The Courage To Begin Again

I’ve been wanting to write on this idea for a couple weeks now, I just haven’t known quite how to jump into it. It’s something I’ve been chewing on and reflecting on in my own life, and as I’ve explored I feel like I’ve come to some helpful conclusions for myself, which I would like to share with you now.

But first, here’s a quick update of what’s been up with me:

In June, I got to go out to LA to participate in a Common Hymnal writing camp, and see some family that I don’t get to see very often. I also got to reunite with my friends who are a part of Common Hymnal who live all over the country. I am enjoying these folks very much and I learn so much from being around them… not only about music, but about God and life… how to live it well. I also got to visit Seattle, and there was able to see one of my best friends Bobby and another brother Sion from Vancouver… both of whom drove ours to meet up… even if only for a little while. I also got to see my friend Caroline, who I went to high school with. She works for Amazon now.

Both of these trips were such a gift, getting to see these amazing places and reconnect with my friends from all different walks of life.

Traveling aside, my life right now consists of very similar motions daily. I’m mixing a lot of music right now, fishing up three records this summer as well as some live material for a campus ministry here in Athens called Wesley. I’m also putting the finishing touches on my own record, which will be my first full length release as Andrew Blooms. My days typically look like the gym or reading in the morning. Interns and the artists arrive around 10AM, we mix until lunch. Eat a great lunch. drink some coffee. Talk about weird funny stuff. Mix until the brains and ears are mush. Then meet up with some friends in the evening. Or like tonight, I’m having some time to sit and write. The summer here has a wonderful pace, since there are less people in Athens than when school is in… So everything, including myself, breathes a little easier.

Inwardly, I am in a phase of restructuring. The pillars I had built for myself - the ways I’ve carefully forged my identity around my efforts, image and my creations - have been crushed to dust… and I am no in a place where I “feel” I have nothing left to give. The things that used to work for me… the systems I’d created to avoid pain and to avoid reality have failed. I’m tired. My year has caught up to me. In some ways I have lost sight of who I am and what I’m about. Slowly, growing more tired over time. Tired of trying. As my friend Tom said to me last weekend, “I’m just tired of learning.” Boy do I get that. I’ve recently experienced some debilitating anxieties that have made it unable for me to lead worship or perform in front of people… A fear I never thought I would ever experience. I’ve been sick and exhausted, to a point where it’s made it difficult to engage with people as I want to. For the first time in my life… I’ve felt the inevitable - That I am limited. I am out of control. I am small. And time is moving.

But in some wonderful way, I’ve been stripped and left only with myself. Without the mask of the stage, without the mask of my abilities, and without the mask of seeming like I have anything figured. It’s brought me to a curious and wonderful place. It’s brought me to an honest place, where I’ve been forced to look at myself through an uncolored lens, a truthful lens. And the truth always sets you free. And this is the starting point from which I would like to share this idea:

000213320024.jpg

The Courage To Begin Again…

As I think about the social pressures that I’ve grown up with and continue to feel as I grow up, I observe that we are all terrified of being wrong. We don’t want to feel wrong, we don’t want people to know we’re wrong, we don’t want anyone to call us out for being wrong. We don’t want to say the wrong answer, project the wrong image, or say the wrong thing. And as we grow up, there is this subtle pressure to become less and less wrong. As if when you were 18, you were allowed to be 50% wrong about everything, and if you’re 26 you need to have figured out enough stuff to be down to at most 30% wrong about things, and by 50 you’re supposed to be wrong about only 15% of all things. I’ve observed it all around me, for the longest time… That most people do anything and everything in their power to make sure nobody knows how much they don’t actually know. Not knowing the correct answer has become a taboo - an indication of a lack of faith, intelligence, or some sort of moral discipline. When actually, the humility required to live a life willing to be led and corrected, or “wrong,” generates the soil that is required for a significant life marked by forward motion, growth and most importantly - unconditional love.

I’ve found that the pressure to know exactly what we’re doing creates a paralysis and an unwillingness to enter into critical times of reformation, redesigning and redirection. The fear of being or appearing wrong to others actually keeps us from the healthy and necessary process of being humbled, reshaped, corrected and ultimately refined into a more purified image of who we are supposed to be. The fear of being wrong about things hardens the heart and doesn’t allow space for the process of pruning, which always is intended to make space for fuller and more beautiful fruit to grow.

