Thoughts on Songwriting and Community

August 25, 2015 | Get free updates of new posts here

 

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A year and a half ago I came to C4 with a dream to see us write, sing and share songs that captured the story of what God is doing among us and through us.

Last summer I sat in a little loft with three friends and we wrote a couple songs, one of which we’ve been singing on Sundays this year.

Earlier this summer that song was sung at the wedding of one of those friends who was part of writing it. Tomorrow another one of the writers will sing it at the wedding of two other friends of ours.

Pretty incredible picture of a song capturing a unique season in the life of a community and how the song itself can play a significant part of the meaningful events within that community.

So thankful for the glimpses of God’s activity we’re able to catch with the songs we’re writing together and excited for the songs which are yet to be written, yet to be sung, yet to be part of beautiful life-changing celebrations.

Creativity Begets Creativity

August 15, 2015 | Get free updates of new posts here

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Creativity inspires creativity. The other night Sonya painted the one on the left, this morning the girls got out their paints and did their own artwork.

The same is true in your own life. Personal creativity inspires creativity in others but also in you. You don’t master any craft the first time you try, continued work at being creative helps inspire new creativity as your art and skill develop.

Why I’m Excited To Go Back To Work

July 25, 2015 | Get free updates of new posts here

After an incredibly restful, restoring, rejuvenating and FUN three weeks of vacation I can’t wait to get back to work on Monday.

Wait.. Did you read that right? You bet you did.

My holidays were incredible – full of the best parts of life, long nights with friends, laughing around the table, splashing in the water, ignoring whatever time the clock says it is and just BEING with one another. Wow.

(I took this photo standing in water up to my knees at my parents’ cottage. I wish I could tell you this was an unusual sunset of Burridge Lake but it’s like this pretty much every night of the summer. Hard to beat the view! ‪#‎nofilter‬ )

And while the time spent on holidays was life-giving, my time doing the work I was created to do is exciting and joyful and stretching and fulfilling. My work is part of my life and part of what God has created me to do. So I love it! And yes, I can’t wait to get back to work on Monday.

Wouldn’t it be great if all of life were like vacations? Maybe. But maybe we enjoy them more knowing that they’re only part of life. And maybe we can enjoy our work more when we know it’s only part of our life too.

Vacation Tips for Creatives

July 7, 2015 | Get free updates of new posts here

Summer is off to a great start and many of you are going to get some holiday time to get rested and rejuvenated. If you’re anything like me you struggle with the tension of connection while you’re on a break. How “connected” should you be or should you allow yourself to be while you’re on holidays? Especially if you fall in to the camp labelled creative you may find this to be a difficult transition from work to vacation.

Some people are able to drop their phone, social media and digital connections for a couple of weeks and feel no desire to stay in touch whatsoever while they’re on holidays. Some (and I’ll put myself very much in this group!) don’t necessarily want or feel the need to be technological hermits while they’re on a break from work but may not know how to balance those two things.

How can I rest my mind, body and soul while still taking advantage of the things I enjoy about technology?

Is that you? Ever ask a question like that? Maybe you’ve had to justify your use of technology while you’re on holidays to a boss or co-worker and never really been able to explain how you’re able to set some clear boundaries for that.

Vacation tips for creatives: how to go on holiday without being a hermit.Click To Tweet

So let me share with you my process and maybe there’s something here which could be helpful for you.  Let me be clear, this is my process and this isn’t mandated to me by anyone and I’m not mandating that this is how you should do this. I’ve learned three easy steps that I can do to be rested, to be not distracted by work and at the same time to stay engaged with the great things I love about technology.

But why not just ditch technology while I’m vacation? Why not just take the opportunity for a break from all of these things which take our endless? For me (again.. this is for me.. not necessarily for everyone..) this is a way to intentionally express that my job is not who I am. If my identity is so wrapped up in the role I get paid to do that my life drastically changes when I’m on vacation, I’m admitting that a big chunk of who I am is defined by the job that I do. And yet that’s not true. When I’m on holidays from my job I still continue to be who I am while living a very different daily or weekly schedule, freed up to do more of the incredible things I love to do but I’m not able to do as much while I’m working.

