Category Archives: Music

Recording: The Calm Before The Storm (a Destiny song)

In my recent post on gaming, I posted video with a song I had written at the end. As is my custom, it’s time to tell you about what I did when writing & recording it.

The song, The Calm Before The Storm, is inspired by the video game Destiny. It was written as an entry to a competition for a Destiny podcast that I listen to called Guardian Radio. They have a weekly competition (bounty) for different prizes & when writing a song was one I figured I could have a go at that.

Entering the competition set 2 challenging parameters that I have never had to work with before. First I had just under a week to get it done, I listened to the podcast on the Tuesday & the song was to be submitted by the end of the following Sunday, which also happened to be Mothers Day in the US. Secondly it had to be less than 3 minutes long, including any verbal introduction that you wanted to give it. Challenge accepted!

I wrote the song fairly quickly on the first day, mostly while at work (shh don’t tell anyone), themed around the story of Destiny & also the Guardian grimoire card. The podcast has a feature on their show where they do dramatic readings of the grimoire cards so I thought they would appreciate the nod. I don’t actually recall where the title line came from, obviously it is a well known phrase & is something I had been meaning to be creative with for a good while. Within the context of the song / game, it was a reference to the well known grind in Destiny. Yes you may have finished everything in the game, however don’t get carried away celebrating, because it is always time to go & do it again (and again). It is also a reference to my amazingly inconsistent PvP performances where I can just as easily go 6-16 as I can 16-6, much to my frustration.

With the game being a sci-fi adventure, I felt that the only way to go would be with a prog-rock style of presentation, I mean, what says sci-fi more than prog rock? I had hoped to get a more Dream Theater like vibe going on, but a combo of a lack of time & never having tried to do something prog(ish) before kept it away from that direction.

Fortunately when I was writing I got the idea for the basic melody for the singing so that made the process easier. I put together the chord progression on my acoustic on the Wednesday & then sat on it / rehearsed it for a couple of days. Then it was on to recording. This would be the first time I used my new upgrade to Cubase 7.5, the full version following my experiences with Cubase essentials 5 previously. As with almost all of my music software purchases, I got it on a great discount then didn’t use it for a while. The same went for the Halion Symphonic Orchestra that I bought on a deep discount whim a while back.

One of the things I have struggled with previously when recording is getting the timing right to be able to get a drum track down using EZdrummer. Far and away my favorite addition to the new Cubase is the chord track. This can be used creatively if you want, but for me it was so great to put the chords in place & get them in time right with the song, to allow me to easily see what drum loops would fit. The time saved & frustration levels removed for this little home recording artist was amazing & has me inspired to get back to recording regularly, instead of just wishing I knew how to do it better.

You can use the chord track to then trigger virtual instruments, this allows for a non piano playing person like me to set basic midi tracks much easier & quicker than before. No more googling a chord shape & playing / recording each piece separately. I used the chord track to control 4 separate channels of the Orchestra VST. A violin set, violas, cello & a brass ensemble, the idea being to give the track a movie soundtrack feel through an orchestral backdrop. To add a little variation & used an arpeggiator on the violins & violas, it is barely noticeable in the mix but it does add some nice depth.

Next up were the drums, which I was determined not to fight with & ruin the whole thing. I used a mixed kit of Ayotte & Ludwig pieces from the Rock Solid EZX & as quickly as possible found some fitting, generic rock midid loops to use. If I’d written this closer to the time of recording I would be able to better remember if I had to manipulate the loops much to fit what I was doing, but I honesty don’t remember.

With the drums in place & the orchestra leading the way I took to the acoustic guitar & recorded 2 tracks, one strumming the chords & one playing fingerstyle. To get as big a sound as I could, as quickly as possible, each recording (one take each) was done using 3 channels. I had a direct feed from the guitar’s electronics into the DI and then my 2 mics, one a large diaphragm condenser & one a dynamic, set up a different positions on the guitar to get a nice full sound with as many audio dynamics as possible. These would then be separated out in the mix with panning & balanced to give the best sound.

