the art of making art + ignoring the dishes

the art of making art + ignoring the dishes

A couple weeks ago, I spent an hour on Instagram Live, talking with fellow makers about how I’ve managed to raise children, live in community, and also keep creating music. Let me start by saying I am not amazing, nor is my situation unique. It’s not at all unusual to be a working parent. I think the unconventional nature of the music business makes it seem less conducive to leading a balanced life with family than other types of work.

You may feel like you need to set it aside once you start a family, because you feel a little selfish taking time to make art, especially if it’s not generating much or any income for the family. Or you may just be so freaking tired all the time that you can’t fathom having the brain power to make something good.

Well, let me encourage you if I can? I have five kids who are now 11 and up.  I didn’t start working in music as a vocation until my firstborn was three-years-old. I was SO tired for a LONG time.

I could talk for dayyyyys about all of this, but I have songs to write! So I’ve tried to recall + summarize the tips I shared in our Live chat.

Getting My Hopes Up...for new music!

Getting my hopes up, friends! 

I have new albums of originals coming! I say "albums" because there are two projects in two stages.

1. Hatteras EP - Available NOW! Get this little baby project from the usual online vendors OR (better) get it via Pledgemusic so your money also goes toward project #2 - see below! Includes: Getting My Hopes Up, You've Got a Home (new version), Hatteras, PLUS the instrumental version of Getting My Hopes Up, because you'll want to listen to that sweet blues guitar for dayyys.

2. New Studio Album - Releasing early 2018. This one is being made in partnership with friends like you! Pre-order it today to help me get to the studio with producer Ben Shive in August! 

In case you haven't seen it, here's a trailer in which I tell you about this album AND share a clip of the first recording!

That song, "One Day" has been near and dear to my heart since I wrote it about 18 months ago. I recorded the first verse through tears:

It's hard to sing when you're crying,

Hard to leave when you're tied down

It's hard to sleep when you're fighting

For your life like you are right now...

The verse finds me right where I am. But the chorus saves me:

You'll do it one day

One breath

One prayer

One thing at a time

One word

One step

One hope in a coming light

Don't try to swallow the ocean

Keep doing one day

Til one day you're free.

And the bridge, the part you can hear in the video? I'm not sure where it came from exactly because it sends me soaring.

I want this album to do both of those things for you & many others. I want to give you songs that see you right there...and also save you and bring you joy.

If we reach 50% of our total Plegemusic goal by end of day tomorrow, a super generous listener wants to contribute another $2500 towards this album.

I'd love it if you'd hop over and pre-order today, so you can not only have the music sent to you as soon as we have it ready, but also so we can take the journey through the creative process together. That's the absolute BEST part of crowdsourced projects. Making new friends and sharing the road a while. 

THANK YOU for reading, listening, interacting, supporting! Grateful beyond words. 

Love,

christa

 

 

 

 

 

Patreon: TuneTribe 2.0

Well friends,

It's climbing toward 80 degrees today here in Nashville, and I'm sitting by the window working through my list like you probably are. My head swims with ideas and anxiety and gratitude and excitement.  I've been working hard the past couple of months to plan the next thing(s) in terms of music. And things are cooking!

A couple months from now, I'll release a new single, a new video and a new EP! I'll also begin the funding process for a full studio album, tentatively slated for a January 2018 release! The process of creation takes energy and gives it back, and I can't tell you how grateful I am every day to do this work.

Working in small margins means you have to get creative, and being an independent artist means community is everything. In an effort to take better care of this tribe and give my closest members what they've asked for, I've launched a Patreon community.  

What is this Patreon, you say? 

Patreon is a subscription-based platform. Subscribers are called Patrons. You can be a Patron for as little as $1/month.  I love & appreciate the word "patron" more and more. A patron of the arts! That's what you are! How does it feel?

Where TuneTribe members received one new song demo per month, Patrons will get that plus more, if they choose. Video blogs, monthly postcards, behind-the-scenes photos, artist journals, and anything else we together decide on.

I'd love for you to check it out and consider coming along for this. It brings me such joy to interact with you, share new work and hear your thoughts!

Get the scoop by clicking here: PATREON

If you've read this far, you are truly THE best, and I love you. :)

Hope to hear from you soon!

always love,

christa

2017 + a book review

First of all, Happy New Year!

Yes, yes, we are 30 days in. But writing here on the blog hasn’t made it to the top of my list before now, so I haven’t said it yet! 

Our first Christmas in Nashville wasn’t half-bad, though we had deep moments of homesickness for our family of friends in North Carolina.

I entered this new year with a mix of emotion: heavy-heartedness around the events shaping our world and culture, and yet a persistent hope that we are fully capable of doing better, of drawing closer together for things that matter.

I woke up with fresh ideas brewing for songwriting, potential projects and collaborations that excite and challenge me, that hopefully will see the light of day and feed others in some meaningful way.

I carried over the awareness that the best way to push back against quiet despair is with loud thanksgiving, so I remind myself of the monumental gifts I still enjoy every single day.

I also started 2017 with an armful of new books - poetry and fiction and memoirs - that help me wake up every morning and think new thoughts.

Wendell Berry, Mary Oliver, and Seth Godin were all under the Christmas tree. I don’t usually read just one book at a time but have them all right there on the wicker chest coffee table, and I pick up whichever is calling me at a given moment.

Here’s something from Mary Oliver’s Upstream that spoke to me as an artist:

"No one yet has made a list of places where the extraordinary may happen and where it may not.  Still, there are indications.  Among crowds, in drawing rooms, among easements and comforts and pleasures, it is seldom seen.  It likes the out-of-doors.  It likes the concentrating mind. It is more likely to stick to the risk-taker than the ticket-taker."

It’s amazing really. The power of a single poem to transform my outlook at the start of the day.  Thank you, Wendell, Mary and Seth for your good and life-giving work.

 

And then I occasionally am lucky enough to get free books from author friends or publishers who are looking for book nerds to potentially review or endorse a new release. Because of that, I’m getting to read an early version of Tsh Oxenreider’s At Home In The World (more on that in the near future!) and Erin Loechner’s Chasing Slow.

I don’t know Erin personally, but I wasn’t shocked to discover that she is friends with Tsh Oxenreider - one of my favorite bloggers, thinkers and online pals - and has been working with Tsh on the Simple Show podcast.

I’m not gonna lie. The first thing that drew me to Erin’s book was the cover. Yes, I might sometimes be that shallow. It was just so clean looking. Modern. The layout & design of the hardcover is very cool, very different. She’s a designer, after all.

