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.