When the guys of Simply Three set out to make an album of hymns, they wanted to be sure of one thing: They would get to play the songs the way they wanted. Of course, they didn’t want the music to be sacrilegious in any way but they have always prided themselves in arranging well-known songs in a way that causes the song to “hit different,” as the kids are saying. They were told that Deseret Book wanted them to be true to what they have always done as a group and that is what they did with their new album, All Amazed.
On this week’s episode of All In, each of the three members of the group, which includes two Latter-day Saints, Nick Villalobos and Zack Clark, and Glen McDaniel, who is a Christian but not a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, each shared their favorite track from the album.
The following excerpt has been edited for clarity.
Morgan Jones Pearson: I want to get everybody’s favorite track and then we’ll get into our last question.
Nick Villalobos: I will say that this album is my favorite album that we’ve done. And it’s funny because it’s the most recent one too. And usually, that’s everyone’s favorite. But honestly, like, this is my favorite album that we’ve done. And I think it’s because I grew up listening to most of these songs. We have some songs that aren’t inherently [Latter-day Saint], like How Great Thou Art [and] Amazing Grace. Glen knew those songs as well and he learned other ones, specifically for this album, but I’m proud of this one because these are all songs that we grew up listening to in a certain way and we made them extremely different, which I’m very proud of them. I like all of them, to be honest. … My favorite is Amazing Grace. And I love this version. We also worked with our friend Drew Griffin. He did the arrangements for about half of the album. And he did Amazing Grace. And he’s a very dear friend of ours. He’s a violist and composer that lives in New York. We’ve worked with him on other projects as well. And he grew up knowing this piece, as well. And I just think he did such a killer job with this arrangement. There are new chords, and he combined Amazing Grace with My Chains Are Gone in such a beautiful way. And I think for those reasons, Amazing Grace is my favorite.
Zack Clark: So, my favorite, I do have several favorites. Amazing Grace is one of my favorites. But my favorite right now is Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing. That’s a really good one. We had Steve Gould, who’s an incredible drummer record drums to this, and we sent him like a demo, you know of what the drums were kind of supposed to be like, for reference. And he sent back his recording and … he added all these extra things, and it’s the most energetic and most fun song on the album. I love music that gives me that excitement. ... I think we’ve labeled it like a fiddle-rock version.
Morgan Jones Pearson: Glen, what song is your favorite?
Glen McDaniel: Well, before I dive into that, I just had a couple of quick comments, I wanted to go back and answer something you kind of asked before. If anyone listening is fond of Muse or knows their music a little bit more intimately, you could also listen to I know That My Redeemer Lives. That one is filled with a lot of motifs and compositional techniques that Muse uses a lot in their music in the way of interludes and motives and things like that. So that one’s a lot of fun as well. So ... I am a curious person. I know about half of the hymns because about half the album is filled with hymns that are kind of universal hymns, not just [Latter-day Saint]-specific, but there were many that I was very unfamiliar with. And one of them was If You Could Hie To Kolob and being the curious person that I am and not being familiar with pretty much anything LDS, I came to the guys and I was like, “Yo, I need to know what a Kolob is? Like, what? I don’t know what this is.”
Morgan Jones Pearson: If it makes you feel any better, a lot of people in the Church probably also have no idea.
Glen McDaniel: So Nick told me what it was about. And then he had me listen to the arrangement. And the arrangement made a lot of sense, given what he told me about the idea of Kolob and this and that. So I was like, okay, cool. All that said, Redeemer and Kolob, neither of them is my favorite. My favorite is Nearer My God To Thee, and it’s my favorite for two large reasons. The first of which is it is completely strings. There’s nothing else going on in it. And that’s my favorite sound that we produce—just this large, lush, string sound. But it’s also just such a great journey of what I believe faith takes a person through, which isn’t always pretty. It’s not sunshine and puppies and all of that stuff with faith and faith journeys. I feel like there are oftentimes a lot of cognitive dissonances. And I think this arrangement of Nearer My God To Thee really highlights that side of a person’s faith journey where you are filled with questions and filled with doubt and maybe wonder quite a bit. And I just feel like again—because I enjoy transparency and honesty—that this is a very honest representation of a full arc of a faith journey. And it speaks to me in that way. So I think it will probably be in the number one placeholder for a while for me as it pertains to this particular album.
Enjoy a sneak peek at the music on All Amazed in the player below.