It has been an incredible release week… It has been so cool to hear some feedback from some of you about what this song has meant and how it is speaking into your life. This is my dream come true to know that a little thing I tried to make might have an impact in a few lives around me. Thank you for allowing me the privilege.
For those interested in going one level deeper, I thought I might share the process behind writing and producing this track. If you have been to any of the shows this tour, you may have heard some of this thought process, but for any who have not been able to make a show or hear the song live, I thought I’d give a little insight here! First half is for all the listeners. Second half for those who want to know even more about the production itself.
THE Writing of Humility.
Sometimes you labor over a song for years, and sometimes the song writes itself. Humility was started and finished over the course of a few hours. It was a Sunday afternoon, and I, needing to process and take inventory of my own worries and doubts, went to a local chapel at our Wesley foundation to play the piano. This place, over the years, has been one of the most important places for me to meet with God. I have changed so much over my last 6 years in Athens, yet I still feel the same special way every time I am in there. I have had so many meaningful moments on that piano bench.
“Humility,” in essence is a song with two cries. Trust and repentance. During the time I wrote it, I was battling the loss of many anchors in my life. Quitting jobs, losing close friends, embarking on a brand new tour… It felt like someone took a puzzle and threw all the pieces up in the air. And I, trying frantically to piece it back together, began to worry about my future. I wondered if I would be provided for. I questioned God’s hand on my life. I was so afraid. These doubts spun in my mind and soul, throwing me off balance and causing me to distrust God and myself. But I began to think that day, about humans and about nature… I thought about how capable humans were - able to create cities, make art, design technology, build civilizations and cultures. I thought about how man ruled the Earth, how we were able to understand and conquer our planet, creating amazing things from it. And then, I thought of nature and how nature trumps mankind in this one thing - its ability to be. No tree has ever doubted its purpose, and no river has ever doubted its path, and no mountain has ever complained of its geography. We, as humans, are so powerful… we are masters of our land, architects and pioneers of the unknown… but one thing we have yet to conquer is the ability to live without striving. This comparison was such a massive revelation for me personally that the words just flowed onto the page. It was a prayer that I needed for myself.
I say that this song is a cry for both trust and repentance. For me, it was coming back to God with the realization that I, too, am a part of a grand design. That, just like the trees and the oceans, rivers and mountains, I am in the right place at the right time. It was me saying to the Lord, “If you take care of all this beauty around me, you will surely take care of me. I have no need to worry.” When things get difficult in my life I like to stray. The natural reaction of my spirit when I get disappointed is to find the next best thing. When God doesn’t feel real, I run to substitutes. The writing of this song was my admittance of my wandering and doubt, and a prayer for God to teach me the simple trust that all of nature seems to embody. God, let me grow in my trust for you.
Here are the lyrics to the song if you would like. Next… the nerdy stuff.
THE MAKING of Humility.
This is the part where we get to nerd out about how the song was made. And I would like to share, for any who are interested, my technical and philosophical process behind the production.
I have the privilege of being a able to work at a studio in Athens that houses thousands of dollars worth of pro audio equipment. Often times, you can get lost in the choices. Which pre amp? Which mic? Which compressor? We have mics that are worth thousands of dollars each. I’ve done sessions where we’ve had complicated mic setups and an insane amount of channels recording. Part of me though, as a producer, has wondered sometimes what can be done with what I have at home. Will anyone really notice? What can I make with the setup I already have? There’s a trap for the creatives that causes us to think that the thing stopping creativity is the lack of better equipment… When creativity, in its definition, is doing something with what you have.
I recorded the piano through the computer and the vocal while playing the MIDI keyboard. The song was actually originally just going to be piano and voice. But behold, as one my favorite bands Dawes would call it, the tone-quest began. The only digitally native sound is the piano. The rest are analog signals! The bass and the droning heart-pump notes are created by the amazing MOOG SubPhatty. The pads and swirling noises are experiments in the JUNO-106. I LOVE synthesizers. The guitar tracks are two separate takes of a Jazzmaster panned left and right through some pedals straight into the computer! No amp or amp models were used on those. My friend Shelby Frank, was over with some friends one evening after I tracked the main parts of the song, and we ended up spontaneously tracking her beautiful BGV part on the verses and choruses. In the last chorus, there is a octave pitched lead vocal, and a bunch of Shelby’s that have been doubled, duplicated, spread and reverbed out. That’s what that little army of cherubs is.
The production happened quickly. The energy of the song seemed to form itself. What I had to keep myself from doing was overthinking and overproducing the song. I have a tendency to jam 100 sounds into something to try to make it more complex, when sometimes a simple sound will do! I gave myself a deadline to send to mastering and stuck to it. I think there were only three mix edits for this song. I just wanted to let go of it and let it be. In producing world, I’m figuring out that the feeling is often far more important than all the technical perfects, and sometimes the spontaneous, less thought-out parts of the recording process make something special. I am so happy about how Humility came out and it has been such an exciting and encouraging release. Thank you all for reading and listening, I hope something was beneficial for you!
Special thanks to Shelby Frank for singing on the track and Joel Haedstat for mastering my song. Yall did an incredible job!
Until next time everyone!