And also, I like the word “slow” (almost as much as I like the word “quiet”)

Erin is a former art director/stylist. She’s a wife, mother, writer, designer. But most helpful to the rest of us is that her story has had some major challenges to face, which has given her added depth and insight and relatability. Well, it's hardship AND that she’s from Indiana. A midwestern girl who just happens to spend time in Hollywood and be featured by HGTV and the NY Times. Since I attended college in Indiana, I pretty much have to like her.

I’ve seen a lot of writing about “slow living” the past few years, because obviously we’re bad at it. We’re trying, though, and all of us have at least one bee-keeping friend and have tried to grow our own basil. We walk when we can and play games with the kids and celebrate simple moments on Instagram. But we all know it’s an effort in these times when you CAN do/be/see/try/accomplish so much.

So I appreciated reading Erin’s personal story of working harder and harder, to get...where, exactly?? That’s the thing I’m personally realizing: How little we stop and question ourselves on just about anything. We follow whatever crowd we identify with and react emotionally and do-by-default more than we think we do. (At least, I do.)

Foreclosure, bankruptcy and family losses helped Erin see that what “everybody” wants was not actually what she wanted. A Pinterest-perfect house isn’t necessarily a heart-safe home. And work success doesn’t equal life-success.

Though it’s not the only less-is-more story, it is Erin’s unique story, honestly and vulnerably-told, and a good one especially for female friends who struggle with perfectionism and a my-life-looks-plain-next-to-hers inner monologue. Also a good one for the young, creative crowd finishing school and ready to find an exciting place in the world. Erin’s husband is a filmmaker and they spent their first married years in L.A. pursuing work in the arts.

Click here to order your copy of Chasing Slow. Or here.

Well, here's to a new year full of making - music and art and words and moments, stories that light up our small and big patches of the world.

It's an honor to be on this journey of making with you.

Love, Christa

 

 

 

 

 

 

You Are My Defense: behind the song

IMG_0660

"In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer."

Albert Camus

I love that quote. But it hasn't always been so. At least I didn't think so.

I finished high school outside of Chicago and don't remember the cold or snow, even in the black early morning at the bus stop, being the real issue. I was rather lonely during those high school years. I attributed that to being new, awkward, shy, fashion-challenged.

But maybe it was really the long winter. Or maybe I've merely associated winter with those blue feelings? Whatever the reason, my dread of the dark months seemed to grow over the years, even here in mild-natured North Carolina.

IMG_0696 (1)

As I said during a recent show, I even resented autumn because I knew where it was heading. The months of September, October and November formed a long, dreary hallway leading to winter, which felt like death.

(I'm not prone to overstatement at all.)

The slow but sure shortening of daylight was oppressive to me, to the point that the beauty of falling leaves or seasonal festivities went unappreciated almost entirely.

IMG_0694 I talk about this in the past tense, because this year and the last have, thankfully, not had quite the same effect. Certain circumstances in my life now allow for more solitude and focus which seems to be helping.

But in 2012, we saw a friend in our community repeatedly hospitalized for severe and chronic depression. This wife and mother of two young children known for creating beautiful and whimsical wall murals in playrooms seemed unable to keep her face above water for long, no matter the weather.

Numerous friends and family close to my heart have felt themselves swallowed up by depression during different life seasons, due to circumstance or chemistry or a combination of both. I remember the dread I felt walking into the apartment of one of these, the blinds closed mid-day, lights off, music blaring, finding there was nothing I could say or do that could get a smile out of this former class clown. I found red marks across his wrists and chose to believe him when he said he'd cut himself washing dishes.

IMG_0705

 

When I really look at it, I know my own struggles have never been quite that.  Depression is a brute, and I am less an expert than a bystander devastated by her own powerlessness to fix anything.

I asked my friend back in 2012 if she could describe it for me, what it was like for her. The songwriter, I suppose all artists, are prone to walking battlefields as well as beaches, gathering shells and making something out of them.

I wanted to write about this reality without trying to fix it. It's okay for a song to be a moment in time, to write where you've been and what you've seen. Of course, I've also seen too much love for it to not to make an appearance.

The stories of my people became linked to the story of me in winter, and this song, "You Are My Defense," took shape.

 

I feel the clouds coming over like a bad dream

Same shadows I’ve known since I was 18

Weeks before winter falls

You find me in the back hall, hiding

I feel the sunshine slip away

 

I don’t know how to climb out of this valley

I don’t want to go back where I’ve been

And every time you’ve laid yourself beside me,

Your love my one defense

Oh, you are my defense

 

You carve the stone with evidence of your love

Strike a match to warm us when the cold comes

And I will sing of summer light

That feeds the soul through the dark night

Will you feed my soul through the night?

 

Oh, when I’m a ship out on the sea

You are, you are the lighthouse calling me

And when I feel unreachable

You get to me

You get to me

 

And I don’t know how to climb out of this valley

I don’t want to go back where I’ve been

And every time you’ve laid yourself beside me,

Every time you’ve laid yourself beside me

Your love my one defense

Oh, you are my defense

IMG_0699

I wish I could say I actually remember writing the second verse, what prompted the stone image. I sing it almost as a newcomer to the song, which is kind of cool. The stone may have had a different inspiration, but I now think of it as the whole of planet earth. Call me crazy, but I do believe there is a Person behind all this wonder. And I think the whole place screams it.

Similarly, the match doesn't have to be one thing, but one thing it might be is the faithful-to-return sun-soaked months that restore and revive before the cold.

The song I sing of hope is one I choose to sing and must choose and choose again, because it does not always come naturally. I sing of summer light because I want to live and that's the only way to survive. I sing because I remember the way the sun felt on my skin and expect to feel it again.

It is invincible within me if only I pry my hands from these fearful, reluctant eyes and see.

IMG_0707Time and time again while I sleep, Someone comes and lays himself beside me.  Being aware of that...saves me.

It's not about pulling yourself up by the bootstraps but by Love that lays down for you and with you.

Finding yourself not alone, not beyond the reach of one who loves you..it really is something.

-cnw


Through the end of January, every moleskine journal we ship will be sent with                       a handwritten lyric of your choice inside + a free copy of my COVERS ep.

The journals are a great place to record the things that feed your soul this winter or any season. The songs on this album are songs that, in their own way, fed my soul "back then."

Screen Shot 2016-01-20 at 8.11.56 PM

 

thoughtful gifts for songwriters...

ITBMW_Art Well, friends,

Before I get to the point, if you haven't yet gotten your free download of the Christmas single (cover art above) I recorded with my pals Jess Ray & Taylor Leonhardt, I want to make sure to give you that link, so go ahead and CLICK HERE. Merry Christmas!

Hopefully you're ahead of me and have finished all your gift planning for the Christmas celebrations. If not, and if one of the outstanding recipients happens to be a songwriter/music-maker, then this is for you.