With this being a time crunch Sunday I went ahead & recorded the vocals next instead of the bass. We had family coming over that I would need to visit with & also I wanted to get anything that required the use of a microphone out of the way before the house got noisy.

Usually when recording vocals I record at least 4 takes & comp the best of them together. There was no time for that this time so a “good enough” take was recorded on 1 track. I tackled each section separately, cutting in with the recording. That way I could get my focus before the verse or chorus to try make sure I at least got a usable track. The same process for the harmony track was also used.

I resisted the temptation to apply any auto correction to the vocals, even though they started a little shaky. I added minimal processing to the vocals, mostly due to the time crunch. Using only the Nasty VCS (channel strip), a vintage compressor from cubase & a little reverb from Room Works.

With the vocals down I didn’t have long before our guests started to arrive. The rest of the recoding would be done in hurried breaks between visiting with family (I know, I’m bad). As always I ran the bass direct to my USB interface and used the Amplitube Ampeg plugin with my favorite preset, Comp Rock. One day I may actually work on bass playing, but for now I basically follow the chord progression and drums fill out the sound.

Finally it was on to the electric guitar parts, always my favorite part of the process, yet the most stressful sometimes as it is the only part I expect myself to be able to do really well with. I recorded 2 tracks of chorus laden clean sound with the Stratocaster, one strumming & one picking the notes. Then to actually give the track the rock feel that I wanted I ran a distorted track with the strat, before switching to the Les Paul tuned to drop D to try & give it some chug. The lead track was a one take hurried affair, but I think it actually fit quite well.

Running out of time before the deadline & also not wanting to neglect my wife & family on Mother’s Day 🙂 The editing process was done quickly & simply. I could have easily spent another week eq’ing, rerecording & editing. There are a couple of vocal parts I really wish I’d touched up, also the EQ on the toms is not quite right to me. However, considering half the challenge for the song was the time frame, I was really please & quite proud of it. Early in the process I realized I was going to have to save often, apparently having reached the limits of what my old laptop could handle, I was getting the blue screen of death every 20 minutes or so. It just about survived the recording session, but it was clear that I needed an upgrade if I am to actually continue with my occasional hobby.

If you were wondering if I had somehow won the contest, err no. Dustin Griffith won with a quite brilliant entry made about the podcast itself, certainly a worthy winner, the song is so good they really had no choice 🙂

Anyway, that’s about it. If you want to listen to the song again the video is here.

 

In A Mess – a new old song

There are some inescapable facts about music. One of those facts is that every song has a story. Sometimes that story is told through the lyrics, an autobiographical window into someone else’s world, or maybe it’s a fictional world created just for you. Sometimes it is in the music, a mystical tapestry of sonic stimulation that takes you to a place that words cannot. Frequently with commercial music the real story is that someone wants to make money, they have a hook a line & a catchy melody that is carefully placed together and given to someone to sing & play. Regardless of how good the story is, or is not, each song still has a story and so it is with the song I am about to share with you.

 

This is a bit of an odd one, writing this post in November that is, you see I recorded this song mostly in June, tinkered with it a bit in July & then had every intention of writing this post at the beginning of August. Then doubts crept in, it’s no good, it’s not representative of what I can do today, I don’t really like it, why would anyone else, you know, that BS that we all get when we create something. So it has sat, until recently & then I just decided, what the heck, share it, maybe a couple of people will listen, maybe one will like it, it doesn’t matter, the point is to not allow those fears to build back up. The main reason I ever share anything on here is to fight those internal fears that tell me I am no good, even though I know that is a lie.

 

In A Mess - original paperSo the song, it was originally titled “I Need You”, I changed it to “In a Mess”, which is one of the very few things I changed on it, I’m not sure why I changed the name but the new one seems to fit better. I wrote this song on April 19th 1995 (yes 1995, that’s not a typo), the note on the paper states that it was written in 38 minutes, between 10:19 & 10:57pm. That would place me at 18 years old at the time of writing and a little over a year into my guitar playing journey.

