Tuesday, December 28, 2010

songwriting and child-rearing

Songwriting is kind of like child-rearing.

A song idea is birthed. At first, your immediate and constant attention is necessary. I have lost many an idea because I left it unattended for too long and upon returning to it, I found that I had forgotten the melody or the hook or the chord progression and whatever life it had was gone.

But if given the proper attention and care, at some point, the idea matures into its own song. You can take it out into public and show it off. Your friends and family will tell you its beautiful. Most other people are too busy with their own lives to really care, though generally they are polite. But at this point, it still cannot exist with out you. It is completely dependent on you...until you record it.

The recording process is a bit like adolescence. It is awkward. It is trying. The song, as it begins to become its own entity apart from you, goes through changes. A lot of changes. Its voice lowers as the bass is added. As the drums are added, it begins to move to its own beat and the rhythm of you and your acoustic is no longer needed. It starts to get strings in weird places. Other people begin to influence it and your opinion isn't the only one in its life anymore. You know how it used to sound, and during the recording process, there are many times you think, "Can't we just go back to the way it was before? I don't know if I like what it is turning into." But you are patient, you give it the benefit of the doubt. Through all the un-EQed, un-compressed, un-mixed parts that have been added, you can still hear your favorite parts about it...even if no one else can. Other people may misunderstand it or not appreciate it the way you do, and that hurts...because it will always be your song.

Near the end of the recording process, you can see the song really begin to mature. It grows into all the abrupt and awkward changes that it went through during the eye of its adolescent storm. It is EQed and compressed and mixed, and you can hear it settle into what it will become. Hopefully, hopefully...it becomes what you wanted for it all along. Sometimes it becomes something infinitely better than you could have ever imagined.

Of course, now comes the hard part. Exciting...but hard. Once the song is recorded, it can go off on its own completely without you. It leaves from the merchandise table, or iTunes, or your websites, and it goes with people you've never met before. It gets in their car with them, goes home with them and you have absolutely no control anymore. You have no control over how they will interact with your song or how your song will interact with them.

It is theirs now as much as it is yours.

It is exciting, because it can do things and say things that it never could have had it remained completely dependent on you. It can go places and touch lives you never could. But it is a weird feeling, because you have zero control over it. It has its own identity. It doesn't need you anymore. It feels like the best you can do is just try and keep up with it.

But...overall...it just an unbelievable blessing to watch it go. And truth be told, it is way better for it to go then for it to be one of those songs that never leaves home.

I say all of this because this past summer a song that I had written called 'A Baby Will Come' was featured in Worship Leader Magazine. It is a Christmas song and for the last few months it seems that a number of churches have performed the song during the Advent/Christmas season. I have received encouraging emails from worship pastors at other churches and various people in their congregations who have been touched by the song. I have received texts and Facebook messages (by way of Betsy) from friends who had recently heard it or found out that I had written it. There are even a handful of churches who have put their version of the song on youtube.

One church in particular I think did a fantastic job with it. The video is below.

I hesitated writing this post. I don't want to seem self-promoting or braggadocios. The truth is...it absolutely boggles my mind. It is so, so humbling. I am not sure I completely understand it, but it is such an unbelievable blessing to see people I don't know choose to rehearse and perform a song that I wrote and then to be told that it blessed them in some way and brought glory to God.

Much like child-rearing, I really have no idea what I am doing when it comes to songwriting. There is no manual. You kind have to just do what you think is best and hope it turns out okay in the end.

And when it does, you feel blessed...but you don't feel like you can take any credit, because truth be told: you are not sure you really had anything to do with it in the first place.


michaelCODY said...

I would imagine that it's all cool until you see that first remix come out.

mollyann said...

If there was a "like this" button on blogs, I would click it. Twice.

The Anonymous Human said...

My favorite Christmas song ever.

Jeph said...

I'll say, man, it's definitely one of the finer songs I own. I wish I could compliment everyone like that, but I can't. It really is a one in a million tune. All songwriters want to put together something like it just ONCE. But it only comes at the right time, in the right way, to the right person.

Enjoy whatever comes your way because of this one song. Right Said Fred did.

equally handsome man said...

I've just listened to 4 different versions from 4 different churches on you tube, and I immediately fast forward each one to the key change, just to see if it's possible that anyone else out there could sing that part as well as Emily.

Answer? Nope.