Sunday, December 02, 2007

When Songs Won’t Fall From The Sky

I’ve forgotten how much work it is to write songs. It’s hard to believe that Backstage Pass arrived off the press a little over three years ago. Much has changed since then. Much. The prospect of composing a new project comes with it much soul searching and forces a lot questions such as “who is your audience?” and “what do you want to write about?” and “what do you have to say that people can connect with?” and “who are your key influences and what direction do you want to explore musically while staying relevant and unique?” Maybe some song writers just sit down and songs magically fall in their lap. For me, song composition is a holistic adventure. It requires deep emotional and spiritual inventory. I want to write music that is honest, yet along with this, I have to have a good handle on what I’m passionate about, and what's killing me inside.

I wouldn’t say writing Backstage Pass was easy. It was actually quite a grueling process. I was stretched to limits in many ways... musically, relationally, and financially. Yet, like the birth of a child, you somehow forget about the pain once you’re holding the new born in your arms. (Certainly, a baby has a little more value than a CD, but you get my point.) I still remember seeing the first UPS box of Backstage Pass CDs in the lobby of the tv station I work at, and I was about as giddy as a four year old anticipating a fire engine on Christmas morning. It’s hard to explain.

In a way, I feel like I’m starting all over. Certainly, I can build on the technical knowledge I acquired through the process of developing Backstage Pass, but musically speaking, creating new lyrics and melodies is like visiting an uncharted country, wonderful yet strangely foreign at the same time. After a year or so of hoping finished songs would fall from the sky, I’ve made a new commitment to spend one night a week in front of a piano, prayerfully jotting down and recording any thought which strikes my creative interest. For the last several weeks, I’ve been setting aside Tuesday evening as “song night.” Sometimes, I write from home, yet usually, I prefer to sit in front of a Yamaha grand piano in the beautiful sanctuary of a local church. For inspiration sakes, I find that it’s good to get away from the electronics and get back to the basics of piano, voice, and melody. I love keyboards and programming, but there are times when cool sounds can be a cover for a mediocre melody, a lazy chord progression, or a half hearted lyric. If the song works with a piano, it will go even further with a rhythm section and a clever string arrangement. Sometimes, I want so badly to pull out the sweet synth patch and build a song from that, but I have to force myself to keep to the basics, at least in the initial composition process.

Well, fortunately, this time around, I don’t have a break up to write about. Three tunes on Backstage Pass were in fact influenced by a relationship which didn’t turn out as expected. These days, I’m trying to broaden my focus past my own let downs, and instead of complaining about my own little world, I want to speak of bigger issues which are affecting people on a larger scale. And no, my next project is not going to be about global warming. I’m dealing with bigger questions involving eternity and why we’re here and who God is and how screwed up our perceptions are. Stuff like that.

I would really appreciate your prayers as I begin this journey. I just want to glorify God in what I create, and want to say what He wants me to say. Pray for me on Tuesday nights if you think about it.

The piano pictured above is the one I often write from.

Day 4 of "To Bavaria and Beyond" is coming soon...