An Interview with David Crowder

During a busy summer, Worship Leader’s Alex MacDougall  was able to catch up with David Crowder. Winding up the “American Prodigal” tour, Crowder has been in studio recording the next project, due for release in November.

Worship Leader (WL): We haven’t seen each other since the National Worship Leader Conference back in May.  Thanks again so much for helping out, and for your willingness to participate on panels and in workshops, and of course, leading worship.

Crowder: We were really glad to be there, and we had a good time. People were great there.

WL:  The Fall issue of Worship Leader focuses on the topic of ”tradition”.  How has tradition shaped your music and how has it shaped you as a person?

Crowder:  That’s a great question.  One of the things when I heard that word immediately I thought, my mom.  I don’t think she quite comprehends what tradition means because every year at Christmas time she says, “We are starting a new tradition this year”.  But then the next year we don’t do it. (laughs). My mom is the sweetest, so I hate to kind of poke at her. Tradition has to be something established and that continues, and that we can remember. What I’m trying to do with my music, even though I’ve borrowed from Southern Gospel or Gospel in chord forms, is to make sure that we’re comfortable enough and we have handles. And we know what we’re getting into but at the same time bringing something that is current and maybe even outside of our Christian music traditions. So that would be my understanding of tradition and how it’s been helpful to my music.

WL:  And that leads into my next question. Has leaving the David Crowder Band connected you to stronger ties within the great traditions of Americana Music? Did you grow up listening to classic bluegrass and country in your home?

WL:  Tell us about the new project.

Crowder:  This is the third installment of my “solo” recordings, and I’ve had three projects to “say” something. I was really trying to tell the story of home, and how our displacement began.  Our story is trying to get back into communing with our maker. And I was using a prodigal story to tell that.  I first talked about it in a very big, “zoom out Google maps” way.  And then a little more kind of personal direct prodigal.  This record is called,

I Know A Ghost. I grew up with a Texarkana Southern Baptist upbringing. However, my parents were always chasing wherever the Holy Spirit was active, and so I had a very eclectic upbringing in the church.

If you say “Holy Spirit” people outside of the church get a little uncomfortable. But when you say,“Holy Ghost”, there’s this historic aspect that’s got a non-threatening dynamic to it. So basically, this is the storyline: Jesus died in front of his friends, and then jumps back out of the ground in front of his friends. And then says, hey, I’m going to jet, but I’m going to leave my ghost for you. I’m going to haunt you. (LAUGH) I’m going to haunt the church. And that’s going to be your comfort. Recorded in Atlanta, I Know A Ghost has a definite urban feel.  It has more hip-hop in its underpinnings, and so I’m very excited. And then, of course, I can’t help it but I’m doing it with a banjo and a fiddle, and a mandolin over the top of the music.

Visit crowdermusic.com

God Will Make a Way

An Interview with Don Moen

Worship Leader’s Alex MacDougall caught up with longtime friend and beloved worship leader, Don Moen. He is releasing God Will Make A Way, his personal account detailing his service to the church. This valuable worship book is set to release this Fall and can be purchased at donmoen.com.

Worship Leader (WL): Your new book, God Will Make A Way, chronicles exactly what the Apostle Paul talks about in Romans 12. What can you tell worship leaders about a life lived out as a “reasonable act of worship?”

Don Moen: It’s important that as worship leaders we understand that “music doesn’t equal worship, and worship doesn’t equal music.” While the songs we sing are important, Jesus is more interested in how we live our lives throughout the week rather than how we sing our songs on Sunday morning. Jesus talked extensively about worship but didn’t address the issue of music, which has become such a hot topic in our churches today, where we might join or leave a church because of the music. The only reference to music that I can find in the Gospels is in Matthew 26:30 and Mark 14:26, “And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.”

Paul writes. “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship.” Our “true and proper worship” is a life laid down in service to the Lord 24/7, reaching out with love and encouragement to those who cross our path throughout the week, and bringing hope to those who have lost hope. If we lived our lives each day with this awareness, the songs we sing would be more meaningful.  I’m reminded of the lyric that was birthed out of a prayer I prayed many times backstage: “with every beat of my heart, every song that I sing, every prayer that I pray, every offering I bring, with every thought that I have, in every word that I say, be glorified.” Amen. Rom 12:1 (NIV)

WL:  The act of leading worship and sharing in that worship with others can “level the playing field” for all involved. What peace and connection does one find in truly worshiping God with others?