I felt so passionately to write about this because I’m afraid I’m growing hard. I’ve felt it over the years… leaving college, entering the “real world” and starting my “real life” (which has actually been happening this whole time)… there’s this thing in me that is less willing to re-learn… less willing to return to the drawing board, to take a step back, to re-evaluate and be honest about what’s really going on beneath the surface - scared to death to begin again. It’s like I’ll be embarrassed or found out that I’m actually this hurting, terrified child trapped in a 26 year old body who actually has no true grip on anything in his life. It’s as if now, since I’m an real adult, there’s not as much grace to have taken a wrong step, had a bad season, been in progress on things or to have tried something that failed… But I’m in a place in my life where I’m looking back and finally allowing myself to admit, “wow, I was really wrong about that.” This place of honesty and sobering reality could only take place after all my idols and pillars came crashing down, leaving me with nowhere to hide. This is how I’ve been wrong for so long:

I’ve been wrong about motivations… doing things “for God” when they were really for me.

I’ve been wrong about my own righteousness… that behind close doors, I embody the very things that I judge in other people.

I’ve been wrong about drugs and alcohol… using these things to escape my reality and my pain.

I’ve been wrong about what’s important in life… that you thinking I’m amazing isn’t going to satisfy me truly.

I’ve been wrong about friendship… that my friends might enjoy me and that I’m afraid to loose them.

I’ve been wrong about my dad… that things might not be his fault.

I’ve been wrong about what love is… that it’s about serving and not just finding someone to fulfill my dreams and desires.

I’ve been wrong about what it means to be important… that it’s more important to serve and not be served.

I’ve been wrong about God… that He might actually love me.

the list could go on… I’ve been so dead wrong about so many things in life so far.

What I’m trying leave you with is this encouragement: Get honest with yourself. Be willing to lay everything on the table, knowing full and well that you will be wrong about most of it. It’s not about having a perfect life, and it’s not about only hitting the bulls-eye on everything you do. It’s not about people sitting around somewhere talking about how flawless and amazing you are. It is not about being right. This is about growing into who you were made to be. This is about holding the things in your life loosely - in a posture that welcomes the humbling work of the Holy Spirit to prune, correct, and guide you into new levels of meaning and usefulness. It’s about becoming true. It’s about becoming free. It’s about learning how to love. I’m at a place where I no longer see the use in pretending that things are not there in my life… The bad habits, the addictions, the anger, the confusion, the loose ends, the doubt, the constant and unrelenting tension between what I see in real life and what I hope is true about God… everything I’ve pushed under the rug for so long. I didn’t want to appear wrong. I didn’t want to appear weak. I didn’t want to appear like I was struggling. But if there’s anything I’ve come to know… is that we’re all struggling. And if we continue to struggle in the dark, we will never heal. So with this in mind, I beg the question: How will we choose to move forward?

Are you willing to be honest? Are you willing to return to nothing? and are you willing to be wrong? Are you willing to let all of your constructs fail… to begin at ground zero again, no matter how far along you are in life, welcoming the winter to see the spring? Are you willing to revisit all you’ve learned to say and believe with the courage to ask yourself, “Might there be a better way?”

What a vulnerable and beautiful place to be. As I type these last words, I am praying. That having read this you might not feel so alone in your journey upward… and that somehow you might have found enough courage to begin again.

Spring Shows

BN7A4432.jpg

Hey everyone! I’m playing a couple places throughout the spring. Some new places and some familiar ones. If you are around these places, come on through and bring a friend! Here’s where you can find me singing my songs over the next couple months! I’m excited to play more.

3/21 - Jams For Justice at Legion Field (UGA) 
https://bit.ly/2UJXvDd

3/22 - Backyard Boogie (Athens)
https://bit.ly/2Jl4Jft

3/28 - Emma’s House Show (Dahlonega) *message for details

3/29 - Tour Stop UGA: Branding Panel Guest (I'm speaking at this one!) https://bit.ly/2TRUpAR

4/5 - Hydrolove Concert @ The Pit Barn
https://bit.ly/2uhpEWI

4/19 - The Chapel (Sheffield, AL)

New Show Announced! Caledonia Lounge (Athens, GA) - Feb 21

Blooms_Caledonia_IG.jpg

YES YES YES. Here we go! I am excited to announce that I will be playing a FULL band show in February. Joining be on this bill will be my good friends Zac Crook and Conner Brooke, who are both doing incredible things. I am really looking forward to working through new material with the band and playing my original music again.

