Meet Aaron Ferris from County Antrim, Northern Ireland.
Aaron was baptised at the young age of 11, taught himself guitar at 14 and was leading worship in his local church by the time he was 16. After a few years of musical and spiritual honing, Aaron stepped out of the boat and dipped his feet into the world of solo recording artist. Armed with an acoustic guitar, some spare change from generous friends and a desire to spread the gospel, Aaron released his first solo EP A Round of Silence in 2005.
Using this platform to bring the Kingdom of God to the ears of mankind, Aaron crafts music imbued with his passion for Christ and writes lyrics that speak honestly about the persecuted church, faith and trials.
BRIEFLY TELL ME HOW YOU BECAME A MUSICIAN
Aaron: I was 11 years old sitting in a little home youth group that we attended on Friday nights. I remember the leader remarked about who would lead the worship in church if our current leader left; I don’t know why but that stuck with me. When I was around 14 years old I saved up fifty pounds, bought a guitar and started teaching myself chords, playing songs I knew from church. I had no interest really in music up until that point. Within a year I was helping lead at youth group, then soon after the worship leader left and I was leading the church at 16 years old and would lead there for the next fourteen years.
IN YOUR SONG ENTITLED A Thought YOU SAY “Like Moses I’ve said ‘Anyone but me’ and I question my abilities and I’ve wondered did I hear wrong?” WHEN DID YOU REALISE THIS WAS PROBABLY ONE OF THE WAYS GOD WANTED YOU TO SERVE HIM AND HOW DO YOU PERSEVERE ADMIST ANY DOUBTS?
Aaron: At 17 God spoke to me through a prophetic word delivered during a service by a visiting speaker who knew little to nothing about me. He prophesied what I’d do with my gifting, who I’d meet and some other things that would happen. Little known to him or anyone else, I’d been fasting and praying for God to lead me and direct me as I believed I had more to offer outside of the church walls. Within a few months I was fronting a band, trying to write songs while playing and speaking around Ireland. I’ve been amazed at the opportunities I’ve been afforded to share about Jesus and loved seeing prophesy fulfilled.
Doubts though, for whatever reason, are never far away and I put a lot of pressure on myself. But every now and then God sends something or someone to encourage me. Surrounding yourself with good honest friends and a supportive church family really helps too.
WITH SEVERAL COUNTRIES PERSECUTING CHRISTIANS, WHAT MADE YOU CHOOSE TO WRITE ‘NK’, A SONG ABOUT PERSECUTION IN NORTH KOREA?
Aaron: At church we regularly had presentations from charities working with the persecuted church. I was used to hearing shocking, graphic stories. It was years later though that I was listening to another presentation at a youth festival that I heard the story of five Christian leaders in North Korea who were steamrollered in front of their families for refusing to deny their faith. It hit me hard; it disturbed me, and out of that the song ‘NK’ was pieced together very slowly. It’s actually only one of half a dozen songs I have about the persecuted Church there but it’s certainly the most well-known. I should have taken the time to give it a better name! Out of all the countries in the world, it still ranks as the hardest place on earth to be a Christian and I think it is something the church in the West has to know about.
WHAT WAS THE INSPIRATION BEHIND THE EP A Round of Silence AND ALBUMS Solitary Realignment AND State of Emergency?
Aaron: The first EP A Round of Silence was a hastily arranged project to let people know I was putting down the electric guitar, turning off the distortion and writing new material, armed with only an acoustic guitar. The stylistic change was drastic for me and you can hear the frantic rhythms as I continued to write the only way I knew how. Instead of the regular clapping at the end of songs though, I wanted songs to make people sit and think after they’d heard them.
After a period of not really writing much I had decided to drive up to church at least once a week to specifically take time out, to sit alone and read and if anything was written then that was a bonus. Solitary Realignment was a product of that period. It was a challenge producing and recording a full album, but it was great being able to spend more time working on and adding arrangements to these songs.
With State of Emergency it took a little help from my friends. I had a few songs that I was doing nothing with until a friend encouraged me to take a few days to record the demos in his home studio. That was the push I needed to then finish the songs and record them properly a few months later and release them. The songs were very focused on serious issues, issues that need our attention. I’m glad the songs have really resonated with people and encouraged them to take action. I regard it as a full album, but this time without the wick songs.
WHAT SONG WAS THE MOST DIFFICULT TO WRITE AND WHY?