Don: If the act of leading worship and collectively sharing in that worship with others can “level the playing field,” we need to make sure our congregations are participating in worship rather than watching a great stage production. We’ve become very good at producing a great show, but unfortunately, this does not create a “level playing field.” I love great technology and production, but have we forgotten about the guy sitting on the back row of your church who drove a truck 80 hours last week? Can he relate to what he’s seeing on stage? Probably not. We need to ask the question, “what are we doing as leaders to make that guy feel like he’s part of the worship experience?” A few things come to mind. 1. Pick the right songs that connect with our audience. 2. Pick the right key. 3. Allow some breathing room in our worship set where the band doesn’t play, and our congregations can hear themselves sing. If we do these few things, we’ll have a much better chance of creating a level playing field, and we will begin to experience the peace and connection we can find worshiping with others.

WL:  What will a worship leader gain by reading your new book?

Don:  God uses normal people, and God made a way for me, even though I failed my speech class in college because I was afraid to speak in public. If God can use me, He can use anyone! With all the amazing resources we have available on the internet, tv and social media, it’s tempting to try to replicate, or duplicate what we see and hear, and this can be very intimidating to someone who is leading worship for a congregation of 200 people with no band, but only a couple of volunteers on the piano and organ. Learn what you can from others, but most importantly learn to “be yourself.” God will never anoint who you want to be, He anoints who you are. You may not be the most talented, the most handsome or beautiful person, but God has chosen you to lead your congregation into His presence and you cannot do that by trying to be someone else. Be authentic and God will make a way for you.

Evergreen In Bloom

An Interview with Audrey Assad 

Worship Leader’s Alex MacDougall recently reconnected with noted artist, songwriter, and worship leader, Audrey Assad. In addition to her busy ministry schedule, she has also been in-studio, co-writing with, and producing, Sarah Kroger. The project is a full-length LP, entitled, Bloom, and is scheduled for release this Fall.

Worship Leader (WL): Audrey, it’s been a few months since we connected at the National Worship Leader Conference in Nashville.  Thank you again for your valuable contributions there.  Your segments during the “Songwriters in the Round” evening we so well-received and talked about in follow up.  What’s it like to participate in something like this along with such very gifted peers?

Audrey Assad:  I am often honored by the caliber of songwriting and character that surrounds me in this town and that night was no exception! Frankly, I’m just gleeful that I get to do things like that, so thank you for hosting me.

WL: Our current issue examines the theme of “tradition”.  How has tradition played a role in your personal life of worship, as well as your rich history of recordings?

LIVING HOPE: AN INTERVIEW WITH PHIL WICKHAM

Phil Wickham is a longtime friend of Worship Leader magazine. In the wake of Phil’s newly released single, “Living Hope”, and the pending August 3rd full album release of the same title, Worship Leader magazine’s Alex MacDougall caught up with Phil. The album, Living Hope, is filled with such a fine mix of tempos, musical diversity, and lyrical imagery, and through all of it, worship is at its core. With 15 songs, Phil ranges from intimate solo and small ensemble accompaniment to full band production. For more information, visit
philwickham.com.

Worship Leader (WL): “Living Hope” is your new single. It has a hymn-like quality to it, and for the church, is anthemic in impact. What can you tell us about that song? What inspiration was behind the writing of this tune, along with your collaboration with Brian Johnson?

Phil Wickham: I got a text from Brian Johnson, of a short voice memo of him humming into his phone and strumming his guitar a little bit, saying, “Hey, Phil, I’ve got this idea, and it’s just a melody”. And he started humming it, and there are just a few lines in there that just kind of reminded me of a hymn. I replied, “what if this was the verse and we just made this song really verse heavy like a hymn and just had a refrain”, and he loved that idea. We didn’t know what we were going to call it. At first, it was going to be called, “Heart Deep”, like, your love goes heart deep. As we were writing this song, these lyrics about, this unfathomable, uncrossable chasm between our unholiness and God’s holiness, and how Jesus bridged that gap, burst into our darkness. Then the next verse asked the question, “How did he do it”? He did it with the cross, the empty grave, and now he calls me because of what he did.

