Skylight Credits

Skylight

This album features one song in each key of the 12-tone chromatic scale. Keys are indicated by the first letter of the title - flat keys are lower case.  

01: Grace (G)
02: evergreen (Eb)
03: belong (Bb)
04: Dolce (D)
05: grateful (Gb)
06: Beloved (B)
07: Chambers (C)
08: altitude (Ab)
09: Free (F)
10: deliverance (Db)
11: Afterthought (A)
12: Enter (My Rest) (E)

Piano: Stephen Witt
Produced by Stephen Witt & Ben Johnson
Mixing/Mastering: Ben Johnson for Mighty Meerkat Productions
Cover Art: Jesse Italiano
Additional Artistic Direction: Jacob Felstow

All songs written by Stephen E. Witt

SOLO PIANO ALBUM: My Heart

So as you have probably heard, I am recording a solo piano album this fall, and releasing it in the spring. This is something that is very exciting for me to do, as I have been thinking about doing it since I was 13. It all started when my Music Pastor back home in Indiana let me join the Jr. High worship team. I started singing then, in 7th grade, and was honestly horrible. Like actually. I was bad. So my Music Pastor decided to have me play keys (I had told him I played a little), which was a risky move, because then he wouldn't be playing anything at all. This resulted in me playing more than singing, which was probably intentional, haha. This also resulted in a rapid growth of my love for music, and my ability to play the piano. I began discovering so much about music just by playing, and found a new pastime for any boring parts of my life. From then on as I grew, the Lord used my ability to play the piano to minister to people's hearts- on many occasions. Playing while people prayed quickly became my favorite thing to do. I love partnering with Heaven, asking "what does this prayer sound like?" in a musical sense, then playing that. As a result of those times, many people have asked me to record a piano album to pray with in their homes, or even in corporate times at their church. Thus, it has become even more a desire of my heart to do this project. 

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more announcements regarding the piano album.

Abide in His heart, Beloved. 
-Stephen

Album Credits for Burn The Ships

Production:

Stephen Witt (Executive Producer) 

Jacob Felstow

Additional Production:

Ben Johnson 

Braden Dressel (drums) 

Taylor Heinzen (sound sampling)

 

Musicians:

Jacob Felstow: Drums & Percussion

Braden Dressel: Additional Percussion

Christian Harger: Bass Guitar

Justin Jacobs: Electric Guitars

Scott Vanderwerf: Acoustic Guitars

Stephen Witt: Piano, Rhodes, Keys, & B-3

Taylor Heinzen: Rhodes & B-3

Ben Johnson: Additional Keys

Alicia Determan: Violin (track #8)

Anna Baker: Cello (track #7)

 

Singers:

Stephen Witt: Lead Vocals/BGV’s

Shelbey MacKay: BGV’s (Lead Vocals Track #6)

Sydney Williamson: BGV’s (Lead Vocals Track #8)

Scott VanderWerf: Lead Vocals (track #5)

Matt Allen: BGV’s 

Small Vocal Ensemble (BGV’s on Tracks 4 & 12)

Tenors: Stephen Witt, Matt Allen

Altos: Shelbey MacKay, Susan Pratt

Sopranos: Sydney Williamson, Kristen Furry

 

 Choir (track 8):

 Sopranos:

Susan Pratt

Michaela DeVaney

Jessica Hutchens

Mariah Holloway

Karlee Graham 

Altos:

Shelbey MacKay

Latanyua Gordon

Christian Lacy

Anissa Godfrey

Whitney Reames

Lisa Fichtner

Tenors:

Chris Woelfle

Brandon Temmel

Joshua Peterson

Richie Lopez

Uziel Romero

Austin Rice

Dustin Pratt

Baritones:

Josiah Miller

Blake Dickey

Timothy Brown

 

Heart of Flesh (Stephen Witt)

