VELVETEEN (new single)

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VELVETEEN

(Shive/Wells/Witt)

 

Love spoke my name

And I felt life run through me

Reborn in the flames

Nothing can undo me

Ooh, I believe that I'm becoming

 

So if my beauty starts to fade

Well, I've been held in a thousand ways

If my heart looks broken in

Then I've been brave enough to live

If perfect turns to perfect mess

And all your love is all that's left

Then I'm as real as real can be

Call me Velveteen

 

Shadow and light

I've learned to let them find me

Coming alive

Feels a lot like dying

Ooh, I believe that I'm becoming

 

So if my beauty starts to fade

Well, I've been held in a thousand ways

If my heart looks broken in

Then I've been brave enough to live

If perfect turns to perfect mess

And all your love is all that's left

Then I'm as real as real can be

Call me Velveteen

 

I know it's true no matter, 

True no matter how I feel

'Cause I'm becoming

I'm becoming real

 

So if my beauty starts to fade

If my heart looks broken in

If my beauty starts to fade

Well, I've been held in a thousand ways

If my heart looks broken in

Then I've been brave enough to live

If perfect turns to perfect mess

And all your love is all that's left

Then I'm as real as real can be

Then I'm as real as real can be

Then I'm as real as real can be

Call me Velveteen

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

NEW MUSIC + Thoughtful Gifts For Songwriters

Well, friends, the time really got away from me this fall! While it's not quite as wintry here in Nashville as in this lovely photo, it's getting a bit brisk for the thin-skinned (me) and Christmas is a mere 15 days away! 

Somehow between tour's end and now, I failed to post about the two most recent songs released through Tune Tribe! These two happen to be a couple of my favorites this year, so I don't want to leave them out. 

ALSO, since it's December and you just might need gift ideas for a special music-maker in your life, I have some great suggestions for you at the end.


DOWN DOWN LOW

It was campaign season here in the States, and like most everybody, my ears were so tired of the ugliness. Many of us had to be intentional about taking a break from social media because it can become so unhealthy to feed on the strife. It was a challenge to me, too, because I want to know how to be a good listener and share my thoughts in a loving and open way.

So on the first leg of the Three Birds Tour, while I drove from Atlanta to Nashville alone, I kept the radio off and started thumping on the steering wheel and singing this melody a capella. A totally new approach for me, as I typically have to be at the piano to write.

The accompanying artwork by Mandy Rogers Horton is appropriately titled "Noisily Day and Night."

Here's a preview of Down Down Low:


THIS DECEMBER

The last new song of 2016 is "This December" which I also did not start at the piano. I wrote this chorus on the ukulele with my oldest son in mind, but also so many others who are asking lots of great questions about faith and tradition. It has a hint of Christmas and winter, but I like to think you could listen to it year-round and not be offended. :)

This piece of Mandy's is titled - also aptly - "Something I Cannot Name."


TUNE TRIBE + TRIBE SONGS

Digital Downloads - If you're new around here and are interested in getting these and the rest of the year's song demos digitally, you can subscribe HERE ($10) & we'll send you a link to stream/download (wav + mp3) at your leisure. You'll get 11 songs now plus one more next month and the opportunity to vote for the ones you think I should include in my next full-production album. Would love to have you join in!

Physical CD - Order a copy of Tribe Songs, my home-brewed album of all these new song demos I've recorded with Jess Ray this year. I'll send you a hand-labeled audio CD with 11 previously unreleased songs. Click HERE to get your copy of Tribe Songs ($12).


THOUGHTFUL GIFTS FOR SONGWRITERS

INSTRUMENTS or ACCESSORIES

A new or different instrument, other than their primary one...New strings...Travel case...Cables...Boom stand...Guitar stand...Yeti Pro USB Microphone (I love mine!) for home recording/worktapes...Quality headphones...Portable PA...Soundboard...Performance mics...

JOURNAL + GOOD PEN

Everyone has their preferences. In recent years, I've used basic marble composition books. My most treasured one was a small-sized soft leather journal with a string that wraps around it. Small enough to not be intimidating, lovely enough to be inspiring.

BOOKS

Here are a few of my favorite creativity-themed books:

  • Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith & Art by Madeleine L'Engle
  • Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
  • Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon
  • Show Your Work by Austin Kleon
  • A Million Little Ways by Emily P. Freeman
  • Songwriters on Songwriting by Paul Zollo
  • Writing Better Lyrics by Pat Pattison (supposed to be great, though I haven't yet read it)
  • Tribes by Seth Godin
  • Linchpin by Seth Godin

I also recommend books of poetry and great fiction, both great food for the soul and inspiration for songwriting!

