It’s out now! Wow guys, what a special and incredible time. I get to finally start sharing what I’ve been working on with you. So, without further adieu, give my new song “My Time Will Come” a listen, available on all platforms. Here are are links to Spotify and Apple Music. Thanks everyone! My music video will be dropping soon as well…
On July 9th of last year, I had a dream in the middle of the night about a house that I could move my studio into. It was a space where I wanted to family and friendship to grow, where artists would be inspired, empowered and impacted in a deep way. It’s a long story, but the next day I found a house on Reese St. and invited my friends Zac and Joe to live there with me, and all the details to acquire the space fell together. As I approach a year of recording, producing and creating music full time, I have felt very nostalgic. I have been reflecting so much on the last year - things I have loved, things I would do differently, and all the lessons that have come from my time producing albums at Bloom Sounds and making music as an independent artist.
I thought it would be cool to take a moment and reflect on this calendar year since I quit my day job and tried to do this music thing for a living, and I also wanted to include some of my favorite film photographs along the way… to create a photobook of sorts of some special times in the studio and on the road. So, in chronological order, here was my year in music!
Beginnings Tour (August 2018) wow, exactly a year ago, Zac Crook, Carly King (The Little Strong) and I embarked on our very first tour. Independently booked, we played sixteen shows all around the southeast. There could be a small book written about how special this time was, and how deeply I cherished that time. Not that it was easy, but the specialness of the experience and what it taught me was invaluable. I felt like I grew twice as fast during this time… learning patience, persistence, and just how to run a tour and connect with people in different places.
Lion’s Den Recording (August 2018) The first recording in the new house was Lions Den’s first EP. This is a group of people I hold so dear to my heart. We decided to go ahead and record the songs we had been writing together before Bobby moved to Portland. So, we scrounged up some mics and asked some of our friends to join us. The house was so packed, but we made it work. The journey with Lion’s Den this year has been insane, as we’ve all traversed many things individually but have gotten to lean on each other and work through our live’s together. I can’t imagine this year without these very special people. I engineered, mixed, and performed on this album, called “King Of Every Seasons,” which you can listen to here.
Humility (August 2018) - This is a picture taken during the making of my single released on September, called “Humility.” It took me two or three days to finish this song from start to finish. It was one of those things that seemed to just create itself. This is a photo of my dear friend Shelby Frank helping me finish the song with some harmonies. I wrote, produced, engineered, and mixed this song, and you can listen to it here!
Common Hymnal (September 2018) What could I possibly say? This was one of the most insane weeks of my life. This is a photo of a group I am a part of called Common Hymnal. It is different than I have ever experienced. These people have also become such special people in my heart. During this week in Nashville, we basically rehearsed and recorded music for 5 days straight stopping only to eat and sleep. Literally. We’ve been releasing this music already, and you can listen to it here! I play electric guitar on some of these songs, and am a songwriter and collaborator within this group.
More Producing! (October 2018) In October I worked a couple of records, including a single for Sarah Howe, and EP for Garcia Free and a Christmas EP for Rawls Grimsley. The above photograph is of my friend Annie Leeth, who is an incredible music and engineer. I think here, we were working on Sarah’s single. At the end of October I met Rawls and helped him do his record. From that point on we became such special friends. I don’t think I was shooting film during that time because I can’t find any of us together. But, this was a special time for sure, my friend Will and I have officially dubbed the last week in October as “Rawls’ Week.”
Starting My Album (November 2018) In November I embarked on creating my first full length album as Andrew Blooms. I recorded my first two songs “My Time Will Come” and “Never A Waste” up in Knoxville with Will Reagan, Brandon Hampton, Abe Choi, and Gray Hauser. This marked the beginning of an insane process that I had yet to perceive. I thought I was going to finish it in February, but have only just finished it last week (July 2019). But it has been so worth the wait.
New Years with Family & Friends (January 2019) Got to ring in the New Years playing keys for one of my favorite groups, Family & Friends, at Variety Playhouse in Atlanta. It was a dream come true to team up with these guys, as their music has inspired me for a long time.
Producing Carly King (January 2019) Being a part of Carly King’s music has been one of the most special opportunities as a producer. She is a force! This year, we got to work on a couple singles, “We All Need Loving” and “Lily of the Valley.” I am so proud of this friend, and the values and beliefs she is continuing to embody. The photo above is from arranging some string parts on “We All Need Loving.” I produced, engineered, and mixed this music.
Producing of Elijah Johnston’s “Wonderful” (Jaunary 2019) - One of my favorite projects to date. Being able to be a part of Elijah Johnston’s first studio EP was a treat. Such beautiful music. You can listen to it here.
Ryan Carr and Brandon Hampton play on “Never A Waste” (February 2019) In feb my dear friends Ryan Carr and Brandon Hampton came all the way to Athens to help perform drums and bass and add some additional producing on my album. We worked on my songs, “My Time Will Come” “Reasons Why” “Tethered” and “Humility.” Can’t begin to describe how thankful I am for them!
Producing Brendan Abernathy (February 2019) I have been mentoring Brendan for about three years now. When we first met, he was just finishing his freshman year in college, and decided this year to pursue his dream in music and release his first solo record. I have been so proud of how he is taking risks and going for it. We had so many conversations leading up to it, and it is so encouraging to see him choose a path that requires more risk and faith. Brendan is releasing his music here. I produced, engineered, mixed and played additional instruments on this music.
Producing Jacob Mallow (March 2019) Jacob interned at the studio in the fall of 2018, and over the course of that time became one of the most special people in my life. His story is for him to tell, but I see so much hope in his life and future. When Jacob approached me about producing his EP in the spring, I was delighted. We’ve just recently finished the mixes, but you can hear what Jacob has released here. On the upcoming music, I produced, engineered, mixed and provided additional instrumentation.
Mixing and Producing in April (April 2019) In April, I stared a full length instrumental and poetry album for my friend and poet Artist MD from Tulsa, Oklahoma. I created twelve soundscapes and beats to serve as a backdrop for his poems. This music has not yet released and I didn’t seem to take any film from that week. The above picture is of me and my friend Kevin Dailey, who is is a genius producer and engineer in Nashville. We met through Common Hymnal. I love this guy so much, and he helped mix a lot of my songs on the new record.
Producing Margot Osborne (May 2019) In May, Margot Osborne and Noah Rubin flew all the way out here from Orange County, California to do her EP with me. I was so honored to be a part. This week was one of the most fun weeks I’ve had making records. We ate, drank, made music and played basketball. What more would you want? Margot has begun releasing her music recently and her first single can be found here, which will be followed by a five song EP. I produced, engineered, and mixed this project.