So what’s the balance that I’ve found for me? Three strategies around the things that seem to be the three biggest issues for creatives while they’re on a break from work: email, apps and calendar. I’ve developed three strategies that allow me to get a good break from these three things while I’m on vacation.

Here’s a quick photo to describe my three strategies:

 

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1. Email

I know this is not possible for everyone but I have all of my email routed to gmail. Whether you email me at my work or personal address it goes to my gmail inbox and all of my email is managed there. While I’m on holidays I simply setup a filter in gmail to label all email delivered to my work address and have those moved away from my inbox. Any incoming work email gets a label (in this case “Vacation”) and get archived so they’ll be waiting for me in a separate labelled folder when I get back from holidays.

This allows me to continue to check email without being drawn into any work conversations. I’m also not afraid to open my inbox with the prospect of seeing emails related to my job because those are all filtered away from my inbox and I can access them when I’m back.

Of course there’s an autoresponder setup to let the sender know I’m not receiving their email until I’m back in the office.

2. Apps

For me, I use my phone every day for all kinds of things. Some of those are work-related and lots are not so I’m not going to ditch my phone for my entire vacation because I do lots of non-work stuff on my phone. I’m guessing you do too.

One thing I do, however, is delete social media apps from my phone so that if I want to tweet, post, share, etc I need to do that from the web browser (clunky!) or from my computer. The blessing of vacation time is that I’m on my computer less than when I’m at work so there’s a natural reduction in social media consumption.

I do keep Instagram on my phone since it’s a ton of fun and most of my instagram connections are personal and not work relationships but while I’m on holidays I remove Twitter and Facebook apps from my phone.

3. Calendar

While I’m on holidays I don’t care about what’s happening in the office, staff meetings, events in our building, etc (of course I care, I just care more about not being reminded of those things while I’m on vacation) but I also have personal things on my calendar that I do care about even while I’m not working. Holidays for me does not mean locking myself in a room and living monkly solitude. Holidays are about freeing up time for community, time with friends, experiences with family, making memories doing things that I’m not able to do while I’m working because of the demands on my schedule.

So I go into my calendar app (I use Fantastical on my computer and phone) and unsubscribe from my work calendar. At our church we have a single calendar subscription with all church events and those simply get removed from my calendar so that I can continue to use the tool without the distraction of being reminded of the things happening in our building while I’m away.

Hopefully that’s helpful. Three quick strategies to allow you to disconnect while you’re on holidays without becoming a hermit!

Resources for Songwriting, Publishing & Copyright in Canada

May 13, 2015 | Get free updates of new posts here

Songwriters can get bogged down so quickly by publishing, copyright and legal technicalities which take away from the pure joy of creating, collaborating and sharing songs with other people. I’ve been writing songs for a bunch of years and really focusing on co-writing for the last few, with people from my church, from across Canada and with other writers in Nashville.

Add to that the fact that I’m in Canada and copyright law has some pretty significant distinctions here than in the USA.

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Time after time I’ve been asked about publishing, copyright, royalties and how all of those play into songwriting and co-writing especially within a church environment. So many sticky situations but here’s what I’ve learned so far:

1. Publishing and copyright are not imaginary things which can be ignored just because you don’t want to deal with them. Sticking your head in the sand is not an option.

2. Relationships over royalties. This applies to your connection with other songwriters as well as with your pastor/church. The friendship and relationship with them is much more valuable than points and percentages.

3. Discussions about all of this are much easier before the cheques start coming. Think copyright conversations are awkward now? Just wait until there’s a royalty cheque that needs to be paid out! If you haven’t yet had the conversation the difficulty will increase significantly.

I can’t tell you how to do things in your situation but here are some resources which have been incredibly helpful for me as I’ve thought about how we are approaching publishing and copyright with songwriters here at C4.

Disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer and not offering this as any kind of legal advice.