I was leading musical worship at Praise Gathering one night, and we had just finished another song when we began flowing on these three chords. As we were playing, I began to feel the urge from the Holy Spirit to write. I had felt it before during such occasions and was excited about it. I moved my face away form the mic, as I always write first off mic, then I can bring something smoother to the congregation, so it isn’t confusing if it’s not perfect the first time. As I moved away, I felt the Holy Spirit say “What are you doing?” and I was like “I’m getting over here so You can write something thru me.” In that moment I heard the scariest invitation I have heard from the Spirit in regards to music: “Trust Me. Sing it all into the mic and I will give you the song.” I was terrified. What if I was wrong? What if it wasn’t the Spirit and I was making this up, and/or wrote a song with some heresy in it? But I just had to believe and trust that I had heard Him and that He would be faithful (The Holy Spirit and I had been working on trust, so this was appropriate). So I began singing. What happened next blew my mind- a line would pop into my head, melody, lyrics, everything- I would sing it- then the next line would pop in there. When I got to the fourth line He even reminded me of the first one so I could sing the whole thing again! This happened with all the sections of this song. I was so glad I was able to sneak out my iPod and record a voice memo of us singing the song so I could remember it (as I have written so many AWESOME bits of songs and then totally forgotten them). God is a good God, and the Holy Spirit is the best leader.

This song holds it’s roots in Ezekiel 36, where God promises to give His people hearts of flesh, in exchange for their hearts of stone- it’s a foreshadowing of Christ, who gives us the great exchange of the New Creation. He renews our hearts and minds and makes us new when we say “yes” to Him and let Him in at salvation. We get to experience what He desires and grow to love Him with all of us. It’s another statement of the power of the cross, and the transformation of the blood of Christ.

You Can Have Me (Stephen Witt, Braden Dressel)

I began writing this song in my dorm room in September of 2013.  I finished it in October, and shortly after my life turned upside down. I can’t tell you how many times this song has come into my head when I’ve been holding something back from God, almost like the Holy Spirit gently reminding me what I really desire is wholeheartedness. I have sung this song so many times, maybe more than any other song I've written. This is definitely on the list of songs that I would show you if I had to describe my life in songs, or write a soundtrack to my life. 

I love this song because of its honesty and openness. It begins with the tension of a heart crying out “take it all, just take it all I want You to have all of it” and ends with a proclamation of “You are all I need” which really speaks to the process of surrender to me: the beginning of it is sometimes painful and full of conflict, and the end results in perfect peace and trust that He always brings to us.

Burn The Ships (Stephen Witt, Jake Felstow)

Story time: initially we had decided to call this album "Heart of Flesh." The album had 9 songs on it, and Burn The Ships wasn't one of them. However, as we were working on it in the final stages of mixing and mastering, I felt like "Heart of Flesh," while a good title, wasn't the best title for the album. So we brainstormed. We were meeting to discuss the possibility of changing the name of the album, and Madi Groves asked me what the album was actually about. So I started explaining how it's really about total surrender...but not just like "Here I am, I surrender..." like TOTAL, COMPLETE, EVERYTHING surrender. I then pulled from a sermon illustration I had heard the week previous, that goes like this: when Hernando Cortes came across the ocean from Spain to conquer the Aztecs, legend has it that the first thing he did upon arriving at the shore was to order his men to burn all the ships in the harbor. He did this as a way of engraving into them that there was no turning back- that they would conquer the Aztecs or die trying. In a similar way, my Pastor was saying that it was time for each of us to burn our ships, to get rid of our backup plans, and to launch full force into God- with all we are and all we do. It's this kind of surrender that this album is about. 

When I had finished the story, Madi and Jake said, "That is a phenomenal album title. we just need a song for it." So I said "let's write one!" half jokingly. Jake was like "Should we?" and I was like..."Uhhhh sure!!" So we took on the task of writing, recording, and mixing a song in a little more than a week. (haha!) The result is this song. 