Germany Tour (May 2019) In May, I went on tour in Germany. It was a deeply impactful experience that I stil l don’t quite understand. It was humbling, eye-opening and I believe set something in motion in my life that will change it forever. We met so many incredible people there, and saw some some of the most beautiful sights you could imagine in Europe. Shelby, Kerri and Rawls were crazy enough to go on this adventure with me. Pictured above is our last night in Frankfurt with our friend Jan and Lena.
June and July. This summer has been a lot of mixing, and also a lot of re-evaluating. Again, it’s been such a time of reflection after a busy year… sifting through what is working and what isn’t… what’s been healthy or unhealthy.
SO, WHAT’S NEXT THEN?
This year, I’ve produced 8 EP’s, 2 Full length albums, and a handful of singles - which makes upwards of 70 tracks that I have produced, engineered and mixed. I have also been on the road with Andrew Blooms, Lion’s Den, and Common Hymnal. My studio also has developed somewhat of a consistent internship, where students from the University, or sometimes just curious musicians, get to shadow and help around the studio during projects. So, needless to say - It’s been a busy year. I’ve grown a lot in my craft. I’m proud of how I’ve pushed and reached. I’m happy with the work I’ve made and all I’ve learned.
But as I round the corner of my year, I’m tired. I reflect on how much all of this has cost me. And as cool as it might seem from the photos or instagram or whatever to always be making music and working until the wee hours of the morning… it definitely has come with a price. I began to realize in April or May that ever since I stepped out to do music full time last August, I had put myself on this insane hamster wheel of striving and work. For eight months I never set any boundaries for myself. I had to succeed. I had to make it, no matter what. My work days had no end time… it was just until I was tired. And after doing that for a long time, it caught up to me. I crashed, burnt out, and found myself disillusioned with making music and the original vision I had for myself as a producer. My vision was to serve, to create a safe environment, to encourage and inspire… but after a while I grew weary. I began to resent the very work I loved because I never learned how to say “no” and rest, and trust. But that’s where I want to make my ground zero, and that’s what I’m returning to now.
So as I moved forward, and thank God for every moment and opportunity to make music this year as Andrew Blooms and Bloom Sounds, I want to adjust my posture and return to my work from a place of security, love and trust… not fear and anxiety of where the next opportunity will come from. If anything, this year has made me sick of the perpetual race… the feeling of not doing enough or being enough… or not being as far along as I should be. Whatever that means. I’ve actually taken a part time position doing coffee at my favorite local shop, a choice I made to slow down and to get myself out of the studio a couple days a week. It has been a critical decision, as I’m already a few weeks in and have loved getting to interact with customers and co-workers and delve back into craft coffee. i’m giving myself space to rest, to not constantly be under a mix deadline or pre-production mode for the next album, and have found this decision to be such a healthy one for me right now.
I am expectant for my album to come out too. I have been working on it slowly and persistently over the course of the last year, making sure it is coming out just like I envisioned it. I have a feeling, so deep down, that this next album is going to play an important role in our cultural ecosystem. I chose to be extremely honest, and I am hoping it will pull others out of their darkness too, as making the album did for me.
The list of people to thank is endless. If you’ve been in my life, read the blogs, hired me to work with you, believed in me, but most of all just been my friend… thank you!
Here’s to year two.
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:
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.
Saw the time stamp of the last post I shared while in Germany. Over a month since I’ve sat down to share on this medium. I don’t think I’m going to actively share this one on socials and email… but maybe it’'ll be just the right few of you to stumble upon it and hopefully what I’m about to say brings out some value somewhere. Even if just for me.
It has taken so much resolve to get myself to this place of writing this blog post. I feel like my tank for sharing and vulnerability just… emptied. Sometime over the last month, I’ve just grown so tired. So tired of trying to keep up online. So tired of sharing. So tired of making sure all my posts and pictures are good enough for people to like. Tired of counting followers. Counting plays. Counting other people’s likes. Just counting. Watching and counting. My body is tired. I’ve found myself dealing with some health issues that have slowed me down and shown me some things I have been neglecting to take care of. Even as I type this, I fight nausea from looking at this computer screen. My mind, my heart… are so stretched.
In short… my soul is catching up to me.
I have found myself in a moment of deep questioning and searching. And as the majority of my energy, focus, and being have all been dumped into making this album I’m working on, here in the last phase of finishing the album… I’m haunted with the ringing question… Why? Why am I doing this? Why do I care so much about this thing? Why do I need it to succeed so badly? And why am I so afraid that it won’t? Do I believe what I’m about to share with you? These are the questions that stop me mid-breakfast…staring into my eggs. I stand outside of the shower soaking , paralyzed in fear… trapped in these insane unknowns.
“Art goes sour when the ego gets involved. It happens slowly overtime…when we forget the initial joy of loving something for the sake of loving it. When art becomes a means to an identity, or when we use our successes to patch up wounds that success was never meant heal, we lose sight of art’s beauty. When art becomes a competition instead of a nuanced language to be celebrated, we forget the power of our own uniqueness and the specialness hidden in our own voice, as our efforts become aimed at becoming the best instead of becoming our true selves. Then, when we become the best, we begin to see people around us as either threats or servants to our own ego, rather than stories to learn from. We lose the art of living and the art of relationship. We lose the heart and we lose the love we so innocently began the adventure with.”
The truth is… I have suddenly and rapidly found myself struggling deeply in my life. As I have committed to facing the truth about myself and my world, this is another step in the process. There are many layers to me, and why I am the way I am. There’s so much amazing stuff in there, and also so much mess. I am digging deeper and uncovering more layers as to who I am and who I am supposed to be. The recent weeks have not been a joy, but rather bleak, heavy, and humbling. I am not all I thought I was.
But this also means I might be way more.
A sneak peak of what’s going to be on the new album. Here’s a little live performance of a new song, and title track of the record… “Never A Waste.”
Helllooooo everyone! Hello me. It’s late here in Braunshcweig, about 2AM as I write this. We have just arrived this evening, after quite a drive from Paris this morning. I’m kicking myself to sit down, reflect, and share a little bit on my blog. I am so thankful for all of your support and being excited with me for this opportunity to be here… so I wanted to be sure to share this with you guys. I am learning each step of the way and having a lot of fun out here. We haven’t played any shows yet, the first being tomorrow. Since arriving, we have been to Paris and driven through the French and Belgian countrysides to arrive tonight in Germany. Here are a few nuggets.
