Day 103: Building Songwriting Blocks

So I’ve had one of those weeks where I really haven’t felt like a songwriter. It’s been almost impossible to fix more than two chords together in any sort of memorable pattern and frankly, it’s getting to me. It reminded me of a post that I wrote a few years ago, so I thought I’d repost it while I still have the time. I hope you don’t mind!

Urgh.

Songwriting in a church context is definitely rewarding. The feeling of hearing our church singing a song that I’ve either written, or had a hand in writing is one of the most rewarding feelings I’ve ever known – In fact, the point that I was probably most close to God in all of 2009 was at a conference we led in Albania, singing a song I helped write called “Jesus Reigns”. It was almost as if God had rewarded the hours of pouring over and reworking that song by transcending both language barriers and cultural differences, as everyone in the room worshipped passionately in the knowledge of who God is. I am so grateful that people could worship to that song with such exuberance! That’s what it’s all about.

Songwriting in a church context, however, is definitely not easy. Looking at some of the lyrics I take most comfort from in times of worship, you’d think it would be an easy thing to do:

“Thank you,
Thank you for the cross,
For the cross”

“You are my strength,
Strength like no other,
Strength like no other,
Reaches to me”

“Jesus, be glorified in the earth,
Be glorified in the earth,
Jesus your name be glorified”

It amazes how such simplicity can be so profound. Yet it’s so difficult to achieve. Musicians don’t ‘do’ simple. It’s almost as if we’re programmed to try and make things as difficult as possible and consequently, we have to train ourselves to keep things simple. I remember my old music teacher always saying “KISS – Keep It Simple, Stupid” and it always stuck with me; only I never fully understood how difficult that really is.

Today, my head and my heart aren’t matching up. I’ve spent the last week researching pick-up replacements for my new Fender Strat, experimenting with pedal board set-ups and amp settings to get the best settings for our ministry times – do I harmonize an octave up with the whammy pedal or pitch shift the whole thing? Do I sacrifice the amazing clean tones of my single coils for humbuckers to get a better distorted sound? Dotted eighth note delay or crotchets? Digital or analogue?

This is all stuff I need to work through, but is it any wonder I’ve got writer’s block? I’m putting my focus in the wrong place. I’m not writing songs about material possessions, I’m writing songs about the Creator of the universe. It really isn’t a complicated truth. I don’t seem to be coming up with any ideas, but maybe if I clear my head and focus on “the one thing” (in the words of Joel Houston), I can smash through this brick wall complete with a simple, yet catchy, lyrically interesting but theologically accurate, musically inspired yet easy to play worship song at the end of it. After all, I can manage simple. After all, it took three of us to write the follow lyrics:

“Jesus reigns, Jesus reigns,
Jesus reigns forever”

Yep. Can definitely manage simple…

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