I like this song very much. It is one of my favorites that I have written. It always demands of me an answer to the question God asks me "Can I really have all of you?" That question is why I wrote half the songs on this album, and it's cool to have one that really captures the heartbeat of the project. 

Jesus, You Alone (Stephen Witt, Jake Felstow)

I wrote this song in the hardest time of my life to date. I had just lost my Mother to breast cancer, and the very next week I lost a friendship that was very dear to me. It was that week that I wrote the chorus to this song sitting in a practice room at NCU, just unsure what to do with my life. I wrote the verse shortly after while at home for Christmas break, and the bridge shortly after that in January.  

This song constantly reminds me that even in the hardest times, I can still say “yes” to God. During that week of emotional turmoil and chaos, when nothing made sense and I wasn’t even sure about God, I found the Rock that is higher than I. His name is Jesus, and He kept me even in that time, even when I had turned my back on Him, even when I wasn’t sure if I wanted to keep following Him. Even when I was faithless, He remained faithful. Even when I was broken, He remained true. I am always amazed at this truth, especially when I remember that this is how God finds all of us- broken, not desiring Him, unsure, unfaithful. Yet He still chooses us! He still comes beside us and offers salvation. God is so good.

To Your Name (Stephen Witt, Jake Felstow)

The story behind this song is a funny one. It was summer of 2014, and I was living in one of the dorms with my roommate Jake Felstow. One night it was pretty late, and as Jake was leaving the room to get a snack, I grabbed the acoustic guitar I’d been trying to teach myself on. When I grabbed it, he said “I’m gonna go get a snack. Write a song before I come back.” I often say no to these spontaneous proposals from Jake, but I had been working on being less of a stick in the mud (haha), so I decided to try it. By golly, after 3 & ½ minutes when Jake came back, I had the 1st verse and chorus of this song written. He walked back in the room, I showed him what I had, and we wrote the bridge.

I like this song because it’s just all about God.  All glory to Your name. You’re Holy, Righteous, True, Faithful, Good, Pure. Beautiful, Jesus, You’re beautiful. I love songs that are about the redemptive element of the cross, and I believe it is good and right to sing about it, as we should never forget that amazing grace, however there is something to be said for loving on God just for His existence, His character, His innate goodness. I have always wanted to write a song that accomplished that goal, and this is that song.

Lord It's You (Stephen Witt)

I actually wrote this song the first time when I was 14 or 15. I sat down on my room and began playing it…I don’t remember many details of that experience, but I remember the bridge specifically just kind of flowing out of me…then I was like…”what song is that?” I looked for it but couldn’t find it, then realized I had written it (woot)! It’s amazing when the Lord gives you songs that seem to be locked up, resounding in the inner chambers of your heart until a set time, and when they are released and they become your heart’s outward cry. I rewrote the verses with better thematic flow and meter within the last year of my college career.

This song declares the same truth of the cross, that HE HAS SET US FREE. That only He can satisfy, that there is no one like Him. That we could look around forever and ever, but God would still be the only one who could satisfy us. 

All Glory (Stephen Witt, Braden Dressel)

This song began with a text message from my friend Braden with lyrics upon lyrics. He had written them previously and had thought of me upon doing so, so he sent them to me to see what I could do with them. Probably 3 months later I took them out and more or less procrastinated with them at a piano in a practice room (let’s be real it happens a lot). I had thought of a melody for the chorus in my head a few weeks before but hadn’t played it yet. As I began singing the lyrics to a simple chord progression the verses and lyrics came out. After I had sung the verses, prechorus, and chorus, I felt like I had finally found the song for this bridge, which I had written almost a year earlier at PG and had been singing often during times of musical worship at NCU.

I love this song because it spells out and unpacks more of the truth that “Erased” so boldly declares. It is truly all about Him and His Kingdom, and His work of salvation. We sing about His work and His Kingdom all through the verses and chorus, and then upon arrival at the bridge, we voice our response “All glory, and honor, and praise, adoration, be unto the Righteous One."