In the next verse, we decided that we couldn’t just talk about the cross without talking about the resurrection. And then this really special kind of verse came out about the roaring lion rising from the silence of the grave.
Through it all, we just thought there needed to be a different idea, and this idea about his love going heart deep, I think this song is all about God flooding our lives with hope and life. I came across this idea in the scriptures where Peter talks about living hope, you know. We’ve been born again into a living hope, and it really made me kind of start searching into it. What did Peter mean when he said a living hope? What is that translated from, and what is this all about?

You know, the stars are going to fail, but outside of this universe is a God who never will. Another meaning of that living hope is when it enters our life when this hope with Jesus enters our life. It’s not simply a hope that the future is going to get better one day, but it’s a hope that starts coming alive in our actions and our words and our plans and our dreams. It starts forming everything we are, so it becomes a living thing in us. So Brian and I thought, “What a cool statement to Jesus Christ at the end of these lyrics”. It was really one of those songs where it wasn’t, like, man, we need to write a song about living hope. We started unearthing a song that we both felt was really special, and I think a lot of it, too, was Brian helping direct kind of where the lyric was going.

I think there’s a lot of things speaking into this song, and I’m just so thankful for it and for what it’s already become in my church. It’s only been out for a few months at this point and already has so many hundreds of videos from different churches just leading the song. It just brings tears to my eyes, literally. I’m just so thankful for it.

WL: Well, you hit on a real nerve right there. Everybody wants hope and especially in these days that we live in, it can be pretty hopeless at times. So I’m happy that you wrote that song. I noticed quite a bit of collaboration on this project, from songwriting to production. Jason Ingram, Chris Tomlin, Brian Johnson, Travis Ryan and others, all worked with you on this, as did several producers. What about collaboration do you enjoy?

Phil: Yes. There’s are a lot more names involved on this one than ever before. It’s so interesting to me. There are times when I’ve had a song idea that I’ve shared with others over maybe a two-year period. I’ve kind of thrown it out when one writer or one artist or one producer says, “Hey, I’ve got this idea”, and everybody kind of hears different melodies, or a different word or a different lyric lights up their heart to go a different way with the song, you know? Instead of just getting a team of one or two guys around me, this time I collaborated with many. 80 to 90 percent of all my past records, I’ve written mostly on my own.

As for this project, I didn’t have a plan going into it, saying, Hey, I’m gonna call every writer I know and start throwing out ideas. I also was committed on this one not to say, I’m going to hold these ideas and these songs with a very closed fist and say, these are mine and this is my expression. Instead, I went into it saying, “God, I’m open to whatever you have with each one of these little ideas, these little moments of inspiration that are gonna take a ton of work to kind of fulfill themselves into becoming real songs.”

For one of the songs, I was on tour and I had this idea of Wild River, “Your mercy flows like a wild river, your love is strong like a raging sea”, so with this idea of connecting water to these attributes of God, I was trying to find verses for months and months. While I was out on tour with Chris Tomlin, and right before we got on stage, I showed him this chorus. He said, “There’s something special in that. Can we work on it tomorrow?” So we worked on it, and 20 minutes later, the rest of the song was written.

For “Till I Found You”, I was leading worship in my church, Harvest Christian Fellowship. Greg Laurie, the pastor, gave an altar call invitation for people to receive Jesus. Just the beauty of that moment when 40, 50, or 60 people came forward kinda hit me like it was brand new that these people were finding a hope and a love and a life that’s going to last forever. My buddy, Travis Ryan, had sent me earlier that week this really cool track with no melody over it, and I just remembered it at that moment, and I started singing this idea that I never knew anything lasts forever till I found you. I started singing it over that track with Travis. I called him and said, “Hey, I think I wrote a song with you just now over your track”.

