Make Loud His Praise: Amplify Podcast SG hopes to be the home of local Christian music
by Janice Tai // November 17, 2021, 10:14 pm
Former worship and young adults pastor Douglas Yeap founded Amplify Studios and Amplify Podcast SG in 2019.
Two years ago, Douglas Yeap converted a small corner of his bedroom into a podcast recording spot.
It was quite a sacrifice as he shared the room with his wife and three-year-old son in their three-room flat, with the other bedroom occupied by his parents. His wife, Vanessa, had to give up her dresser.
Though he did not have much savings, he forked out about $10,000 to get the necessary equipment to create podcasts – an Ikea table, speakers, microphones and other audio and recording interfaces.
“I feel strongly for our local Christian songs. God gave them to Singapore and to our songwriters for a reason.”
What he was doing did not make much sense to others. He not only did not have the space and resources, he also lacked the DJ-ing, content creation and recording skills he needed to create the podcasts.
Yet the former worship and young adult pastor, who was trained at Hillsong College in Sydney, Australia, chose to coop himself up in a room doing podcasts without any pay packet while his wife went out to work.
When the pandemic and Circuit Breaker hit Singapore, things got worse for the young family. If Douglas was recording his podcasts, then his wife would have to take her Zoom work meetings on the bed while their son slept in a cot in the same room.
Though he did not have much, what he did have, however, was a vision.
It was this vision that enabled Douglas to faithfully put out one podcast episode every week, for the last two years, from a bedroom in his Tampines flat. It was hard work – from getting permission for songs to be aired online to writing weekly devotions to doing the social media marketing for the podcasts.
What vision was compelling enough to keep a man dutifully doing this, day after day, for years now, in a small room and going without pay?
It is the dream of having a Christian podcast platform where believers can tune in to hear local worship songs anytime and anywhere.
“Soaking in worship songs shouldn’t be limited to Sundays in church. I also feel strongly for our local Christian songs. God gave them to Singapore and to our songwriters for a reason but not many people know about them,” Douglas, 38, said simply.
“There is nothing wrong listening to well-known international songs from Bethel or Hillsong but my vision is to see revival in our nation through the local songs that are inspired by the breath of God,” he added.
In a dark room
Back in February 2019, Douglas attended a worship concert by Leeland at Bethesda Cathedral in Singapore. The Christian rock band from Texas has four Grammy nominations under their belt and is known for songs such as The Lion and the Lamb and Way Maker.
In the dark room as Douglas heard the songs being sung by Leeland, he recalled being deeply comforted and strengthened by God’s presence.
At that time, Douglas knew his season as the worship and young adult pastor at Yishun Christian Church Anglican (YCCA) was coming to an end. He felt discouraged and confused about the path ahead.
“The worship and songs created an atmosphere where you can rest and just cry out to God or be in silent solitude and hear Him,” said Douglas.
At the end of the concert, Douglas gushed about it passionately to a friend. They had a long conversation about the power of songs and worship.
Douglas found himself sharing with his friend his past experience of helping YCCA record a worship music album and realising then that Singapore has so many good Christian songs and artistes but not many people knew about them.
“The songs either stay within the four walls of the church that they come from or in Spotify. Many churches also don’t use or know each other’s songs,” said Douglas.
He also recounted to his friend about how ministering it was for him to be able to tune in to worship songs on a Christian radio station in Australia whenever he was commuting to school on the train or driving to another suburb. He and his wife had studied in Sydney for two years and obtained their Diplomas in Ministry (Worship) from Hillsong College.
“How wonderful it would be for us to listen to our own local Christian songs whenever we are in the MRT or car, or even in the gym, instead of other FM radio songs,” said Douglas.
It dawned upon him that Singapore does not have a radio station for Christian music, and the handful of faith-based podcasts put out here usually focuses on audio sermons and interviews, instead of worship songs.
With these thoughts running furiously in his mind, Douglas went home and spoke to his wife. They were so excited at what God was showing them that they did not sleep much that night. Instead, they scribbled down all the ideas that came to mind.
For the next three months, Douglas took a sabbatical to pray and seek God over what he ought to do next, especially with the ideas that came to him after going to a Leeland concert.
Every week, he headed to Tampines library for a quiet space and time to talk to and wait upon the Lord.
“During this time, there was a non-stop waterfall of downloads from God. He gave me the blueprint for starting a Christian podcast studio, even though I have no experience in it at all,” said Douglas.
“My vision is to see revival in our nation through the local songs that are inspired by the breath of God.”
Specifically, God revealed to him the plan step by step, on a yearly basis. Douglas had an impression that he was to work on the podcast for some three to five years.
For the first year, he knew he was to start creating the podcasts and air some interviews with songwriters to inspire and guide aspiring ones on the songwriting process.
Yet before he embarked on this radical project of starting a Christian local worship music podcast, he made a pact with God.
