years ago, I would ask you what you had been smoking and where I might inquire about how to get some,” Roberts joked in a recent interview with Religion News Service.

“Eyes Up” artwork. Courtesy image

Roberts wields his background in tech and entrepreneurship as a successful online preacher and on the ground in North Hollywood, where his church is known to attract people from every sector of the entertainment industry, including the likes of Tyler Perry, Mariah Carey and Chance the Rapper. But while Roberts’ style is practical and approachable, he believes One House Music can take that relatability a step further.

“We recognize that not everyone is ready for the Hallelujah song, to lift their hands,” said Roberts, who added that One House Music aims to “meet them with melodies and lyrics that can reach a broad audience.”

One House producer and music director Brunes Charles, who was working for the “Dr. Phil” show when he first joined One Church in 2017, came up with the idea to do a pop/R&B record after One House Music’s debut worship album, “Live Again,” which was released earlier this year.

“There are times I’ve been in church, in my younger days, and I’d leave feeling the same thing. My questions and prayers didn’t get answered. I still felt broken, still didn’t feel close to God, still struggling,” said Charles. “We’re hoping it will allow people to rip off the mask, and not feel shameful for sharing where they are honestly at in their walk of life.”

The song “Last Time,” which features vocals from Roberts’ 20-year-old son, Isaiah Roberts, encapsulates the transparency and vulnerability of the EP. In July, Charles invited Isaiah Roberts to join other collaborators in an LA studio for a songwriting camp, and the group began brainstorming a song about repentance. The topic instantly hit home with Isaiah Roberts, who told RNS he has his “own testimony with struggling with addiction.” In two days, the group had finished “Last Time,” a single that’s since had over 150,000 streams across platforms.

Isaiah Roberts. Courtesy photo

Isaiah Roberts. Courtesy photo

“If I told you I was done, would you ever believe me? I know that we’ve been here a million times,” Isaiah Roberts sings in the song’s chorus. “And I only want freedom, from all these demons I try to hide.”

Isaiah Roberts said he’s been amazed by the early success of the song, which is his first professional release. He added that he’s been “pretty much crying after every DM” he’s received from listeners.

“I knew that people were going to like it sonically, but to see that the message is really resonating, that has been just mind blowing. There’s really nothing that God won’t do and can’t do through you,” Isaiah Roberts said. “He’s going to make a way to reach the hearts of the people.”

He said he believes other Gen Z listeners are looking for songs that are unashamedly authentic, and he aspires to be part of a movement of Christians being honest about their doubts and struggles in their music. His father added that serving the hurting both within and beyond the church is a tactic Jesus used in his ministry.

“If you look at how he worked and where he spent the majority of his time and where some of his greatest miracles were performed, they weren’t performed in the synagogue. They were performed in the passing by where the crowds and the masses were,” Touré Roberts explained. “So if I create music that instantly only resonates with people who are already in the house, I’m missing the masses of people who need what’s in the house, but will never come into the house.”

One House Music. Courtesy photo

One House Music. Courtesy photo

Though the EP is designed first and foremost for the unchurched, Charles hopes to also hear it played on Christian radio, where it might inject the praise-and-worship-dominated Christian music scene with a dose of R&B and radical honesty. “Let’s have the conversations we’re not having,” said Charles.

As the Christian music industry adapts to an era in which songs are sometimes more readily discovered on TikTok than on the radio or on iTunes, the genre is already expanding to include independent artists, queer musicians, rappers and singer-songwriters, whether or not that change is reflected on the radio. Touré Roberts hopes that as the industry evolves, music groups such as One House will help it become more versatile, embracing sounds, styles and topics that transcend Christian silos.

And for listeners outside the church, he believes “Eyes Up” shows that Christians can be as relevant and relatable as an instrumental Afrobeats hook.

“There is value in the church,” said Roberts. “In fact, we’re a lot more like you than you think.”

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