Our first stop after arrive in Paris at around noon was to meet Matt Marvine downtown. Matt works for Integrity Records and is a Pastor in France. He took us to Crepes and told us about his life and what he feels like he is supposed to do in Europe in regards to music. It was refreshing to hear his love for his people and God. I was inspired from our lunch to think more deeply and care more… just about everything. I felt like we got spoiled because we didn’t have to fumble through ordering from the menu (though) we still did… and we felt so welcomed here. Then, later that evening… we saw this:
An obvious highlight. It is something you couldn’t even explain. When I saw the Eeiffel Tower I had a true, soul moving experience. Again… it’s something no words or pictures could explain. It just simply felt insane. I can see why Paris is portrayed as a romantic place now. I couldn’t understand it before I was here… but something about the beauty, the history and the environment makes you think about love. And as I much as I love Shelby and Kerri… I couldn’t help of think of what it’d be like to be in this place with your person. What a thing to do. I’ve thought about love a lot. Maybe I’ll share in extra credit if I can stay awake until then.
Today, we got up and left Paris and drove to Germany. I dread long drives, but this one was the most beautiful drive I’ve ever taken. We ended up taking the GPS’s suggested route to avoid toll roads, and it took us through the most incredible towns and rural roads. This picture is us after finding some delicious Pain Au Chocolat in Peronne somewhere up in Northern France. as we continued our drive to Germany. This is again, something that I couldn’t even explain… but the scenery was so moving and refreshing. I was experiencing something truly remarkable.
After driving through Belgium, we decide to stop in Calogne to take a look at the Cathedral and have some German food. We ended up having Schnitzel and Kolsch. After that, we continued our drive to arrive here three hours later.
(fast forward a day). We played our first event on Sunday evening at Tom’s church. Tom is an amazing guy I met in Athens when he was working for Habitat Humanity there. I think that was three or four years ago. It’s crazy how our paths have crossed again. Tom helped set up the shows and has opened up his family’s home for us to stay at here in Braunschweig. Tom is a part of Braunschweig Friedenskirche, a local church here, and we were invited to play at their evening service called Fiesta. We played a mixture of modern worship songs, Lion’s Den songs, and one of my own, “Humility” at the end of the service. Honestly, I got really nervous beforehand… thinking to myself… oh wow what have I done. But as we were leading worship, I was able to catch a glimpse of something truly beautiful. Folks from all across the world… literally, singing songs together and praising God. This was an incredibly special moment, as I was able to witness that vastness of God and even see how music could truly be a universal language. We met some really amazing people at the Braunschweig Church, Lukas and Hannes even joined us and were part of the band!
EXTRA CREDIT: EVERY PATH’S END
My favorite and most scary part of doing this. But also the reason why I like to blog and share about my experience. As cool as the sights and experiences are, I believe there is something more valuable to share. The painful, difficult and growing dynamics that are happening beneath the surface… this is what binds all of us together, and really what makes experiences like this one worth any while. The extra credit:
It’s nothing like I expected. It’s nothing like it seems to you. The stuff you see online, the videos and pictures and the “this is so amazing” parts… Is all good and really true, but it’s not the full truth. It’s not that I am not thankful to be here, or that I’m feeling like I’m in some ways lacking, not at all… in fact thinking that would just be plain stupid. I mean yesterday we drove through rural France. But, I believe, there are things to learn from this experience. Deep, meaningful things to learn and things to grow out of. And something that we may have begun to understand by now is the fact that all growth requires death. It requires stretching. discomfort. destruction of ego. destruction of pride. It’s all very painful.
I am being confronted with a challenge within myself to take a look at the why behind the things I do. Why do I do music? Why did I come to Germany? Why do I write songs? Why do I play shows? And for some reason, behind all the way out here… away from all my comfort and familiarity, surrounded by insecurities, doubts, and fears… the question “why” has been raised so loud to a point where I had to begin to answer. It is terrifying to be honest with myself about this, as I have begun to bravely look at my selfishness. So much of what I do, how I think, how I portray myself to you…is all about me. It’s all for me. Every road, paved towards myself. To fulfill my dreams, to fulfill my desires and my need to be somebody in this world.
So many of my pursuits are an illusion, wrapped up in Godly and righteous looking language and facade to fool you into thinking I’m a more amazing, talented, righteous, or loving person than I really am. Something about being here has slowed me down, and has allowed me to look at myself directly in the eyes. It has allowed space for God to speak to me and meet me in my stillness and weakness.
Before our first show in Braunschweig, I thought for a few moments that everything I had tried to do was in vein. I was haunted with this question, “why the heck am I even here? Why did you try to do this tour in Germany in the first place?” I was riddled with anxiety and shame as I realized… Wow. I did this whole thing… I brought my friends over here, routed the shows, made cool graphics, shared it on instagram, posted stuff about it… for me. So you would love me. So you would see me. So you would be impressed by me. So you would admire me. And within a matter of moments, my soul broke. My heart broke. and in a moment of deep fear, thought… “wow, this whole thing is going to be a complete waste… all bout you.”
But you know what’s so amazing about us as people with a choice? And also the incredible grace of God? Is that we have the opportunity to humble ourselves, listen, and respond to love. True love is the invitation into something more fulfilling and meaningful. Something that will heal our own lives and in turn heal the world around us. Love is a different path. And in that church service in Braunschweig, God met me with so much grace and began to lead me into something new. He blessed us with the incredible experience of being loved by the church community, getting to spend time with them, learn from them, and just observe the dynamics of their friendships and mindsets. If you want to be humbled, experience unconditional love and hospitality… these are things that these folks have modeled and challenged me with.
I am coming to terms with the harsh reality that I am a product of a “me first” environment. One that values self over any other thing. America, as I’ve experienced, idolizes success, productivity, and influence… above connection, community and hospitality. Everyone is fighting for a spotlight as if it’s going to heal them. We are desperate for attention and meaning. Being here is illuminating these things in my heart in a reckless fashion. It’s so obvious.
But as I’m being broken over my own motives, I find healing. I find grace. I have time to grow. I have time to readjust and I’m not held to my moments of selfishness. And though, if I were honest with you, so many of the paths coming into Germany were about me… it can change. I can change. My heart is clay and not stone. And it is a privilege to change and to admit these things, to you and to myself… because then, I find the chance to begin again. I want every path in my life to end at others and to end at God. I want to continue the hard work of giving my life away, even in my motivations. I want to be the kind of person who slowly repaves my roads to go away from me… to point to someone greater, to point to something more meaningful and beautiful. I want to take part in the world’s healing, even if it’s just to a few people. And I’m realizing now, that it’s a lot harder to do that when I’m designing everything around me to fulfill my own dreams and desires. And what’s most incredible about this is that even as I’ve pivoted a few degrees in my heart, made the slightest change in direction… I can already feel love grow for the world around me. As I shift the focus and attention off of me.. I see God. I see the people in my life. I see my neighbor. And in this outward position, I find true healing.
Where do your path’s end?