My friend, Taylor, and I were talking about how sweet it is when you find a gift that truly adds to a life without also being a burden in terms of clutter or maintenance.  I googled "gift ideas for young filmmaker" the other day, because I have one of those in my house, and I thought I'd put together something like that for us musical types, in case you're googling "gift ideas for songwriters" (probably not on the most searched list, but still...).

Here are a few that came to mind, in no particular order.

I apologize for not taking time to add pretty pictures and poetic descriptions. As I mentioned, I'm not done with my own preparations yet! May update in time for next Christmas?

Instrument or Accessories

I almost didn't include this, because it's obvious, but if it's time for new strings or a travel case or cables or boom stands? Easy.

Journal & Pen 

I'm partial to ordinary composition books these days. Less intimidating, less guilt if I don't fill it, slim & lightweight. But, I've loved many a fancier journal in my life - so just choose something soft that lays flat when opened. Then find a nice ink pen to wrap with it. Voila. (I do have this Moleskine journal now in my store, but I promise that's not why I mentioned journals.)

Books

I know not everyone enjoys reading, and there are artists who make great work without reading a lot.

But if you CAN enjoy it, I say it's one of the very best things you can do to fuel your art.  For me, any books that come highly recommended and are well-written, fiction or non, will make me happy.

But here are a few I've especially appreciated as an artist:

Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith & Art – Madeleine L’Engle

Writing Down the Bones – Natalie Goldberg

The Artist's Way - Julia Cameron

Steal Like An Artist - Austin Kleon

Show Your Work – Austin Kleon

A Million Little Ways – Emily P. Freeman

Songwriters on Songwriting – Paul Zollo

Writing Better Lyrics - Pat Pattison (okay, this one I have not yet read, but a number of my writer friends have & have highly recommended it)

 Subscriptions

American Songwriter magazine - I love this magazine so much & only wish I had time to read every issue cover to cover

Tickets

There's almost nothing more helpful to a performing artist of any kind than to actually GO to see live performances. If cost were no issue, I think most of us would be attending a lot more shows and watching less Netflix.

Give your loved one tickets to concerts, and not just the big productions. Those are great fun, but most of us aren't ever going to have the resources to pull off that kind of show. Find tickets to a house show with a reputable artist performing or an intimate local venue, so they can learn by watching & be inspired.

Give tickets to theatrical productions & arthouse movie theaters. Most people will spend money to hit a mainstream theater a few times a year, but it feels risky to a lot of people to try an independent film. Because those films are often so interesting and provocative, get two tickets so you can go together and then have dinner & conversation after.

 Host a House Concert

If your writer is interested in sharing their work publicly, help them out by graciously planning a concert in your home and inviting your neighbors, friends and family. It'll be a gift for you, too!

Does it sound scary or difficult? It's totally do-able, and my friend Matthew Clark has this great house concert resource page for you. Check it out!

Yeti Blue Microphone 

I love this little guy for capturing work tapes or even rough demos. We've also used it for broadcasting live online shows. I love it because it doesn't require me to be a techie and it's the best affordable USB mic I've found so far.

Headphones

I've used Bose and Audio-Technica. Again, I'm not a techie, so definitely do some research, but something other than earbuds is super helpful for recording and listening to mixes.

Scholarship to Masterpiece Project

I work at Masterpiece Project as a songwriting studio leader one week every summer and cannot speak highly enough about this place. It's exactly what I wish I'd had when I was a teenager, a safe intimate environment to explore art and make friends under the mentorship of faith-based professional artists.

If your artist is rising 9th-12th grade, this would be a fantastic Christmas gift that won't end up on their bedroom floor with dirty socks.

Demo Recording Session

For a beginning songwriter, one of the most exhilarating experiences is to have one of your songs recorded professionally. Demo production can range from $200-$1500 depending on complexity of recording and reputation/demand of the particular producer.

If it's a new/young/aspiring songwriter, definitely find someone in your local area who will do it on the budget end of the scale. Make sure you hear samples of their work before hiring.

Portable PA

This has been the handiest thing I've purchased in the past few years. I use the Fishman tower system, but I've heard good things about the Bose, as well. Perfect for small venue performances. If you only need 1-2 inputs, you won't even need a soundboard.

Soundboard

For performances with multiple vocalists or instruments, use a mixing console like this one from Yamaha with your PA.

Music!

You can't go wrong with iTunes gift cards. Or vinyl for the young/audiophile crowd. Or physical CDs for the non-digital car. And maybe give them some music that has stood the test of time that they wouldn't ordinarily seek out. I was heavily influenced by music I found laying around my childhood home, music popular before my time...Patsy Cline, The Beach Boys, Dire Straits, Roy Orbison. Help your writer get acquainted with the greats of the past OR greats from genres other than their first love.

Time

If your writer is a grown-up, one of the best gifts I can think of is dedicated time.

Is she a mother? Take the kids away from the house for a day and let her write in peace!

A married man? Give him an evening a week to himself & a place to create.

Or get crazy and find a place on the beach where you can go together - but go your separate ways during the daytime.

Macbook

Enough said. It's true, not all artists love Apple, but it's a good bet.

This Calendar

I don't have this, but someone is getting it for my young filmmaker, because he's interested in making actual progress toward goals, and I've heard great things about this helpful tool from Jon Acuff. Check it out.

 Professional Photos

If he or she wants to share their music or book shows, this is going to be necessary. Find a good local photographer who has some experience with artist photography (different from wedding or baby portraits) & book a session.

Website Design

You don't have to have a pro do it nowadays, at least not to start out, because there are some good build-your-own sites. But if they are getting busy with music work, this could be an amazing gift. OR, simply buy a domain with their name so they can use it whenever they're ready!

Skype Songwriting Mentoring Session(s)

Finally, I love to encourage up-and-coming songwriters. It's one of my passions to come alongside others who are using their gifts.

If you have a songwriter in your life who would benefit from conversation and feedback on the craft of songwriting or the life of music-making, I'm happy to offer a limited number of session times as I have time.

Please email me at christa@christawellsmusic.com to discuss the possibilities. Fun!

 

So, there you have it. My quick brainstorm on thoughtful gifts for songwriters. Have more ideas? By all means, share them below!

Love,

christa

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plumb Exhale Tour Journal: 4

  IMG_0353

29 Oct 2015

I’ve been home for three days, hanging with the kids and realizing autumn somehow breezed in while I wasn’t looking and set up camp. Carolina is looking fine in gold & bronze, and even this cold-weather hater is smiling about it. And about the butternut squash soup I made last night and will eat again tonight.

