Do you find it easy to be a part of a Christian industry?
What a great question. Yes and no.
It’s awesome being a part of the Christian industry because everyone is so supportive of what you’re doing. There’s always a support net in your fans or in similar bands or spiritual leaders. It’s also obviously awesome because I get to do 2 things I enjoy immensely for a living – writing/producing/art and worshipping.
It’s difficult in the sense that it seems that the industry is very narrow in its focus. Overall the focus is on “Corporate Worship” or on “Inspirational Music.” Which in my view often becomes watered down versions of something relevant in the secular industries. Not all the time obviously, and I believe the Lord loves the Christian Music Industry. I also believe it’s awkward when something that is called “Christian” and is about the Lord becomes modelled around making money. *Gets off soap box*
How did you end up with Come&Live?
They actually read a blog of mine about an experience I had in Canada, and approached me about being a part of it. They believed after reading this blog that I might understand their goals and aspirations and vision for music. After chatting with Chad about it some more, we both knew it made sense and I have been a part since.
Why the involvement with Come&Live?
I believe there needs to be a new fresh model for the “Christian Industry” as we know it. And I don’t really mean anything by that other than it should be less driven by sales and more by prayer. I like that Come&Live have a radical and generous heart and are pursuing a vision that is difficult to see through. It excites me. I will support and be a part of almost anything that blatantly follows God first and man second.
What’s your involvement with JesusCulture?
I’ve been part of JesusCulture practically since it started. It originally was the extension of our local youth group. God was moving radically amongst our young people and in worship so we decided to put on conferences, and one day decided to make a CD. It was pretty low key. Kind of a “hey, if it sells then maybe we can make another one!” kind of thing. I don’t think any of us realized where it would go from there.
Currently, my involvement is as the keyboardist and a songwriter. I’m also a large part of the pre-production process where we decide how to approach new songs and new ideas. I also travel to most of the national/international conferences as part of the band.
What inspired you to be a pianist?
It was complete blind luck I guess :) When I was somewhere around 10 years old we had a young lady living with us who had a piano and took lessons and stuff. I thought it sounded neat and wanted a go, so my mother put me in lessons. From there I suppose it just kinda happened. I’ve never really put it down.
What keyboards do you play for what kinds of sounds?
I am currently digging a combination of things. I use some software – Ableton Live and Propellerheads Reason. Ableton allows me to do some really interesting things in sound design land I haven’t been able to achieve anywhere else. It also is super fun to get creative with. Reason, especially when you have some of the Refills, is a GREAT sound source. I use it for a ton of stuff. 90% of what you hear on my own records and on JesusCulture records is from Reason. I get Piano, Pads, Synths, Rhodes, Cp80, bells, and most everything from it. I definitely at this point in time couldn’t live without it. I’m also into some more organic and vintage stuff – running an authentic Rhodes through guitar pedals and an amp lets you do some amazing stuff. I’ve been dabbling with analog synths – it’s hard not to love them all. But as far as digital workstation type keyboards, I’m not really into ’em much.
How do you balance leading an audience and playing keyboards (which can be an optical barrier)?
Hmmmm…. I’m not sure I completely understand the question. So… if the question is “How do you balance leading worship and being a great musician in a live setting,” then my answer would be that it’s all in how you develop your skill. I cut my teeth on leading worship. I’ve been part of a worship team since I was 11. A lot of my relationship with the Lord came about as I was learning the keyboard and I believe an important part of every worshipper’s growth is in building a relationship with the Lord in music. If I am able to connect with him while play two keyboards, running tracks, turning nobs, and leading people, then there is no balance. I believe if you develop your relationship with the Lord in music… AND your skill level enough, then the question becomes a moot point.
How important is music in your life? Why?
Importance is an interesting word here. It obviously plays a major role in my life. I do however try to keep a special place in my life for it. I’ve seen too many people let it become a business model or a job and miss out on how amazing music can be. I like to keep it sacred. I don’t ever want to get to the point that music becomes the means to an end or a 9-5-er. Some of the best and worst times in my life can be characterized by albums. I actually don’t listen to some GREAT records because I get melancholy when I do haha. Weird.
All that being said –
What are your main influences?
Hopefully the Lord :). If we’re talking musically, it’s probably Sigur Ros, Muse and Mew. If we’re talking spiritually it’s definitely Bill Johnson. Business/Leadership? Jim Collins, Lance Wallnau, Integrus Leadership.
What inspired your music?
