Singer Kim Walker Smith shares the story in the interview. Chris Quilala is one of the writers of the song, and he asked pastors “What songs are you wanting to sing in your church? What are you needing more of?” Walker Smith said the responses were unanimous: “Everyone said songs about joy.” Walker Smith says in light of all the bad news and tumultuous times we are living in, people feel a need to go to church and get “filled up with joy.”
So the product of those conversations with pastors is a song “simply about joy,” as Walker Smith describes. Indeed, a quick glance at the lyrics reveals a theme of joy that ebbs and flows like a river, yet its presence is always felt. Like all good worship songs, this one is highly poetic.
“We come alive in the river and that is the truth. When we get in the presence of God, we come alive and it’s amazing,” Walker Smith concludes.
“In the River” was written in the key of F, which makes for a really big octave jump in the midst of the song. However, we are given a couple options for worship teams who might not have a singer capable of making the jump. “You can take that key down…you can do this where you don’t do the octave, you just sing straight through. It’s a great song to trade off guy and a girl…”
Toward the end of the video, guitarist Chad explains the chord progression and gives tips for how to play the song. To view the chords and lyrics, check out Worship Together’s page.