I didn’t post a journal last week. Monday was an early travel day, which left me wanting only sleep & cuddles. Tuesday was prep for youngest daughter’s birthday. Wednesday, family day. We kept the kids home from school (unexcused! Gasp!) and headed to the state fair, which was EXACTLY the right call. So much fun. Thursday I was back to Nashville and climbing on the bus for our last weekend of the tour!

IMG_2898

Several bus mates were ill over the weekend, leaving everyone a bit wary of picking something up. Would have made a very interesting finale! Plumb was recovering from bronchitis, and I was amazed by how she powered through. When your body is your instrument and it breaks…it’s a pretty stressful predicament. It would be for any of us, but especially when you have larger audiences and a busload of musicians depending on you to not cancel.

Connecting with people at the Food for the Hungry table.

 

IMG_2868

Anyway, the show went on & we loved every minute. Apparently pranks are common on last days of tours, and the best prank of all was the fact that Geoff Duncan & Brad Dring had me prepared (as in, nervous wreck) to be pranked during my last set and then DIDN’T. Exhale.

What we did do is scavenge some costuming backstage and rush the Rapture Ruckus set during Mister Roboto for a (somewhat) impromptu dance party. I guess they knew we were coming, but they didn’t know we’d come in style. It was incredible.

plumbtourwigs

I soaked up every late night conversation and listening session, knowing this was a special moment in life. I felt ready to be at the end of this stretch and home again, but not ready to let go of the people I’ve come to love & admire. I mean, you can’t brush your teeth with a bottle of water next to someone for five weeks and not feel pretty tight. It’s a strange temporary reality that I think resulted in permanent relationships. They are good people, every one.

 

Tiffany and I have lives that have circled back together over the years, and I love that. So grateful she took a chance and invited me to be a part of this journey. And overwhelmingly thankful to my Raleigh family & friends who cared for me & my family in so many ways. I wouldn't have been able to be present on the road if you weren't present at home. Thank you.

Cheers to new adventures & new friends & each of us doing the work we were made to do.

Love,

christa

 

Hey, summer, what's up?!

Well, obviously, spring & summer are the most wonderful times of the year. Can I get an amen? Sorry, Christmas, you're just a little cold & dark & busy to win the title around here. Everything is nicer when the sun is shining, including me. So here's to the season for making merry & making music outdoors whenever possible.

COVERS ep!

Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 12.25.52 PM

Thank you for sharing the COVERS album with your friends & family!

I'm in love with the whole project & the way people have connected with it, and it wouldn't have happened without your support. That's a fact.

This awesome t-shirt featuring original art by Mandy Rogers Horton & design by Shelly Eve is available & will re-ordered in additional sizes, so if you don't see yours, please let us know what you need, so I can add it to the list!

TWO BIRDS mini-concerts

Along the lines of making music outdoors, my musical friend Taylor Leonhardt & I spontaneously started something we can't seem to quit, a series of back porch mini-concerts (or front porch, when it's raining).

If you could use a little live music over your lunch break, sit in while we share just one song each with a 10-minute rehearsal & an iPhone.

We've dubbed the series "Two Birds." Here's our most recent episode.

Subscribe to the channel to be an earlybird (see what I did there? heh heh) when a new video is posted.

SLOW TRAIN COMING

Last night, I had the extreme privilege of participating in a collective tribute to Bob Dylan's Slow Train Coming album in Carrboro, NC. Esteemed musician Tim Carless planned & led the way & Emmaus Way of Durham sponsored us at The ArtsCenter.

2015.06.11 Slow Train Coming EWay Concert Christa Wells_Reagan Lunn-5

2015.06.11 Slow Train Coming EWay Concert_Reagan Lunn-12

2015.06.11 Slow Train Coming EWay Concert Jeff Crawford_Reagan Lunn-3

It's crazy energizing to play together with other musicians. Hoping we have more opportunities to work together!

ESCAPE TO THE LAKE

Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 12.23.12 PM

Really looking forward to playing in Watertown, Wisconsin, at the end of this month and then heading immediately to ETTL to co-lead a songwriting bootcamp & do a little performance.

Discount tickets available for night-only concert passes (for a limited time). Use promo code "fireworks" and save $5 per ticket (no limit). Tix/Info: bit.ly/ettl15n

I especially recommend ETTL to any of you musicians who are serious about both faith & excellence in art making. It's a uniquely intimate setting where you'll get to spend time with artists, listening, asking questions, being inspired. Join us!

MASTERPIECE PROJECT 2015

Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 12.21.20 PM

End of July always finds me leading songwriting studio for high school students at Masterpiece Project in southern Kentucky.

I can't say enough about the way Masterpiece impacts students & staff. It's one of the highlights of my year.

The July week is already full this year, but my friend Jessica Campbell will be leading songwriting for Masterpiece the week of June 21, and there are still several spots open. Masterpiece is not just for musicians but for young artists of any medium.  Each week offers specific studios--get the details on their website.


I'll be in Nashville to write next week & will play a couple shows with Jessica Campbell July 17&18 in WV & VA, but in general I'll be hanging out around Raleigh more over the summer, which I'm glad for.

And...a surprising announcement coming soon regarding the fall, so stay tuned!

Hope you & yours are finding ways to be outside, be together & be present.

much love,

christa

 

COVERS Release!

covers digital cover  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friends,

I'm so excited to announce that the COVERS ep I arranged & recorded with the amazing Ben Shive - fully funded by 156 equally amazing Kickstarters - is OUT!

You can get it at iTunes, but the full album is also being featured this week FREE on NOISETRADE.  All five songs - free for you & your friends & your Aunt Sue!

I'd be ever so grateful if you'd take a listen & let me know what you think!  And even more grateful if you'd let others know about it.

Ben & I are truly pleased with what became of these songs as we experimented and played in the studio.

We hope you'll feel the same.

With  Love & Gratitude for all your support & encouragement,

christa



Kickstarter! Help me make a new album?

It's a little uncomfortable, yes.  A bit anxiety-producing.  Putting yourself out there to say: Hey!  I'd like to do this thing, and I...could use some...help.  Like you, I prefer to be on the giving end of things.

Well, friends.  I'd like to do this thing, and I could use your help.

I am attempting to raise $15,000 in the next 18 days.

Yeah.  That's a whole lot of money.  In a short amount of time!

I've had the hankering to get back in the studio for a while now, but haven't been able to figure out a way to make it happen financially.  I kept hearing about this great tool called Kickstarter, which lets listeners/fans/supporters/generous humans get on board early with an artist's project and really give it wings.  I've supported a couple of these projects myself and seen it work.