Check out these two webinars with Steve McPherson, the managing director of publishing at Hillsong:

Keys To Music Publishing In The Church Webinar with Hillsong’s Steve McPherson

Your Questions Answered About Music Publishing In The Church

Here are the notes from those two webinars:

Song writing, Copyright Administration and Music Publishing in the Church

Some other helpful resources:

Provisions of the Copyright Act of Canada (from Wikipedia)

Canada and the United States: Differences in Copyright Law (Gowlings Articles and Resources)

Canada Intellectual Property Office

 

 

C4 – Easter graphics and video, part 1

March 31, 2015 | Get free updates of new posts here

We launched our Easter series this past Sunday at C4 with Palm Sunday. I wanted to share some of the pieces we put together leading up to and during the worship service.

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Our main Easter series branding for Palm Sunday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

 

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Custom handwritten font of the key theme for our Palm Sunday service.

 

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Social media graphic for Palm Sunday #c4easter

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Invites and postcards were printed for distribution by our church and in our community.

 

Rather than creating a series bumper video like we’d normally have we put together this video leading in to the sermon. This was shot by a videographer in our church and the concept developed by an artist in our church who you see in this video. It was shot on our stage and came together as a really great element for our services.

 

Don’t Let Spontaneity Kill Your Creativity

February 20, 2015 | Get free updates of new posts here

It seems like creativity will always have this push and pull between spontaneous and planned. How many times have I heard an artist (including myself!) say, “We’ll just figure it out in the moment!” For some reason we have allowed the power of creative spontaneity to overshadow the power of creative planning.

Whether or not you’re a fan of her music, if you were one of the 118 million people who watched Katy Perry’s halftime show at this year’s Super Bowl you likely came away impressed. The scale of the sets and props, the use of pyro and lighting, the quick changes in staging all helped to create an incredible performance.

Watching that show, it is clear to see that nothing was left to change. Every shot, every cue, every move of every participant is scripted down to the last detail. And the overall result? An incredible performance that wowed the whole world and set a new standard for global entertainment.

Think Katy told her people that she really wasn’t sure what she’d do to transition those two songs but that she’d figure it out in the moment? Think she had a rough idea of how she was going to enter the stadium but needed to feel the crowd to really go with the flow? Not a chance. That performance was planned, scripted, rehearsed, critiqued, edited, rehearsed again, over and over until the best possible outcome was produced.

Want proof?

The day after the Super Bowl one of the companies involved in the production released a bunch of renderings they had done to help design the event. Check out the rendering of Katy entering the stadium on this giant mechanical puppet lion (by the way.. one of the coolest moments in live production ever!) with a photo from that same moment happening during the halftime show:
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Think that took some planning ahead? Of course it did. For bonus points, check the date in the bottom right hand corner of that rendering – 11.02.14. November 2, 2014. 91 days before the Super Bowl happened. How long before that November 2 do you think this team started working on the puppet lion idea? I guarantee that this was not a spontaneous idea that came up a few moments before it needed to happen.

So what do we do with this? Churches are not the Super Bowl. (If you email or comment about this fact, I’m just going to refer you back to this line.) Of course church services are not a halftime show. Worship leaders, you are not Katy Perry. (Maybe one day Katy Perry will be a worship leader!) We don’t have NFL resources or global audience or thousands of volunteers to help make this happen. And please don’t ever let your pastor convince you that he should enter on Sunday morning riding a giant mechanical puppet lion!

But what do we have?

We have a brain that God has wired to be creative. We have a God who is the Creator. We have his spirit living inside of us and we have the invitation to be creative in the way that He also is creative. We have all the time that we need to do the work God has called us to do. We have every resource available to us to lead people in worship the way God has invited us.

So how has the power of spontaneity been allowed to have its way among so many churches, pushing away the strength of planning, critique and editing? I promise you I don’t have all the answers but here are three strong factors that I think are keeping you from creating your best work:

1. Laziness

Do the work. Sometimes it comes down to lack of effort and an unwillingness to do the hard task of putting our creative work through the paces of preparation, drafts, critique, editing, repeat. For some of you, creative success has come easily since you were a kid and you’ve been riding the coattails of prodigy recognition for so long that you would rather let your first effort be your best effort. The reality is that your first effort is pretty darn good and you’re quite happy with that.

