For so many of us connecting with our audience is a huge part of our lives. We pray to see our audiences the way Jesus does, and then Jesus gives us a sense of compassion for them. We desire to serve them well. To provide teaching that impacts their lives. To create experiences they will remember. To create songs where they can hear something real truth.
However, then it seems like we never have enough time to get everything done, never have enough money to put into our music, or the resources to do everything we want. It seems like our vision is always greater than our resources. We are trying to feed a crowd with five loaves of bread and a couple of fish.
If you’ve ever felt like that, please know that Jesus cares about your crowd, and understands how you feel. One of the only stories told in all four Gospels is about Jesus feeding the Five Thousand. We know that the number only references five thousand men, so it is entirely possible the number was closer to twenty thousand people. They are hungry and not just in need of truth, but also in need of food as well. If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed by your lack of resources, remember these three things from this story.
First, Jesus already cares for your crowd more than you ever could (Matt 14:14, Mark 6:34). In the most stressful moments of event planning remember that God has divine plans and purposes for your audience and that He knows what they need. It’s not that He shares your concerns, but instead, He is letting you share in His.
Second, God has given you resources. None of us have nothing. Sometimes all you need are fives loaves and two fish for Jesus to do a miracle. Look to see how you can best use your resources and realize that God will equip you for the thing He asks of you.
Finally, place everything God has given into His hands and watch Him meet the needs of your audience. Jesus wants to bless those attending your event and multiply your resources far beyond anything you’re capable of doing. So give it to Him. The more you put in His hands now, the more you’ll have to lay at His feet one day.
We’re all trying to do big things with small resources. Whether you’re writing songs, running a business, or finding another way to change the world, don’t give up. It’s all going to work out!!
“To me, there are three things everyone should do every day. Number one is laugh. Number two is think — spend some time in thought. Number three, you should have your emotions move you to tears. If you laugh, think and cry, that’s a heck of a day.”
– Jim Valvano, ESPY Speech 1993
Today I want to talk about three things songs can do. This post is inspired by one of my favorite quotes from Jim Valvano(click here for speech). I believe that songs have many different roles, but every great song serves a purpose. In this article, I will be discussing three of those purposes. I believe great songs should make you laugh, make you think, or make you cry.
Songs have been shown to directly affect mood, as studies have shown. So it’s important to listen to songs that bring you joy. Sometimes you’re having a bad day, and a song comes on the radio that turns your day around. Songs can help you escape reality, even if it’s just for a few minutes. They make you smile, they make you laugh, they make life better. One of my best friends here in Nashville Manning Rothrock does an excellent job of this. Manning says he writes for the girl who gave up on her dreams, is clocking out at 5 p.m. on Friday, and just needs a break from life. That is a worthy endeavor. We all need to laugh and enjoy life. Songs can help us do that.
Songs can have a profound impact on how we see the world. Some of the most insightful pieces of art are the songs we listen to. Songs can impact how we interpret life events, view seasons of life, and find meaning in things we may have initially overlooked. So I would encourage each of you to write or listen to songs that make you think. A friend of mine Jakob Miller does this particularly well. He is able to capture the essence of moments and distill them into music that touches not just the heart but the mind as well. If you want to be a deep writer, as well as an educated listener, seek our songs that make you think.
Songs that can make you cry are extraordinarily powerful. One of the most powerful reactions to an event is shedding tears. Tears occur when we encounter something so real, so relatable, that it moves us deeply. Music can make us cry, and remind us that we’re not alone. That other people have experienced our pain, and have shared in our sorrows. Another close friend of mine Joy Beth Taylor writes songs to help people who feel alone. She uses her past and present struggles to help others find hope in their circumstances. Hope and tears are not mutually exclusive, and Country Music shows the link between the two well. Be real, get in touch with your soul, and don’t be afraid of music that makes you weep.
So there you have it. May your days and your songs be full of laughter, thoughts, and tears. What makes you laugh? What makes you think? What makes you cry? Share your opinions in the comments below.
I firmly believe that nothing will ever exceed it’s intended purpose. Our “what” will never exceed our “why.” So whatever we pursue in life, it should be fueled by a high level of intention. I often ask writers, artists, and speakers who I work with “why do you write?” or “who do you write for?” These questions not only shape the direction of our work but also give me a window into the heart of the person I am working with. I believe that if one person is affected positively by something I write/do/or say it was worth the effort. I also believe that we should be as effective as possible in how we do things. So how do you stay focused on the one person, but not lose sight of the broader audience? That’s what I want to address in this post.
- Whatever You Do, Do It For The One
Whatever we do we should do it for a single person. It’s much easier to write a song for a person than it is for a faceless mass market. It also makes for a better song because it humanizes the process in a new way. If you’re dealing with clients or customers, it helps to think of them as individuals. We all want to be seen, known, and valued. So aim to create products, services, and experiences that will touch individuals in some way. For me, that means writing songs for people, particular people going through hard situations.