The song itself is not, that I recall, autobiographical, it appears to be about someone who is in a relationship that is on the verge of ending, but despite the chaos the person knows that he does not want the relationship to end, because he needs the love of his partner. The real story of the song however is that there was once a young 18 year old kid who wanted nothing more than to be a rock star and every time he tried to write a song it seemed to come out slow & mushy. So this time, equipped with a riff he borrowed from an instructional book & modified somewhat, he was going to write a rock song come what may. The result is pretty much what you hear here.

When I decided that this would be the next song I was going to record one of the parameters I set myself was that I was going to leave it as untouched as possible. The point in recording / sharing this was to do something for that 18 year old, who was to afraid of rejection to ever really share his music, that he was never able to do for himself. Lyrically I left it pretty much alone, a slight edit/delete for a couple of lines that didn’t flow at all, but you can see from the original writing that it is all still here. I resisted changing the key to one that better suited my vocal range, the riff is completely intact, I don’t recall how the solo originally went, but I am please with how it ended up, it seems to fit the song well. I honestly feel that if I had access to a DeLorean & could fire it up to 88 & get back to ’95, my 18 year old self would be thrilled with what I have done with it. That in itself is enough to please my 37 year old self.

When I am recording I have to remind myself that the best I am realistically going to achieve is a decent demo. I don’t have the know how or equipment – yet 😉 to make it sound like I paid big money to visit the warehouse In Vancouver & hire Butch Vig to produce it. That is more than ok, yet sometimes it is frustrating when I just cannot get it to sound the way it should in my mind (I guess that’s why they make the big bucks).

 

in a mess mixer

So anyway, for those who care, here is what I did with the tracks, starting with the guitar (of course). For the main riff you will find 4 separate guitar tracks. 2 each with the bridge pickup of the Les Paul & my HSS strat, yes that is a lot of humbucking! The guitar was recorded running my Boss GT-8 direct to Cubase which is the first time I have done it that way, usually I run it into an amp & mic it up. It is much easier to control the frequencies this way but it does lose a certain je ne sais quoi, I was however happy with the results & will use this method again depending on what the track calls for. The Les Paul was run through a Marshall stack patch that I call my Slash patch. The strat was run through a Soldano SLO-100 patch which has a very different, yet still highly overdriven, sound from the Marshall (digital versions are as close as I will get to them unfortunately), so that is how I came up with the 4 tracks.

in a mess drumsThe drums were as usual created using Ezdrummer. The kit was the main kit from the Rock Solid expansion pack, it has some great sounding rock kits in that one. As always seems to be the case, there was not a preprogrammed midi pattern that would fit my needs, either they provide odd patterns or my tastes are more unique that I realize. Regardless, for the main riff I took the closest thing I could find & then modified it to meet my needs. I think for the chorus & other parts I found something lose enough & then for the fills I merged & edited a few patterns to create something more unique.

In a mess bassThe bass was played through my trusty Ampeg SVT plugin, not I did say player, I might not play bass, but I can play guitar well enough on a bass to get a bass line for a song, lol. However as the bass world is pretty foreign to me I just used a stock pack from the plugin, fortunately al of the provided ones sound & work really well. This particular one, the Dist 810 stack, is based on the SVT-4 Pro amp.

In a Mess vocal plugins

In a Mess reverbThe vocals have a little EQ on them, some compression, a limiter for clipping control & a dash of BBE sonic maximizer & a send to some reverb. No auto-tune, ever, however close I get to signing in tune is what you will get, always, not sure why but that is a house rule in my home studio. I threw a little harmony vocal onto the track right at the end. It is not as tight as I originally intended, but I left it loose as it is because I liked the way it sounded like 2 people singing in a band as In a mess vocal delayopposed to an overdub. A new technique that I had to figure out was automating the delay effect, I wanted it only at certain points & so had to learn the automation of a send effect. It was not that difficult fortunately & I like what it added.

The mix was mostly done in recording, leveling & panning to fit as I go through the process works well for me. Once I had the mix set I exported & then imported into a new track to try and do some mastering. I usually do not bother with this as previously I have had nothing to add at this stage. However thanks to a heavy discount on  Musician’s Friend “stupid deal of the day “ I picked up the BBE Sonic Sweet set of plugins. I tried each of them individually & also different combinations but finally settled on using all 3 in sync with each other. They definitely add some sheen to the track & also enable it to come up close to commercial volume levels without just seeing a solid red warning light from all the clipping.