Thursday, Feb. 21. Doors at 8PM, Show at 9PM.

Tickets are on sale now and you should buy them in advance! Maybe we can pack this thing out. Tickets are here!

"Let You In" - Live In Portland Released!

Last week I got to travel some and met up with my best bud Bobby in Portland. He was kind enough to sing this song with me in the coffee shop that Bess (Bobby’s wife) works at. It was such a special time to hang and reconnect and play some music together. No fancy mics or anything, just for fun. Hope yall like it!

Album Process Videos - Recording in Knoxville!

OK! Got to record with some of my favorite musicians in the world! Here are a couple of recap videos from studio time in Knoxville working on the new record with Will Reagan and Brandon Hampton. Love these guys, and had such a great time. Special thanks to Gray Hauser for making these videos!

"TECTONIC MOVEMENT" - Never A Waste (Update #3)

IMG_0087-2.jpg

The following is an account of the previous two days spent tracking in Knoxville with Will Reagan and Brandon Hampton - as best as I can remember. We worked on two of the new songs that are going to be on the album, one being “My Time Will Come” and the other “Never A Waste,” the title track of the record. I am still trying to process everything that transpired in those two days in eastern Tennessee, as I feel the depth and worth of what the experience was cannot be contained in words - much less written. I am trying desperately to remember and document each moment of the trip, because I think, and can only guess, that these two days will live on in my life forever as one of the most critical moments in my history. No pressure, haha. So here, the account:

THE CREW

Gray and I leave Athens around 6pm on the evening of Wednesday, 11/28. I am extremely caffeinated because the heater in our house is broken so I’ve spent the better part of the day hopping around to different coffee shops in town, where I buy a drink at each place because I feel bad using the WIFI without ordering anything. I have two coffees and a hot chocolate - and that amount of hot excited drink goes a long way for my bamboo-shoot build. I play Fortnite at Gray’s house before we leave because quite frankly, I miss having it. But I’m thankful the temptation doesn’t live in my own living room anymore. I get so much more done now! I get killed really fast because I’m more garbage now than I ever have been. After the five second silence and deep passing anger that takes place after each and every Fortnite failure, we hit the road. I’m so glad Gray is on this trip. He is one of the most special people I know, and is truly a salty man in the biblical sense. He brings flavor to any place he is in. Gray is joining us this weekend to film some footage of the studio process and how these songs grow and take shape.

Gray and I stop at Upbeet in Atlanta for the most coveted Aloha Bowl, and then we pick up Abe Choi. Abe Choi is about 2,000 years old in our estimation, but looks about 27. I met Abe in Nashville through Common Hymnal, and I’m so glad to have someone in that group so close by. Abe is interested in life itself, and everything it contains, and while he works in software (I think?) he values art and the creative process so much and sees life in a beautiful way - it’s contagious and inspiring. Abe is along for the ride, just to support and hang out and shed knowledge about literally any interesting thing that has ever happened or is currently happening.

We roll into Knoxville around 11PM and meet Will at the apartment where we will be staying. The plumbing is broke so we decide to stay at Will’s house in his basement. The crew meets up with Brandon at our guilty pleasure, the Jig & Reel in downtown Knoxville, which boasts “one of” the largest selections of Scotch in the world. We catch up, grab some grub, and head to Wills house to get a good night’s rest - for the next day, we begin recording.

DAY 1: MY TIME WILL COME

We wake up and head to the studio. Will was kind enough to have the new studio ready to record for these could songs. It’s impossible to express how much of an honor it was to be the first artist to record in the new studio. It was beautiful. magical. impossible to understand the meaning of. Going into this weekend, I was so nervous. I even felt self-conscious around Will and Brandon, like I was being super careful of what to say or do. Nervous energy. I think it’s because I respect their work so much and feel so honored that they would even agree to work with me and I put a lot of pressure on myself to not let them down. I felt like a kid in high school trying to make the jump from JV to Varsity.

