Tuesday, October 24, 2006


People often ask what inspires me to write songs.

My short answer: deadlines.

This usually generates a kind of giggle – as though I can’t be serious – or a look of vague disappointment.

But it’s true, and always has been, for me.

I wrote songs – pretty bad ones – for a while in high school, but I started writing more regularly during my university years when friends started to get married and I wanted to sing something at the reception. So there I’d be, the night before, putting something together to be sung once, and then no more. Good fun, and sometimes (if I was lucky) a lot of laughs, or even an occasional poignant “Hmmm…”

I kept writing songs now and then, and when they “worked” they tended to be for a particular audience, for a particular purpose, but they often had fairly indeterminate contexts and deadlines (and, I’d say, fairly indeterminate results…).

Then I started writing songs for the use of the church. Specifically, songs of faith that we can sing with our children – that I could sing with my son - and that would be accessible and engaging and meaningful for children as well as grown-ups. Songs that are intended as tools for the church in its mission. Somehow, for me, that’s what “cracked it open” and the songs have come gushing out (or sometimes more slowly streaming, if there are no particularly pressing “deadlines”) ever since…

“We really need a song to sing when…”

“We’re planning this event… exploring this theme… struggling with this issue… and it would be great if we had a song that could help us to…”

“This is something (a concept, a passage of Scripture) that we REALLY NEED TO SING in these days…”

Ahhh... this is, literally, “music to my ears.” This is what inspires me to write songs. So I suppose it's not really about “deadlines,” but about contributing my particular gifts to a common cause, a common purpose that I believe in and to which I have dedicated my life. (This may be where you want to read the SmallTall Music mission statement… or not…)

Now I’m not saying that this is how it is or ought to be for everybody. Lots of people do art that comes from lots of different places and motives and processes – thank God! I’m just describing how it is for me.



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