2. Procrastination

Several years ago I realized that I had become addicted to the adrenaline rush of pulling off good work at the last minute. I had subconsciously (consciously, sometimes) been sabotaging my own best work by chasing the rush rather than results. I craved the adrenaline I felt by cutting as close to deadlines as possible so I would intentionally procrastinate to force myself into a situation where I had to pull a rabbit out of the hat. I’m now learning to create early and often, getting a rush from producing better work.

3. Fear

This is not new but if you are an artist and you haven’t dealt with your own fear or insecurity you are either the best or the worst artist I have ever met. Nobody makes it out of here alive. We all have to wade through our own water of despair and sometimes we let fear win. If you are a Christian, you need to dig deep into the Psalms, into community and maybe into counselling to help you navigate these waters. A great book called “The War of Art” should also be in your bedside table. Read it often.

What can you do today or this week to take a step in the direction of creativity and putting your best work forward? How can you overcome laziness, procrastination, fear or The War of Art’s Resistance to give the world the gift of your best art?

Don’t buy the lie that creativity and spontaneity must go hand-in-hand. You are more than your best moment of creativity! Dig in to the work God has called you to do and be brave enough to share your best with the world. We need it!

Thoughts on New Songs, Popular Songs and Undiscovered Songs

February 4, 2015 | Get free updates of new posts here

“What new songs are you singing??”

This question comes across my twitter feed multiple times a week. Not always directed at me but lots of worship leaders are looking for places to find new songs.

I understand. I get it. I really do. We want to look past the famous and familiar to find the songs that churches are singing below the radar. Where are the songs that are saying something of substance and giving a voice to an aspect of our worship expression that isn’t necessarily communicated by the Toml-Redm-Hills-Pass-ethel’s of the world?

So let me come at this a few different ways. Let’s talk about our dislike for hit songs, let’s talk about some songs that I’ve found recently that may not be getting the attention they deserve and then let’s talk about how I go about finding new songs.

First of all, let’s agree together that songwriting is a skill. The art (and it is an art) of crafting lyric, melody, emotion, tone and rhythm together to form a song that people are not only able but willing to sing is one that must be appreciated.

Good songs generally come from good songwriters. Good songwriters generally come from writing lots and lots and lots of songs, many of them which are not good but lead to better ones.

Good songwriters shouldn’t be cast to the side and disregarded simply because the songs they write are very good, very popular and very common in churches around the world. They should be celebrated because of this fact! The reason that songs become popular and are sung around the world is that there are very talented songwriters who understand the craft of songwriting and have put together these various elements in a way that allows people of every musical skill level to sing as an expression of their worship to Jesus.

Great songwriters are an incredible gift to the church and are worthy of honour. Eyes get rolled at the new album from any of the well known songwriters, worship leaders or churches because the assumption that these are somehow cookie cutter or assembly line creations by songwriters who are just looking to make a quick buck.

The only reason these songwriters, worship leaders and churches have become well known to the point that their new songs and albums come with a level of anticipation is that they have been able to consistently deliver great songs for a number of years! If people are paying attention, they’re doing something right!

So don’t discard or discredit new songs from the Toml-Redm-Hills-Pass-ethel camp just because “every church is going to sing those songs!” That’s an incredibly relevant reason to join in with the global chorus of voices and sing them, too!

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Practice vs Rehearsal

January 25, 2015 | Get free updates of new posts here

This weekend I had the real privilege of leading my church in worship today. Obviously part of the preparation is just learning the songs we’re going to play. There are other aspects to being prepared as a worship leader (prayer, conversations with your pastor, thinking through transitions, etc) but don’t neglect the work of actually spending time with the songs you are leading.

 

 

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Remember that practice is not the same as rehearsal.

 

Practice is time for me to learn to play the songs. 

Rehearsal is time for the band to learn to play the songs together.

 

As someone replied on instagram: Practice is personal, rehearsal is relational.

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