So I put together a video and some fun "thank-yous" (because I DO thank you!) and launched it rather quietly 11 days ago.  Now, yes, I'm aware that launching a fundraising campaign just before everyone gets offline for Thanksgiving holidays here in the U.S. isn't the grandest idea.  But.  That additional barrier just means that if this does get funded, we will be quite certain that God is actively involved.

I'm trusting.  Trusting that if this is the right course, then the Father will make the way.  I invite you to be a part of that, if you believe in the music He created me to create.  If you think it might matter.  If you are inspired and financially able to participate.

If...any of that...then please join the cause here at my Kickstarter page.  

And...I just can't say it often enough.  How grateful I am for you.

Now here, for your entertainment, is our li'l Kickstarter video put together by my friend David Vosburg at Zag Media Arts:

How to Love Your Independent Artist, Pt 2

Following up on last week's post, How to Love Your Independent Artist, Pt. 1, here is Part 2.  For some reason, I'm a bit nervous to hit "Publish" on this.  Not sure why...maybe I'm afraid it's going to sound self-centered or whiny or self-serving.  Please know it's not intended to be anything more than vulnerable, on behalf of my brothers & sisters making art.  So here goes.

4.  We don’t all have the same goals.

I think people often believe all artists are hoping for the same things: notoriety, money, awards, platinum albums, or even just to be picked up by a label.  We are all either on our way or not on our way due to unfortunate circumstances.

If we weren't after those things, then what could possibly be the point?

The reality is that the majority of professional artists do want all of those things.  But there are many of us who honestly don't.

The longer we stay in or around the business, the more we're aware that all good things come at some cost.  Those costs are too high for some of us.  Loss of creative control, financial obligation to numerous entities, inability to maintain personal interactions with listeners, struggle for stability in relationships, etc. are very real considerations.  We would really like to be financially compensated for our work, but we're often torn over the rest.

People have asked how it feels for me to have another artist record a song I write, whether it bothers me when the artist is credited with writing the song.  And my answer is honestly that it feels great & I don't care if they are mistakenly credited.  It takes nothing from me.  Because...I get to do the writing, which is what I love.  And hearing the song used is what I desire and is the best reward.  I get to be a part of that without the stress or pressure of being a label artist out on the road half the year.  Pure gift!

People joke about musicians or actors who were only on the “mainstage” for a few minutes.  We call them “one-hit wonders,” or we ask, “What ever happened to that guy?”  A Google search might show they’ve been quite active in their field on Broadway or in small music venues.  Their best work may have taken place beyond the limited scope of the public eye, the best song may be track 13 and only the diehard fans ever heard it. We miss some things when we only choose blockbuster films and radio hits for sure.

What I’m suggesting is that we might care for artists by helping them to discover and fulfill THEIR unique purposes, be thrilled when they release solid work regardless of its ranking on iTunes…and refrain from the kindly-intended but unclear “I hope you make it!”

Remember, we mainly make art because we don't know how not to.

5.  We feel “different” and long for creative community; we feel "normal" and just want plain old community, too.

 

Especially for artists living outside the big centers of activity, it gets a little lonely.  Before my life became the crazy epicenter of travel and work and kids that it is now, I was often quite lonely, especially for people who were "like" me.  We tend to feel a little odd (and yes, we can be too introspective).  Our external lives and work can look so unusual that we often assume our inner worlds are quite unusual, too.  Sometimes they are.  Often we (artists, teachers, doctors, gas station attendants, office admins, pastors…) have more in common than we expect.

 

6.  For artists who love God with their whole being, the whole being can be written into song.

 

This may be the trickiest subject, and entire books have been written on what it means to be Christian and be an artist.  I personally recommend Madeleine L’Engle’s Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art and Charlie Peacock’s At the Crossroads, for starters.  But I’ll keep it simple here.

Christian audiences, particularly listeners over college age, love music that uses familiar Christian language and is directed toward God and is suitable for corporate singing.  Many are fed by these songs, and the Church is edified by the artists who create this type of worship music.  During the hectic moments of the day, many turn to these songs to be quickly re-directed and saturated in the gospel and scripture.  This is good.

It's just that this is not the music all of us are called to write.  And writing about the rest of life is – in my humble opinion – equally good and valuable.  Just as the Bible is not only the book of Psalms, but also contains real stories and parables and metaphor and teaching of all kinds, and is spoken in varied voices…we long be free as artists to illustrate or reflect the whole of life, because the whole of life belongs to the Father.  And our “small stories”…aren’t they merely reflections of the “Great Story”?

Birth and love and fracture and redemption…the story is told in countless experiences and endless melodies and lyrical lines.

Many artists of faith do not have a home on Christian radio, do not get invited to play for faith-based groups, and in general do not feel supported by the Church, because they do not write, or maybe lead, "praise & worship" music.

I think that's a mistake.

So, I guess I'm saying...

If you ask an artist at the merch table if she has any “worship CDs,” she may say, “Yes! All of them.  Take your pick!”  And you may later be surprised to hear her singing about her child or her neighbor or her husband. :)

8.  We are grateful.

 

So sincerely grateful.  For every single email telling about how this song affected you.  For every smiling face in the coffee house or listening room.  For every download.  For every kind word after a shaky performance.  For people interacting on blogs and Facebook.  For the invitation to come and sing.  For you sharing the music with your brother, who shares it with his boss, who shares it with his niece…

We feel unworthy and so very lucky to get to write & sing, to do what we love.

Grateful that you found us in this wide world of options.

Grateful that you stayed.

***************************************************

Artists, what would you add to my thoughts?  

Supportive listener-friends, does some of this resonate with you, as well?  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Love Your Independent Artist: Pt. 1

 

FIRST OF ALL.  I’m already loved.

Loved well.

Each of you I’ve had the pleasure of meeting or hearing from over the years since I made the bold move in 2009 to take my quaking body up to the piano in front of real people have done nothing but encourage and uplift.  I haven’t yet been able to think up an adequate “Thank you,” but I always feel it.

So, I’m not writing this because you have failed to love me well.  Quite the oppositeBecause you care, I think you might appreciate a peek behind the curtains into the life of fairly odd creatives like me.  Because you care, you want to understand our hearts, joys and struggles.

As you may know, I was really strictly a songwriter for several years, having abandoned an early desire to perform, due to extreme performance anxiety.  It was only after a false start in 2006 and a more legitimate launch in 2009 that I really entered into this world independent artistry.  And my path hasn’t looked very much like the majority of indie artists, Christian or not, because of my particular life & career circumstances.

Still, there is a sense of brotherhood amongst us who determine to keep making music with or without the sometimes-helpful, oft-constraining scaffolding of a record label.

