A Songwriting Journal: Part One, Creating

Corner of journal pages

By Matt Redman

Recently I released Your Grace Finds Me—a new live record with 12 new worship songs. Release week is a great moment, especially as the melodies, sounds and lyrics that make up an album can be months and years in the making. And yet in all the excitement I try to remind myself that the album itself is not the start point or the end point of what I do. Even if there was no album, I would still be a songwriter, and furthermore, my long-term goal is not the making of a record—it’s the writing and resourcing of songs that might help people encounter Jesus. Recording an album can be such a meaningful, fun and fulfilling thing to do, and with every new record I’m so grateful I get to do that. I love imagining sounds, fashioning arrangements and creating a flow of music. But in it all I like to make sure that the songs are taking up more of my time, thoughts and energy in the creating process than anything else. For me the song is central.

Because I’ve released a few records now, I often have young worship leaders asking for advice on their plans to record an album of their own. My answer is always the same advice I give to myself above—the songs are the centrepiece. If we can get the songs right, it’s amazing what can be achieved. So often a new song can unlock a fresh new place in our gathered worship, or bring a much need breakthrough in a person’s spiritual journey with God. I’m not saying we shouldn’t also sow a lot of passion into creative and relevant arrangements and sounds. I believe this is an important part of our call also – for our creativity in those areas can honour God, inspire the saints and bring a great connection with those who are unchurched. But the way I approach things, I think songs always come first.

The great news in all this is that we’ll never run out of subject matter. We might run out of time, money or energy—or any of the other resources we have when it comes to writing and recording our worship songs—but we will never find ourselves lacking for something to write about. You can look at some of our heroes like Fanny Crosby or Charles Wesley and realize that to be so true—they wrote around 10,000 hymns between them and Wesley was still going strong creatively on his death bed.

When it comes to my own personal songwriting approach, I like to think about both quality and quantity. Quality of course comes first—we want to craft songs as skilfully as we can and have them as rich as they can be in terms of creativity and truth. But I think quantity can be a helpful thing too—in fact I think it’s often the road that leads us to ‘quality.’ The more you song write, the more you will flex your imagination muscle, and become a better songwriter. It’s like an athlete—they show up to train everyday and then it counts in the big moments. The more you craft songs, the more you will learn the craft of writing songs – and so perhaps when those big moments of inspiration arrive, you’ll know better how to capture them and handle them. One other dynamic kicks in too – when it comes to recording the songs, you’ll have more of them to choose from. This time around for Your Grace Finds Me, I would reckon we worked on around 40 songs and completed perhaps 25 of those songs. So the 12 songs you hear on the album are simply the ones that seemed to ‘rise to the top.’ I think this filtering process can be a really important part of how we bring our best.

Ultimately, I’m no expert on all this stuff. I hope I’m growing as a songwriter, as a creative person and as a worship leader. But at the end of the day what counts most is that I grow as a disciple of Christ. Ephesians 2:10 says that we are “God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” The word translated as ‘workmanship’ here is actually from the Greek word poiema—the word we get our English word ‘poem’ from. So think about that for a moment. We spend our time thinking about writing songs—or, if you like, musical poems—when all the while we ourselves are ‘God’s poem,’ being written by Him. What an astounding thought.

In the next two articles around the process of creating the Your Grace Finds Me record I’m going to look at the importance of collaboration and critiquing. 

Find the new Matt Redman release, Your Grace Finds Me, here.

 

Matt Redman is married to Beth and they have five children. Based on the south coast of England, they are part of St Peter’s church, Brighton. Matt has been a full-time worship leader since the age of 20 and this journey has taken him to countries such as South Africa, Japan, India, Australia, Germany and the Czech Republic. Matt’s songs include “The Heart of Worship,” “Blessed Be Your Name,” “10,000 Reasons” among many others. Matt is also the author of several books, including The Unquenchable Worshipper, Facedown, Mirrorball, Blessed Be Your Name (co-authored with Beth Redman) and Indescribable (co-authored with Louie Giglio). mattredman.com

 

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    5 comments on “A Songwriting Journal: Part One, Creating

    1. Thank you for your transparency regarding the filtering process and touching on the quality vs. quantity issue. This is of paramount importance for those who lead worship music in today’s churches given the prolific exposure facilitated by communications technology. Even as you as writer are filtering from among the 40 or 25 songs you have written before a 12-song album is produced, the worship music pastor is filtering from thousands and thousands of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to determine what words and music to place on the lips of worshiping people under his or her care.

    2. Pingback: Artist News December 20, 2013 «

    3. Thank you Matt.
      I am learning to write song.
      I really enjoy singing your songs! Hope to know more about your thought on writing worship songs.
      May God bless you more to write powerful songs these coming years!

      Your brother,
      Khumba James, India.

    4. Thank you for sharing about the “Poems”, we are living letters known and read by all.(2 Corinthians 3:2) I thank the Lord that what He’s put inside of you, flows so graciously to the Church. As a Praise and Worship Singer/Songwriter, I appreciate you sharing your process.

      God Bless

      Jeffery

    5. Pingback: A Songwriting Journal: Part Two, Collaborating | Worship Leader Magazine

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