Swedish House Mafia: a name you’re unlikely to see in a cathedral Mass booklet any time soon.
But it’s a name Sandhurst priest and Christian music artist Fr Robert Galea is very familiar with, performing one of the band’s songs during his televised audition last year for prime time talent show the X Factor.
Fr Rob is currently performing in the United States but will soon play a one-date-only show at the Riverside Theatre in Parramatta on 8 April.
The Maltese-born priest says it’s the show he’s most excited about this year, a chance to let loose with an eight-piece band and to have a good go at tearing the roof off the place with his own brand of pop, audience-engaging banter and praise.
Although he’s performed before crowds of hundreds of thousands, he’s more often playing at schools and conferences, something he loves – a chance to make connections with young people and to exercise the pastoral gifts of his priestly ministry.
But a fully-blown concert is a chance to do something different again.
“I like to take people on a journey,” Fr Rob says, adding that he will also be sharing stories of how and why he wrote particular songs, inviting the audience to invest themselves – vocal cords and all – in the music.
“I don’t consider myself a performer. I am an evangelist; that’s what I do. But with something like this I can put more of my energy into it.”
Successfully auditioning for the X Factor last year, he said the show had brought a little more face recognition, as well as openness to what he is trying to do.
“What it has done is it has enhanced the work I do already. I was (recently) speaking at a school in Melbourne (for example) and I didn’t’ need to introduce myself like I usually do.”
On the morning of speaking to the Weekly he had replied to 30-40 emails and messages, mostly to students who had sent him messages after seeing him at their school: some, inspired and wanting to know more – teachers and other staff, too; others, sharing their struggles with depression, suicidal thoughts and self-harm.
Ordained in 2010, the young priest is a prolific user of social media, updating his Instagram and Facebook accounts regularly with whatever is going on in his life; his thoughts of God or how much he’d managed to lift the other night at the gym.
“With social media I’m not afraid of being myself. I’m not going to hide my humanity. I am a Christian and I am a priest. People are not going to connect with the priest first of all, but to the human who is the priest. I’m not (purposely) trying to tell people I am approachable, but if it helps, it helps.
“I use my social media to continue my connection with people. People are desperate for contemplation in action. People are too often taught to separate faith and life,” he says.
“That’s not how I work or how the Faith sees it. Whether you are in the Church or in the club, you are called to be a faith-filled person; to find God and to share Him with others, wherever you are. This is what it’s about.”
His fifth album, Something About You, was released in January last year. Most recently, he released a sung version of the Divine Mercy Chaplet which he co-wrote with husband and wife musicians Gary and Natasha Pinto, his support for his concert in Parramatta in April.
“My style has remained consistent but I do write songs away from my general comfort. I’ve recorded some bluegrass songs, EDM (electronic dance music), club music (and so on) but I always come back to where my heart is,” Fr Rob said, comparing his natural style as something like that of multi-platinum recording artist Ed Sheeran.
“I think music is the language of the heart. Very often words fail people, but they remember what they felt. Music has that power to transcend the mind and go to the heart.
“You are speaking the language of the heart to people who are not ready to be preached at; an encounter with God through music.”
“I love music for music itself but also I love to connect with God through music.”
Fr Rob listens to “a lot” of Christian music but is also currently listening to the last two albums by Australian electronic singer-songwriter Sia and Justin Bieber.
Come April, he’ll be performing mostly his own songs, throwing in a couple of new compositions for good measure, and possibly some songs in Maltese and Italian.
“Most of the set list is ready but I’m ready to adapt (laughs).”
Tickets to Fr Rob Galea, supported by Gary and Natasha Pinto, at Riverside Theatre, Parramatta on 8 April are available here.