The most meaning songs I’ve written have were written for people going through hard times. Those are also typically the ones with the broadest appeal. Likewise, the love songs that I write are usually based on whoever I’m in love with at the time. Those also tend to be the ones that my audience relate to the most. The best way to resonate with an individual is to write for an individual. So keep that in mind as you do whatever it is that you do.
- See The Value Of Your Work In Terms Of A Single Person
One of the most meaning moments of my songwriting career came when my buddy Jed Bayes and I performed “Hannah’s Song” for her mother. Hannah was a fellow student with us in college and had died in a tragic accident. Jed and I wrote a song about her and God’s plan for her life. We had the opportunity to play it live for the first time, for her mother. Her mom said the song had helped her heal from the pain of losing Hannah. At that moment I knew that if I accomplished nothing else in music, it would’ve been worth it.
Whatever product, service, or experience you offer, make it meaningful for your consumers. Create moments that stay with people. Find ways to take the ordinary and make it extraordinary. One of the books I recommend you on this is The Power Of Moments by Chip and Dan Heath. This book really zeros in on how to create these types of things. Whatever you do, make sure it adds value to at least one person, and let that one person be worth the work.
- Once You’ve Focused On One, Focus On Every One
Every person matters, so every person should be touched by what you create. To me, this is fundamental to marketing. You need to have things that are worth sharing and will affect as many individual lives as possible. When you launch a product that will meet a consumer need, it is your job to share it. When you write a song that can help someone, it is your job to make sure it gets heard. If you have a compelling story(which we all do), it is your job to tell it.
Ultimately every time someone benefits from what you do, it is a great feeling. It’s a huge part of why we exist as people. Because we love the individuals we serve(our target market), we want to help as many of them as possible. Once we have created something meaningful, we want to do as much good as we possibly can with it. So once you’ve helped one, help everyone you can.
I hope this has helped. As we continue to work towards our unique goals, I would love to get your thoughts. How do you focus on one person? Let me know in the comments sections.
For the second installment of my songwriting series, I want to discuss “what makes songs significant? ” Most of us would agree that a song has real value, but it is often hard to articulate what that value is. I believe songs affect our lives in many unique ways. Because of that, crafting songs is a task that should be untaken with excellence. In this post, I will examine three things that songs do. I hope that this exploration creates in you not only a deeper appreciation for songwriting but also the desire to do it to the best of your ability as well.
- Songs Capture Life’s Defining Moments & Create The Soundtrack By Which We Interpret Our Experiences.
All of us can look back on our lives and find defining moments. Moments that stand out for good or bad reasons. There are breakups we didn’t know if we would survive, tragedies that shattered our souls, moments of transcendence, and days we wish we could relive constantly. The highs, the lows, the fleeting moments or extraordinary, the mundane routines of life, and the moments where the lines between them blur. Life is full of memories.
Every relationship I’ve been in has a soundtrack. There’s the song for when I see her for the first time, for when we fell in love, and when we’ve broken up. Just as every girl is unique every playlist in unique.
Seasons of transition have soundtracks too. Right before I first moved to Nashville, I listened to “Last Time For Everything” by Brad Paisley constantly. As I wrapped up my time in Atlanta, I was aware that the season of life was ending.
Our best memories have soundtracks as well. I think back to my fraternity days in Birmingham. My pledge trainer had a burnt CD in his F-150 that he didn’t swap out for several years(it may still be in there). Every time I got to hang out with him, and the older brothers “Hell Raisin’ Heat of the Summer,” by Florida Georgia Line was on.
So songs are significant because they encapsulate moments. They help us contextualize and recall the times in our lives that we need to reflect on the most. We best honor those moments, by crafting good songs. A well-written song will help recall the feeling that those moments held.
- Songs Help Us Tell Our Stories And Help Others Find Their Own Stories In Our Music
The best songs touch on universal themes and shared experiences. The details, the place, the setting, the imagery. They make the song personal. Many people think that the best songs capture their own experiences accurately. What I believe is more meaningful is crafting a song that others can find their own stories in. Ultimately, all of our stories matter equally. One of my goals is not only to tell my story well, but rather to tell our stories well. The best songs are based on a million true stories, not just one.
We all need to understand how significant moments in our lives are. To hear those moments set to music is powerful. Songs help us remember moments that we want to relive. Songs help us rediscover lost feeling. They take us back to the experiences we wish we could relive, and in a small way, they help us to do so. To quote Brad Paisley, “this is your life in a song.” The best songs are the stories we all share.
- We Not Only Write Our Songs, But Our Songs Also Write Us.
Songs shape our lives. As much as art imitates life, life also imitates art. Thomas Rhett’s song “Learned It From The Radio,” expresses this concept brilliantly. There have been so many moments when songs have helped me get through difficult moments or shaped seasons of my life.
When I first moved to Nashville, I was paralyzed by fear of stepping into a new industry where it seemed like everyone knew each other except for me. Listening to “One Day You Will” by Lady Antebellum got me through those first few weeks of fright. Those words echoed hope into my life. Having spent almost a year in Nashville now, that song proved to be true.