I started writing because someone told me to make a cd. Heh. And I did :). Really though, Awakened was a total risk for me. I actually had the studio time booked before 90% of the songs were written. I wanted to do a record. I wanted that record to be about the goodness and beauty of the Lord. I wanted it to be different than K-Love of Top 10 CCLI. Then I made one. The inspiration came from inside and my relationship with the Lord. Probably a large helping of faith too.
What is your creative workflow? What comes first, music or words?
At this point in time it’s usually music first. I have a huge bank of sounds I either made and/or love and I just go through them until I hear something that I get stoked about. Once I’m good and inspired I hit the record button and start making music. I am really a very selfish musician. I write stuff that moves me musically… then put words to it. If it doesn’t move me instrumentally at this point time, it hits the trash. Here and there though, I do write words before music. That comes about when I have something inside me I want to say. It’s all about what’s inside you to release. If the most profound thing you have to offer is melodies… then do that! If the most profound thing you have to offer is words… do that!
What helps you set your mind to achieve your goals?
Clear cut deadlines. I love the book The War of Art. (not the art of war…) The author personifies procrastination as the most pure force of EVIL ever. Haha. Pretty dramatic, but it starts to make sense the further into the book you get. The one thing that seems to affect everyone in reaching their creative potential is procrastination. I dig that thought. I live by it now.
Procrastinate little, achieve a lot. So I built my entire studio to be easy and inspiring to me. I also spoil myself while I lock myself away. It’s a weird motivational process. Like giving myself a piece of candy or something. (Usually it’s a latte and some Wheat Thins.) Oooo vibey lights too. Nothing kills the mood more than overhead bright lights. Candles, lamps, and accent lighting all add to the creative mood for me. My whole setup can be booted up and I can start creating/recording/writing in about 2 minutes. It’s important to me that it doesn’t take a ton of effort for me to start working. Nothing’s worse than getting a great idea and then having to bum your idea out by putting it off for 20 minutes while you dial in the mic pre or something.
What inspires you to write in the way that you do?
I want to write moving music that glorifies God and is creative. I want the CREATOR God to be expressed in music. So I’m working on it :)
How do you find yourself writing music and lyrics? & what do you do to get to that place?
For lyrics I usually nail down a melody and a word or two that feels perfect and personifies the emotion of the song, then work from there. Sometimes it’s just one word.
Who might you consider to be the top 3 most influential musicians?
Living? Dead? This feels like a loaded question… hahaha it will definitely show my lack of musical roots.
Living – Bono, Jonsi, Thom Yorke
Dead – King David, Mozart, Elvis
What is one of the most powerful experiences you have had happen while on stage?
There have been a few up there. It’s hard to describe. One was during JesusCulture Encounter 2010. We were playing a song we were working on, and there was this moment. I don’t know how to really describe it. The atmosphere in the room was charged, everyone was screaming (to the Lord,) and it was crazy. It’s the only time I’ve ever cried while on stage. I was bawling. I ended up sanitizing the keyboard heh. It was like, for a minute, heaven REALLY invaded earth. Beautiful.
Do you have a specific system for song writing or is it different for every song?
The only things 100% the same are the vast amount of lattes consumed!
How do you deal with opposition, jealousy, criticism?
I don’t :). If someone is truly hurt or bummed, I’ll chat with them. But I pray through opposition. Living in Grace beats out fighting through opposition any day. And I really am not all that concerned about being criticized. I do the best I can, and that’s that :)
How do you deal with people that may say you are “fake” in your ministry, or trying to gain fame or reputation by “using” God?
I think it’s funny that anyone would think I’m brave enough to “use” God. Heh. This does come up a bit though. But really… I try to be real. If people get to know me and think I’m out for fame, money and success I’d be shocked. I am constantly checking my heart, and I think it’s important for people to realized that they don’t have to defend themselves. If someone out there wants to have a go at me about being fake, they really probably wouldn’t even get a response. I’d check my heart and pray a bit – make sure that I still know me. But that’d be the end of it. The people close to me have input into my life to call me on that stuff. But I don’t need to try and defend myself to strangers. Hopefully they hear my heart in my music, blogs, etc.
Do you have any tips and words of insight for upcoming musicians/artists?
Be you! Don’t try to be anyone other than yourself. Keep up with the new technologies out there. Develop a relationship with the Lord in your musical gift. Don’t drink a Nos and a latte in the same hour.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I read a lot. I hang out with my wife. I play some video games. I work on music.
Who is/are your favorite group(s) or artist(s)?
Sigur Ros, Mew, Delirious, Muse, the Killers