Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Being Haunted (In A Good Way)

Slowly and surely, I am finding that if given the time to simmer, I may just have some songs left to write. And in the past, I think the best ones have been the ones that haunted me,  the ones that ran on loop in my head throughout the day, when I tried to go to bed at night, and at just about every point in between. I've got a small handful of new songs on a mental playlist currently pummeling my brain nonstop, and I hope that means they're worth hearing.

Now, having these songs bouncing around in my head can be a bit maddening in the context of how I write music. It's a pretty rare feat for me to sit down and knock out a song in a few hours; instead, I've come to accept and embrace that for me writing is an evolutionary process. Lacking a real base of musical theory, I tend to approach the process by playing with sounds and letting my mind run to wherever it goes. This means that I may come across a chorus melody that will bounce around in my head for days, weeks, months, or in some cases, years before I can find where it goes. It's like planting seeds and having to keep watering and waiting until the dang thing flowers. But it also means that I might have a chorus that runs on repeat over and over and over and over and over and over (you get the idea). If someone asks, "When are you putting out something new," I always feel like a loser when I answer, "I'm not sure... hopefully soon," but the answer is honest. It's done when it's done. 

And yes, it does require discipline and effort, but for me the effort and discipline is comes in the form of setting aside time specifically to explore and experiment. But I still have no idea how long it will take.

Still, it's just nice to feel creative again. As I'm moving forward, helping my musical children to grow up, I'm also moving further and further away from what I've done in the past. I would really like to have something to share with people, and if you're reading this, you're probably among those who I want to share my music with most. Thanks for sticking around; you're incredibly patient.

The old aspirations are dying out in my heart, and that's good. On the other side of all the things one is "supposed" to do is a much larger world full of all the things one can do with music. 

For now it's nice to have music haunting me again. Maybe there's still a few bats left in the belfry after all.

In due time, in due time. 

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

People I'm Thankful For, 11.24.09: Parks Carpenter & John Dunn

(photo: Parks, John, and yours truly on my couch last night)

I'm really thankful to have Parks Carpenter and John Dunn in my life. Parks isn't in my life physically as much as I'd like (living in Wilmington, NC), but I'm ecstatic that John and his wife Tara once again call the Classic City home. Both of these guys are brothers to me.

In my undergrad years at Reinhardt College (apparently about to be renamed "Reinhardt University"), I played in a band called Copper John. There were five of us - me, Parks, John, David (from my last post), and Jacob (who'll likely be my next "thankful for" subject) - and while we didn't do much worth writing home about during our tenure as a band, we did do a fair amount of hanging out at Parks' cabin in Jasper, GA. And when I say "cabin" I mean it in the Pioneer sense, as in "no heat or air conditioning." It was awesome. Parks grew up in Papua New Guineau, so his decor was wild.

John was my roommate my senior year at Reinhardt. He also owned me at racquetball (seriously, I don't know if I ever beat him, and we played ALOT). John is, without a doubt, one of the most unique people I have ever met. There is no one like John Dunn. NO ONE. If you've ever heard my old "Flavor of the Week" song, "Tae kwon John," you have heard of John Dunn.

I can be guilty of being a little too intense, to focused on the difficulties in front of me or on the uncertainties of tomorrow; Parks taught me how to lighten up, how to be naked (in a metaphorical sense, and well, at times, a literal sense). I owe a lot to him.

And John taught me a lot about being comfortable in my own skin. I'm not sure whether John thought of himself as I did, but he always seemed to carry himself with a quiet confidence. He also didn't seem to get bogged down by what others thought of him (on a side note, John once wore the same shirt for an entire summer just to see if he could do it. He did. I find this endlessly impressive). A deep, creative thinker, and a really good friend to a lot of people. He is also still learning to break dance.

Both of these guys have encouraged me through some of my rougher times, offering wisdom when I needed it and on some occasions, some tough love. Parks also threw John's Hangin' Tough CD out of the window of his Jetta, which was then crushed by a speeding semi. This ALWAYS gets brought up.