SUBSCRIPTION to American Songwriter magazine. This is truly a great gift for any music-maker. I only wish I had time to read every issue cover to cover!

CONCERT TICKETS - There's almost nothing more helpful to a musical artist than to actually go see live performances. If cost were not an issue, most of us would be attending a lot more of these events & would be better for it.

Don't just look for the big productions, though. Those are a lot of fun, but your typical working artist needs real inspiration and ideas that can come from enjoying a great performance at a more intimate venue. It's so helpful to be up close and learn how to share music in an effective way without the big machine & lights. 

I also recommend giving tickets to theater productions and arthouse movies. Most of us will spend the money to see a mainstream film that's gotten great reviews. Fewer people take a "risk" on indie films, but those can be the most provocative and interesting. Read reviews & get two tickets so you can go together and discuss after!

HOST A HOUSE SHOW

If your writer is ready to share their work publicly, you could plan a concert in your own home and invite your neighbors, co-workers and family. Being a host is always a gift to yourself as much as anyone else. It takes a bit of planning and effort, but it's so worthwhile. You don't have to have a lot of space or a fancy house. Just space for some friends to gather & listen - everyone will thank you!

SCHOLARSHIP TO A SONGWRITING RETREAT OR MASTERPIECE PROJECT

Retreats - There are always songwriting workshops and retreats available & I speak from experience when I say it can be just the thing an aspiring songwriter needs to take the next step and grow. I am co-hosting one such retreat with my friend & collaborator Nicole Witt in East Nashville January 6-8, 2017 (one spot left), but with a little googling you'll be able to find one nearby, maybe even hosted by one of your favorite writers! (Link to our retreat: "Artist And" Songwriting Retreat)

Masterpiece Project - Masterpiece is a creative arts camp for high schoolers in southern Kentucky. I facilitate songwriting workshops there one week each summer and cannot speak highly enough of this experience. It's exactly what I wish I'd had when I was 16.

Escape to the LakeThis non-profit organization is all about promoting "gourmet" faith-based music, and their annual 4-day music festival is unlike anything else. The biggest difference is that it's small, no green rooms, no smoke and mirrors. Your songwriter will get to sit at the lunch table with the performing artists and writers, talk around the campfire, play at an open mic, and attend panel discussions. AND the festival is usually prefaced by a 2-day songwriting bootcamp! This is a fantastic opportunity, another one I would have loved to have had early on.

DEMO RECORDING SESSION

Help your writer get a song professionally recorded. Cost can range from $200-1500. Find some local producers, listen to their work online and make sure you like what they do, and consider the purpose of the demo before determining your budget so you don't over-spend. This can be an exhilarating experience for a new writer and would be a fantastic gift!

MUSIC

I know Spotify and Apple Music are the go-to, but here's the thing. They pay us next to nothing. The reality is musicians NEED to be paid for their work in order to keep creating it. Encourage your artist to pay for the music he/she loves most by giving an iTunes gift card. Or give a vinyl copy of a favorite album to your younger listeners. Physical CDs for the car. And maybe give music that has stood the test of time, something a young writer can learn from and enjoy.

TIME

If your creative person is married to you or has children, the best gift you could give them is TIME & SPACE. Take the kids for a whole day or one night a week and let her write in peace! Or surprise him with a room or space set up just for his composing. Simple, free, and oh so meaningful!

PROFESSIONAL PHOTOS

We all need them, and the good ones are usually expensive. Help arrange and pay for their next session with someone who specializes in artist photography!

WEBSITE DESIGN

You can build your own, but some of us could use a little help taking it up a notch. Or maybe your friend doesn't have a domain yet and you could buy the domain in their name so it's ready when they are!

ONLINE MENTORING SESSIONS

I - and other writers I know - love to encourage up-and-coming songwriters. We don't have all the answers and are still growing ourselves, but we have learned a few things along the way, and it's really a pleasure to share what we have. When I host a session, I like to hear some music and give feedback and then discuss anything the other writer has questions about. It's really great (and rare) to get one-on-one attention from someone just a few steps further up the road. Email for more info: taylor@christawellsmusic.com

Through a group we've started called ARTIST AND, my friend Nicole Witt and I also periodically host online gatherings of about 8 people at a time to discuss particular themes related to artmaking. Join the Facebook community ARTIST AND to stay in the loop!

