By Michael Miller
Dave Wilton’s goal is to minister to others to help them make beautiful music.
The fact that he’s able to make his own beautiful music to the Lord is a bonus.
Dave runs Coalesce Audio in Lafayette, Colorado, where he lives with his wife, Ally, and their three children. For several years, he has produced, recorded, mastered, and mixed albums by a variety of indie artists like Josh Garrels, Latifah Phillips (Page CXVI, The Autumn Film, Moda Spira), and Jason Upton.
“Everything involved in the making of a record, I love to have hands on,” Dave says.
Dave’s production work isn’t simply a business venture, though. In line with many other musicians in the Boulder, Colorado, area, Dave’s aim is to make sonic art, whether his own or someone else’s. As a Christian, he also tries to minister to the artists and their families to make the process itself a witness to his faith. That’s why he has made Coalesce Audio, which is in his own back yard, a family friendly place. It not only allows him to be closer to his own family, but is a comfortable space for artists’ families to be during the recording process.
“There aren’t too many studios—I don’t really know of any—that are family friendly,” Dave says in a phone interview while waiting to be served at a Colorado DMV facility. “A musician already will be out of town touring to promote and to make a living for their family, and they’re gone a lot. When it comes time to make a record, they leave their family again and go to the studio and they’re away. It’s very difficult for marriages to grow and for family relationships to mature and to grow as a musician. So what we wanted to do as a family is to offer a space where artists like Josh Garrels could bring his wife and children, where we could do good creative work but also have family there.
“The ministry I’m excited about is providing an atmosphere of faith, family, and art.”
Ministering isn’t restricted to family relationships, of course. He’s focused on getting the most out of the people he’s recording.
“It begins with getting to know someone, what they’re passionate about,” Dave says. “Making music is difficult. It’s definitely a sacrifice of time, energy, and money. It’s all about ‘why.’ Getting to know someone and finding out the ‘why’ is most important to me. I want to discern what they need. If an artist is trying to express something simple and honest and humble, then that’s the type of music we’re going to make. If someone wants to express something very bold and grandiose, then push them when they need to be pushed. As a producer, I want to make sure that the music matches the artist’s desire to push boundaries.”
He also created the new studio to be “a relaxed and comfortable environment ideal for the creation and capture of music” that “offers a wide variety of musical instruments as well as analog and digital recording equipment.” In a website photo at davewilton.com/recordingstudio, Coalesce Audio looks bright and airy with beautiful rugs and wood flooring.
Over the years, mainly at St. Ida’s Recording Studio, which he ran at his previous church in Lafayette, Dave has produced albums for several Christian artists, like Phillips, Garrels, and Upton, but non-Christians as well. That, too, is a ministry opportunity, especially in the Boulder, Colorado, area, which is home to a religiously diverse population.
“I love those interactions and conversations where I can encourage someone who is seeking God with all their heart in ways where they can meet and engage with Jesus, and meet and engage with the Holy Spirit, meet and engage with God the Father,” he says.
Dave’s own music chronicles his experiences meeting and engaging with the Lord.
A musician since he was young, Dave and his twin brother, Dan, started “with the good old mandatory piano lessons,” Dan says. When their father, third-generation funeral director Bob Wilton, taught them some guitar, Dan says Dave “immediately took to it.” They eventually formed their own group, Lucid Chrysalis, while attending Peoria Christian School in Samaritan’s home base of Peoria, Illinois, recording a full-length album when they were 16 and getting paid to play concerts.
“I think that’s when my brother fell in love with, ‘Wow, I could do this for a living,” says Dan.
Dave recalls not looking to be the lead of the group, but “they all looked at me and said, ‘You’re the singer.’”
As time went on—after the tall brothers had starred as the Twin Towers on a well-regarded PCS basketball team in the early 2000s—Dan gravitated toward mixing music with traditional ministry, while Dave continued with creation and production. Dan is now worship pastor at Living Hope Community Church outside Peoria. Dave eventually headed to Colorado to marry Ally and, entranced by the Rocky Mountains, ended up staying.
It was there in spring 2011 that he got together with his friend Asher Seevinck of the band Seafinch. Asher was struggling with writer’s block, so Dave invited him to Colorado to work on some material.
“I love to encourage writers who are going through a hard season, like they don’t have anything to say,” Dave says. “I was going to help him work through some songs.”
He also intended to finally develop some of his own work.
“I just felt it was time,” he says. “I also felt freed up by my family and also in my faith. In Christ, I really felt commissioned to do the work.”
In the course of praying and seeking God, “we just got kind of Holy Spirit-ransacked a little bit,” Dave says. “We ended up in two nights entering into spontaneous worship. We opened up the Bible and drew all the songs from the Psalms. But these were also very reflective of Asher and myself going through fairly difficult times in our lives.”
The result of those two nights was the core of the first Loud Harp album—ethereal, emotional, indie-flavored songs based on various Psalms. The music is described on loudharp.com as “Shoe-gaze, meets Peter Gabriel, meets the Holy Spirit.”
The recording of the album, titled after Dave and Asher’s partnership, took the rest of that first week. But they weren’t done. The next two weeks resulted in Dave’s self-titled A Boy and His Kite, songs that weren’t explicitly Christian but are definitely fueled by his faith. The tunes include “Cover Your Tracks,” which was used on the Twilight: Breaking Dawn, Part 2 soundtrack. Both Loud Harp and A Boy and His Kite were released in 2012.
“We (Dave and Asher) were on the road in Idaho, driving to worship, when we both started talking about how we’d been reading the psalms of Asaph, how God was really hitting us hard,” Dave says. “Asaph’s psalms are very intense. They’re not easy psalms to read. But he really talks about the nearness of God.”
During that worship event, Dave and Asher started to sing “spontaneous songs from the Psalms that we had read and kind of prayed through on the drive.” They ended up recording an entire album of songs based on Psalms written by Asaph.
“We picked the Psalms of his that really spoke to us and even some that we didn’t quite fully understand,” Dave says. “Psalm 50 is a pretty aggressive Psalm, pretty violent. We were trying to explore what that looked like in music, so we have a song called ‘The Fire and the Flood,’ talking about some of the ways of God that are pretty aggressive.”
Asher and Dave are working on their third Loud Harp album, to be called Hope Where There Was None.
“It’s a similar scenario, just getting together as friends, kind of praying over whether we should continue making music, and what should we sing about?” Dave says.
The theme is based on Emmanuel, “God with us.”
“It’s about God being with us in hard times and in good times,” Dave says. “His presence is always with us.”