Aaron: Very few songs come quickly or easily so most take a lot of time, months if not years, from the first idea to something I’m happy for others to hear. Thinking back to the songs on State of Emergency, ‘The Way Out of Here’ was hard, as I had friends going through really difficult times, so I wrote the song with them in the forefront of my mind.
‘Annie’ was probably the most difficult to write though. It is a true story close to home and it took a lot of research to find the level of detail I needed to understand what really happened. It took a really long time to construct the story and compress it within five minutes. I understand that it’s very difficult to listen to and that some people choose to skip past it, but it is a very real problem that we cannot afford to ignore.
WHAT SONG IS CLOSEST TO YOUR HEART AND WHY?
Aaron: I have a real passion for the persecuted church, especially those in North Korea. I would say ‘Jerusalem of the East’ triggers a lot of emotion and memories from my time in that country, of the people I met, of the things that happened and of the continued thoughts and meditations of my heart. I remember sitting in Beijing the day after we’d come out and the chorus came to me as I sat and reflected upon my visit. When I got home I found myself sitting awake, often through the night, for a week or so after I’d returned and just thinking, writing and praying and the song just captures a few moments from those days.
THE ARRANGEMENTS FOR A LOT OF YOUR SONGS DEVIATE FROM THE TYPICAL VERSE, CHORUS, VERSE FORMAT, IT’S ALMOST AS IF YOU’RE GIVING AN ACCOUNT TO THOSE LISTENING. IS THIS DELIBERATE?
Aaron: I try and vary the way I write as best I can. While some songs do follow a more traditional layout I never feel restricted to that. I’m not writing songs for the radio or for a label so they never have to stick to any format or fit into a particular style or be a certain duration. I aim to make every song meaningful, to say something and with that the lyrics and arrangements need to engage the listener. If I’m telling a story it’s hard to pack it all in if the chorus and bridge are on repeat every other line. Also, as the songs are written to be played solo with only an acoustic, extra time has to go into creating something that isn’t totally predictable musically.
THROUGHOUT YOUR TIME SERVING GOD THROUGH WRITING, RECORDING AND PERFORMING WHAT IS THE BIGGEST CHANGE HE HAS CREATED IN YOU?
Aaron: I’ve certainly less time now to write and perform so it’s making the best of every occasion and scenario. I’ve also learnt just not to do everything that I’m asked, it’s ok to say no and not feel I always have to be doing something for the sake of it. Generally, I think just learning to be content with what I have and where I’m at. It’s easy to sit and compare ourselves to others and think of what we could or should be but that adds pressures and strips away any enjoyment. There’s a beauty in just being able to rest and be at peace.
WHAT IS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE YOU HAVE FACED IN YOUR JOURNEY WITH CHRIST SO FAR?
Aaron: There are a few big occasions for me where God has led me away from where I’ve been comfortable and secure and led me into the unknown. They were periods where trust was put to the test, as it’s no easy feat to leave behind what you love and where you feel at home. The challenge is always discerning God’s voice from what you want to do.
WHAT ARE SOME LESSONS CHRIST IS TEACHING YOU NOW?
Aaron: I think total and utter relinquishing of control and wholly relying on Him and His timing. I’ve always liked that element of control over what I do and have a notion of a direction I’m going. I like making plans and being organised, but when it comes down to it we are just rudderless vessels unless we are guided by His hand. Nothing is achieved by our own making. He teaches me a lot of things lately through being a father too. I’ve two young girls and parenting is a challenge and constant learning curve, but I’m thoroughly enjoying this stage of life.
WHAT WOULD YOUR ADVICE BE FOR YOUNG PEOPLE WITH A PASSION FOR CHRIST AND A GIFT FOR MUSIC?
Aaron: I used to listen to a bit of Petra and I loved Bob Hartman’s quote about you should pray as much as you play. I vividly remember when as a young band we had decided to pray and share the word every time we met to practice. It shaped our outlook and made a massive difference on and off stage.
It’s a whole different world now to even when I started playing and gigging. I’d say don’t be concerned about the online popularity contests, shameless self-promotion and don’t let the negative or the positive comments get inside your head too much. Write and/or sing about what really matters to you, as it’ll come out whether or not you believed what you said. Most of all, get burrowed into God’s word and rooted in a bible believing church. It’ll keep you grounded and you can be a blessing to others as you serve.