A photojournal, if you will. Last week, I ventured up to Nashville to reconnect with some good friends and work on my record. I am in the “mixing” stage of the album, which is the process that happens after everything is written and recorded. Mix engineers take the raw audio of the song and polish it up, balance it, and create a general sound. It’s like giving a chef a bunch of ingredients to make into a meal. Chef Kevin Dailey is helping mix three of my songs, and I spent a week with him in his studio. We had a blast last week, and was a much needed change of scenery. I got to see one of my favorite bands at the Ryman, went fishing, accidentally broke into someone’s air bnb, went to a soiree, ate tons of Pho, and played a show in Muscle Shoals, AL and met some new incredible friends. There was too much strangeness, fun, and spontaneity to try to describe in words…
So without further adieu, my photojournal.
So thankful for these people being along for the ride. Here, we are at Kevin Dailey’s studio, working on some mixes.
Death Cab For Cutie at the Ryman
Meeting Arvid from Denmark, seeing brother Brandon again, and taking this smoothie mustache picture strangely initiated by Malcolm Du Plessis.
We found ourselves at a live recording at Layman Drugs, where this beautiful Tree Audio console lives.
The Common Hymnal Soiree. Arvid shares some of his beautiful songs with us.
Fishing in Franklin. I told my Brit that on my first cast I would catch a fish. And I did!
After my week of mixing in Nasvhille, I took a quick drive south to play a show at The Chapel in Sheffield, AL. There, I was greeted by some of the warmest and most hospitable people I have ever met! The show took place in this beautiful old chapel, and it was one of those experiences I will never forget. Special shoutout to Andrew (not me) for hosting the show and inviting me out and Daniel Smith for opening up the show. We all even stayed a couple hours after to just sing together. Through this time in Sheffield, I was reminded to slow down, spend time with the people in front of you, and just to enjoy every experience you find yourself in. What a gift.
I’m wrapping this one up quickly, as I am about to leave for Atlanta to pick up my friends Margot and Noah, who have come all the way from Southern California to make a record with me! Margot’s songs are beautiful and it will be an honor to work on them with her and Noah.
A week from today, I go to Germany to play a little 8 show tour with my best friends. A lot of fun news there for sure.
Thanks for reading!
Over a month since checking in for real. They are redoing our roof today at the house so, no recording and no listening. A Blessing in disguise. I wanted to take a second a write a little update about what’s been going on in my world, and all the lessons hidden in everything around. Some big. Some small.
I turned 26 this month. What a thought to be closer to 30 than I am to 20. I still feel 22 in most ways, just with more responsibility and less safety nets. Less people who are checking in on me, less people pushing me to grow. The world grows bigger and less attentive to my problems. Old things dying, pushed into their graves by the new and the unknown. It’s almost as if over the last three years, I’ve set out on an adventure of my soul… learning about what’s really in there, and figuring out who I am when no one’s looking/watching or caring. It’s a terrifying journey, but such a crucial one. As I’ve unturned the stones in my own heart, I’ve found more treasures and more bugs than I could have ever imagined… and am thankful that I’ve uncovered those dark places. Because it is true what they say… what is brought into the light loses its power.
I am continuing to work slowly and carefully on “Never A Waste”. I looked at my google calendar and saw my original release dates for everything. HA! What was I thinking?! I was hoping to have this out by late March of this year, but as it turned out, I am needing much more time and space to create this work the way I want. I have finished one song, which I believe will be the single, and am exploring the master now. I am finishing tracking on the second “batch” which I will have mixed in Knoxville and Nashville. Next week, I’m going to spend a week up in Nashville mixing a few of the songs from the record with my friend Kevin Dailey, who I look up to very much. I can’t wait for this week of exploration and growth. The others are being mixed by Garrett Sale who is killing the game so far! Originally, I was going track, perform and mix everything, but I have realized the value of letting it go and letting some fresh ears hear the songs at that point. As I’ve already experienced, it is easy to get overly obsessive with small details of the process and you can easily start to feel like you’re going crazy. It’s like trying to put together a puzzle where if you move one piece, all other 999 move slightly too… and eventually you realize it will never be truly done. Sounds fun right? Making an album is both the best of and worst of times.
But all that aside, I am learning how to wait and how to be patient during this process. I always want things to happen overnight, but am being forced to slow down, work slowly and faithfully, and not rush the end product. What’s hard is that I’m just so excited for everyone to hear this album. I believe in these songs and what they might mean to some people out there! So, thanks for waiting with me yall, I think it will be worth it.
The studio is boomin. I have a lot of incredible projects on the horizon that I am excited to work on and so far in 2019, I have been blown away at the specialness of this place. I’ve gained some of my best friends through this studio and have had some incredible moments with my artists. The house has become a little cocoon of creation. I’ve spent hours and hours and hours in this room, mining into new things with my friends, discovering sounds, discovering new thoughts and new ways of creating. I am watching the people around me blossom, take risks, and really go for it with their music and it is such an honor to be a small catalyst in those steps.
Extra Credit: Ups & Downs
In the spirit of vulnerability, sharing life, and sharing lessons… my extra credit as always. (If you’re new to the blog, I try to include little extra credits at the end of each post, as a reward to the readers out there). I had an experience last week where I broke in half. Right in the middle of everything going seemingly “well,” I had a moment where all the things I had taken on and said “yes” to, overwhelmed me and brought me to my knees. I woke up last Thursday, went to the studio as usual, and then my mind began unraveling. I began to think about all the things I had to get done, all the people I had to answer to, all the things I was dropping the ball on, and all the people I would eventually disappoint. And in that moment, all of these things I hadn’t tended to in my spirit came in all at once and I felt like I couldn’t breath, think, or wrap reasoning around my worries. It was like a tunnel was coming in around my mind and I was paralyzed. This was such an awakening moment for me, as I realized, I had given every last inch of myself away to the people around me, to planning things, and to the tasks at hand. I was burnt to a crisp. So from there, I took some time away from work and from my phone and computer and tried to understand what was happening. This never happens to me…I’m not an “anxiety” person. I’m a happy person. I can handle all things… and on and on and on… trying to run from the truth about what just happened. And I’m still doing that. But, all this to say, I’m in a process right now of learning that more is not always better, and that if I don’t rest, I will crash. And in a larger sense, being at peace with the Ups & Downs of life. It is just inevitable. This is a part of it. Sometimes we get broken down. It happens. But these are wonderful opportunities to take steps back, re-evaluate, and adjust. It is actually a good thing to come to the end of yourself, to be brought to your knees, to realize your inability and your limits, because it is there that God meets us in a really special way. The journey of growth is a see-saw between being shattered and being pieced back together. It’s as if the same pot needs to be shattered over and over again, the shards growing smaller and smaller, to increase its resolution. This is the process that we are in, the tearing down and the building back up.