 

SOME THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT KNOW ABOUT YOUR FAVORITE ARTISTS (3 of 7):

 1.    Behind every hour onstage, there are roughly 6-60 hours of work offstage.

There are a million kazillion things independent artists spend hours learning and applying, with writing & rehearsing often getting the shaft.  Many of us handle our own booking, planning, band-management, book-keeping, product inventory & shipping, website maintenance, blogging, etc. and are hard-pressed to get to the creative work we are passionate about.  This is a real struggle, as many of us have other day jobs and/or family, as well.

Prior to 2009 I was surprisingly clueless about this side of the music business and recall thinking: “That’s a pretty great gig!  Even if they only make $100 for a house show, that’s not bad for 2 hours of fun, fulfilling work.”

It IS a pretty great gig, getting to do what you love.  But needless to say, I’ve been enlightened about the hours.

2.  We aren’t always sure we should be doing this, but we can't seem to stop.

 

  • Is anyone even listening?
  • Do our musical & lyrical efforts seem to resonate?
  • Can this really be financially feasible?
  • How much should we model ourselves after label artists?  How much should we model ourselves after full-time indie artists?
  • How free are we to write what we really want to write, even when it doesn’t match current radio trends (Christian or not)?
  • Is it possible to stand under stagelights and keep a right heart and motives?

Ultimately: Is this of enough value to really make it worth the sacrifices of time & money?  Am I on the right path?

We return to these questions, but ultimately we LOVE MAKING MUSIC & we don't know how to do much else. Don't WANT to do much else.

3.  We're looking for our place within the art world.

 

Even if we’re sure we SHOULD be making art, we continue to ask:  Why?  What exactly is MY particular purpose & place?  Where do I fit?

Nashville, New York, Atlanta, LA…or Raleigh, NC?  Coffee shops, house concerts, music festivals, arenas, conferences…?  Americana, pop, folk, Christian, rock, bluegrass, country…?  Am I speaking to people who share my faith or to people who do not?  Is my natural audience teens, young adults, 35 year old moms, other artists, radio listeners, theologians, former hippies…?

It’s demographic, but it’s more than that, a sense of calling.

Artists: If this is a question you are struggling to answer, I would suggest you start with a little inventory of what you really know about yourself.  This is a spiritual exercise, I think, if we acknowledge that we were in fact designed by Someone for a specific purpose & workOur passions and gifts and personalities point toward that purpose.

For me, these are some things I know:

  • I am compelled to put words and music together in the most honest way I can to uplift and challenge myself and others,  reflecting life and truth.
  • I deeply desire balance in all things.
  • I have an insatiable thirst for wisdom and understanding of the Maker and humanity, and the relationship between the two.
  • I love to be taught and to teach.  (much to the chagrin of my family members)
  • The joy of writing for me is in finding beautiful, inventive ways of painting pictures, not in being safe.  At the same time, communication is important to me, so I want the songs to be accessible.
  • If something does not interest me, or if I do not believe in it or feel its purpose or respect the approach, I cannot muster motivation. The possibility of song being a hit is not enough to make me care.
  • I enjoy creative independence and collaboration, but do not want to feel controlled by a “machine.”
  • I have a family and a local community, and it’s important to me to be present & faithful to both.  This means I have to strive to be a good steward of my time & resources.

All of the above have shaped the path I’ve taken and continue to take regarding music.  If I say "no" (an important word for all humans to use wisely) to a request or opportunity, it's because whatever it is doesn't quite fit with all of the above.

You have your own list, right?  Artist or not.

 

ARTISTS, feel free to chime in below.  I'm presuming to speak for all of us, and I'm sure I'll miss something.  MUSIC LISTENERS, would love to hear from you, too.  Do you have an artist in your life & you're not sure what to do with him/her?

Because of the length of this post, I'm dividing it.  Look for "HOW TO LOVE YOUR INDEPENDENT ARTIST: PT. 2" next week...  

 

Music Monday (albeit a bit late): Suzanne Vega... "Gypsy"

So, yes, by the time you see this, it is likely Tuesday, so perhaps "Tune Tuesday" will be more appropriate. I got caught up in children swimming and restoring some beauty and order to the chaos that is our master bathroom.  What is it about cleaning out one nasty drawer that can give one hope about the rest of life?  As if it all hinges on getting the toothbrushes lined up again and untangling lost necklaces.

Ah, well, I'll take it.

But Music Monday.  I decided this week to share what was likely one of the most influential songs of my early songwriting years.  I was in 11th grade, I believe, when Suzanne Vega's "Solitude Standing" album struck a chord in me.  My little sister, Mandy, was in 7th grade, and this song was our favorite on the album.  To this day, you will occasionally hear the two of us sing it - every word by heart - a cappella on some random sunny day.  Listening now to just the opening guitar pattern brings such nostalgia.

Who knows exactly what it meant to my 16-year-old self, but the melody itself, simple and serene, and the refrain:  "Oh, hold me like a baby who will not fall asleep, curl me up inside you and let me hear you through the heat" made me feel less alone.

Suzanne's use of language in lyrics left an enormous footprint on my own path as a writer, though I have yet to come close to her mastery of the art form.  Thank you for your work and inspiration, Ms. Vega.

"You have hands of raining water and that earring in your ear, the wisdom on your face denies the number of your years, with the fingers of a potter and the laughing tale of a fool, the arranger of disorder with your strange and simple rules..."

Music Monday: All My Favorite People (Over the Rhine)

At least for the summer, I thought I'd challenge myself to a little more sharing here.  So, Mondays are for sharing music, whether mine or something I'm listening to a lot.  Today, this tune keeps coming to mind and heart.  More inspired lyric-writers than Linford and Karin are hard to come by.

All My Favorite People
(Over the Rhine)

All my favorite people are broken Believe me My heart should know

Some prayers are better left unspoken I just wanna hold you And let the rest go

All my friends are part saint and part sinner We lean on each other Try to rise above

We’re not afraid to admit we’re all still beginners We’re all late bloomers When it comes to love

All my favorite people are broken Believe me My heart should know

Orphaned believers, skeptical dreamers Step forward You can stay right here You don’t have to go

Is each wound you’ve received Just a burdensome gift? It gets so hard to lift Yourself up off the ground

But the poet says, We must praise the mutilated world We’re all workin’ the graveyard shift You might as well sing along

All my favorite people are broken Believe me My heart should know

(As for) your tender heart— This world’s gonna rip it wide open It ain’t gonna be pretty But you’re not alone

‘Cause all my favorite people are broken Believe me My heart should know

Orphaned believers, skeptical dreamers You’re welcome Yeah, you’re safe right here You don’t have to go

‘Cause all my favorite people are broken Believe me I should know

Some prayers are better left unspoken I just wanna hold you And let the rest go

morning music: Star & Micey, Jeremy Stanfill and Carolina Story!