In a mess master

So there you have it, a new 19 year old song, thank you for reading & if you pressed play, thank you so much! I hope you enjoyed it for what it is 🙂

 

 

Wrangling Time & Making Music

One of the challenges we bloggers face is time, if you stick at it for any length of time, there will come a period when having enough time to write your blog become sparse. That goes for any form of creative expression, unless you are fortunate enough to do it professionally. I have been through one of those seasons recently but fortunately have managed to maintain enough creativity & will to continue to create to at least bring you some poetry fairly regularly. I think that is the key to getting through these seasons, intentionally keeping your desire to create at the forefront of your mind. Then, even if it is not as often as you would like, or the lengthy deep thinking post you were hoping to write, you will still find enough time a few times a week to create something, at least that is how it works for me. This life is amazing when you take the time to look around, inspiration is everywhere, from a warm cup of coffee to a cold rain drop, beauty & creative inspiration is just waiting for you to cease it.

What has been keeping me busy this time? I’m glad you asked J early in the summer my beloved daughter asked me if she could play soccer this fall.  Overjoyed I said yes, this is something I had been hoping for since she was born, but consciously had not pushed the game on her. I wanted her to find her own love for the game, if she were even to like it at all, the last thing I wanted was to be the Dad forcing his kid to play the game he loved. So, to cut a long story short, she is playing soccer now & I am coaching her team. We practice 2 nights a week, those days I don’t take a lunch break to make sure I can leave early enough to get there, then they play their games on a Saturday. To add to that, the itch to put my boots back on has become too strong and so for the first time in 7 years I too am playing soccer, practicing once a week & playing once a week. So, while it is for a good & very enjoyable reason, writing more than a few poems has not been possible recently & will probably remain a struggle until mid-November.

Now for all the Brits who might be upset as me calling the beautiful game soccer, don’t fret, my adopted country has not got to me quite that badly yet 😉 I use the name for ease of translation, but also I know & understand it’s origins. You see, the word soccer does not come from people who refuse to call anything other than the NFL football. Back in England during the mid-1800s when rules were being set for the various codes of football, the 2 most notable games that came out of that were Association Football & Rugby Football. In order to differentiate between these 2 new and popular codes, the terms Soccer taken from AsSOCiation and Rugger from Rugby were coined. Rugby of course down the road split again into Union & League – the proper version 😉 So, now when someone asks you about soccer, you can be assured that it is actually a piece of Victorian English slang & not an offensive American misnomer.

Another down side of being so beautifully busy is that after trying to call myself out to get back into recording music, I have barely had time to do anything with it. Although I did acquire a new acoustic guitar, a PRS (SE) Angelus, which is a beauty of an instrument, I should write a review on it or something soon. I took a couple of vacation days at the start of last week, to rest & unwind, the plan was also to use them to record some music. I made a start, but not much progress, the first day I did nothing, the 2nd day I recorded a scratch track for the next song I will be recording & started to work on the drums. Unfortunately I appear to have never considered how the drums should sound for the track. Between trying to get the tempo right & finding at least a foundation midi file to me to mold I lost a bunch of time & got a headache. Still, it is a beginning & my goal is to have it done by the end of the year. Not exactly a tight deadline, but it is at least realistic! This will be the first song I record with Cubase 7.5, I recently took advantage of a significant sale & upgraded from Cubase Essentials 5 to the full & newest version. The initial impressions are very favorable & I am looking forward to really getting to know it.

Today I had the privilege of leading worship at Solomon’s Porch the weekly homeless ministry put on by  The Lords Hands & Hearts. I didn’t get to do it in September due to my coaching commitments so it was a real pleasure to be there today. I actually met a volunteer there who is a music producer & he invited me to go to his studio sometime to see what we could create together, which I found very exciting (& slightly scary). Unfortunately with everything else that was going on there on the day we forgot to exchange info, still, it was a nice boost that someone like that had good things to say about me. I am sure I’ll see him again soon, I should probably start writing some music, or putting some of these poems I keep writing together into songs, that was always the plan anyway.