Erased (Jake Felstow, Stephen Witt)

Over the summer I was Jake Felstow’s roommate in the music building at NCU, and we took advantage of our free time by jamming in the practice rooms and working on writing some songs. I generally write slow ballad worship songs, as most of this album reflects, and Jake wanted to push me to write at other speeds to grow me more as a writer. I obliged and through a sometimes fun, sometimes time-consuming, sometimes frustrating, but always rewarding process we wrote this song. It started as a groove Jake played and some chords I heard in my head and played out, and later we took the recording of that and wrote the melodies and lyrics.

This song is a fun and powerful declaration of the truth of the cross- that our Savior, the God-Man has come, redeemed us, and erased our past and present wrong. He has brought restitution to what we could not restore, forgiven what we could not repay, handed us freedom and life that is found in God, and given us grace to walk in it. We have the fullness of God available to us because of Him. This is why we rejoice.

Love of God (Braden Dressel, Stephen Witt, Taylor Heinzen)

One night at PG I was leading worship with my good friend Braden Dressel, and he was singing a song with a similar chord progression as this one’s chorus. I had been encouraging Braden to step out and sing more spontaneous/prophetic type songs during our sets, and this song was birthed out of a moment of boldness that was just that. As we were lingering on those chorus chords, in a powerful moment the words of this song began flowing out of his heart and into the room. The next week we took the chorus that we had and began to build verses and a prechorus around it to make the song we’ve recorded on this album.

This song continually reminds me that His love is never failing and it He is not going to give up on me or leave me. This same love that never gives up on me inspires me to never give up. To keep on going, to keep declaring the promises He’s spoken. It reminds me that He sees me, He knows me, and He WANTS me. He pursues me and has since before I was born or knew of Him or chose Him. This song is one of my anthems in life and I’m so grateful I had the privilege to help write it with one of my best friends. 

Come Thou Fount (Arr. Jake Felstow, Braden Dressel, Stephen Witt)

Once I was leading for Praise Gathering (a weekly night of musical worship and prayer on Wednesday nights at North Central University, where I go to school) and I really wanted to do this song. I’d heard a lot of people arrange it and wanted to try it out, so I sat down and put some chords to it, but didn’t think of much else. At rehearsal that night with the team, my friends Jake Felstow and Braden Dressel suggested that we really do some arrangement work on it and make it special. We went for it and the result is what you hear on this recording (or something close to it).

I love this song because it emphasizes God’s sovereignty and just how lost we are without Him. Even recognizing that we need Him to “tune our hearts” at the beginning, this song helps me keep perspective of just how lost we all are before we meet Christ, yet how gracious He is with each and every one of us and how He continually calls us home. Let our heart’s cry be to continually abide in His goodness and remember the things He has done. 

OBEDIENCE

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about life. About the future, and all it holds. I’ve been thinking about marriage vs. singleness, ministry as an occupation vs….not that (haha), apartment vs. dorm (or house), finishing college, graduating, finances, budgeting, food, clothing, music, bleh bleh bleh bleh bleh. All of that. Basically, I’ve been thinking about my life purpose. Why am I here, what am I doing with this gift of life given to me?

Let’s take marriage for example. I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. Marriage is something that I didn’t think was for me until a couple years ago when God radically changed my perspective on life. Now I feel that God has promised to me that I will be married and have children- basically that my prime calling is to be a Husband and a Dad. (*Honest thoughts alert*) However, the closer I get to possibly not being single anymore, the more I feel this hesitancy inside- this…I don’t know. This thought of “You know, being single is so much easier. Do I really NEED to get married? Like, that’s a lot of work…” So I’ve been thinking about that idea, and of course I have come up with every possible reason why I shouldn’t start dating or whatever (e.g.: I’m just not ready, I don’t want to so I must not be ready, I have some problems, so I must not be ready, it’s HARD, I can’t figure girls out, like what are they thinking all the time???…haha), but it still remains that I believe that the promise of marriage to me is true. (NOTE: I will say that while I don’t think most people really ever feel ready to get married, there is a place we get to in emotional health that can sustain something like a marriage, and a lot of people get married before they reach that point, which is very dangerous. So I therefore want to be cautious, but not scared to death.)

