Personal Musicology 101

Moving the blog to wordpress has been a more controversial decision than I thought it would be.  My friend Brian is sad because he won’t get a notification every time I blog now.  My friend Samantha is sad but… how hard is it to go to another website?  Brian said, “Now I have to go aaaaaaaaallll the way across the internet to read your blogs!”

That doesn’t take very long though, dude.  Five extra seconds.  Brian is a new dad so I guess he thinks that those five seconds are more valuable than they used to be… Hmm… he’ll be alright.

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Also… Now, I like Facebook and everything but all I get anymore are relative requests from my relatives.  But we are already friends on there!  Then I get requests to do all of these surveys and… I think it’s all too much of a commitment for me.  It’s not as fun as MySpace.   And MySpace might be too fun.

WordPress will be safer.  And just the right amount of fun.  

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I have a song up on my MySpace page right now called “That Youth Group Feelin'”.  I mean a very specific thing but the title is kind of weird.  I grew up going to church youth groups and there was a certain feeling in those things.  The song is like a prayer to have that youth group feeling again, in a spiritual way… you know?  It sounded like a funny way of saying something sort of serious.  But it sounds so silly that it might be difficult to take seriously.  I meant it sincerely when I wrote it if it’s any consolation.  Someone asked me once if I would always write “weird” songs.  My response was, “Well, somebody’s gotta’ write ’em!”

Still, I think that my audience gets confused with me because I write about stuff that is all over the map.  Some of it is just entertainment but some of it is very detailed, religious kind of stuff.  I think that it gives it a wide appeal but leaves most listeners unsure of what is going on and seems to turn them off.  It seems that me trying to stay true to myself isn’t always easy for the audience.  And I don’t know the audience well enough to keep it easy!  Oh well…

I will try to explain a little about where I am coming from.  Okay… hmm… okay… when I first started to write songs I was playing in praise and worship bands at church in Fort Worth, Texas and most of the music that I listened to when I was a kid was Christian “alternative folk rock” stuff.  I was really into a band called Five Iron Frenzy and then Caedmon’s Call and I really, really love(d) a songwriter called Rich Mullins who wrote SOOO many awesome songs.  I never actually got to see him play because he died in 1997.  They released an album that he was in the middle of making when he died called, “The Jesus Record”.  It was a double c.d. with one c.d. being (I think) nine demos that he recorded on a little tape recorder in a church (I think).  The other c.d. was fully produced with other artists playing those songs.

So, basically in about 2001 I was living in Texas and really, really into Rich Mullins and feeling like God was calling me into playing music.  I know that is a weird thing to say for some of you but that’s how they say it at church.  That’s how I said it back then.  And probably how I would say it now if I didn’t think that it would sound psychotic to 99% of my audience (my main goal these days is to not sound psychotic [which is harder than you’d think!]).   

Anyway, Rich Mullins is still a very huge personal influence for me.  I think that me recording a lot of my records very cheaply has had a lot to do with how inspired I was to hear some of his final recordings in such a rough way.  I felt as though the unpolished recordings sounded more “real” or “human” and in a way much more powerful.  I have always felt that when music sounds real is when it is most easy to connect with.  I have just never been a huge fan of super slick stuff.  At least up to this point.  I may end up changing my mind eventually.

Anyway, I say all of that to say that when I moved to Nashville it was a very “spiritual” decision for me.  I really did feel called from there to come and do this.  I didn’t know what was in store for me here.  Again, I know that sounds strange but it’s just how it was.  

I am not saying that everything that I have written has sounded very “Christian” though at the core my faith is a very huge part of what inspires what I do or at least who I am.  And sometimes I am happy about it and sometimes I am mad about it. 

After I moved to Nashville I started to listen to a ton of really great music like Wilco and a bunch of cool indie rock stuff.  Actually, I think that I listened to some of that before but I do remember my appreciation for just plain good music getting a lot deeper.  That’s when I started to read a lot more music magazines and try to keep up with bands better.  Nashville is a good town for that as long as you can figure out how to not get burned out.

What is really cool about all of this to me is that I have gotten to make friends with some of the people I greatly admire in the music community.  Like, I go to a church with some of them and one of the guys from Caedmon’s Call actually lives pretty close to me and gives me rides to my job at Applebee’s sometimes (that’s Andrew Osenga.. and that’s when I remember to text message him in time).  

Also… and this sounds totally insane but I got to do some recordings with the original drummer of Wilco a couple of years ago.  Ken Coomer.  That was one of the coolest experiences ever.  It was like climbing a Mt. Everest in music.  He was such a nice and generous guy and I learned so much in the week I got to spend with him in the studio.  It was like prestigious music college (after dropping out of regular college 3 times!).

And I should add that It is VERY weird to be recording a song that you wrote and to look over and see one of your heroes playing on it.  I felt like I had entered a strange alternate universe, only it was real.  It is hard to explain it to people.  It seems like a lie in a way. 

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Anyway, I say all of that to say that I have been incredibly humbled by the positive responses that I have gotten from people who have listened to the music.  In fact, the response is often quite overwhelming and I feel like a very little person in the middle of something that I myself understand very little of.  At times I don’t know how to talk to such a wide audience and maintain any personality.  Sometimes when there are more people listening it can feel so much less personal.  I think that personal connection is one of the neatest parts of it for me but it is weird to be the one little guy on the other side of this larger conversation.  I think I am still learning how to pull that one off.  

Also, I still like singing songs about what it felt like in the youth group even though most of the people listening these days probably skip that song… I think that’s the strange place where I seem to exist.  Mostly lost in the weird world that I created.

Oh well, everybody’s gotta’ do something with their life!

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Okay, those things were on my mind and I thought it would be interesting to talk a little about the “behind the scenes” stuff.  

See ya’ later!

Jeff

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