Of the 15 tracks, I don’t think any of the songs were just written sitting down in a room with a writer. I think there was all this nebulous in the right place at the right time kind of thing, and I love working like that. So if the songs were coming out so special in this way I thought maybe the producer of this record shouldn’t be just one guy. I called people that I really love and believe in, and everyone from Pete Kipley, to Ed Cash, to Jonathan Smith, to Ricky and Randy Jackson out in L.A., and others. I kind of hand-picked songs, saying, “Hey, I just see you being able to give such an amazing part to this song, would you be up for working on this song with me?” I think this is the way I love to work, hearing every day from different producers and different writers. The whole thing is so exciting.

WL: As a father now, and thinking back to your years of growing up in a Christian home, what was your worship experience like growing up in a musical family? Did the family sing and pray together regularly?

Phil: All that I learned about what it means to follow Jesus and also what it means to use music to point people to Jesus, I learned from my parents. My dad has been a worship leader my entire life, and I definitely learned from my mom and dad what it means to worship God, and how you can use music as a way to unify people under this banner of worship. I think what I learned most from them as worshippers was what it means to just be faithful to live out your faith and following Jesus on a day-to-day basis. You know, my parents definitely weren’t perfect, but for me to see when things got hard that the first place that my parents would turn would be to Jesus. Even when, we couldn’t find the car keys and we were late for school, I remember my parents saying, “Let’s ask Jesus, ’cause he knows right where they are”.

It’s just those little things for me that allowed me to realize so much. I obviously saw my parents singing on stage, and that’s an act of faith because they were declaring they believe this stuff. As a kid it comes down to how your parents act at home, you know? For them to turn to God many times and show me that they truly believe and they truly trust, and they’re truly grateful for the cross. That’s what I’ve learned most of all from them.

To bring that into my home, and into me as a father and as a husband, and let that carry on into what I do on stage, is what’s important. I’m thankful for them as parents and remember music being a big part of our house. My parents learned new worship songs and wrote new songs, and we would definitely pray together. There were times where my mom would say, “We need to pray”, or “We haven’t prayed in so long”. There was always a hunger for the Lord in my parents and a desire and a consistent push towards being a family that trusts in who God says he is.

WL: Your new project is scheduled to release in August, and I’m assuming will have extensive touring to support it. Is there something that you desire for Living Hope, and the tour supporting it, to accomplish more that anything you have yet to realize?

Phil: It’s always been my goal since I felt like my calling was made clear to my heart when I was a 19-year-old kid at a small Christian festival in the UK (that was rained out). Everybody had to huddle under this giant tent, and the power went out. So I stepped to the end of the stage and I started singing old hymns, and everybody started roaring along with me in this beautiful moment of worship, and at the end of one of the hymns, the lights exploded back on and everybody cheered. It was one of those moments where it was just such a massive sense of the presence of God entering that place, and the next hour was just one of the most beautiful times of corporate worship I’ve ever been involved in.

I had been going through this particular year trying to figure out who I was and what God wanted me to do. There were lots of different options, lots of different people saying I should do this or that. I asked the Lord, “What am I supposed to do? What do you want me to do, God?” And at that moment, He just revealed to me my own heart as I was singing, “This is who I made you to be.” It was almost like he tore the veil from my eyes just to see what he was already doing in my heart. Ever since then, I’ve been chasing that goal. My goal hasn’t changed since then.
The sounds and the songs and the way they happen, can both be different and look different and change, but ultimately, the goal for my song is, I want to create moments where people can encounter God through my music, and can maybe hear – whether it’s hearing the truth about His love for the first time or being able to respond to a God who loves us so much that He bore a cross and bore our shame and give us an opportunity to live in freedom today. I want my music to make people encounter that truth and then to desire to respond to it. That’s always been the goal and the more people that the music reaches, for that to happen to, the more excited and blessed I will be. That’s where my heart’s at.

WL: What advice do you have for aspiring worship leaders and songwriters?

Phil: It’s very simple. Worship comes from a grateful heart. Sometimes I have to go into a bathroom stall backstage because there’s no other place for me to go where I’m just by myself in a venue, and I just start saying thank you to God. And I thank the Lord. “Thank you so much that I’m safe. Thank you so much for listening. Thank you so much that my sins are forgiven. Thank you for my family at home.” Just a minute, two minutes, or five minutes of grateful heart puts me in such a place of being so excited to respond to it. So I would say a grateful heart, and then to walk into every situation as a worship leader with a servant’s heart.

