Aaron Shust Biography
Last updated: 08/24/2013 06:34:51 AM
What could possibly make a mainstream independent record label—one with a coveted, hard-earned reputation for great music—take a first-time risk on a genre it knew little about?
Simple: Exceptional songwriting. Tremendous heart.
So when Atlanta’s Brash Music, created under the leadership of former Mindspring president and COO Mike McQuary, heard Aaron Shust’s honest, hooky songs, the staff knew immediately it needed a crash course in Christian music.
Anything Worth Saying is the debut worship album from new singer/songwriter Aaron Shust. Through fresh praise & worship choruses, these 11 original songs exude confident hope, passionately carrying listeners toward God’s promised restoration.
“I feel closest to God whenever I’m leading people in worship,” says Shust, a classically trained musician. “When I can step away from the microphone and it appears that a sea of people are singing to God from the bottom of their hearts and the top of their lungs, that’s where I feel God’s pleasure. I absolutely love that.”
A life-long churchgoer, Shust grew up in Pittsburgh, where he started playing piano at 7. As a teenager, Aaron learned to play the guitar, influenced by the sounds of the sixties and Motown. Needing to express his feelings about leaving home, songwriting became a serious craft as Aaron prepared for college.
Attending Toccoa Falls College, Shust studied music theory, developed an aptitude for the likes of Bach and Mozart, and soaked in the sounds of more recent masters like Bob Marley and U2. Shust honed his stage skills on campus while also performing in churches and coffeehouses.
For the last five years Shust has served as a full-time staff member and worship leader at Perimeter Church, a progressive, 27-year-old congregation in Atlanta. Beyond that community, Aaron leads worship throughout the United States at new churches, adult retreats and youth camps, placing his songwriting fingers firmly on the pulse of the church’s devotion.
“This album is a conversation with God,” Shust says. “There are words on my heart that God gives me and I put them to music because I love music. When I can put those things together, and people embrace it, then I feel like I’ve birthed a song in the world.”
Anything Worth Saying overflows with well-crafted pop hooks wrapped in memorable, vertically-oriented songs. From beginning to end, brutal honesty best describes the project’s tone. The record’s hub is the 19-second opening track “Give Me Words,” a prelude stemming from a year-long dry season when Aaron didn’t write much, if anything, he says.
“I was just thinking, ‘If I’m a songwriter, then why haven’t I written in so long?’ But I didn’t feel like I had anything to say.” A desperate prayer finally formed on his lips: “Give me words to speak/Don’t let my spirit sleep/Because I can’t think of anything worth saying.” Eventually, glimpses of mystery caught Aaron’s heart, mind and soul again, sparking the inspiring words and music that now form this collection.
On “Matchless,” for example, aggressive opening guitars match beat-for-beat the energy behind Aaron’s spot-on vocals as he sings a litany of God’s sovereign names, each pointing to love beyond measure. Such love, ultimately made tangible in Christ, leads to a moving bridge:
“In Your name You took the blind man and You gave him back his sight/In Your name You took the dead man and You brought him back to life/In your name You took this prisoner and You opened up the doors/And I will sing before Your throne forever more.”
Shust addresses humanity’s basic quest for meaning in “My Savior, My God.” Our longing to be a part of something bigger than ourselves is met, Shust sings, through an ever-present God who rescues us from meaninglessness. The song ultimately gives way to a big, irresistible chorus that pours out an unshakable faith proclamation:
“My Savior loves/My Savior lives/My Savior’s always there for me
My God: He was/My God: He is/My God is always gonna be”
Shust possesses an enviable knack for creating wide-sweeping, emotional brushstrokes within the same track. “Give It All Away” starts simple enough—an acoustic guitar anchors a prayerful devotional statement thanking God for His grace in Christ. But summarily the song evolves into as an escalating wall of sound, one metaphorically parallel to our own ever-increasing devotion as we come to understand more deeply the incredible sacrifice made on our unwitting behalf.
Anything Worth Saying was produced by Dan Hannon and mixed by Steve Bishir (Amy Grant, Chris Tomlin, Garth Brooks) and Dan Hannon. Players include John Chalden (drums), Tim Gibson (bass), Candi Pearson-Shelton and Michael Mellett (backing vocals). Shust contributed acoustic guitars and piano while Hannon and George Cocchini (Michael W. Smith, Michael McDonald, Tim Hughes) played electric guitars.
“I think the majority of the songs have moments of introspection, moments of real honesty that confess, I don’t have what it takes. I’m empty. But I’m running to the God that has it all,” says Aaron.
Artistic honesty invokes great risk. But as Aaron Shust confirms, such revelation yields abundant reward.
“We’re here for a reason,” Aaron says, “and it’s right to give praise for who God is to us. His name is matchless.”