Without breath, life is not possible. Without air, the body cannot function. For Martin Smith, the vital importance of breath came into sharp focus as a young child when he was diagnosed with a severe case of bronchial pneumonia. Doctors put him into an oxygen tent, similar to the early 19th century iron lung device. The oxygen kept Smith alive while his mother and father fervently prayed for God to save his life. This harrowing experience set a course for Smith, giving him an acute perspective of the fragility of life and how God’s presence, His very breath, can restore what’s been broken.
When writing for his latest release, Iron Lung, Smith called on those early memories of struggling for breath and how he needed oxygen to keep him alive. For him, it’s now a reminder of how God’s life-giving love is oxygen for the spirit. “The theme through the record is the breath of God,” Smith shares. “Without that, none of us can do anything.”
This sentiment is beautifully explored in the moving title track “Iron Lung,” a song particularly close to Smith’s heart. Yes, it’s his own story of struggling for breath as a child, but also a universal theme of learning to lean utterly and entirely upon God. “The song ‘Iron Lung’ will forever be an emotional song for me,” Smith says, “the idea that God was singing songs to me as a child that I would one day sing back to Him.”
That profound childhood experience heavily influenced Smith to also title the ten-track project Iron Lung, as did the unexpected death of Smith’s mother-in-law during the making of the album. His family’s sudden loss deeply affected the recording of his vocals, as he poured out his heart as the lyrics were brought to life. Smith compared the feeling to his lungs being made of iron, every breath heavy, like how pain feels. But, joy and wonder can and will be found in the end.
With “Everybody’s Broken,” a new sound from Smith using spoken word, “Exalt,” a glory-filled chant of exuberant praise and “Fire’s Gonna Fall,” written during a visit to Mount Carmel in Israel with lyrics about the joy that comes from experiencing the holiness of God, Iron Lung is filled with the conviction of knowing God is close, able, and makes all things good.
The soaring album closer, “Give Thanks For A Broken Heart,” gives thanks for the difficult times you’ve been through, forever singing about the God who saves, and is the perfect bookend to such a personal album.
Known for his fresh, innovative sound and lyrics that stir even the hardest of hearts, Smith has once again delivered an album laced with honest adoration and his own special mix of modernity and sing-able worship. Produced by Gabriel Wilson (Bethel Music, John Mark McMillan), Iron Lung features energetic, bright songs of hope spilled over as well as moments of introspective wonder, calling on God to breathe in and over us.
Recorded in Portland, OR and his hometown of Brighton, a seaside town on the south coast of England, Iron Lung was developed with the musicians and creatives Smith does life with at his home church, St. Peter’s. “There’s an amazing worship scene in Brighton, amazing musicians,” Smith says. “You can hear that energy in the record. It’s an unrestrained explosion of joy.” Martin Smith has been making music for three decades, writing incredible songs of worship, including “Did You Feel The Mountains Tremble” and “I Could Sing Of Your Love Forever,” that are sung by believers around the world. When asked what motivates him to keep going, Smith says, “It’s the wonder of it, the absolute belief that music can touch people inside and outside the church. I am very honoured to still be a part of this thing called music.” While based on a difficult time in Smith’s life, Iron Lung shouts triumphant about eternal love for the God who gives the breath of life and is worthy of everything