No fancy words here today, just these clips of a few utterly deLIGHTful moments around the piano before our guests (Carolina Story , Jeremy Stanfill and Star & Micey) left this week.  These guys were traveling through, playing at the Broad Street Cafe, and we stayed up into the wee hours of the morning talking on the back deck, telling stories about family history and travel and, after I turned in, politics and economic theory. :) Artists traveling together and supporting one another on and offstage is perhaps one of the greatest beauties I have witnessed.  Not fighting for spotlight but living inside harmony and lyric, swinging arm in arm as a collective (my new favorite word, as of this morning, when I watched THIS.)

Anyway, grab your coffee, sit in and listen for a few slow moments as we rotate on the bench and sing each other's songs?  And see them in person if they come your way!

Trying My Own Wings

I’ve been learning freedom on a long, slow curve. Emphasis on slow.

I believe that when we meet God…when He makes Himself known to us…the cage door is thrown open, we are given power to live BEYOND.  Beyond ourselves, beyond the temporal, beyond the visible, beyond…

So why are so many of us still sitting here on our perches, behind bars?  Do we not have good, strong, functional wings?  What's keeping us nervous, fearful, glued, caged?

Myers-Briggs...So Interesting

The inner workings of human temperament…so utterly fascinating to me.  So utterly NOT fascinating to him, my better half.  The minute I whip out a casual reference to someone’s Myers-Briggs personality type, there is a decidedly audible exhale and eyes flicker to something happening outside the window.  (Of course, that’s because he’s an INTJ and he has better, more pragmatic things on his mind, so many things to be improved in the world!)

But I have a strong desire to understand people, including myself.  Understanding helps me to love.

What's Wrong With Me?

When I entered the professional songwriting world a few years ago and began working collaboratively for the first time, I didn’t understand why it felt so hard for me and so easy for others.  Not hard skill-wise, but hard emotionally/psychologically. I couldn’t seem to enter my writing space while sitting in the room with a total stranger and two hours to come up with a “hit.” I didn’t like many of the songs I co-wrote.  I didn’t like the cavalier, formulaic approach I saw.  Truth and beauty matter very much to me, and I am not interested in having my name on something I don’t really care about, no matter how much money it could make or doors of "opportunity" it could open.

But everyone else seemed to know how to get it done.  What was wrong with me?  Why couldn’t I lighten up?

I thought:

...I’m too serious...My songs need a day at Disney.

...I overthink and second-guess and miss great opportunities.

...I’m too picky.

...I’m unreasonably unwilling to sacrifice the aspects of life that must be laid aside in order to do this creative work well.  I’m also unwilling to sacrifice music to make time to do anything else really well.

...Maybe if I were more intellectual…

...Maybe if I were LESS intellectual…

...Maybe if I considered the market more…?

...Consider the market less…?

...Maybe if I were more dramatic…

...Maybe if I were LESS dramatic…

...Maybe if I reached out more, spent more time online, were more outgoing, followed this or that strategic trend…

And there were more lists for the other arenas of my life.

Unique, But Not the Only One

Recently, I read some texts dealing with work and personality type in the book Do What You Are.  Although I'm already doing the work I was born to do, it was highly encouraging to read profiles of other INFPs - how they approach their work, what is important in their work environments, and how they determine the value of their efforts.

My internal response was:

Oh!  OH!  Wow!  There is a name for this!  There is a whole truckload full of people who operate this way, with similar strengths and flaws, and we have others like us!  We aren’t DOING this, we are merely BEING who we were wired to be.

Maybe…Just because we are all dogs doesn’t mean we are the same breed?

Songwriters are not all of one breed?

All humans/parents/children/women/men/fill-in-the-blank are not of one breed!

One body, many parts!  And for those who are hands, not all hands look alike!  Those who are voices, each voice is one-of-a-kind!  Distinct works “prepared in advance” for us to accomplish.  This is not about justifying immoral or harmful behavior with “that’s just the way I am.”  This is about celebrating the individual traits that make each of us a uniquely designed creature…and also a unique contributor to our vocational/avocational fields.

Of course, all of this only further illuminates what we have already been told: our worth and beauty originate in the life of Christ whose Light overtakes our darkness and makes us radiant.  The Gospel, and not Myers-Briggs, is bread and water for the healthy, fully alive soul.

You are FREE to SHINE in the way HE makes YOU shine. :)

The Job That is Yours

I was reading Bedtime for Frances with the kids and love how Father tells Frances that everyone has a job to do.  Even the wind has a job: to go around blowing the curtains at night.

I think I’m figuring out what my job is…and what it is not.

There are certain songs it is MY job to write and deliver to certain people – it may be a small audience, but those songs are my job and not Adele’s job.  Adele cannot have my job, and I cannot have hers.

Try that on?

“________________ cannot do what I do, and I cannot do what _________ does.  And that is fine, fine, fine.”

Beautiful even.

Slowly, slowly, creeping through the open cage door, trying my own wings…

The Writing Room

Must.Write.Now.

It’s a bit obvious when the songwriter in this house has stayed away too long from writing, because she starts getting just a LITTLE bit grumpy.  A TINY bit irritable.  Easily IRKED.  Not by political leaders or financial crises or even by semi-big deals like being behind (again) on emails or (chronically) filing paperwork.

It’s much less rational than that.  Where there is no solitude, there is much loud exhaling at the very presence of human beings.  People and their people-y things, like shoes…hunger…chatter.

It’s not pretty...

So...for the well-being of my family: to writing I return.

...

Where have all the good ideas gone?

The writing road is often a thrill-ride attempt to grab all those great ideas that hover in cartoon bubbles around your head before they pop.

"Except when it's not."  (Dr. Seuss)

Sometimes I honestly wonder if maybe I’ve written my last good song, because: Where did all the ideas go?!

They arrive through books, blogs, sermons and (yes) conversations (those people-y things).  Soak...write...soak...write...soak...

I’ve been soaking for a while now without the wave rising up.  These past couple of weeks, I sense the swell coming but something isn’t quite there.  And I’m beginning to think it’s not always about the idea…

.......

What’s the Problem?

Sometimes it’s about trying to write in a way that’s akin to taking a quiet bath in the middle of Times Square.  And the billboards and traffic?  My own brain.

Maybe we fall into Consciousness and can't get up?   Maybe the noise of a thousand tiny people in our heads telling us how to be and sound and watch out for this and don’t do that gets in the way of us carving out something fresh and true?