So there you have it, I’ve been busy but in a good way, life is going swimmingly & for the first time, maybe ever, I feel like an effective time wrangler, not someone holding onto a piece of driftwood on the ocean of time. It’s almost like the peace of God has filled me up & despite all of the “me” that tries to get in the way, His love and supernatural joy make me realize that “it is well with my soul”.

Be blessed my friends & make time to create, what you have to day. No matter how brief is beautiful and important.

Here’s a video of the aforementioned song that I am working on. I did it in a hurry for you so please excuse the clipping. I wrote this at the beginning of the year. The song is supposed to prompt the listener to ask them self the question of where do you turn when  things are going wrong. I believe having a good answer to this question is the key to a happy life. For me it is Jesus, what is it for you?

The idea for the final sound is to be fairly folksy but more Americana than full on Mumford & Sons. The initial idea for the song came to me while listening to Breathe Me In by Jared & the Mill. I was driving in the car with my family at the time & had that annoying thing of having to try & remember what had just happened in my mind until I got home. Next time I’ll just have my wife write the lyrics down or something lol. I have really been enjoying the recent resurgence in acoustic folk / blue grass type music. This was my attempt to write in that style, I feel that lyrically it is one of the best songs that I have produced.

Here is the Jared & the Mill song for you to enjoy

Music Update

The thought came to me recently that I have not given much of an update on my music recently. My newer readers (welcome & thank you by the way!) may not even be aware of the musical side of my life. From the outside it may appear that there is not much to share but I have actually been really busy musically, just not in the way that I had anticipated when I first wrote about my intention to record some past songs and share them, in addition to writing new music.

shedding while shreddingThat project initially went fairly well, I recorded a few songs, was slowly learning the process (it’s not as easy to do well as it may sound) and enjoyed sharing them on here.  2013 ended with a renewed commitment to learning to play the guitar better. It’s not that I can’t play well already, but there are some musical ideas that I get in my head that are much more in the Vai or Petrucci territory than the blues rock style that I play. If I am ever to realize these ideas, unfortunately I need to study a lot of theory & practice even more. That all came to pretty much a grinding halt in January when I had a great conversation which resulted in me volunteering to lead worship once a month at a Christian homeless ministry.

Leading worship has been an absolute dream come true, in so many ways. The only down side (if you can call it that) is that most of my musical free time has been dedicated to practicing for worship, not recording music. Not really that big of a deal, more on that later. As I wrote in my first post I was incredibly nervous when I first lead worship. Since then the nerves have gone away and I have slowly been finding my voice and comfort zone.

I hear music well enough to know that I don’t sound bad, I can hear that I am playing and singing mostly in tune yet it is feedback from others that really lets you know if you are doing ok. I have done it 5 times now and every time I have had nothing but positive feedback. It is really, really cool when after leading worship someone tells you they felts the presence of God during worship. One person told me that she felt I should be writing my own worship songs, something I have a great desire to do, yet somehow it has not quite happened yet (I am assuming this is His timing, not mine). I say it has not happened, I do have 1 actual worship song in the works and several songs that while not what you would call corporate worship songs are songs that are directly inspired by my relationship with Jesus & what He has done in my life.

I am not sure exactly where (if anywhere) leading worship will go, it is my intention to enjoy doing it for a good while though. Not only do I get to use my gifts to honor Jesus & hopefully lead others into a worshipful experience. It is also great therapy, the fears that I had of musical rejection are slowly dissipating and I am thoroughly enjoying the experience. It can be very intense at times, I’ve found myself shaking afterwards, not from nerves but from what I believe is a real connection with the spirit in the moment, I guess it could just be adrenaline but if it is it is unlike anything else that I have felt before.