As we listen to songs and as we write them, we need to remember what we listen to is profoundly shaping our lives. It’s part of why I love Country music. I believe we have the best songs. I hope that we will always consume and create songs worth shaping our lives.
I hope this has got you thinking about songs, their value, and the role they play in our lives. It is something I consider and wrestle with constantly. I would love to know how you view songs, and what you would add to or remove from this list. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
I wanted to start this series on songwriting by asking the question “what is songwriting?” I think it is an important place to our discussion on the subject. The dictionary defines songwriting as “the activity or process of writing popular songs or the music for them.” But I think for each of us, we know that we need a deeper definition.
At the most fundamental level, I believe songwriting is the sonic expression of the soul. It is an intentional arrangement of notes, chords, and lyrics that reflect the deepest realities of the heart. Songwriting is the craft that endears audiences to artists, presents a medium for philosophical, spiritual, and social conversations, and helps people contextualize their own stories either through the process of writing songs or by listening to them. In the end, we write our songs, but our songs also write us.
Songwriting looks different in every genre of music. Different songwriters have different creative processes. Songs have different purposes, even songs on the same record. In my next post, I will look at the significance of songs, and why writing great songs matter. For now, let me say that these components are framed from the perspective of a Country Music songwriter, so please keep that in mind.
First, the best songs will come from experience. There is a saying in Nashville that you write about what you know. Typically, the best works of art will come from a place of genuine inspiration. So songwriting is taking inspiration, and realizing it in a musical context.
Second, songs are stories that resonate with people. In music, the quality of an instrument is judged by how well it resonates, and the same is true of songs. The best songs resonate with people in a way that words alone never could. So songwriting is taking ideas presenting them in a way that resonates with others.
Finally, songs are how we interpret the world. This applies to both to those who write songs, and those who listen to them. For those of us who write about the experiences that shape us, songwriting provides a way for us to organize our life narratives in a meaningful way. For those of us who listen to songs, we are able to contextualize our experience through the thoughts, words, and sounds of another person. So songwriting is organizing life events in a meaningful way.
I know this has been a bit more academic, but I wanted us to have a clear understanding of what songwriting is. This is in no way an exhaustive definition, but I do think it provides a framework to start with. I can’t wait to continue this discussion in following posts. Until then, I would love to hear your thought on the subject. So, what is your definition songwriting? Why is it important to you? What would you add to this list?
For many of us, pursuing our calling can seem like an endless chase. We continuously work, without knowing if we will ever arrive, or what arriving would mean. Whether we have started a business, are trying to raise a family, or in my case write songs, the grind can seem endless. It’s not that we don’t enjoy our pursuit, after all, we choose to give our lives to these passions. It’s that we long for a destination that we have not yet reached. So how do we make sense of the situation? What should inspire us to keep going? Should we keep going?
The first thing is that the journey is, in fact, the destination. In his book Shoe Dog, Phil Knight the founder of Nike says the following about running ” When you run down an oval track, or down an empty road, you have no real destination. The act itself becomes the destination. It’s not that there’s no finish line; it’s that you define the finish line.” This is so important to remember. The end goal in music is to be a touring artist. To embark on a journey across the world, that hopefully doesn’t end. Once a person becomes a parent, they never cease to be one. For so many of us, our life’s goal leads us to a daily struggle, a routine, or path that doesn’t seem to end. It’s in the moments when we wonder if we’ll make it, that we must remember that we are making it. One step at a time.
The second thing is to struggle well on the journey. Journeys imply struggle. The stories we love to read about the most are the ones where heroes facing incredible challenges, and still found a way forward. The greater the struggle, the greater the journey. This is true not only in literature but in life as well. While we celebrate those who overcome their struggles, our struggles seem far less glorious. We so often long for the day when we won’t struggle anymore. However, this is not the correct view as Ray Dalio explains, in his book Principles “While I surpassed my wildest dreams decades ago, I am still struggling today. In time, I realized that the satisfaction of success doesn’t come from achieving your goals, but from struggling well.” The question we need to wrestle with is not “how do I avoid struggle on my journey?” but rather “how do I struggle well on my journey?” If we can figure out how to struggle well, we can live out our journey to it’s fullest potential.
The third thing to remember is that the journey gets better. There are higher highs that you have yet to experience. There are lower lows that will strengthen your resolve. There are new friends to make, and lessons you have yet to learn. One of the quotes that became a banner for me as I moved to Nashville comes from C.S. Lewis “There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” That was the last thing I read in my driveway in Atlanta. That was the first thing I posted on Instagram. That was what got me to leave the Peach State and start my journey in Music City. Whatever journey you’re on, I promise it will get better. Ultimately, it will make you better, and that makes the journey worth it.
Remember, your journey is your destination, learn to struggle well, and the journey will get better. We’re all on a journey. Travel yours well, and help others along the way.
I hope this resonates with you in some way. What have you learned about your own journey? What principles have guided you? What advice would you share? Let me know in the comments section.