I’ve learned to have grace for myself in these times. When I find that I’m not all that strong or wise or awesome as I thought I was. When I don’t have control. When I get overwhelmed and when I get frustrated. These times are the soil for something stronger to grow. I am learning to not despise the ugly and desperate parts of me, but to pay attention to them and to be attentive to the ways they leak out of me or in this case, break me down suddenly. I commit the breaking of my life to God and trust that He, as He always has done, will work through me.
There is so much fear surrounding the reality of who we are in our present state: in process. It is every person’s reality. It’s yours, and it’s mine. Learning how to live, learning what’s good, learning who we are. I’m terrified of what you might think of the confused, weak, and ugly parts of me. I’m terrified of seeming like I don’t know exactly what I’m doing. I’m afraid that if I have weak moments like I did last week, that that’ll become what you think of me. I’m afraid to admit, even to myself, that I’m not so perfect after all. But as I take a moment to remember where I was was, where I am now, and where I hope to be going, I am comforted because I see the process of my life and how everything has led me here, which helps me understand that every difficult thing before me now is also leading me forward… and that’s how it all ties together. So whether it is I am up or I am down, I move forward regardless. God moves me forward. The river moves me forward. And this is how it goes.
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)
3/22 - Backyard Boogie (Athens)
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
4/19 - The Chapel (Sheffield, AL)
Forcing myself to sit down and write. The last few weeks have been jam packed with so much. Leading worship with my friends, a lot! Producing… a lot! and working on the album… a lot! It’s been so go, go, go that I wanted to take a second away from the studio and all that and just write about the deeper things I feel like are happening in this time. I have such a sense of God’s guiding and nudging right now, and have been observing Him move all around me in my friends and community. As my friends and I have gathered often recently to share life, whether it be eating dinner, making cheese boards, leading worship, or recording music… this theme of humility seems to be on the forefront of our conversations, and seems to be a thread that connects all of us right now. I am trying to unpack it.
A couple weeks ago, we were celebrating my friend Blake’s birthday. And we forced Blake to tell us what he was proud of in his own life, and he said “I’m proud that I never took the easy way out.” And this sentence has been following me, stirring deep inside me, and filling me with so much hope and gratitude, all at the same time. This sentiment woke me up to something, and I felt like it shook me a little bit… and it was in that moment I began to realize the value behind that choice, and how lucky I was to be surrounded with friends like Blake. Since that time at dinner, I began to look at all my friends and community that I have here in Athens - and have really just been in awe of what God has done and what He continues to do in our lives… and how one things binds us all… the choice to take the hard way through. None of us are perfect by any means, but, we are committed to figuring things out, working through our own pains and messes, and surrendering more and more to God as time goes on.
I’ve been thinking, humility can be defined in so many ways and has many facets, but what I am observing and feel like God is showing to me and my friends is that a lot of humility is the willingness to throw everything you once thought you knew to the wind. If we aren’t aware and constantly humbling ourselves, we can begin to cling to ideals and thoughts about God, ourselves, and the people around us as absolute truths. Then, when our lives and experiences challenge those ideals, instead of being open to change, we discount them. In our pride, we begin to build our walls. To keep the uncomfortable out and to keep the familiar in. And sometimes, we start putting those people or ideals into a category that is “beneath us.” And this is a really scary place to be. In any moment that we think we know the entire answer about a person or situation, humility has left us. In any moment that we find ourselves thinking, “I’ve already learned this” or “I am better than this,” humility has left us. When we stop asking questions. When we stop serving. When we stop learning. Our humility is gone.
As I’ve grown into my mid twenties, I’ve seen enough people give up already. I’ve seen so much compromise. I’ve compromised. I’ve seen friends lose hope. I’ve seen friends close their doors forever. I’ve seen friends walk away from God. It’s hard to see that. It’s hard to realize that I’m right there too a lot of the time. But, after thinking about this and observing it over the last few weeks, I’ve come to realize the common denominator between all my friends who’s lives are dynamic and growing in depth, character, and genuine impact. It’s not their strength, charisma, prestige, or platform or anything like that… It’s simply their humility. It’s their awareness that they themselves are the least of these, that they don’t and won’t ever have it all together, and they still have much to learn. It’s their willingness to go through the process of life patiently, even when they can’t see results every day. It’s their slow growth in the same direction, inches at a time. It’s their resolve to do the right thing when no one is watching. It’s their unwavering commitment to hope, even as the tides of life continually try to rip it away from them.
I am not sure all of this fell together quite as clearly as I had hoped but, I think at the end of it, I just wanted to share this beautiful realization: Just keep going. Don’t give up. It will be worth it. I’m in a position right now where I can just see really clearly all the fruit that comes from not giving up. All around me, and all around my friends who have prioritized serving God and following God above everything else, through thick and thin. If you could see who they are becoming, you’d see that it’s worth it. Don’t get me wrong: It’s really hard. like really really hard. And sometimes you look around and go, am I an idiot? But man, if you could see just what kind of young men and women I know and I get to go on adventures with and live life with, you would know it’s worth it. Our time is spent serving, exploring creativity, laughing until we can’t breathe, loving each other, leading our community, making meaningful memories… making histories… we’re not just wasting time or filling our moments with nonsense waiting for the next season to save us. We’re alive, we’re being changed, we’re moving forward. We’re being formed into who we were meant to be. In so many ways, my friends are saving my life. Watching them grow with God through every season has given me a hope to do the same.
In this moment I can perceive two paths. One of continual humbling, bending, breaking, and renewal - all happening simultaneously, which leads to a broken heart’s revival that pumps life into emptiness that surrounds it. The other path: one of bitterness, confusion, constant striving, constant reaching and ultimately leading to a life where possibility, light and love are choked out and change is no longer possible. Would we be so brave as to continue to submit ourselves to the hand of God, the invitation to a childish dance, and to the idea that we have yet a ways to go but even then, we are in motion. Would we continue to choose the hard way through - loving justice, committing to truth, and yielding to the gentle hand of Jesus that molds us as we continue to soften our hearts. Would we grow in wisdom but not in pride, yielding the lessons we learn along the way as gifts, that we never earned, to be shared with the world around us. Would we learn to be quick to forgive, quick to hope, and quicker to love, taking the first step towards the people around us. Would we no longer wait for the our fractured environments to suddenly heal themselves before we offer ourselves fully to become a part of the solution. Would we choose to live in a downward direction, knees buried in the ground as a symbol of the position of our hearts towards each other, honoring each other above ourselves. How wonderful an opportunity that awaits each person - to trade yourself for something greater. To lay down your life in thought and deed so that something greater might come from it. Would we continue to believe.
Would we live in humility, taking the hard way through.
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!
