After reading yesterday’s blog, my guy Lando, who played drums on the album, told me I was nuts… in as many words. He told me something that absolutely positively rearranged, changed, and re-focused my purpose for doing this recording in the first place. I’ll get to that in a second.
First, I have to say that there is something really unfortunate about me that I wish wasn’t true but is, which is this: I value other people’s opinions over my own. I want approval, desperately. I want everyone to think that I am the cat’s meow (which, it turns out, just made you feel all weird and nerdy inside). Regardless, I’m one of those people that carry people’s opinions and feedback, people’s words about me, around for a really long time. I lend weight to their words over my own self-talk. I honestly don’t believe people when they say that they don’t do that…which is evidence of how much I’ve normalized this reality of mine for myself. I do have friends that relate to this a lot, most of whom are teachers, writers, or performers. Sure, they teach, write, or perform because they love to, but they also thrive off of the feedback they receive.
That being said, I related yesterday that I was planning on not releasing some of the songs we recorded last week because they weren’t perfect.
I needed a friend like Lando to remind me that being perfect wasn’t why we were recording in the first place. He actually was right, but he had no real idea what was going on in my head about the recording. I think he was hoping I was out of my mind. Here’s what he said to me (sorry Lando, it was good enough to share):
“I’m probably not the best source to give you an objective perspective when it comes to critical musical analysis (mostly because I’m not that great of a musician), but I objectively enjoy listening to all 8 of these tracks. And it’s not because I turn my ear off to imperfections. It’s because these songs genuinely make me feel something. One of my biggest unknowns going into recording was “will these songs digitally translate the feeling that they give off when performed live”. Listening to the finished product: my answer is “yes”.”
He went on to say that I need to figure out who the intended audience is for this recording. If it’s everyone, then, according to him, I should share all of these songs. He was right.
The reason that I set out on recording these songs with the plan to distribute them in the first place was because I believe that theology is formed through liturgy. What that means practically is that, when people participate in the ritual (yes, it’s a ritual) on Sunday mornings, most likely no one remembers much of what was said from the pulpit. What sticks with people is what is memorizable – namely music. A song gets stuck in your head. It stays with you, it haunts you, it comes into your mind at random times, and it keeps teaching you.
Much of the music that is sung in non-traditional churches doesn’t teach much beyond the fact that God loves me and has a wonderful plan for my individual life. That’s all well and good, but it isn’t really the whole story. God didn’t primarily set out to change individuals individually for their own individual benefit. God has always been about restoring all of creation – humanity, animals, eco-systems, governments, etc. – through a restored community of people. Yes, that community is made up of individuals, but those individuals are only powerful when they become a focused community. If our liturgy only tells us about us as individuals, it robs us of the good news of restoration that God has been trying to tell us all along. If the only songs that get stuck in our heads are about how good God is for us, then we may become myopic in our outlook on the world.
The songs that I have written, the songs we recorded, are community songs. They are not about me. They are about us. They are about restoration, and our role in re-making the world through the power of the Spirit of Christ. They are about how God is working to make all things – humans, animals, eco-systems, governments, etc. – new. These are the songs that I want to get stuck in people’s heads. All of them.
And, I’ll admit, they aren’t all perfect. They are flawed. But so am I. And so is the community that I am a part of. And so are all of us. It may sound like I am easily swayed, and admittedly, I am. Like I said, other people’s opinions carry weight with me. But what really happened when Lando said what he said was that he helped me find the perspective I so easily lost when I received criticism about the music. I thank God for that.