The slight regret currently with my music is that it is still a very solitary adventure. Don’t get me wrong, great music, music with real emotion, can be made on your own. It certainly doesn’t take a full band to lead people into worship either; I really enjoy doing it on my own. However music is just better when it is a social event, it would be very exciting to get to lead worship with a band one day, with vocal harmonies an option. What I am going to do about this I have no idea. I have no desire to join a band and play bars etc, and as comfortable as I am getting, I don’t feel anywhere close to confident enough to want to try at my church. The band there is made up of professional musicians, great people, but slightly intimidating, besides, the band is full and they have a network of incredibly talented musicians to fill in for vacations already. Maybe I’ll look at having someone join me every now and then while leading worship at Solomon’s Porch.

Outside of worship it would be fun to make original music with people again. Somehow I need to find some folks who want to meet up only when it’s convenient & make original music together, simply for the pleasure of making music. Why do people always want to turn music into a second job or some commercial adventure? I mean, if someone wants to pay me to make music, I’ll let them, but that will never be why I make music. It is an expression of the soul and even more so, when done right, it is an expression of absolute love & worship to the Father.

As far as recording goes, I have recently been working on 1 song which is as close to being done as I am willing to spend the effort on getting it. It is a song I wrote way back in 1995 when I had been playing guitar for just over a year. The challenge I am having with it is do I want to share it on here or not. The original idea was to share everything, just because. However, while it is as good as I can get it, it’s just not very good, so do I share it anyway? Musically and lyrically it is coming from another place than where I am now, do I want to share that? I don’t know.

I probably shouldn’t care, I should just share it as part of the very slow documentary of me learning to record music, even music that oddly enough I don’t like anymore. I do remember being very proud of it when I wrote it.  I suppose letting my light shine should not just be when I feel I have something good to shine, if I am to encourage others to let their light shine, I should probably share when I make something that is more meh than awesome, in a way that might send a better message than only releasing things I think are really good. I still don’t know.

My next recording project after that song will be a song I wrote at the end of last year, this song I love, it is probably my favorite of any song that I have written. I am toying with the idea of documenting the whole recording process. Maybe that will help me to do it quicker than just messing with bits here and there. Maybe I could get tips while doing it.

As for the actual process of recording, for now the 2 real struggles I have when recording are the drum tracks & vocal Eq. As a guitar player my knowledge and understanding of drums, tempo and structure is just not very good. It is a common guitarist problem unfortunately, we are usually off in our own little world playing by feel instead of rules J It should be easy, it’s not like I am actually playing the drums, I am just selecting the drums set, mixing & panning & then picking the best midi loop from the ezdrummer selection. I suppose I could learn how to actually program the midi well myself so that the struggle to find a part that fits would be easier. I always seem to get close enough (maybe with a little modifying), it just takes ages. Unfortunately the drums are the first thing you need to do with a track & the process is a real momentum killer for me at the moment.

As far as EQ’ing my vocals, it is hard for me to get them to sound the way I think they should. The challenge I have too is that I don’t know what is lack of doing it right verses equipment limitations verses that’s just that way I sound & I need to get over it.

So that’s the year in music so far, I’ve bought some new music to listen to and also, attended a couple of concerts that I failed to write about; The Hendrix Experience was guitar nirvana & Jesus Culture was one of the most powerful evenings of worship that I’ll probably ever be part of. I need to get back to writing about music more often; somehow it keeps me more focused on my favorite pastime.

Pedal Board

I’ve had the idea for a few years that I need to get a pedal board for my guitar gear. It would make moving things around the room much easier and for the rare occasions when my stuff ventures out of the room it would be a great help for that too. The problem is, a good pedal board costs way more than I can justify spending on one. I’m not a gigging musician, if I were, I’d get something like this piece of awesomesauce

glow_tops_3

But I don’t get paid to play on stages and once a month when I lead worship I only take 1 piece of equipment as I’m only using my acoustic. So how exactly could I justify $500+ on a piece of kit that will help me vacuum my room easier? Well I cannot, I can’t even justify $100 on a piece that would not fit my needs. So (jokingly) what would Jesus do? Well He was a carpenter right? I’m not, but I have saws screws and glue & have the ability to make something “good enough” if not professional grade.