We’re already almost through January. Man, time is flying. I just wanted to give everyone an update about what’s been going on recently, what I’m learning and what I’ve been up to! It’s been a second since I’ve taken the time to write and update, so here we go!
In producing world, I’ve been off to a busy start in 2019. This month, I’ve been working on Zac Crook’s new single “Waves,” The Little Strong’s single “We All Need Loving,” and Elijah Johnston’s first studio EP, “Wonderful.” I am so thankful to be able to work with these people I get to call friends. Their music is honest, meaningful, and are going to do some real good out there. I am encouraged as I continue to dig into the art of producing, engineering, and mixing. I feel like with each project, I grow just a little bit more, gaining new insights and experience into the craft. It’s sometimes frustrating because I wish I could apply the things I learn retrospectively, but this just isn’t the case. Always the next one. A good reminder that I keep telling myself is that the road to being able to master a craft is a process, and that all I can really ask of myself is to be teachable, humble, and improving with every project. And the process is also supposed to be fun and wonderful (full of wonder). So, I continue to remind myself to enjoy the ride no matter what. Anyway, Zac’s single has already released on all platforms. You can stream it here! I feel like I was able to hit a new level in the mixing game with this one, and am super proud of it. As far as future projects, God is providing just the right opportunities in just the right time, as he always does. I’ve got some really exciting things lined up over the next few months that I can’t wait to share. Here are some photos from this month!
The album is coming along. Slowly as ever, but surely too. I’ve been really busy producing other projects, so I feel like I haven’t had too much time to continue working on the record. But, I chip away at it most chances I get. Yesterday, I finished a new song that I think will make the record. I’m really excited about this song, as I feel like I’m saying something worthwhile that hasn’t been said in this fashion too much. I am continuing to stick to my mission as an artist and as a person - the share the truth no matter what, and I think this new song “Reasons Why” does that for me. I can’t wait to start digging into this song and its arrangement.
There’s something different about this album I’m making. It just feels different. I think there is just a little more weight to this one than the others for some reason. I am typically a really quick worker. I like to throw things down and not mess with them too much after that. But I find myself really thinking deeply into every detail and every facet of this project. I am considering each word and part. I haven’t struggled too much in the past with releasing music and being afraid that it isn’t me, but for some reason, I’m really struggling with this one. But, if there’s anything I’ve learned is that resistance often proceeds something really important… so I’m just going to stick with that and keep grinding.
Again with the extra credit. This is the section at the end that I like to share some of the things I’m navigating and learning through. Learning is hard. Lessons are hard to learn, but they’re so worth it. Today’s extra credit has a lot to do with the song I wrote this week. The song is called “Reasons Why” and was birthed out of a pretty frustrated place. Sometimes, I get really down about people - our hypocrisy, our weakness, and our inability to do completely good. I am sure to emphasize that I say “our” because I’d consider myself first on the list. But it happens from time to time for me - where I see another person I look up to fail, or I hear of yet another divorce, or I see people being deceived or abused… and it just makes me wonder about all this hope, love and faith stuff. All this God stuff. Like, is He even real? is He even there? How can He be real if Christians look like this, or if the world looks like this? Wake up Stupid! Or is faith one big illusion I live in? Like some weird joke played on the gullible and childlike parts of my spirit? The pain I experience makes me want to throw in the towel and stop trying, cause why even hope or try when I know I’m going to fail, or the world is inevitably going to fall short every time? These are important questions. We shouldn’t be afraid of these conversations. I’ve come to learn that my faith grows deeper as I process these doubts and fears and actually, grace and love grow on the other side. One of my prayers recently is for a pure heart - one that is far from bitterness, envy, or dishonesty. And as I’ve pursued this, I feel like it has forced me to face all the loose ends in my life and in my past, forcing me to forgive them. I think the trick is, to be free to enter these questions, doubts and pains, while remaining hopeful and open to how God wants to move in them. What I’ve observed is that people tend to identify problems without offering solutions, and this just makes them bitter and closed off. I think it’s easy to point out whats wrong with life, with people, and our societies/cultures, but it takes true strength, courage and love, to offer solutions and work through those solutions. And what I was trying to process through the writing of my song “Reasons Why,” is the resolve to continue to have faith, hope and love, no matter what darknesses I experience, and no matter how many illusions of “good things” are shattered in my life. One of the ending lines, I sing, “I’d rather be a fool, than bitter and afraid, I’ll stumble through the gates.” And this, is my current course, to keep my head up, work through the issues around me through a lens of belief, even if it kills me - and not letting brokenness dictate my views. One thing I’m learning for sure - when we are broken, God draws near. He’s really close in those times, and it’s our shattered lives that have the most potential to be used.
Keep your head up, AB
A little look into a day at the studio!
Here’s some more process in the studio! I’m recording Humility again to be on the album. I was interested in recording it in a special space versus a traditional studio, so I was exploring what I was able to capture at Wesley. Love this chapel. Enjoy the video!
The first of January 2019. I have just got back home. In the last week I’ve played music in St. Louis, Marietta, and Atlanta, making some incredible memories doing what I love with people I’m falling more in love with. My entire back hurts from sitting in a car, driving, playing guitar, and jumping around like a crazy person last night with Family and Friends. But, with that,I feel so incredibly blessed. I am sitting even now, remembering to be deeply grateful for this amazing life and these special opportunities that I hope I will always perceive as gifts.
I wanted to share a few thoughts as we head into 2019. It is almost impossible to escape reflection and dreaming on the new year, as the renewing of the calendar beckons an invitation into the possibility of change, second chances, and a renewal of our very lives. My mind has been exploding with hope for the future, despite all of the uncertainties and pains that, I realize now, will always be a part of living. As I have been reflecting and taking an honest look into my own life, I thought I would share this one idea that I desire to pursue as I continue growing and living. I thought that this might be a beneficial contribution to the focussing in on forward movement, goal setting, and resolution that confronts us every Jan 1. And here it is.
I am coming to terms with my own deep brokenness. I am absolutely wounded. There are things that I simply cannot do. I limp through my life, and I always have. There are things about myself that I can’t look at. There are so many things that I wish were better. I have thoughts and desires that scare me - the kind that might make you scoot a few feet down the pew away from me at church on Sunday. And for so much of my life I’ve been running away from the mess I have created out of my life. I’ve been trying to shove all of the deep pain I experience into a closet somewhere, hoping that it might die on its own. But when you live a life constantly on the run or in hiding, you become numb to it all, and then you forget who you are. But somewhere in the recent weeks, my legs gave out. I couldn’t run anymore. It was like I had tried to run so far from who I really was that I found myself all alone, without any idea of how I got there or how I’d get back. And this is the revelation of the band-aid.