IMG_0159-2.jpg

One thing that I realized immediately was that the pace was going to be different. One of the appeals of working with another producer, for me, was to be able to be submerged in someone else’s creative process - to get out of my own pathways and ruts and to be challenged. Something that I appreciated was how Will took his time and allowed his curiosity to guide him in the recording. It’s easy to get wrapped up in efficiency and to ignore the pull to wander and explore, and that’s something that I was challenged to do by observing him. After all, making music is a creative and organic process, so it’s ok to go a little slower and try a bunch of things that don’t work. We would spend hours moving microphones, trying different settings, moving rooms, trying different guitars, and manipulating sounds - all to learn, explore and experience the expression in the music. We would create, mix, and track along the way as if each step of the process would grow and inspire the next idea. I enjoyed working this way and it challenged to me shift some of my own approach to producing.

We begin recording “My Time Will Come.” After determining the tempo and direction, we decide that a live performance of the song would communicate best, as it has a lot of feeling. So I perform the song live singing and playing at the same time. Will uses some incredible vintage microphones to record it, including a Neumann U67 and a RCA 44. The room sounds killer and acted, in this particular case, as a reverb that we were able to tuck under everything. Then, Brandon laid done some incredible lead acoustic parts and tracked the hook of the song, which is a repeated riff that loops over the chord changes that I do on the original guitar. We played with pitching sounds up and down, throwing guitar lines into funky plugins and delays, and in the end had a really textural and unique sounding guitar line. I can’t share too many of the chef’s secrets here, but man was it saucy. The song took an incredible shape that our collaboration was able to pull out of it. Will, Brandon, and my vision joined to make something none of us could have made on our own. Will and I ended up layering some background vocals to create a makeshift choir that helped lift and push the chorus along. We worked through lunch and ended up going to Barley’s to snag a plate of their legendary chicken fingers, officially dubbed “fingies.” I bypassed the fingies and shared a delicious pizza with Gray. But man… did those fingies look both delicious and deadly in every sense of the word. We return to the studio after eating Fingies and continue to layer and explore. We are all zonked by the end of day 1 and return to the house and are in bed before midnight.

DAY 2: NEVER A WASTE

IMG_0196.jpg
IMG_0147-2.jpg

In my experience, no longer how many days of recording there are in a row… start times and general urgency to work always diminishes at an exponential rate as a session goes on. So, even though we were only recording for 2 days, the second day was the last and therefore we acted the same as a group of artists might act at the end of a 5 day recording. Will asks me what time we should get going and I shrug, “10?” So, we get a great nights sleep and head to breakfast at my favorite spot, Olli Bea’s, which serves up some delicious breakfast. I don’t think we even got to the studio until noon. I loved the pace though. It was refreshing to just enjoy relationship and enjoy sluggin’ along and easing into create-mode.

On the second day, we took a crack at “Never A Waste,” the title track to the album. The challenges of this song turned out to be its length and its dynamics. I was so used to playing it with just me and the guitar that I tried to filled every space in the arrangement with playing. But what I feel like I was able to grow in was the ability to restrain and leave more space. To not overplay and to let some moments rest and breathe. Just as with the first song, we spent a good chunk of time dissecting the song and finding the right tempo, feel, and arrangement. I had an idea of adding some sort of heart beat kick drum sound, which Will suggested we create by softly tapping the bridge of the guitar. It was so cool, I love when that happens. We were able to record and manipulate me hitting the guitar and create a sound that sounded like a pulsing drum beat. We later recorded Brandon and myself slapping our knees to create a backbeat. So, that’s how the percussion was created. After a few hours of layering and tracking some acoustic guitars, Brandon laid down an incredible harmonic acoustic guitar line. I was amazed at how Will interpreted certain sounds and was able to manipulate and morph audio into something completely different. We ended up reversing certain guitar chords and forming them into a swirling, evolving pad that helped lift and lower certain parts of the song. I was so inspired. Things are coming along.

After a late afternoon hot Tamale lunch and an additional coffee break, we return to the studio for the last leg. I don’t know where time went in that space because before we knew it, it was almost 9 oclock. The last thing we did was the main vocal. The performance of a vocal can make or break how it feels. When music moves us, it’s not cause it’s perfect, it’s because it’s real. The reason songs take you to a certain place is due to its humanness and its communication. All music is, in essence, is communication. So, I’m learning, that the more vulnerable and myself I can be, the more that people will be able to connect with what I’m trying to say. It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it. I think with music, especially in today’s day, there is a tendency to make things too perfect. We have the technology to correct, autotune, fatten, and virtually eliminate all mistakes and dynamics, but when we do that, we kill the humanness of the music. Something I was stretched in when singing “Never A Waste” was to let go and sing with my heart, not worrying about singing perfectly. Will was able to pull so much out of me and give me a runway to be myself and dig deep into what was inside me. I am so excited about how the song is sounding. I can’t wait to continues working on it!