So I came up with a rough plan in my head, bought a few pieces of wood, spend a few hours in the garage making & painting and voilà for less than $50 I have myself a handy dandy budget friendly homemade pedal board. It’s perfect for my needs and has thankfully scratched that itch quite nicely.

 

 

Worship leader?

You know how it happens, you ask a question, you have a brief conversation and before you know it, you’ve volunteered to do something completely out of your comfort zone. Well that’s what happened the 2nd Saturday in January when I was helping out at the Solomon’s Porch homeless ministry. There were a couple of really cool songs they played over the PA that I wanted to know the names of so I could learn them for my own entertainment. Somehow that conversation led to me volunteering to lead worship at some point in the future. Now I could be all coy and pretend that this outcome was a complete surprise to me, but if I’m honest I knew that the conversation I was having was going to end this way. Sometimes as a believer you just know things are going to happen in a certain way, usually because God has told you. Fortunately the idea of doing this had been in my mind and on my heart for a while, probably a year or so. God’s timing was just right though and so in the healthiest period of my life came the time to do something completely out of my comfort zone.

Previously when I had considered being involved in worship music with an audience, the idea was only ever to be playing guitar. I’ve said previously on here that one of my great regrets was never having played in a band publically. However, in that I have no great desire for a 2nd job (try finding a good band that doesn’t want to turn it into that), or to spend my weekends in bars anymore, I figured that worship might be the best / only way that I’ll ever get to scratch that itch. So my idea was, one day I’ll grab onto my Stratocaster and play in a band while someone else sings, hopefully get the chance to play a bluesy solo or something. That was my idea, nothing grand or anything, but that was it. However it seems that my idea was not THE idea, not God’s plan.

One of the great things about publically sharing my attempts at learning to record music is that it has helped me, somewhat, with my alarming lack of confidence with my singing voice. As I’ve started to sing more, I’ve started to find my voice, that might sound strange but previously I always found myself doing an impersonation of someone else when I sing. When I sing today, unless I’m doing it on purpose, I sing with my voice, using my voice more has opened up my range more too, it turns out I can actually sing. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to quit my day job, but I can hold a tune which is kind of cool.

So on to THE plan J Saturday March 8th, the day I made my debut as a worship leader, just me and an acoustic guitar. Not so sure I’m comfortable calling myself that, but that is what I did that morning. It was a strange experience leading up to this moment. This is something that has been in my heart, something I have talked to God about, something that I know He wanted me to do, I knew that in my heart and in my head. However despite knowing that God does not give us a spirit of fear, I have had a heck of a time sleeping this week, nervous, anxious, excited, a mix of all of them. Friday morning struck with the whole “what am I even hoping to accomplish with this” attack from the enemy. Which while discouraging, what really a valid question, why was I going to do this? The voice within, the counsellor spoke to me and it all made sense. For all that God has done for me in my life over the last 10 years, what more fitting of a sacrifice could I offer to Him, to show that I truly trust Him, than to publically sacrifice my fears. Fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear in general. This was not about me, this was about telling my Father that I truly trust Him. In the process, hopefully I could give some people an enjoyable time with some live worship music and help to set the atmosphere of worship to help people allow God to do the work on He can in their hearts.

We got to Solomon’s Porch at around 0830, the first thing that struck me was the amount of volunteers there. God bless spring break, all told there had to be over 70 people there to help, I’ve been there when there were maybe 25 or 20, it was amazing to see so many people wanting to love those less fortunate than them. There was a youth group from a church in Texarkana there whose pastor and their worship leader spoke some wonderfully encouraging words to me and prayed with for me before I went out to play. It never ceases to amaze me how God will place just the right people in your life at just the right time, these wonderfully genuine, new friends were just what I needed at that moment.

And then, it was time. There was no turning back, no running away, I had to trust God and go do what He had called me to do. The truth is I was shaking a little at first, my voice was a little quite at first & thank God for not only His amazing grace, but the wonderfully familiar song amazing grace. I opened with that song for no other reason that it is so comfortable to play and sing.