So I think that's a wrap (heh heh) on gift ideas! Have something you'd add to the list? Please leave suggestions in the Comments section.

Love to you and yours as we wait & prepare for the glorious coming, now just a couple of weeks away!

christa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Love,

christa

 

 

FEELS LIKE HOME

Friends, I released a new single last week called "Feels Like Home." 

As a moderate introvert and Type 9 on the Enneagram, I'm prone to feeling overwhelmed by the noise & chaos around me. I wear myself out protecting my peace of mind and talk way too much about woods-walking and tiny houses. 

Living in a full house amplifies the pleasure of a little bit of quiet, a little bit of solitude or a date night where we get to be just ourselves and drive somewhere. As a former army brat, I never tire of exploring the elusive notion of "home" and have no choice but to allow it to remain fluid in terms of place but constant in terms of people.  

If "home" requires a permanent physical address, then many of us are homeless. But if home - at its deepest level - is about being known & cherished by someone, then we sleep in mansions.

So one day at the piano, craving a wide open sky and quiet companionship, I began this song. I shared it in progress online and found others resonated with it. About a year later, I finally finished it and collaborated with Nashville producer extraordinaire Ben Shive (Colony House, Ellie Holcomb) to record it for a possible film/tv pitch.

Now we wait and hope it will get picked up, but in the meantime, you can download and enjoy it. In fact, this week it's a FREE download on Noisetrade.com

I never stop feeling crazy joy & gratitude that you'd take the time to pay attention to what I'm making up over here at my old piano. 

Thank you for that...

cw

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OCTOBER SINGLE: I Can't Get Small Enough

OCTOBER SINGLE: I Can't Get Small Enough

The kids and I just got home Monday night from a 4-day trip back "home" to Raleigh. We haven't been back since we left in July, and we were all super excited to hang out with our people there. 

But as we started rounding familiar corners, the first thing that grabbed all of our attention was the lush green wall of 80-foot pine trees and sweet gums on either side of the road. That's Raleigh. Trees for miles. Green, green, green all year. 

The trees are highly protected in Raleigh, so that strip malls can be almost hard to spot. And the houses, even the big ones...so small, surrounded, overwhelmed.

When we moved to that place, I initially hated those trees, felt suffocated and closed in, not enough sky.

I'm different now...

September Single: HOME

September Single: HOME

Well, things took an unexpectedly joyful turn when I started writing this one. Honestly, I could write on the theme of "home" for dayyyyys - and have. Home is a fascinating concept for an army brat and so I find myself turning it over in the palm of my hand with curiosity and changing emotional response. 

My family has just relocated to Nashville, Tennessee, after almost two decades in North Carolina, and I find myself in a place of tension between missing "home" and finally BEING "home" with all of us inside the same walls after a full year of separateness. 

This song is me focusing on the latter. Ultimately, it's being able to hold the people you love most that makes us most at home...

You Are My Defense: behind the song

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"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.

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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.

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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

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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."

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The Songwriting Life

Screen Shot 2014-05-21 at 7.56.55 AMSo I sat down and wrote a few lines and tried for a melody, but nothing memorable came. Returned to familiar key progressions, fiddled, stared out the front window at the road, then stood and went back to the oven to check the roasting zucchini.

That was one day.

I sat on a piano bench in a room with community and coffee, and we couldn’t stop smiling, at the inspiration and flow and our own jokes. One sang and tried out a lyric while I played and nodded and a third dropped in spontaneous fiddle parts.

That was another day.

My laptop is open and I’m listening to someone else’s songs, in awe of the instincts and choices. Google title for words, put the tune on repeat and let it fill up the room, while I inwardly cheer that someone thought of it.

I don’t even try for something of my own that day.

Last month, all alone, a song came right up out of my skin. Maybe it had been coursing through the veins for quite some time. Maybe it was waiting for me to take it seriously, take it to dinner, ask the right questions. Love at first sight, we were made for each other.

That was a good day.

But every day…

I make, and I am made.

I sing, and I am sung to.

Together, we listen to the stories, we open doors, and we hold hands.

We laugh for no reason late at night, stand close with tears in our eyes, remind one another to look at the illuminated road rather than the lightning*.

This is the secret truth: the music doesn’t stop, not for one unseen second of our days.

You are a writer, and you are also a beloved character on the pages of another writer’s masterpiece.  A favorite part of the melody in another writer's song.