My life is better because of these two men. Who are you thankful for?

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

People I'm Thankful For, Vol. 1: David Herndon

Being the season for giving thanks (historical accounts notwithstanding), I wanted to use this blog to simply give thanks for those folks who have made my life what it is (and hopefully, by doing so, combat the hardness of my own heart).

Today, I'm giving thanks for my friend David Herndon. I actually meant to do this on his birthday a couple of weeks back, but you know how life is....

I can say without exaggeration that David played a huge part in saving my life. He and I met as freshmen at Reinhardt College in 1997, and I can't quite remember how we came to hang out so much, but by the end of Fall quarter, we were making plans to start a band (though "duo" is a more accurate description). It was a great time for me.

But more than hanging out and playing guitar in our dorm rooms, I was drawn to David by his own passionate pursuit of Jesus. And not the stuffy, meek and mild Sunday School Jesus with little lambs and small children - the real, still-doing-stuff Jesus who was much bigger than all my old childhood lessons. Having grown up in church, I knew all those stories, but somehow I had still come to think of God as some sort of spiteful judge waiting to smite me when I screwed up. He seemed to like smiting for some reason.

I don't think that came from my experiences at church growing up, but until college, I had never really considered that Jesus could be someone other than a guilt trip trying to kill my buzz. 

At least until I met David.

In David I saw someone who was searching for the truth of who Jesus was, beyond all the stories, all the anecdotes, all the information and misinformation. Though firm in his convictions, he was not trying to push a theology or dogma or anything like that on anyone. He was simply trying to figure out as best he could what his life would look like if he knew more and more deeply the real Jesus.

And somewhere deep in my own core, I wanted the same thing. High school was an especially weird time for me, and I felt angry for most it. I'm still not sure what about. But it made things hard at home, and when you factor in my own air of knowing it all - as 17 and 18 year olds can be prone to developing - I was a rain cloud always hovering around somewhere. I wasn't content - not with myself or my life.

Because of David's search for Jesus, I too began looking for him. I began to ask some real questions, things like, "Do I believe all this stuff because I've been brainwashed as a child, or is this for real?" Questions I think we all need to ask of ourselves. 

And as I sought answers to these questions,I began to let go of the ideas I had set forth for my life - what it would look like, all the things I wanted to have, etc. And in large part because of those experiences, I started a record label hoping to help artists make some sort of positive impact on our culture. Ultimately, I gave my life over to this man, this conundrum, this Jesus, who I had begun to see and know in my own life. 

After our first summer of college, I followed David down to work at Epworth By The Sea on St. Simons Island as a camp counselor, partly because it seemed fun, but mostly because hanging out with David all summer sounded better to me than going back to Eatonton and doing, um, something, I guess. 

And that's the summer I met the lovely Jana Dalelio, who I would marry four years later. Who would then bear my two children. You get the drift.

David has been my among my greatest cheerleaders, offering me the kind of unconditional support and encouragement that I needed during the Rebuilt years. He is much smarter than me, which helps, and I have never hung out with him and not been challenged in some way to deepen my own faith. His songwriting is probably my greatest musical influence, and his last Rebuilt record, Into Danger/Out of Rescue, is to me a masterpiece. He has never tried to use his gifts to make himself famous or rich or whatever but has always been an example to me of someone who sought to become the greatest he could be by trying to serve others. 

I know this is kind of a gushy, rambling discourse, but David Herndon is someone whose fingerprints are indelibly pressed upon my life. And he wasn't trying to do all these things through our friendship - he was simply trying his best to see the truth of who Jesus said he is, and by doing so, the very direction of my life was changed forever. 

I don't get to see David nearly enough anymore, but those years we spent traveling around south Georgia in his Civic hatchback are like gold to me. 

I am thankful for David Herndon. Who are you thankful for?

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