If we are not intentional in our lives about facing pain, sitting in it, accepting it, and surrendering it, we will develop a lifestyle that will cling to the nearest possible fix, no matter how cheap, temporary, or damaging the fix is. We’ll cling for dear life to illusions of freedom and anyone or anything who might ease the pain of our inner worlds. We start taping band-aids over the giant wounds we all have in our souls. And as we continue to replace the band-aids over our lives, the true injury only deepens, and before we know it, our lives cease to function as they were designed to. As I come to a clearing in my own woods, I am able to identity my own band-aids that I’ve been using to mask the deep pain that I have. I will busy myself to all ends, from sun up to the moment my head hits my pillow, avoiding all silence and solitude - knowing that in those moments I will need to wrestle with my loneliness and many insecurities. That’s also why sometimes I drink my way to a different version of myself, because he’s a little more free, funnier, and happier on the surface. That’s why I look at Instagram and criticize people for trying too hard or not trying hard enough. It’s all because I’m afraid to take an honest look at myself. It’s much easier to live in denial. But, I feel like there came a point in my life where the pain of pushing everything under the rug became greater than the pain that was deep inside. The shame of secrets and the shame of being one person in one room and different person in another - it all caught up to me. The truth had to find it’s way to the surface.
As I reflect on what I’m going through and think ahead to what kind of life I want to live, I have decided to renew my commitment. I’ve made a promise to myself to square up to the reality of who I am - all that is good, and all that is ugly. I no longer get to look at some things about myself and ignore the parts that I don’t like, because I know no more than ever that things don’t just fix themselves. I’m learning to love it all and have grace for it all. It’s weird, the more I’ve come to accept who I really am, the more I love myself, and the more powerful I feel over my vices. Grace is the most powerful asset I have.
And as I’ve processed, I’ve begun to identify my band-aids and peel them off. Not in the slow, careful way - but in a fashion that screams, “just get it over with.” This has looked like some hard conversations, goodbyes, new habits, and a lot of patience. It’s been silence - observing the beauty outside my window instead of watching Netflix, or driving without music, appreciating the sky or just the feeling of movement of the car. It’s been relationship - spending time with people and enjoying it for what it is, not needing every relationship to produce some sort of utility. It’s been taking a crap and leaving my phone in the living room and just being a normal, human being, who craps in silence without needing to be constantly distracted from my own life. Now, when I hear someone say something that makes me feel insecure or jealous, I take time with it after and seek the truth, not bullying myself for having those feelings in the first place. It looks like opening up space in my life to commune with God, hear His voice, listen. Like, really listen, as if my life depended on it. And I believe now that it does.
I’m identifying and exposing my wounds - ones that were left by my family, my failures, and my own dumb decisions. I’ve stopped hiding and trying to find the temporary fixes to my pain. And in the first moments of the wounds being exposed, the pain is tremendous. It’s uncomfortable, it’s shameful, as you are naked. But as I’ve continued to walk in that way, the wounds have slowly begun to heal. Truly heal, from the inside out. I feel like I have a second chance, yet again, to decide who I really want to be at the end of the day. I feel like a new creation. I feel the beauty in all of life and feel hope deep inside of me. The thesis is: God cannot heal what is kept in the dark. This is more true for me than it ever has been. So, going forward - may I live with a heart wide open with nothing to hide, no matter what it is. There is so much comfort knowing that each and every one of us is truly screwed up from the core, but what keeps me going is remembering the great journey, and that there is hope for a runaway like me. Hope for a joyful ending, a fruitful and worthwhile life, the possibility to change and grow, and the complete redemption of all that I have destroyed.
Here’s to the future, without band-aids.
Hey everyone! I wanted to check in quickly, give an update on how the album is coming, and share some photos! I just came back from a beautiful trip to Portland and California. I was so happy to be reunited with old friends and family. Out there, I filmed a couple of videos of the new songs in some really special places with some really special people. It’s taking so much self control to not leak any photos, but man it was so perfect.
This week’s mission has been to work on my songs “Whenever You Want” and “Changes” at my friend Andrew Ratcliffe’s place. Andrew is opening a recording school in Athens and has become one of my closest friends and mentors in town. He’s really opened my eyes to the power of community within music and has challenged me to grow more open-handed with my life. Andrew has been instrumental in the making of this recording, allowing me to play with some amazing gear and providing some state-of-the-art tools that I get to use and house in the home studio.
On Sunday, I joined forces with Andrew once again, along with Tom Ryan (Panda), to track the rhythm sections for the two songs. We met up at Andrew’s place and discussed arrangements, sounds, and drum parts. I wanted “Whenever A Waste” to be a force, combining electric guitars, electric basses and acoustic instruments with some synth basses and drum loops. What I’ve got is pretty cool, I think. Or maybe its too crazy. Im in the process of reducing the arrangement down to the most important parts. For “Changes,” I’m thinking its going to come out pretty straight forward, influenced a lot by The Head and the Heart and The Lumineers type sounds with acoustic guitars and bent out pianos. I’m excited about how these are coming out. Panda laid some incredible bass parts under all the songs that really anchored them.
Here are some more photos from our session!
Extra Credit: It’s short and sweet today cause it’s 6:30, I’ve been working all day, and all I want to do right now is go play basketball. So I’m going over to the gym of ages (YMCA) to get this bread. But the thing I’m wrestling with and realizing more is the power of charing and creating a community. There’s so much in me that is adverse to giving away to others - whether its my resources, time or efforts. It’s so I protect myself from being used. But I’m slowly learning, and I’ve been learning this my whole life, the joy of weaving my life with those around me. I want to learn the joy of giving freely, I want to make room for family to happen. And it goes against all of my fears and my knee-jerk protection modes. But, the more I think about it, the more I really come to realize that nothing is my own doing. I’ve earned nothing, I don’t deserve the many blessings I have, and I’ve never been my own provider. With this mindset, I am free to give and give generously. I am walking head first into this because I believe it’s the better way to live… burns and all. So the extra is incredibly simple - give it all away.
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!
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!
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:
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.
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
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!
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.
10:14PM as I write this. I have just finished a long but fulfilling Sunday. This morning, was able to reunite at Athens Church with some of my old friends. I have missed those people and that place so much. It’s amazing how time away from a place will fill your heart with gratitude for it. Straight from there filled in running sound for some other friends in the evening, and now taking some time to prepare for the week, reflect on my present, and catch you guys up on what’s going down with my life and my music.
So, for those of you who may have missed the last post, I have officially started working on my next album. It’s going to be called “Never A Waste,” and is going to contain nine songs I’ve been working on over the last year. A couple are actually older! I think I’ve dug to a new depth in myself and in my art. These are the most vulnerable group of songs I think I’ve ever created, though its pretty jarring to think that they might live forever in someone’s car or earphones, it’s still absolutely amazing to me that I get to share my heart in recordings.