EVERY day.

So am I, even on the staring-out-windows days.

 

 

 

*Taken from Eugene Peterson's A LONG OBEDIENCE IN THE SAME DIRECTION, where on page 30 he paraphrases Elie Wiesel on the stories of the Hasidim.

FEED YOUR SOUL - Release Day!

christa wells feed your soul album I may start crying if I’m not careful.

I mean, we actually did this.  Nine months ago, I trembled my way into a Kickstarter campaign and asked for help making another record.  Who am I to ask so much from  others?  But I did.

Songs and substance were beginning to well up again, and there didn’t seem to be a way to get them out on my own.  This simply would not have gone forward at that time without a communal effort.  And you guys stepped out of shadows with so much joy & gratitude (!) it took my breath away.

And here we are.

Today was the official birthdate of “FEED YOUR SOUL,” an album of 12 new & original songs that begins with vanity & self-sufficiency and ends in authentic love & community.

I did not know where I was going with these songs at first.  I didn’t know how they would fit together or what umbrella they might belong under.  They terrified me, honestly, and I was often certain they were miserable failures.

But you’ve begun to take them out of my arms and carry them with you.  And I’m finding out from you that the course was right after all and the work worth the labor pains.

So, world, I humbly present “FEED YOUR SOUL,” bashfully placing it at the foot of the mountain of good things.  Hopeful it belongs there.

And if you agree it was worth the effort...maybe you'll tell somebody?

Two Ways to Show Your Love:

  1. Itunes/Amazon reviews & ratings…It really helps an album to have lots of good words written about it.  If you have 5 minutes…?
  2. Give a copy or copies away…to your neighbor, co-worker or blog-readers

The world needs music-lovers as much as music-makers.  It never escapes me how much I need you.  Humbly grateful you’ve chosen to be here in this moment with me.

Love,

christa

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.

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Artists, what would you add to my thoughts?  

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Masterpiece Project 2012: Already/Not Yet

Some fun sound & images for you today! A week ago, we crossed the mountains of western North Carolina after a 12-day trip to Boston/Cape Cod, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Needless to say, with the constant change of routine around here, my attempt to post anything regularly this summer did not pan out.

Ah, well.  :)  You had plenty to do and read without my help, I'm sure.

As you probably know if you've been hanging around here awhile, one of the best things about summer for me is the week I spend at Masterpiece Project in southern Kentucky.  This year may have been my favorite year yet.  Word must have finally gotten out, because we had more young artists than ever apply and sadly had to turn a few away.  It is just that special. Our theme this year was: Already/Not Yet, which was a provocative springboard for our camp-wide collaborative project.

View all photos from the week on the Masterpiece Facebook page, or subscribe to the Masterpiece Newsletter (email your addy to: gslrogers@gmail.com) to read articles by students & staff!

Growing up, we had no camp for creative students, but we did have parents who supported and encouraged our creative endeavors, paid for music lessons, attended performances, and gathered around the piano joining in our sing-alongs.  So last week when, for the first time in Masterpiece history, all my siblings and both my parents were at camp together at one time, it was the heartfelt plea of our dear Mom that we sing something together one night at open mic.  :)

Here we are obliging Mom's request (l-r: Mandy Rogers Horton, Gordon Rogers, Jeremy Botts (dear old friend & artist/Wheaton College prof), and Reagan Mountain) with a song I wrote for the Definitions Conference (inspired by Hebrews 11, lyrics below).  I love that you can hear Masterpiece camper voices singing along by the end.

For a Faith Like That 

I ask for one thing

Of the gifts you could give me

What I want is what I need

Give me faith like an old oak tree

The faith of our fathers

Lord, plant and I’ll water

Plant and I’ll water deep

 

Til I offer like Abel

Til I bless like Jacob

Imagine like Abraham under the stars

Let me speak like Samuel

Let me dance like David

Remember like Moses where I belong 

For a faith like that

 

To wait the promise

When I can’t see the finish

To go the distance

Heart set for the city of gold

To welcome the danger

Knowing I am a stranger here

Lord, let me persevere

For your glory

 

Chorus

 

I pray that whatever comes to me along this way

I’ll follow you, I’ll follow you by faith

Lord, if I do it’s only by grace

By grace

 

Chorus x2

 

I ask for one thing

Of the gifts you could give me

What I want is what I need

Give me faith like an old oak tree

(c) 2012 kiss me not publishing

 

Also from our time at Masterpiece, fun was had by these three groups of songwriting students in our workshop on Day 1, as they got to know each other and shared some of their musical awesomeness.  Their assignment: rewrite the lyrics to "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" and then create new music for your new lyrics.  Voila!