I forget to light the candle of Intuition that has always led the way …

Any writer can break down a great song for you and tell you why it works…AFTER it’s written.  More often than not, we're not actually thinking about those things during the process.  Occasionally, a listener will point something out that looks like great crafting, and it’s a delight to hear, because I had never consciously worked it out.

We practice, study, listen and pack all the structural tips in the back closet of the brain.  But the really natural, poignant writing happens in The Writing Room.

...

The Writing Room

The Writing Room is not a physical place but a mental Safe Room, where almost everything the writer needs lives.  Stacks and drawers of metaphors, images, memories, stories, poetry, vocabulary, rhythm and rhyme line the walls (if you’re messy like me…maybe yours is more orderly).

Self-consciousness is most definitely NOT in the room.  Self-consciousness takes up lots of space, distracts from and suffocates art.

On a great day, the process is vertical, spiritual, intuitive. In that space we are free to focus every fiber on serving the song at hand. In that space, every syllable matters, every melodic nuance is measured and shaped, but it happens not in a lab but on a birthing table.

Like any good birthing room, the baby is delivered after hard labor in a safe and relatively serene environment.  And she looks a little like her parent and a LOT like a brand new thing that never existed before.

"How Emptiness Sings" - Live at Northview, Indianapolis

Although my brain is a constant buzz of activity, I find it hard to, carve out time to journal.  Most weeks the best I can muster is the jotting of 3 or 4 sentences of prayer and a few song ideas on scraps of paper, alongside the "get milk & eggs" list.  Solitary time is scarce and reserved mainly for reading, prayer and songwriting.  Thus, you get a video this week instead of deep thoughts. And next week...I'll be at Masterpiece, so you might just get some cool & fun photos of our mayhem there. But I did have an extremely enjoyable weekend up in Indianapolis, not far from my alma mater Anderson University, visiting funny & talented college friends, my awesome 4-wheeling cousins and making music.  Here you'll see  a beautifully filmed "How Emptiness Sings" shared Sunday morning.  Thank you, Northview, for inviting me to talk & sing.  It was an honor to worship with you all.

How Emptiness Sings from Northview Church on Vimeo.

Sing along tonight?

In Nashville this week, I had the rare opportunity to go out with Mom and hear some live music last night.  Listened to several accomplished songwriters at Cindy Morgan's benefit for the Leukemia Society sing in the round, telling stories - some lighthearted, some serious - about the music they have made, and perform them for us simply, guitars or piano.  I sat leaning back, absorbing the phrases, language and melody, hearing them sprinkle each other's tunes with harmony...loving every line.

Before that event had finished, we buzzed out and over to Family Wash in East Nashville to hear our friends, Ben and Emily, from Carolina Story.  And I swear I couldn't stop smiling the whole time they played, being completely delighted by their creativity and the layers just these two build into a tune.

I don't get out for live music much these days, but it was awesome.  And a reminder of what it can feel like to have someone else wash your feet with music.

So with that in mind, I invite you to join me tonight with the generously gifted Nicole Witt, in her living room just outside Nashville.  What's that you say?  You're in Alaska tonight?  No problem.  Just follow this link:

http://www.ustream.tv/channel/christa-wells-live-from-the-living-room-w-nicole-witt#

...and log in (easy) to join us from wherever you are. Apparently you can chat there - enter questions or file complaints :) - so we'll have someone on duty there to pass on your messages.

Sure, it's not quite the same as hearing the sound fill a room or getting to swap stories in person.  But come along anyway. And bring the whole family.  Mine will be there. :)

Time: 7-8pm Central

With humble gratitude for your ears and hearts,

christa

Masterpiece Project 2011: Someone You Know Needs This Camp

Today I repost my reflections on the time I spent in 2010 with high school students at one of the best creative arts camps out there, along with a note written by one of our students. This is where you'll find me every late July and where I am personally encouraged and challenged by an intimate group of young artists. This is where I would have spent my summers when I was a teenager, if it had existed, and it would have been a source of deep encouragement to me, as it is to these students.

Registration is now open for Masterpiece Project 2011 whose theme will be "Add to the Beauty" (inspired by Sara Groves' song by the same name).  To find out more, contact Sherrie Rogers at gslrogers@gmail.com .

*******************************************************************************************************************

I want to tell you about Masterpiece Project 2010.

Our theme this year was “Frame the Clouds,” and you’ll just have to believe me when I say I did not have anything to do with that. But I was humbled, so grateful that the concept resonates with others.

The staff at Masterpiece are not all of a kind.  We are songwriters, musicians, graphic designers, painters, poets, photographers, calligraphers, pastors, dancers, and counselors.

We are all passionate about our art forms and passionate about the work of God’s kingdom.

In particular, we are passionate about encouraging young artists to be fearless in their faith and in their work.

We all feel inadequate in one way or another.

We wonder what’s next in our own lives.

Above all we believe there is a big, big beautiful true story happening and that it is our responsibility to participate in the telling of it.  By making art.  And by living in love with God’s art.

The students at Masterpiece are not all of a kind.  They are songwriters, musicians, painters, poets, photographers, calligraphers, dancers, novelists, cartoonists, designers.  Public-schooled, private-schooled, home-schooled.  Funny, dramatic, shy, mysterious, hardworking, uncertain, open.

They feel inadequate and wonder what’s next.

But above all they suspect they have something in common with other storytellers, past and present, across the globe and in the next cabin.  Some small part of them, at least, believes they have been given a uniquely powerful way of representing God’s True story.

In one little week in the rural midwest, we are together and changed.

We, together, have listened, walked and talked, written, collaged, and played, danced, cooked, and cleaned.  We've sung prayers, read the Word, and represented a Creed.

We tried to frame the clouds.

And yes, we even built a giant iPod.

*The following was copied (with permission) from a Facebook "Note" posted by one of our campers:

"When we were released by the kitchen staff the people who were helping and I were sitting around a table and someone asked if I had any of my drawings with me and I did. I showed them the one I was working on and I ran back to my cabin and grabbed my three boxes of my drawings and brought them over to the gathering area. I opened them up and gave them up for viewing. This is something I do not do often, generally I am not comfortable with groups of people looking through my art for whatever reason, but I knew it could be appreciated. Now there was a little crowd of about eight or nine people chattering and oooing over my art. Now this was unique being that I have drawn them and made up my mind whether or not I like them or not. There was stuff from a couple of years ago to present and some of those pieces are somewhat embarrassing to me but much to my surprise people were pointing out things in my art that I never saw and were explaining how much they enjoyed them. Compliment after compliment kept coming about drawings that I had nearly forgotten about. It was an encouraging moment and something I remember clearly. In that moment I knew that I was in the company of friends..."