Genuine Expression in Songwriting


‘m getting ready to record a new album this summer.  The last one was finished 6 years ago, so there’s a lot of water under the bridge.  I write most of my songs in a moleskin journal I keep by my bed.  I keep thinking inspiration will hit during sleep, and I’ll need to have the journal handy to scribble the download.  I’m still waiting for the first occurrence.  I’ve tried writing songs on my macbook, which would be a really good idea, because my handwriting is truly an embarrassment.  But, there seems to be some kind of connection for me between inspiration and writing with my own left hand.
I’ve used quite a few notebooks and written hundreds of songs.  The vast majority aren’t worth recording or playing in public.  I’m pretty sure my notebooks aren’t going to be worth much when i’m gone, except to people who know me.  I like to go back and look through them sometimes though, because one story line I see going through all the songs is a longing for genuine expression of what’s on my heart.  When I was young it was about wanting to find love.  Later it was about the joy of finding love.  Then I wrote about what I thought about God.  Later, I started writing to God on a personal level.  This led to songs for the church to sing as acts of corporate worship.
In the last few years, I’ve written anthems, laments, songs of thanks and songs of reflection.  All of them focused on helping God’s people come into his presence with open hearts.  As a songwriter and worship leader, I find great joy in being able to write songs that represent the heart of God’s people for him and the heart of God towards his people.
If you write songs, i encourage you to keep doing it, with increasing frequency.  Don’t be afraid of having unfinished songs  in your book.  One of my songs took 15 years to finish!  The more you practice writing, the more you’ll experience inspiration.  The more you spend time in His presence, the more you’ll recognize God’s voice. Songwriting isn’t magic.  There’s inspiration involved to be sure, but there’s also the willingness to just step out and do it.  Write!

What Would Glen Campbell Do?

I find that I don’t come across many forms of music that I don’t like at least a little bit. I think the reason is that I have a lot of respect for people who commit themselves to the almost impossible road of making a living making music. Most musicians that I know are introverts. The musicians who push through and do thousands of hours of solitary rehearsal to go play at bars and coffee houses have my immense respect.

I grew up listening to pop music on AM radio; KHJ in Los Angeles and KFRC in San Francisco. Pop is short for popular, and popular is popular because people like it. I love to watch the Grammys, because I love popular music. There, I said it!

I was moved by Adele and Foo Fighters this year. The joy of making music really is greater than the bottom line. But, I’d have to say the moment when I heard God’s voice was when I saw Glen Campbell, an extremely popular and talented artist, who was my main influence to start taking guitar lessons. Glen has Alzheimer’s now, and is on his final tour, along with making his final album. He obviously gets a little bit confused (if you’ve faced Alzheimer’s with a loved one, you’ve seen the early signs), but he is still out there, doing what God made him to do, with obvious passion and joy.

I mentioned that God spoke to me when I saw Glen. I was reminded that one thing I’m here to do is to write songs, no matter what. It’s not about making money (although I’m open to it), but about bearing fruit in a gift that God has put in me. I’m about 20 years behind Glen (and I’ve been told I look like him) so I figure I’m going to put songwriting back on the front burner and see what comes of it. It’s a matter of knowing the identity that God has given me and being obedient to use that gift to speak to Him, my friends and friends I haven’t met yet. So, I’m putting songwriting and collaborating on my calendar.

What is the thing God is saying for you to do? Sometimes the hints are more obvious and less “spiritual” that you think. Once you know that, how will you put it on the front burner?