Many times before I go into a co-writing session or before I walk into a venue, and I’m about to meet a bunch of people that I’ve never met before, I will ask, “Lord, give me a humble heart and a heart that says, how can I look at others before myself? I’m here to serve. I’m not here to make my agenda known. I’m not here to be a cool worship leader. I’m not here to write my art. I’m not here to let this church understand how great of a singer I am. I’m here to point people to you. May I love them before myself.”

A grateful heart and a servant’s heart, I think, are two things that we need to be praying for as worship leaders.

The Life of a Songwriter

By Eric Copeland

It’s a unique life for those of us who consider ourselves a songwriter. You love to write, but wouldn’t it also be great to find success, acceptance, and possibly income?

We all dream of that day when we are sitting in the music publisher’s office and he nods as our song plays. Or we play that worship song for our congregation and it is performed at other churches and goes viral online. Or we are able to go to Nashville and write with others and be part of a successful song.

Rewind to now. How do you get there? Where do you start with what you have? Or how do you write or co-write that song that will take you (and maybe your whole songwriting career) to a new level of success?

Step One: Learn from a Master

“What is a master but a master student? And if that’s true, then there’s a responsibility on you to keep getting better and to explore avenues of your profession.” – Neil Peart

There is a process that has existed for thousands of years, and it’s called Master and Apprentice. Anyone wanting to become better at their craft has traditionally learned at the feet of someone who has been doing the craft at a high level for decades. This allows for real world training, absorption of wisdom from a life in that craft, and the ability to learn the correct way to do things.

Anyone who listens to music, and can sing or play an instrument, can mimic the initial phases of writing a song. Basically writing a lyric and putting melody to it is all it takes to craft a “song”. But everything after that, from improving the song’s melody, to writing original, well thought-out lyrics, to the form, contrast, and hook; these are things that most beginning or intermediate songwriters can learn from mature, experienced songwriters.

Maybe this means working with other talented songwriters in your area, or going to a Worship Conference to learn from amazing writers, or making connections in music cities like Nashville where they are writing hit songs for the industry and the church.

Step Two: The Right Production

“It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from – if you put quality work out there, it will be appreciated.” – Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy

We used to call this a demo, and in some cases, a guitar/vocal or piano/vocal version is best for some things. But publishers like to hear well-realized versions of songs to imagine what they could be used for and which genre the song fits best. Also, artists and producers who are pitched a song by publishers prefer to hear more produced versions, and it’s helpful if they are done by professionals they are accustomed to.

I’ve heard many productions where a songwriter will produce “full” versions using their limited skills in the home studio, and because of some inadequacy on the playing, singing, or mixing, the ability to hear and find a use for the songs is compromised. This is especially true if you can’t finish listening to the song because of it’s quality.

Step Three: Getting the Song to the Right Ears

“Good music will always be recognized in the end.” – Suga

So let’s say you do have a strong commercial song for an artist or worship, and a great Nashville production. What do you do then?

Some call the pitching of songs the actual hardest part of the process. Finding someone who will not only agree to meet with you, but will be a good connection for years to come for pitching is as invaluable as a hit song.

Showing the song to a publisher may result in a “thanks but no thanks”, or could be a hold, or even a referral to an artist or producer currently looking for songs. But the most important thing is that the meeting may be an open door for more pitches down the line.

Step Four: Repeat

“I do not think that there is any other quality so essential to success of any kind as the quality of perseverance. It overcomes almost everything, even nature.” – John D. Rockefeller

Then after that meeting, whatever the result, it’s time to start the whole process over again. This is the life of a songwriter. It’s how it works: write/co-write, produce, pitch, repeat.

It may seem fruitless at times, it may seem no one is listening, and it may seem that it’s a zero sum game, but every song has an unlimited life. A publisher could choose to revisit a song they heard from you and kept in their catalog, you may find a use for a song you wrote 20 years ago for a message series next week, or you may write that next great one tomorrow.

Keep the faith! Keep working! And keep improving through the steps.

After all, how many people do you know that actually get to live the life of a songwriter?

Have a great week!

