Well, I guess it's official. After an over ten-year hiatus I'm finally back to writing songs.
The last time I wrote music and assembled a collection of original tunes was in early 1999. That's when I traveled to Asheville, NC to record and release my second CD in three years. I wrote a few songs after While I'm Here with every intention of heading into the studio a third time. But a number of things happened that kept me from doing so.
The short answer is "life." The long answer is that my wife and I welcomed our first son into the world. Which I wouldn't trade for the world, you understand. But it changed things, as those sorts of things always do. For one, I lost my music space. What had been a spare room to house all my music equipment in and crank out a few new tunes quickly became a baby nursery. When instruments are stored away they're not so easily accessible - out of sight, out of mind. I also lost my weekday alone at the house, when the wife would work and I had my pastor's day off. I used to spend a fair amount of that day strumming the six string, tickling the ivories, singing at the top of my lungs and not worrying about who might hear me. The arrival of the bundle of joy put an end to that.
My songwriting took another hit when the family made the move up Highway 52. It may sound strange, but something about cranking out a sermon every six days has had the effect of exhausting the "creative muse," if you will. Again, I wouldn't give up my weekly preaching for anything, but apparently it came with a price.
So that was it. Since then I've been out of my rhythm, out of a few different kinds of "space," and the songwriting has suffered. Occasionally I hear a tune in my mind, usually first thing in the morning when my brain is fresh and all is quiet. But within a matter of minutes as the hustle and bustle of the new day descends, the song is lost. And it's not like I want to come home from work and ditch family time to lock myself in the bedroom with the six-string. It's all about priorities, and the fact is there are new things in my life that are higher up the totem pole. So for nearly a decade, the songwriting has laid dormant. Sometimes I even wondered if I had lost it altogether.
Until a month or so ago, as 2010 rang in and my upcoming music-based sabbatical inched closer. It was almost as if the anticipation of three months spent listening to and writing music was waking the creative muse from her hibernation. The breakthrough continued as I began planning music for the Massanetta Middle School Conference. I've already mentioned in a previous blog about my skepticism regarding most praise & worship music. Part of the solution, I decided, was to write some of my own. I don't want to give away too much here - things are still in progress and a lot can change in the next few months. But the plan is to compile a five-song EP in some format; original tunes that will work well in a songleading environment. One is a co-write with fellow Mayberry musician Jerry Chapman, two are older originals I'm dusting off the shelves, and two more are brand-spanking new tunes.
The main thing is, ten years removed from my last serious effort, I'm doing some things differently this time around. I'm listening to music with a particular ear toward song structure, melodies and rhythm, looking to find what musical identity fits me best (U2, Kings of Leon and David Crowder Band are getting a workout on my ipod). I'm trying out some new ways of writing - not going to the guitar as is my habit, but beginning with rhythms and bass instead. I'm inviting some others to join me on the journey - the aforementioned Chapman and fellow bandmate Doug Davis, who in addition to being a phenomenal songwriter himself also happens to have a pretty sweet studio where I'll do the recording.
But the biggest difference, if I had to guess, is simple: I'm trusting myself more. I'm not nixing a melody or chord progression just because I don't fall in love with it immediately. I'm not getting frustrated when the song doesn't materialize as quickly as I want it to - I'm granting it more "space" to form on its own. There's an inherent fear in songwriting when you hit those road blocks along the way and that little voice inside you wonders out loud if you've still "got it." I'm choosing not to listen to that voice anymore, which is a big step for me.It's exciting. I've had a blast playing covers for the past eight years and plan to keep it up. But it's also good to know there's still some music left in me that is uniquely me. We'll see where this goes. For the time being, it's good to be writing again.