Written By Christa Banister
For most bands, it’s a mark that you’ve officially “made it” when you’ve got a hit radio single, plenty of positive press and a jam-packed tour schedule where nomadic living is essentially the new normal.
But for the Belfast, Ireland-based band Bluetree, best known for their stirring reminder that God’s light still shines, even in the darkest of places—like Thailand’s Red Light district where ‘God Of This City’ was born—living the so-called “dream” was nothing but a giant step backward.
If anything, they felt unsettled, uninspired and eventually, more sure of their true place in the Kingdom than ever before.
“When we were traveling so much, I didn’t write one song, I just couldn’t,” says Bluetree’s singer, primary songwriter and founding member Aaron Boyd. “When you’re always busy, you’re not being fed, and it can’t help but catch up with you. When you’re called to be a worship leader, there’s no greater call than leading your own church in worship. That’s what I’ve learned from the journey I’ve walked through.”
What also served as a wake-up call were conversations Aaron had with a few of his industry peers on the road, some of whom hadn’t gone to—or connected with—their home church in six months, or in some cases, even a year.
“That really shook me up – doing what we’re doing isn’t supposed to be about traveling, traveling, traveling,” Aaron shares. “At the end of the day, you can’t be chasing this idea of running around the world and being Christian superstars. It’s about staying grounded and investing in meaningful relationships back home and getting the priorities in order—love God, love family and serve your church. If God wants you to go sing and minister to people, it’ll be an overflow of what’s genuinely happening in your own life.”
So instead of continuing on a path that no longer meshed well with the group’s philosophy of ministry, Bluetree carved an entirely new path altogether. They cleared their schedule, changed their relationship with their booking agents and management and moved forward independently. And if God wanted Bluetree to do anything outside of their home church in Belfast, well, Aaron believed He was more than capable of opening those doors.
?Throwing himself completely into his growing congregation, Exchange Church Belfast, new songs naturally began emerging. Inspired by the sermon series the body was studying together, Bluetree was reborn, not just as a band, but a community of believers worshipping, learning and doing life together.
?“Now whenever anyone’s booking Bluetree, you’re booking the heart of our church,” Aaron says. “What’s going on here in Belfast, you get to be part of that.”
An outgrowth of what they’ve been working on together at Exchange, Aaron, along with Ryan Griffith, a fellow worship leader at Exchange, started collaborating on songs that’s become part of Bluetree’s new album, ‘Kingdom’.
A conversation about understanding who we are as children in the Kingdom of God, the songs themselves dovetail with what’s been preached in Sunday morning and evening services at Exchange.
“What’s been great about writing with Ryan is we go to the same church. We’re listening to the same teaching. We’re in the same meetings,” Aaron says. “Our relationship isn’t forced because we’re regularly leading worship there, and that’s a beautiful thing.”
Also helping set the tone for the project is the album’s evocative cover artwork. Underscoring the idea of what it means for believers to be part of the new covenant, an existence that’s defined by love, power and God’s unmerited favor, the visuals are inspired by the story of David and Goliath.
“When David put on Saul’s armor, he ended up taking it off and saying it hadn’t proved itself to him,” Aaron explains. “David knew what had proved itself to him in his life—the power of God. David had seen the power of God at work during his whole life. He knew he was in covenant with God. So to try and put on another’s armor would be him trying to operate in his own strength.”
When recording the project, Aaron says there’s “a sense of journey” that simply wasn’t possible whenever he was writing with complete strangers. Case in point is the album’s first single, ‘Jesus Healer,’ a personal snapshot of Aaron’s journey with his daughter who has cystic fibrosis.
“The beauty about being in the church is when worship and the word go hand in hand,” Aaron shares. “You have the songwriters and people gifted in that area writing from what they hear and how the Holy Spirit has prompted them in that area. The church is singing them back in to response what’s happening there, and ‘Jesus Healer’ came out of a 10-week sermon series by the same name.”
Another key track, ‘It is Finished,’ mirrors the grace-centered approach that’s the hallmark of Exchange Church Belfast. A passionate reminder that no matter what we’ve done, we’re always in right standing with God because of what Jesus did on the cross. It’s a song meant to encourage the Body to walk in the fullness of life.
“The song tracks the life of Jesus, how he came down, not as this glorious ruler, but as a man. He came to serve,” Aaron says. “He died on the cross and then He rose again. The resurrection validated who he was. Sometimes I don’t think churches really understand what that means to be the righteousness of Christ here on Earth, and that’s what sets people free.”
Continuing the conversation, ‘Destined To Reign,’ is the declarative response to what Jesus has done and the free, unmerited gift of grace that referenced so eloquently in Romans 5:17.
“With the songs on Kingdom, we wanted to build up the church. We can see people released—and set free—from what they’re walking through because of what Jesus did,” Aaron shares. “At the end of the day, church shouldn’t be about agendas or flashy programs. If people aren’t encountering God, we’re missing the whole point, and church becomes just another social club. That’s why I’ve wanted to pour everything I have into the Body and say ‘God, here’s all I’ve got. Whatever you want to do, I’m here.’”