EC

Additional Resources:
CRW Radio Promotions specializes in getting radio airplay for Indie artists and worship leaders. Click here http://www.crwradiopromotions.com/comp/singlesroster.html to see and hear the current lineup of singles getting national airplay – and contact Larry Myers at 308.946.5550 or larry@crwradiopromotions.com for more information


Eric Copeland is a songwriter, producer, and president of Creative Soul Records in Nashville, TN. He works with artists, songwriters, churches, and just about anyone God brings his way for help. Eric started as a songwriter at 13, and working in the church earlier than that in choirs and groups. He has been working with Christian artists in and out of the church ever since then. In the late 1990s, Eric became known nationally as a producer that could help the beginning or intermediate Christian artist or songwriter start or restart their music ministry.

Since then, his music ministry consulting, production, and marketing company Creative Soul has helped hundreds of artists, writers, and churches. He now works with the top producers, players, engineers, singers, and other talent in Nashville and all around the country to give the ministries he serves the best that our great God deserves. For more information, more inspirational articles like this one, and great Christian artist songs and stories, go to CreativeSoulOnline.com

Songwriting with Matthew West

Matthew West

by Matthew West

For the past few records, I’ve embarked on a unique journey of storytelling that really flipped my creative process upside down and led to some of the most memorable musical moments of my life. By collecting over 40,000 stories to date — from everyday people with real world struggles, and translating those personal experiences into touching, memorable songs of comfort and strength – an incredible conversation has taken place between me and the people out there listening to my music. People sending me their stories was a game changer for me. It showed me the unbelievable power that music has to build a “trust” through the radio. Their stories have served as the inspiration for many of the songs I’ve written.

Amidst this process, I’ve received stories over the years from people who would rather remain anonymous. Even though I don’t know their names, I’ve always wanted to talk to them in a song. I have often wondered what makes a person feel invisible, insignificant, unimportant, and unknown. This song is a message: You matter, and you’re awesome. You’re God’s pick, His choice, His creation, and His idea. Nothing is hidden from Him. He sees every single part of you and loves you with an endless love. “To be known is to be loved and to be loved is to belong. And you belong here in the arms that won’t let go.”

Matthew West
Before you move to Nashville, you are typically writing by yourself, but when you’re living in Nashville and kind of get put into the “machine,” all of a sudden the pendulum swings to the other extreme and you wind up only co-writing. You can lose the confidence or the skill set to see a song from beginning to completion. Writing a song by yourself is not always a quick process. Nashville can be a town of high songwriting output, and it’s rare because it’s not just quantity, but it’s quality, too. So being by myself is sort of the antithesis of the fast-moving part of it. But when you fight the mental battle that it takes to write a song by yourself, you learn to trust your instincts.

In Nashville, they say, “It all starts with a song.” And I like to add to that by saying: Every song starts with a story. We all have a different soundtrack of our lives, but I’m not talking about just a musical soundtrack. Telling our stories causes a chain reaction. Essentially, our “change reaction” causes a “chain reaction.” There’s excitement around telling the great stories of what God has done in our lives. Sharing our testimonies is often how contagious freedom is found. There is so much power in vulnerability, and “Amen,” a song on my newest album, All In, rejoices over this truth. I don’t want just good songs; I want important songs. By important, I don’t mean it will change a generation. I’m not that arrogant to think I can do that, but I mean important to me. If a song changes the way I look at something, chances are it will have that potential in somebody else’s life.

I began 2017 by spending several weeks in a cabin that Alan Jackson built. It resides on some land owned by some friends of mine, and they were kind enough to let me camp out. I surprised myself in that cabin by how personal my lyrics were coming out. I scared myself a bit, too. I guess it was just time. Time to take some inventory of my own story; where I’ve been, where I am now, and where I’m going.

One of the things I’ve noticed about my songwriting is that I’ll start with the idea being very personal, a little snapshot of my own specific story. With All In, maybe this time it’s my story that causes a ripple effect. Maybe my story as a dad who knows he’s got to do a better job can cause a ripple effect for other dads, or for other husbands. How cool of a legacy would that be for this record?

