In mixing elements of classical, pop, and liturgical music. Niah & Allisha Merrill have created their own unique sound. They have brought this unique sound to their brand new album Now I See: Hymn Meditations Past and Present. The album brings together some of the most treasured songs of the church from the past (such as "Amazing Grace" and "This is My Father's Word") and the present ("The Lord is My Salvation").
The album finds the couple singing and playing an assortment of instruments (including the piano, trumpets, flugelhorn, hand drums, and Irish penny whistles) in a variety of inspirational musical styles. We are honored to be able to catch up with Niah and Allisha for this exclusive interview.
Q: Niah and Allisha, thanks for doing this interview with us. Let's start with yourselves, tell us about who you are and your current ministry.
We are two very tall people that love Jesus and travel full-time sharing God's love. We want everyone to know about the eternal life He offers to anyone that repents of their sin and places their faith in Him. We started this music ministry back in 2016 after we sensed God leading us to quit our jobs and take this step of faith. Since then, we've partnered with local churches and other Christian organizations all over the country to serve--leading worship and providing concert events.
Q: I believe missions is something very dear to your heart. Tell us about this passion and your experiences in missions.
Growing up in Christian homes, we were both very familiar with The Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) and we've both been involved in various ministries and mission trips over the years. However, it wasn't until 2014 when we began working with Wycliffe Associates that we gained a greater understanding and burden for global missions. In our travels, we saw people worship the dead buddhas in Kathmandu, Nepal. We saw people trek for hours through the Himilayan mountains at great personal cost and probable persecution to be part of Bible translation workshops. They wanted to hear from God in their heart language. We looked into the eyes of persecuted believers in the Middle East who have endured things beyond our comprehension. These experiences and many others have impacted us forever. We want to be available to do whatever part God ordains for us to reach all nations with the Gospel. We look forward to the worship service foretold in Revelation 7:9.
Q: How then did you branch into music and music ministry?
I (Niah) grew up traveling with my Dad's evangelistic ministry. He's a gifted musician and taught us as kids to play multiple instruments and sing. Allisha and I have both enjoyed music since childhood, but had no plans of doing this kind of full-time ministry. We both minored in music in college for fun, but majored and did our graduate work in other fields. Allisha studied theater/communication, and I studied radio and television broadcasting and organizational communication. Looking back, we see how God orchestrated all of it to prepare us for what we're doing now. We know lots of people more talented and qualified to be doing this, but God has a way of taking weak things and showcasing His power if we're willing to be used.
Q: How would you describe your style of music? Which artists would you say are your influencers?
This is the million-dollar question and we'd love to know the answer. While we don't fit neatly into one genre, a comment we often hear is, "You guys sound like a Christian version of Disney." Over the years and seasons different artists have ministered to us, influencing our style. If you looked at our current streaming playlist, you'd find names like Larnelle Harris, The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, Keith and Kristyn Getty, CeCe Winans, Shane & Shane, Michael O'Brien, Andrae Crouch, Tommy Walker, Steve Green, and Michael W. Smith to name a few.
Q: How did your new album "Now I See" come about?
We had several family members and friends who have been in the hospital for extended stays, and we really wanted to record a more "chill" project that could be an encouragement in that environment. We had also received requests to record a hymn project, so we merged the two ideas and eventually "Now I See" was created. The music has been a big encouragement to us as we've worked on it. And even though we never publicly articulated our original goal for the project, we've received messages from several people saying that they love the music and gave a copy to their friend or family member in hospice, or in the hospital. That was really special to hear.
Q: Why did you choose to re-visit the hymns of the church? What are the value of hymns?
We grew up singing hymns, and they are part of the fabric of our faith. Many of these songs have been around for generations, and we certainly don't want to lose the GREAT hymns that have solid theology and strong, singable melodies. We also love new hymns that are being written and we wanted to highlight some of the great songs of our generation. One of my college professors used to say, "Things learned in song are remembered long." Hymns are valuable because Ephesians 5:19 commands us to address "one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart...." Great hymns allow us to declare truth corporately in public worship while reinforcing truth our hearts can easily rehearse personally at any time of day or night. I've often experienced the line of a song I learned from childhood reminding me of God's truth in the midst of difficult situations. That's why it's so important for us to fill our minds and hearts with scriptural, solid hymns that strengthen our faith.
Q: You have also included a few more contemporary hymns, tell us more about them.
One of the contemporary songs is a new hymn that we composed during COVID called, "Hope of All Creation." This song is based on Romans 8, and it's been our heart's cry to point others to Jesus--the only source of true hope. The other contemporary hymns featured are from a variety of writers, and we absolutely love the truth they communicate. In selecting both old and new hymns, we want to encourage multi-generational worship. It is encouraging to sing songs from the past, but we also need vibrant faith proclaimed through contemporary writings as well, inspiring the next generation to worship God in their own voice. The body of Christ is diverse including young and old. We can learn a lot from each other.
Q: How do you hope these songs would impact the lives of your listeners?
The first words of the record are "Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace." We pray that these songs cause listeners to focus on Jesus, personally affirming that God is worthy of praise--even when we don't understand the "why's" of our circumstances.