The Harvest Show

Here's the interview I did at The Harvest Show for LESEA Broadcasting. We cover jingles, songwriting and the American Meritocracy. Great conversation with them.

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After "Little Songs" came out in April I got sick and lost my voice. It took me about a month to recover fully. This performance is the very first time I sang after getting sick. SO much below the surface in this video. The intense looks on mine and Valerie's faces are ones of fearful expectation: would I go for and be able to hit the notes I usually hit at the end of the 2nd verse (2:11-2:19)??

Announcement: "It's Almost Christmas"

  Photo:  @tandshughesphotography

Photo: @tandshughesphotography

Excited to OFFICIALLY announce that Valerie and I will be releasing a Christmas record this year called "It's Almost Christmas" with Descendent Records. We will playing 8 shows with Amy Grant and Vince Gill at Ryman Auditorium in December. Just wrapped mixing and getting jollier as the season approaches! Stay tuned in November for official release and more information...
 

Songs Help Us Express

Songs are everywhere. In our private and public places. They proceed and follow momentous occasions from weddings to funerals, even to presidential inaugurations. Why is that?

Songs help us express the inexpressible. There is nothing more inexpressible than the human heart. It is multi-faceted, contradictory, simultaneously holy and profane. Songs help us live through, excavate meaning from or simply organize organize our experience by appealing to the visceral, the human heart.

Songs help us live through our experience. Perhaps you lose a loved one and you need a way through the sadness that accompanies the loss, so you find a song. Or rather, the song finds you. The song has no power to change the situation, or even heal it, but it has the power to console. We all know that sometimes, that’s as good as it gets. And sometimes that’s all we need. When tragedy strikes, we move to the subterranean levels of ourselves where things don’t make sense, they simply are. Songs have the ability to meet us there, below the intellect, below reason. Songs can be threads that tie together the tapestry of our experience on an emotional level. 

Corporately, songs can be vehicles for collective expression. If a group of people want to celebrate the existence of a single person, what do they do? They sing “happy birthday.” If a group of people want to worship God, one way is to sing together. Songs gather us around a message emotionally. It implicitly aligns our hearts with what we are saying. It’s why we sing Happy Birthday instead of chanting it, and why we use melody to worship, not simply corporate recitation. It helps us to mean it.

 

What is a song, anyway?

 

    A song is a composition made up of lyrics and music, with the intent of the lyrics being sung, for the purpose of producing a proportionate feeling or emotion in relation to a particular matter. Generally speaking, lyrics reference topics and melodies reference feelings (though a beautifully constructed lyric can reference feelings as much as any beautiful melody). A song which combines a feeling that, for one reason or another, is not worthy of or proportionate to the matter at hand is called a bad song. 

    We’ve all heard bad songs and many of us have written them. I use the phrases “worthy of” and “proportionate to” because it shaves off a bit of the idiosyncratic lens through which we often judge the goodness or badness of a song. Try singing the words to the hymn Amazing Grace to the tune of Happy Birthday To You. It’s ridiculous because it produces a feeling disproportionate to the truth that is being considered in that classic hymn. To contrast that, consider your favorite early Beatles song and how proportionate the feelings of young love are with the lyrics and melody at hand. A good song produces proportionate feelings relative to a given matter or experience. 

    Given this definition, Weird Al has made a career from taking feelings and combining them, or misappropriating them, with absurd topics. In other words, he’s really good and writing really bad songs. Further, when we say a song is bad we are disagreeing with how the writer appropriates the feeling with the experience. I’v experienced a break up and disagree with Nickelback on every aspect of how to write a song (combination of melody, lyric and production choices) from that experience.  

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    A songwriter’s creativity is brought to bear on the relationship between a lyric and a melody, and how different variations produce different emotions. Lyrics are distinct from other creative forms of writing precisely because of their relationship to the music through which the words are delivered. The emotion of poetry, for instance, is tied up to the words themselves, the sound they make when plainly spoken, and their relationship to one another. The emotion of a lyric is bound to the music, so much so that it is easy to misjudge the quality of a lyric without hearing the accompanying melody. Often, plain lyrics can be vitalized by beautiful melodies. This is the art of pop music: the art of revitalizing traditional lyrical phrases by new melodic and harmonic combinations.

    Hence, the power of a song is in how a melody and lyric work together to produce an emotion in regards to a particular matter. 

Shakespeare, Jesus and The Apocalypse

Jons Hamlet Apocalypse
There is a destiny that shapes our ends, rough hew them how we will.
— Hamlet, Shakespeare

When you have to console yourself with 16th century poetry, you know you’ve had a rough day. 

Today my debut album “Little Songs” was released. Today I am also sick. Like, at 9am I went to a radio station for an interview and threw up in the hallway type sick. Also, I lost my voice. It’s completely gone. Didn’t leave a note. I flew to New York City last night and had a schedule full of release day activities that had to be cancelled. 

Needless to say, it wasn’t the plan. I wasn’t prepared. I need me some shakespeare. 

What’s the big deal you ask? Well, let me fill you in on me. Generally speaking, I proceed under the assumption that everything has an ultimate standard, to which I may be privy, if the right experts are consulted and the right steps taken. When the ultimate standards are met, or at least striven towards, all is well with the world. When they are not met, it’s a hop skip and a jump from apocalypse. Like Left-Behind style, the pilot has been raptured and I’m still on the plane type apocalypse. 

In other words, deep down I believe that with enough planning, preparation, discipline and follow-through I can live the ideal case scenario 100% of the time. (Deep sigh). Days like today, reality, in the form of some pesky virus, strikes. 

I wasn’t prepared to be sick today. I had all sorts of plans surrounding the release that are now going to have to be re-worked. By my estimation, it’s not the ideal case scenario. 

But this evening, Hamlet has some comforting words. 

“There is a destiny that shapes our ends, rough hew them how we will.” 

Jesus said something to this effect as well. 

Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

The end is being shaped by a destiny. And the destiny that shapes my end is itself being shaped by an inestimably loving God, to whom human beings are inestimably precious. However rough-hewn my efforts, however far I fall short of the ultimate standard, I am in the gracious grips of a Father who has in mind a destiny that is ultimately beautiful, in every sense of both words. 

I didn’t anticipate today, but God did. He will worry about my future. I’ll worry about Shakespeare. 

Plus if the world did end and I was reading Shakespeare how epic would that be?