Amongst the 14 tracks found on All In, I came up with the idea for a tune called “If I Only Had One Song.” I was imagining someone telling me, “This is the last song you’ll ever be allowed to write or sing again.” Originally, I thought, “If I only had one song, I would write a huge, dramatic song that lays out the full message of the gospel. I’d lay it all out in an epic, evangelistic fashion.” But the more I thought about it, the more stripped down my thoughts became. Honestly, if I only had one song, what song would my Creator want to hear from me? What would I want to say to Him? That’s why this song turned out the way it did. It’s simply a song for God that says, “I’m not going to overcomplicate this. I just love You, I thank You for all You’ve done for me, and if this is my last song, it’s going to be for You.”

I’ve sung many different songs about a number of different things, but at the end of the day, it all points back to a loving Father who never gave up on the prodigal son. Going “all in” doesn’t imply that we always have to display our faith through a grand gesture. Truthfully, sometimes a simple song of worship to the One who made you is what it’s all about.

I absolutely love writing songs, and I love watching those songs come to life in the recording studio. But it’s getting on the bus, hopping on stage in city after city and carrying that music to a live audience night after night that completes the creative circle.

Recording a CD: Where Do I Start?

This article was originally published in Worship Leader magazine (Nov/Dec 2008). For more great articles like this one, subscribe today.

 

I’m a worship leader and my Pastor has asked me to record a CD of our worship music for our congregation. Where do I start?

This is a big subject, so I’ll probably just scratch the surface this issue and then I’ll try and take it apart in a little more detail in the coming months.

I’ll start by asking you a few questions about this CD. You said it’s for your congregation, so how many CDs will you print? Do you plan to record a live service or record it in a studio? How much time can you personally dedicate to a recording project? Will you stick with your “regular” band members or will you hire some ringers to bring up the level of musicianship (or maybe you are blessed with ringers on your team)?

Obviously, a lot of those questions bring you right back to the budget. And the trick for you as the worship leader is to determine where that money set aside for a recording is best spent. The first thing a lot of folks think is, “I need to buy some gear.” So, you start looking at M-Boxes and microphones and studio speakers and quickly realize you can more than spend the entire budget trying to get enough entry-level gear together to try and pull it off. Then you start surfing the recording Web forums trying to figure out how to use all this stuff to make it sound decent. Pretty soon you’ve spent a month or two trying to sort it all out, and you still haven’t begun to think about actually recording your CD.

So, here’s my two cents: when a pipe breaks in your house, do you run out and buy some new wrenches and pipe saws and find a website on plumbing and fix it yourself? Ever tried to pull your own aching tooth, or do you head to the dentist? Now, I know you’re thinking, “my budget is too small to rent studios and hire pros to record it.” But is it? Can you afford to spend a ton of your time distracted from your real mission to figure out what gear you need and learn how to use it and get good results from it? And that’s not even considering the whole creative side of the project, which in the long run is a much more important use of your time than figuring out how to be an audio engineer.

Even if you think it’s just a small, simple recording, it will turn out much better if you use that budget to hire someone that can guide you through the process of recording your CD. Not to mention preserving your sanity.

All right, whom should I consider hiring for recording my project?

You need a producer, an engineer, and a mixer. Often times, especially for smaller budgets, one person can fill all these roles. I’ll see if I can quickly explain what each does, and hopefully you’ll see why you need them.

A producer is responsible for the big picture and every detail. He is going to sit with you and work through your songs, from choosing the right ones, to the tempos, keys, arrangements, and even help with lyrics or chords that aren’t quite working. He’ll map out the recording sessions, keep things flowing, keep the mood light, and encourage the best performances of the songs out of you and your team. Then he’ll work with the mixer in tweaking every detail until everything is just right.

An engineer’s job is to do the actual recording of the music. He’ll choose mics, place them in the right spot and generally make everything sound as good as it possibly can. He knows how to run all the gear and software, and probably knows a few cool tricks to make you sound “one louder.”

The mixer then takes all your raw recorded tracks, maybe does a little editing to fix up some timing issues or mistakes, applies eq, compression, reverb, and effects, turns everything up to just the right balance until hopefully, your song now “sounds like a record!”

Brian Steckler is a composer, producer, and writer. Find out more at briansteckler.com.

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