Sunday, July 24, 2011

Thinking About Songwriting...

I am a Twitter snoop. I don't have my own account. I mooch off of other people's accounts to get into the thoughts and business of people I know & don't know, but greatly respect. There. I've made my confession public.

Tonight I ran across a Tweet from Brian Johnson from Bethel Redding asking worship leaders to post their set worship list from this morning's service. Upon reading people's responses, almost everyone had similar to identical worship lists. Most of the songs were from Bethel Music or Tim Hughes, who might as well be a part of Bethel Music! :) I enjoy both of these by the way, and also lead much of their music at Redeemer. But, what I was seeing is that across the country or maybe across the world. the same songs were being offered all over the place. I'm thinking this could be one of two things: either unity across the church or a deficit in creativity in the church.

I don't know how it goes for other leaders or musicians, but I find songwriting to be SO difficult. It doesn't come easy to me at all. In fact, up to about a few years ago, I avoided it as much as possible due to my own insecurities. I was convinced that I didn't have song lyrics or melodies within me worth singing. Now I know that this is a lie from the enemy. God has put within my life, and yours, a story that needs to be shared and sung. God commands us in Psalm 33:3 to "sing to Him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts." The Hebrew word for "new" actually means "rebirth, restoration, renewal." God wants us worshiping with new songs that bring about rebirth, restoration and renewal.

Lately I've been listening to the radio, instead of my worship-music-only-iPod. I'm interested in the sounds that are currently being produced. In all honesty I find very little that is creative, new or worth joining in with. It all sounds the same and after awhile of listening, is pretty monotonous.Lady GaGa, in all of her claim to creativity, sounds the same as many female artists that have gone before her...there's nothing new under the sun in her music.

It is making me think about the church right now. From what I see, as a whole, we are severely lacking in creativity as well. It's interesting, though, because we have direct access to the Creator. We should have the cutting edge on songs being produced. But what I find (and I'm just as guilty) is that we worship leaders spend much of our time hunting for the newest band, singer, or worship leader that we can copy. Now, I don't think at all that we should erase this method is good to learn from one another and to gain from one another. But, I guess I'm feeling convicted to write more. I have direct access to the Holy Spirit who desires for me to hear the sounds going on in heaven. It's the easy way to copy others. It takes relationship and abiding (far more time consuming) in Christ for me to write new songs of rebirth, restoration and renewal. Jesus said in John 15 if we abide in Him, we will bear much fruit. Fruit produced will be unique to an individual's union with Him. For me, I'm thinking, that part of my fruit produced on this earth will be new songs. I want God to hear a great collage of sounds coming from worshiping hearts...not the same songs over and over. I know He's pleased either way because He loves when we love and adore Him.

So, if there are any other musicians or worship leaders out there that actually read my little blog, how do you go about songwriting? I want to learn more about how to do this. After my CD, Created to Worship, was finished last year I felt this relief come over me of, "WHEW! I won't ever have to do that again!" Hmm, I think that is hogwash complacency! More abiding for me...more Presence...more listening for His voice and heart...more fruit coming.


  1. I love your candor and the way you wrestle with stuff.

  2. unfortunately i can't help you write new music, i know nothing about it.
    but i have been praying for you to have new songs, and i am very excited to hear and participate in the new stuff that comes.
    maybe one day i'll stop being a bum, learn to play my guitar and write something fresh, too.

  3. This makes me so happy. Of course I speak with no authority on any of this -- songwriting is just a hobby and a joy for me. But here is my approach:

    - Read Ray Bradbury's "Zen in the Art of Writing". Yes, the Ray Bradbury of 'Farenheit 451' fame. Trust me.

    - Read the Bible. Repeat this step often.

    - Carry a small notebook. Write ideas in it immediately whenever they occur. Don't give them time to escape.

    - Once one of the ideas sparks your interest, answer the questions "What do I want to say about God" and "What am I willing to say about myself". Those create important boundaries.

    - Then try to find a bit of time every day (even just a few minutes) to write/sing/play what you feel. If any of it seems interesting WRITE IT DOWN.

    - Always remember: "Don't worry that it's not good enough for anyone else to hear..."

    I don't think there is anything wrong with singing worship songs written by someone else. Often they express an idea beautifully. But something in me rejoices when I hear someone leading a song that came from their own heart, their own experience, their own doubts and victories. You can hear the difference in their voices. I think God may like it, too.

  4. Confession...I've never heard of Ray Bradbury so you don't have to worry about me being shocked! This is great, Matt - especially coming from someone who produces like, what..17 songs a week???! I keep saying this, but I need to learn guitar. I often have melodies in my head, but Rolanda the keyboard just isn't that portable! I have started using the voice recorder on my phone, though, so that I can play back ideas when Rolanda and I have a date! I'm hoping to have a few more new songs by the end of the summer.

    Keep writing, Matt! God has so many things to say through you!

  5. Never heard of Ray Bradbury!!! No 'Fahrenheit 451'? No 'Something Wicked This Way Comes'? No 'Martian Chronicles'? I weep for the American educational system if at these never came up in an English Lit class.

    The portability of a guitar is great, but is probably a bit limited in terms of range and flexibility compared to a keyboard.

    But the most important thing is to keep writing. As much as possible. If I take a "break" longer than about 2 weeks getting started again feels like trying to learn a foreign language.

    I hope your "a few" becomes "many", and I can't wait to hear them.

  6. My English lit experience consisted of me watching my 10th grade English teacher weep over Pride and Prejudice and my 11th & 12th grade teacher (same person) angrily act out Crime and Punishment as she taught us it helped her cope through her divorce...a book I will never forget and didn't like the first time. This potentially is the reason why I ran like a bat out of hell towards mathematics during my high school career.