Funny thing with the set list, when I first agreed to do this, the thought was to play 3 or 4 songs right before the sermon. Usually they have breakfast and then the clothes ministry, bible study follows that right before “church” then they wrap up with lunch. When I emailed to confirm this week I was asked if I wanted to play for about an extra 45 minutes prior to the bible study time as well as lead worship. It’s a good thing I had been playing more than the 4 songs I had on my heart for the “worship” time. So in a mass panic of extra practice this last week I showed up ready to play up to 13 songs, some more polished than other but pretty confident in all of them.

When I got there and saw the army of volunteers, I also discovered there were some folks there who were also ready to sing. Their loving respect for the work I had put in was awesome, so we decided that I would play the time prior to the bible study and one song during “church” time before handing it over to their team who would be giving most of the service anyway. (I put church in “” as in truth, the whole time is church. It is a gathering of God’s people doing God’s work, it is Jesus in action, it doesn’t get more church than that, but to specifically point out the Mercy Seat Church part of the ministry, I figured that would work).

So I started to sing and play & you know what? I wasn’t terrible, I got over my nerves and by the end of it I had really enjoyed myself. There were moments when I was just lost in the music, playing for an audience of one & I think it showed. Some of my friends who were there to serve didn’t know I was going to be signing (I had kept it quiet, not wanting to make a big deal out of it, silly really), they all had wonderfully nice things to say to me afterwards, in fact everyone did, it was just really nice. I’m still not about to quit my day job 😉 but I will be singing the praises of the living God in south central Dallas on the second Saturday of the month for the foreseeable future. And so the journey continues, my wonderful walk with my redeeming Father. Thank you Jesus, thank you for it all.

 

Apparently this is my worship face  🙂

worship face 2

 

These are the songs I played.

 

Amazing Grace, my chains are gone

You Never Let go

Furious

Beautiful Things

This is Amazing Grace

My Redeemer Lives

Christ is Risen

How He Loves Us

 

10,000 Reasons

20140308_100920

Home (In Your Kingdom) – Song

There are so many reasons why I’ve been less active recently than before. Busy life, rehabbing my strained hamstring, a 2nd puppy, but one of the big reasons is that a lot of my creative ideas of late have either quickly evolved into potential songs, or even short stories. Somehow there is a clear, yet indescribable line or division in my mind between what I consider one of my poems & what should be a song. If it is something that I think should be a song, well it has to become a song before it goes up here. I’ve started & at least lyrically written 5 or 6 songs of the last couple of months. It is a fun process, but the process to get it to a place that it is blog ready is slow, because I have this whole life thing you know?

So anyway, onto the subject at hand. I wrote this song really rather quickly. I was messing around on the guitar one day, liked the grove that I had come up with, the next time I was in my office, I picked up the guitar & wrote the song. Then my annoyingly slow recording process began. I say slow, its comfortably less than 2 days to record & mix a song, it’s just split into 1 or 2 hour slots of time.

The song is the story of a man & his spiritual journey. The man starts his journey when he is lost, questioning the meaning of life yet something inside him tells him there is more. He begins his relationship with God, receives redemption, realizes how blessed he is & then moves into a time of learning & growth. When he comes through this period he realizes that he is truly home, in God’s Kingdom. This is such an amazing transformation & a great place for him to be, he starts to ask God to show him some others who are in the same place he used to be & to allow him to help them to find the gift that he has received.

 

Here are the lyrics:

 

Wont’ you come & show me

Show me how to get home

Lord I’ve been lonely

Lord God I’ve been lonely for far too long

And then you saved me

Brought me out of that misery

 

Lord you gave me

Everything a man could ever want

Lord you gave me

Everything a man could ever need

My wife & family

And forgiveness beyond my wildest dreams

 

And now I’m home Lord

Home in your Kingdom where I belong

Yes I’m home Lord

In your Kingdom where I belong

Now won’t you help me

To find some others who are lost along the way?

 

Lord won’t you save them?

Save them & show them how to get home

Lord God they’re lonely

Lonely & broken along that road

Lord won’t you save them?

Lord & bring them all back home.