So now I am left with a question: would God promise me something that is really hard to attain? And in response, I think about Abram (now Abraham). Read the story sometime in Genesis, and the answer is pretty clear. YES. That then leads me to another question: if being married is so much harder than being single, why do most people do it? I conclude that SOMETHING MUST MAKE IT WORTH IT. For some, this may be sexual fulfillment, for some emotional fulfillment. For some it may be financial security, or simply the fact that they aren’t lonely anymore. I imagine for most it’s a combination of many or all of those. So the final question I’m left with is this: what makes it worth it for me? Is it those things, or other things, or what? I’m not solid on an answer for that yet. But one thing I do know: I’m supposed to get married, so something will be worth it. 

So let me boil down my processing that you just read: I feel like I’m supposed to get married, but don’t want to because it’s hard. However I’m still going to do it. Why? (*this is it folks*) Because my true life calling, life purpose, life goal, life everything is OBEDIENCE. Obedience is my home. Obedience is the food of my existence. Obedience is the main ingredient. Obedience is the prime objective. It really doesn’t matter what I end up doing with my life- who I marry, what job I have, what car I decide to buy, how many kids I have, if I’m in full time, paid ministry or not- what matters is that I AM OBEDIENT to God. That is my calling in purest form, and all the little details fall under that. This is a lesson I’ve been learning lately and it’s been hitting me in multiple places. Tuesday morning I wrote on my white board “Obedience to You is my home” and yesterday in chapel, Prof. Bill Tibbetts spoke on exactly this topic. It’s something the Holy Spirit isn’t letting me get away from. I’m called to be obedient, no matter what that looks like. And it probably looks different for me than it does for Joe Schmo over there. 

So what does it look like for me to be obedient? Well right now it looks like every thought taken captive, every dream held with open hands, every meal eaten with consciousness of how it’s impacting my body (oof I know), every word spoken with thoughtfulness & gentleness, and everything else done with as much excellence as possible. Honestly, it’s REALLY HARD. But it’s worth it. Why? Because nothing feels better than being HOME. And exact, instant, complete obedience to my Father, that is my home.

REALITY

I am all alone in a blackened room.

There is only light enough to know this:

That everything is darkness around me.

I feel cold, alone, and hopeless.

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This room is all I’ve known.

This is my reality. There is nowhere else to go.

As I lay here whimpering, there is an emptiness gnawing away at the deepest place in me.

An assurance that this is what life has always been and always will be.

A knowledge of the things I’ve done and the condition I’m in,

This reality supersedes the places I’d dreamed of having been.

Yes, every now and then I’ll slip into a daydream-

Wishing that anything but this life could be-

But the cold invariably yanks my mind back to attention

Of the darkness, diffusing the unrealistic wishes of my imagination.

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Suddenly, I cannot bear it any longer

“This is too much for me” I whisper

As I stand up to my feet I begin speaking. Shouting, singing

Everything within me is screaming “Father, Father! FATHER!”

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I feel it coming, then I hear it-

I have never felt anything like this

Something shaking the very essence of reality

That all this time has made me, found me.

I begin to panic. This is all I’ve known.

What can I do? Where could I go?

I can’t imagine my life existing anywhere but right here

“Do I really want this?” resounds as my heart pumps blood and fear

“Father! FATHER!” I scream again and again

The only word that can escape the war deep within.

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Then in an instant the walls shatter around

The black-painted glass disappears at the sound

Fresh air, brilliant sunlight, the soft grasses beneath

In turn greet my senses; and the world is at my feet.

I look all around and marvel at the sight

Of the mountains and valleys, as I slowly realize

I’ve seen it all before, this familiar beauty-

The dreams were all true. THIS IS MY REALITY.