The Writing Room Revisited

 

Every artist

 

seeks

 

space.

 

 

 

We seek silence or solitude,

communal space for collaboration,

a space to share,

a space to be heard,

a space unfilled that wants what we have...

I carve out summer space to write for new projects begun months ago and find the more I work, the more I feel I'm just getting started.  Songs begun on parceled scraps of winter nights aren't really holding up in the light of recent pieces that seem more...sure of themselves.  More enduring in their interest to the writer.

(And therein lies a point: if even the writer finds the work dull and does not desire to play it again while it is still in the cradle sucking its thumb, the rest of the world will almost certainly feel the same way.)

With all this in mind, as I ready for camp next week, I re-share this post in hopes that you, too, will grab the handle of the blade and whittle yourself a room for writing.

 

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.

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

Oh, Your Love - for mothers and their children

Thinking about motherhood this week, as I watch the kids make secret plans for Sunday. Aware of how this phenomenon called parenting alters a person.  As she pushes her child away from her body and into the world, she begins the work of teaching him how to separate from her.  Slowly but surely, she prepares him to leave.  And at the same time, she learns to how to push herself towards him and his needs, away from her own.

Sometimes it doesn't work out that way.

Some of you feel you have no mother to celebrate, even if she is living. Some were wounded and betrayed by her. Some have just been born into motherhood and are terrified of the responsibility.

We have this in common, all of us having been born to a flawed woman in need of grace.  If you haven't found something to celebrate in your own mother, perhaps this song will be a peek into the possible. A hallway of hope for the children who come into your life, to be mothered by you in some way. After all, everyone needs mothering.

My own mother?  She's just beautiful.  If you've met her, you know what I'm talking about.  She will never claim any talent or physical beauty, though it's there.  But time has taught her how to shine in the most marvelous way.  This woman knows how to love.  In fact, she doesn't know how not to...she doesn't leave a grocery store without hugging a cashier.  It's what she was born to do.  And the love of the Maker through this little redheaded woman has sent out millions of ripples across the waters of humankind since 1948.   She is leaving a legacy of love.

I'm so grateful.

This is a little something I wrote this week and late last night, Aidan said he'd work a little FLIP video magic for me.  As you can see, we are a very high-tech family.

Happy Mother's Day, Mom.

*TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES WITH YOUTUBE VIDEO POSTING.  To view, click HERE. :)

Oh, Your Love (Christa Wells)

I know that you knew

You raised us to leave you

Raised us to run with a torch in our hands

I know that you knew

What your love would do

Sent us out sailors with the wind at our backs

 

I know that you gave

Without keeping record

Except to be certain you had nothing left

I know that you gave

Til it hurt though you never

Admitted anything but the joy and gladness

 

Ooh, your love always carried us

 

I know that you followed us

Late in the darkness

Pulled up the blankets, covered us in prayer

I know that you followed

Our paths to independence

With a great deal of patience and a little bit of fear

 

But ooh, your love always carried us

 

I know that you see us

The way we were back then

You can’t let go, you can’t really let us go

But I hope that you see how

You took those little children

To the light that leads us all to our true home

 

And ooh, your love always carries us

Oooh, your love will always carry us

 

I know that you knew what your love would do

Your family loves you.

 

 

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.

SO excited about this...

If you want to make a musician really happy, give us a chance to play side by side with some of our favorite fellow artists. It's just...well...it's just special. :) Like a kid in a candy shop. And it doesn't hurt that some of the pressure of carrying a whole concert by yourself is relieved. I know I'm not the only singer/songwriter who gets bored with herself and appreciates a little variety. SO. If you are anywhere near Durham, NC, on JUNE 17,and you come on downtown to the Reality Center (916 Lamond Avenue) with me, Wade Baynham (formerly of The Basics), and Carolina Story (Ben & Emily Roberts - East Nashville's cutest musical couple)...you'll be so happy you did.

Icing on the cake: the other great musicians coming alongside of us - Dale Baker (drums), Tim Carless (electric), and David Kline (bass).

I'm serious. I LOVE these people. You will love these people. And their music.

AND: we're playing for donations. So, no financial excuses. :)

Check them out:

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