Adventure. Imagination. Authenticity. Romance. These four words explain the art and the heart of French Canadian worship artist Joel Augé (pronounced 'o-jhay').
Adventure: As one of 11 children in a boisterous and musical family with plenty of acreage on which to run, every day growing up was full of adventure. He's 29 now, with a great wife, Michelle, and a rather spoiled yellow lab, Kya, and not much has changed.
Imagination: Since the age of 8, Joel's vivid imagination has compelled him to combine words with melody. Today, in addition to making music that's been featured on Canadian National Network Television (CTV, CBC, Global), Lifetime Television, The Hallmark Channel, and ABC, the creative contents of his head live largely in his work at HitGrab, Inc., an Internet marketing company.
Authenticity: The grace of God reached out to Joel when he'd made a terrible mess of his life. His relationship with Jesus began as a response to grace - unforgettable mercy that demands total transparency in his life, his ministry, and in his music.
Romance: The French have a reputation for romance, but Joel's penchant for romance, for words of love, is rooted in his own experience of being relentlessly pursued, caught and embraced by God. That journey, that romance, inspires and infiltrates all he creates. On The Blue, Joel's solo debut on Integrity Music, marries the realities of these words within the context of a life of worship. The result is unlike anything you've heard.
A native of Hamilton, Ontario, whose passion for music has found him recording since 1999 - fronting three distinctive bands - Joel Augé has always felt at home smack in the middle of the sacred/secular road. For him, it's the same road. "The balance between artist and worshiper is a heart thing," Joel says. "If you're a Christian and you're making art, you are in some way sacrificing your art in worship. My art, the thing I create, even though it's not 100% congregational all the time, I consider it an act of worship...It's a daily struggle to put the ego aside, but ultimately, I'm nowhere near as important as the one I'm singing to."
So this bi-lingual, multi-talented songwriter and itinerate worship leader for The Meeting House family of churches takes every opportunity to share his art - his unique lyrical perspective and unforgettable delivery - and his heart with people from all walks of life. From World Youth Day, a Catholic gathering of over 700,000 youth, to mainstream stages across Canada to television audiences across North America, the UK, France, and Australia, Joel writes and sings with one intention: to live the truth of God's grace. "I want to be as real with God as I can possibly be," Joel explains. "The impact He's had on my life is one of romance. He has cured my heart. His constant tugging at me is proof that God loves me. He doesn't call us his 'bride' for nothing. It's because he loves us and he knows us...So I'm intentional about showing that God is who He says He is."
The concept of God in passionate pursuit of His children is a pervasive theme throughout On The Blue, a melodic, eclectic set of love and life songs, produced by Stephen Leiweke (Joel Engle/Margaret Becker/Chris Sligh). "Our relationship with God must be authentic," Joel says. "If I really believe what I'm singing, if we really live out what we believe, if we really love others well, they will respond. People respond to authenticity because there's so little of it in the world."
"So Deep In Love," a ballad reminiscent of UK bands like Coldplay and Keane, sets the tone in all-out abandon, overwhelmed by the reach of God's love. With a melody built around Joel's beautiful falsetto, the song reminds us that God will stop at nothing to prove His love for us. "Glory, Glory," a driving declaration with straight-up-but-not-your-average-worship lyrics, is simply contagious on all fronts. "It's just a really fun, happy, 'up' song that calls Christians to give the glory to God for everything," says Joel. "All too often we try to take credit for what God has done, but our hearts were created to declare God's glory. And the truth of it is that if we don't, something in creation will. God will get His glory."
The alt-acoustic title track mixes it up musically, revealing Joel's eclectic bent, along with a lyrical charm that sticks around long after the song is over. Joel says "On The Blue" came after spending time with the story of "Peter and the boys". "I was going through the gospel and seeing Peter as this rock on which the Church was built and I felt like his story is slightly untold, even though he's one of the stars of the gospel. So, I really tried to put myself in his shoes. It's really a question song about whether or not we have the faith to step out on the water with Jesus." Ultimately, it's a matter of trust, he adds. "Gravity and the counterforce of the Son of God, that tension holding us up - it's such a cool thing to think about how Jesus does that. And it's a reminder not to be too afraid with all the tension going on in the world. I wanted to get that across somehow."
"Singing Hallelujah", a tender, revealing composition that inspired the entire project came, like so many songs do, by looking backwards and recalling his need to connect with God. "My desire for God had been waning, but the memories of singing with my family in the kitchen and all that has come about since - it is a powerful reminder of the desire I've always had to connect with God's people, to connect them to God through music. And that special thing comes from God. It's no one else's but his."
"I Know My Place", is a self-defining song that, Joel says, underscores the whole of On The Blue. "It's the song I play live the least," he says of the confessional. "It's me saying 'I'm broken and in need of a Savior to fix me...I can't do it on my own.' When you know God is the author, perfector, and lover of our souls, you know your stature in that relationship...God is so big and all-consuming, yet he comes into our lives and lets us know we have a place in his heart."
In these songs and more, it's the adventure, the imagination, the authenticity, the passion of Joel's life - all gifts from the heart of our loving God - that make his music special. "I'm not done writing songs for God and for God's people," Joel says. "I will forever do this. I'll write songs for TV and for film, but my purpose in life is to write songs for Him. They'll all be songs for Him."