Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Story Unfolding, Track 1: Author

This is the first of 7 daily posts about the songs on my first solo EP, Story Unfolding. It will be for sale on Bandcamp starting January 27, 2013. Before the official release, you can listen to samples on Reverb Nation.

I am the King of the Land of Self-Imposed Pressure. Case in point: a few years ago my brother Ben and I put together a house show for an artist we love and respect named Eric Peters. I volunteered to open, and another local artist and friend, Mark Thornton, also played some opening tunes. The question that always accompanies such tasks is: what songs should I play?

I'm a slow songwriter. I wish I were better disciplined at writing songs. I picture most songwriters getting up in the morning, pouring a cup of coffee, sitting down with a notepad and favorite pen in a sunlit room, guitar in hand, and spending 2-3 hours trying different melody lines, jotting down chord structures, smiling as the words flow from head to mouth to pen to page. Probably an unrealistic picture. Definitely not how it plays out for me.

So there I was, the day of the show. I arrived at Ben's house early to help set up. Then I retreated to his attic room, because I didn't have a single new song to play, and I was feeling pressure to have something new to offer.

I wrote the verses and chorus sections to "Author" sitting cross-legged on the floor, in a stuffy room, on a yellow pad with a favorite pen. The words came in spurts, and I struggled to fit them into a melody I had in my head, which was actually the hook from a song I had in rotation on my mp3 player. In the end, the words took over and I adjusted the melody. I had no pre-chorus section but knew it needed one, so I just played some 3-chord progression with no singing to get to the chorus. And no bridge. This song was bare bones, and that's how I played it for Ben, Mark, Eric, Andrew Peterson (surprise guest) and a couple dozen guests. I had several positive comments on the song, so I tucked it in my pocket as a keeper.

Earlier this year I pulled out the song and began working on the missing pieces. I came up with a pre-chorus and bridge that moved well between the other sections. I moved around verses, tried a few different turnarounds to get out of the pre-chorus, tweaked, practiced, changed. Daniel Christian came over one night and we exchanged notes and critiqued each other's songs. He advised a lyric change that fit perfect with the theme of the song: "Your blood is the ink, your life death is the pen." I can't hear the song another way.

Writing is hard work. Writing a 4-minute diddy spanned a couple years, and took a lot of effort and advice from others. The theme of this song, though, is that the Author of it all is writing my story, or has written my story (a nod to my Arminian and Calvinist brothers and sisters). And I take it for granted. I forget about the story going on in and around me, until a plot twist finds me crying out to the Author, or crying out at Him.

In those moments, I hear the Author reminding me of the end of the story. It's written. It is finished. When I'm lost and weary, when there seems no way to go forward, the Author comes near and reminds me of the bigger story. 

His story. 

His glory. 

His love for me. For all of us.

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