“God, I need to be sure that this idea is from You. If it is from You and You want me to go ahead with it, let at least 10 churches or individuals agree to give me the permission to play their songs on the podcast,” Douglas prayed.
He then begun the laborious process of seeking out local Christian songs from Spotify and word of mouth, and contacting the churches and artistes behind them. Subsequently, he met them individually to explain the vision behind his new outfit – Amplify Podcasts produced by Amplify Studios – and sought their permission to use their songs to raise awareness about local worship songs.
“It is very powerful when our nation, the Antioch of Asia, sings her own songs.”
At that time, 12 churches and artistes gave their consent. Douglas took it as a sign of God giving the green light for him to do the podcast full-time, albeit without pay.
On August 5, 2019, Douglas uploaded his first podcast episode, with the podcast tagline being “Make Loud His Praise”. It featured 10 local songs from familiar names such as Hope Church, Josh Yeoh and Annette Lee, as well as lesser-known ones from Yishun Christian Church and TheEdge.
In between the songs, Douglas would do a devotion segment as well as respond to prayer and song requests that come in through its website. Each episode is 40 minutes long.
Initially, Douglas extracted the devotions from well-known devotional authors such as Sarah Young and Henry T Blackaby, after obtaining their approval. However, he later started writing his own after some of them only allowed him to use snippets of their devotionals.
“It was very exciting but I was also afraid that no one would listen to it or value it,” said Douglas.
Prior to setting up Amplify Studios, he did an online survey of 100 people who listened to Christian music and half of them said they had never heard a single local worship song before.
That motivated him to create a platform which will not only raise awareness of worship songs that are written and sung by Singaporeans, but also accompany believers throughout their day as they commute or have some quiet or leisure time.
He also hopes that churches will get to know of each other’s songs and use them in their services.
“I believe there’s power and breakthroughs when we sing each other’s songs which the Lord has inspired us in our songwriting. This will also encourage churches and individuals to write and produce more worship songs within this nation. It is very powerful when our nation, the Antioch of Asia, sings her own songs,” said Douglas, who worships at New Creation Church.
His podcasts showcase songs from both the bigger churches and music groups, such as City Harvest Church and Awaken Generation, to the smaller ones such as Hinghwa Methodist Church. Individual singer-songwriters, like couple Ernest and Ming Li, as well as Jachin Huang, also now have an additional outlet for exposure.
“We strongly believe that God will never shortchange us, especially if we are doing His work.”
Every day, he sends his son off to school before starting work on the podcasts and recordings. Initially, he tried being a DJ without using a script in a bid to sound more natural, but ended up doing many retakes.
Now, he writes the script and the devotionals, plans the songs, and creates the blurbs and graphics for social media.
“It can be a very lonely journey. There would be days when I am all fired up and I know this is what God wants me to do.
“Then there are days when I wonder what exactly am I doing and whether this is a huge waste of time and effort,” said Douglas with candour.
His wife Vanessa reminds him not to keep small work victories to himself, but to celebrate it with others, even though he is a one-man show.
Trusting the divine Provider
The biggest struggle he faces is learning to trust God with financial provision.
“There are months when we just manage to scrape by and pay the bills. Whenever we want to buy something for family or friends, we have to think twice,” said Douglas, who also takes up some ad-hoc recording commissions on the side.
“But we strongly believe that God will never shortchange us, especially if we are doing His work. He will take care of us,” he added.
One instance that they have seen God coming through for them was in providing a bigger flat so that they could have a dedicated room to record the podcasts.
“I asked God if we could sell our three-room flat for a certain price and buy another at a certain price. He answered my prayers and blessed us with a five-room flat nearby, though we were just looking for a four-room one,” said Douglas, who moved into his new flat late last year.
Amplify Studios, which has now been around for more than two years, has chalked up more than 100 episodes to date. Podcasts have featured close to 500 local worship songs from 40 churches and local artistes. Episodes have also been played more than 13,000 times, across over 50 countries.
Apart from its weekly devotionals and songs, it has branched out into doing “Behind The Song” interviews with musicians such as Leeland and Pat Barrett, and launched a coffee chat series with founders of other ministries in Singapore to raise awareness of the diversity of ways people worship God through their work.
He has also compiled 50 of his devotionals from his podcasts into a book, which can now be pre-ordered.
Douglas now releases the podcasts once a fortnight instead of weekly. He has plans for Amplify Studios to provide other services, such as holding workshops for churches to help believers through the whole process of producing their own worship songs – from writing to recording to arranging them into an album.
“Local songs are important because they reflect the unique life experiences and spiritual state of a particular community and they may resonate with Singaporean believers more,” said Douglas.
For instance, he has heard of a woman who was suicidal but was ministered to when she listened to an in-house church song.
“I will keep doing this until God says stop, though it is tempting to just opt for a regular 9-to-5 job,” said Douglas, who has since received, and turned down, several job offers from churches.
“Singapore needs her own songs to impact its own people.”
If you wish to support Amplify Studios, you are welcome to find out more here.