I’ve been a demo fiend. I have enjoyed working in the new home studio. The energy, the light and the space are beautiful and inspiring. I am finding it easy to get into my rhythm here. I’ll make a tea, or get a good coffee and get lost in the process. Over the past few weeks, I’ve spent hours exploring sounds, finding new expressions, and playing things I’m not so used to - trying to find new voices. It’s all so fun. And though the hours are long and making music can often be a tedious and frustrating process - I always have to remind myself to have fun and that it is, when you think about it, actually really a gift. That’s something I’ve had to fight for as I’ve begun doing music full time… to remember that music was first my love, then my job. It’s easy to forget the love part when it’s hard or you’re tired of listening to/making/editing music. But anyway, the songs are shaping up beautifully. I’ll burn demos to a CD and just drive around town, thinking of different parts or sounds in my head. Then I’ll try to create those same feelings later, then just build slowly from there.
One thing I’ve wanted to do this time around was to collaborate with artists who have inspired me and those who I want to emulate in my creativity. My last record, “From My Window To Yours” was created completely in cave-Huang…and while that was a good process at that time, has made me really miss the joy of creating with others. My involvement in Common Hymnal and Lion’s Den has shown me so much of the value of working together and inviting people into the creative process. It’s all about family and relationship.
This past year, some amazing pathways have opened up in my life - that I cannot be more thankful for. I feel so lucky. Later this week, I’ll be going to Knoxville to record with Will Reagan and Brandon Hampton, who have been musical heroes of mine since my first year in college, almost seven years ago. The recordings and the culture they have modeled have been life-changing for me, truly. I remember listening to one of United Pursuit’s first records my freshman year at UGA and saying to my friend in the car, “It’s like the Holy Spirit is coming right out of the speakers!” And their music has always been this way - pushing the envelope in the most honest way, somehow breaking through to some new ways to express their faith, journey, and relationship with God. Their records have always been a guide for my creative and spiritual journey… and this week we’re going to work on some of my songs together at Will’s new studio. I am actually so nervous, but in a way I am nervous before something deeply important is about to take place - I feel like a very surreal dream is coming true right before my eyes. I’ve been such a student of theirs for so long, and to be to able to create with them is such a dream come true. I want to soak it all up and revel in the moment. I’m taking my friends Abe and Gray as sidekicks, it’s going to be such a great time with friends from all over. I will be tracking in Knoxville on Thursday and Friday, working on my song “My Time Will Come” and perhaps another tune if time permits. I am so excited to learn from both Brandon and Will, but am also excited to leave town and be immersed in a completely different place. It’s like getting to create from a completely clean slate. I’m going into the session with a much looser idea than I am comfortable with. I typically demo the living boogers out of a song so when I show up to the studio there’s nothing left to work on - nervous habit I guess! But this time, I’ver purposefully left a lot of room for Will and Brandon’s approach, as they might here these songs in a really unique way. I am excited to see how all of our minds collaborate together to create a mixture of vision, perspective and sound. So, definitely more new to come form this! I’ll probably post some photos later and some instagram stories along the way.
extra credit: Here’s my extra credit. The nuggets hidden at the end of these posts for the brave, focuessed and scholarly readers. This is just how I’m viewing things, often unrelated to music, more related to humans and God, what I’m learning along the way. And here it is. To stay proud is the path of least resistance and little fruit. To stay humble is the path of great resistance and a beautiful harvest. You feel this more and more as you get older. It’s easy to get stuck in your ways - how you think about how the world works, or how people work, how you work, what you think is right, what you think is worthwhile. It is so important to remember that just because we’re used to a certain pattern, way of thinking, or habit, doesn’t make it right. Every time I get hurt by a circumstance, encounter, or person, I feel like my life hardens a little bit. It’s like lava that used to flow freely and passionately turns a little more black and stagnant, not wanting to move again. It’s how I cope with situations and pain that I could never predict or control. I close doors. I turn off the wonder. I turn off the feelings. I stop forgiving. I stop inviting. I turn off my heart. As I experience more life, which, in its very nature, is full of loose ends, pain, and confusion, I feel the hardness compounding against the child inside of me. It happens in tiny ways over a lifetime. It expresses itself in distrust, an unwillingness to listen, and a denial of the things around me. It’s way less painful for me to sleepwalk. It’s way less painful to pay attention. It’s way less painful to shove my issues and challenges under the rug. Did you know rugs can take many different shapes? Alcohol, busy-ness, drugs, ministry, passivity, amazon.com. And this ties to my main realization. Pride is the wide path. Humility is the narrow. Everyone around you feels it, it’s in our DNA - to protect ourselves at all costs - and that means never being wrong. So, what do we do when we have a realization that we have closed off so many doors to possibility, learning and humility that we’ve found ourselves in a 2ft by 2ft room alone in the dark? This is what I’ve concluded for myself. Do the opposite of what you feel. It’s an incredible challenge, but I think it’s very important. Go to the places that you don’t want to go to, talk to the people that you don’t feel like you have time for, and make a space to be uncomfortable. Get outside of your own self and your own problems. Look around you. It’s how we stay young, and it’s how we stay humble. I listen for the whisper that is deep in my heart - to do the hard thing, to take the extra time, to truly listen to someone else and identify with someone or something outside of myself. It’s incredible what happens in our hearts when we choose, especially when we don’t “feel it,” to live outwardly and to be attentive to needs that are not our own.. To be teachable and to be malleable. It’s important to remember that living a whole and worthwhile life is difficult, but always worth it. My advice to the burnt out, bitter, and hardened is this: take a good look at the things you hate doing, and maybe force yourself to do them. If you’re a millennial American, this contradicts your core, because chances are you’ve been raised in an environment that tells you that you only have to do the things you want to do. But, we need to remember the value of doing the difficult things and fighting the path of least resistance. The things that make you the most uncomfortable might hold the key to breaking through to a new found freedom and love in your life. For me, these things include: putting down the guitar to have a real conversation with a friend, going to church and not criticizing every thing that they do, asking God what He still wants to teach me when I feel like I know everything, helping someone who can’t give anything back to me, helping someone who is using me, championing a brother I’m jealous of, praying for my family, asking the world around me what it needs from me and not what it can give me. All these things are goldmines that will release new life around me, if I am willing to wake up to them. I just have to choose to dig deep, to break through the hardness that has built up in my life. I need to remain teachable, open-handed, open-hearted - humble. Humility can be defined in a question: are you willing? Are you willing to be wrong, are you willing to say sorry, are you will to express your gratitude, are you willing to see others as a gift, are you willing to see your whole life as gift, are you willing to share, are you will to take the lowest seat. Are you willing?
Let willingness grow. Let pride diminish.
Thank you for reading.