For they who fashion songs must live too close to pain,
Acquaint themselves too well with grief and tears:
Must make the slow, deep, throbbing pulse of years
And their own heartbeats one; watch the slow train
Of passing autumns paint their scarlet stain
Upon the hills, and learn that beauty sears.
The whole worlds’s woe and heartbreak must be theirs,
And theirs each vision smashed, each new dream slain.
But sing again, oh you who have the heart,
Sweet songs as fragile as a passing breath,
Although your broken heartstrings make your lyre,
And each pure strain must rend the soul apart;
For it was ever thus: to sing is death;
And in your spirit flames your body’s pyre.
Derek Webb recently did an interview with Chris Stedman for the Huffington Post. The entire interview is worth reading, but the part that really caught my attention was the way Derek brilliantly summarized the main issue I have with Christian music (emphasis mine):
You can’t please everybody, and I don’t do this to please everybody. But the job of any artist is to look at the world and tell you what they see. Every artist, whether they acknowledge it or know it, has a grid through which they view the world and make sense of what they see. Even if it’s a grid of unbelief — that you don’t think there is anything orchestrating the world and that everything is completely random — that is a grid through which you make sense of the world.
A lot of “Christian art” is about the lens they’re looking through, rather than the world they see through it. I’m not going to criticize anybody for doing that, but I would rather look at the world through the grid of following Jesus and tell you what I see. But that doesn’t presume that all the art I’m going to make will be about following Jesus.
As a songwriter, and as a person who grew up in the church, I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that I don’t lean towards writing songs that fit within the normal “Christian” label (for better or worse). I also don’t find much value in music that does.Â I recognize that there’s a place for songs “about the lens,” but I’ve found that I’m much more challenged and fulfilled by writing about the world while looking through this set of lenses.
Zach Lind, drummer for the band Jimmy Eat World, wrote a great post on his blog about the importance of being confident in your creative work for the sake of the work itself rather than for the outcome or success of that work.
My friend Shane Hipps uses a great term that Iâ€™ve adopted, â€œDivest your self from the outcomes.â€ Becoming too attached to the opinions of others can lead an artist outside themselves, altering their original motivation and inspiration. This is incredibly hard to do and in a sense, itâ€™s impossible. But attaching yourself to the outcomes must be resisted, even when the outcome is complimentary to your work. If you are not content with your work, keep working. If you are content with your work, own it and release it out into the world and never look back. Good reviews and bad reviews of what youâ€™ve done are just steaming piles of dung, worthless to who you are as an artist.