tectonic movement

Here’s my extra credit. It’s incredibly difficult for me to even understand, much less communicate. But how I view November 29 and 30th of 2018 can be best be described as the slow convergence of deep tectonic plates, that have been in motion since the beginning of time, going in a specific direction, destined to meet and shift our landscape from the inside out. The coincidences are far too specific to ignore. There is a plan that has been set in motion for my whole life and just when I began to believe I was drifting aimlessly in the dark, God opened and door and reminded be of his incredible intentionality.Plates began to meet and form something. The extra credit is this: the present always feels normal, shallow, and stagnant. We are unable to see beneath the surface in our every day lives. Our perspective is limited by our humanness and unbelief. But, our history will reveal the depth of what God was doing beyond what we could see in our small moments. I don’t know why its designed this way, or what this means exactly, but I think my response is simply to live in faithfulness. We are tempted to live in fantasy about our lives, like it should be marvelous and speculator and shiny - but everything in history that we perceive as a “big” moment was actually someone’s everyday, simple, life. We do not know the extent of our influence every day - good or bad. We do not understand the tectonic movement of our lives - how things converge inches at a time in a specific direction. But history will reveal our faithfulness. Will our plates converge to form mountains or valleys? Will how we lives our lives in the most minute areas compound to create a marvelous landscape or a sunken hole? How are we holding our days?

History will reveal the authenticity, love, and care that we plant in the Earth every day.

Do you care for the life that you’ve been given? Do you live on purpose or on accident?

Do you believe that things are happening for a reason? Are you persevering? Are you hoping?

Are you faithful in the dark?

History will tell us later on.

"Getting It Off The Ground" - Never A Waste (Official Update #1)

Saturday night. I’ve just spent the day with my mom, which was so needed. We got Korean food and went to the mall and got sunglasses. Family time well spent.

I would like to be diligent in processing this next record more in writing. I have found that these little process entries are fascinating to read back later. You realize how much you learned along the way and exactly how much I don’t know in this very moment. The emotions, head space, and thoughts I have right now, though they feel like 100% reality, may be completely different in just a short amount of time. Writing helps to freeze these things in place and allows them to live on. And it helps me remember more about this awesome process. I’ve been disciplining myself to keep a journal and to give myself a daily outlet to the things I’m wrestling with deep inside. I’ve found that something mysterious is released when I do that. It really does help. It gives me a voice, even if it’s to no one. Weirdly, I feel heard. I can’t believe I haven’t always done this.

000316430002.jpg

This is the first place you’ll hear. I’m officially going to call the album “Never A Waste.” I decided to abandon my attempt at completing “From My Window To Yours” as a two part project and allow Pt. 1 to live on solo. I thought that the second set of songs would come along congruently with Pt. 1, but it just wasn’t the case. Too much has happened in unexpected ways since April of last year, and can I say that I’m surprised? Life has so many twists and turns. How can we possibly know what is to come?

A song came through to me last week that I think pushed this entire project into motion. Never A Waste. What an idea… that no matter what we go through, the risk, the vulnerability, the chances we take, the failures we find ourselves in… none of if, if you want to believe it, is ever a waste. All that we have left is a choice to believe. I was writing a description of this album, just trying to get a grasp on what I wanted it to be, and I wrote,

“I sing about my faith, my longing, my confusions, my confessions, my failure, broken relationships, and the loss of beloved peoples and times - and hope to be able to tie all of these loose ends up in a loose bow, even if for a moment.”

I kind of liked that - tying loose ends into a bow. I don’t know how to do it any other way other than this. By even starting this album, I’m trusting a promise that all of this happening in my life is for a reason - that no piece of furniture will be left out of the frame in the end. Even the weird ugly paintings that you got at goodwill for no good reason. Even those. Or should I say, especially those. They complete the picture.

In this stage, I’m scheduling my recording days and release times. I am aiming for my birthday March 25 of 2019, because hey why not. I am really hoping to press this album to vinyl, finally, something I’ve always wanted to do. I think this one is going to make it to the wax.

As always, thank you for reading my words. I am terrified and ready to make another record.