Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Open Response to Jen

Since so many people who visit my blog are involved in music, I thought I would post this question I received from Jen and my response. Feel free to leave your opinions, thoughts and suggestions for Jen, too.

Question from Jen: I know you have a CD, and I'm wondering if you write songs? I'm starting to and I just went to a music conference last week that gave me some really good ideas. I wrote about it on my blog. Let me know if you have any ideas of your own to add in. Hearing different opinions helps, and I'm trying to get better.

My open response: Hi, Jen - I’m glad you enjoyed the music conference.
To answer your question left on my blog, I have written songs but I have not recorded any of them. I know that seems strange, but the songs I have written are better suited for another voice. Several years ago, I wrote a song for the Western District Youth Conference theme and the choir sang it. For my recent CD, I wanted to sing songs that ministered to me in a personal way and that I enjoyed vocally. Maybe my next album will take a different path.

From what I have learned in the many song-writing classes I have taken, I would disagree with the opinion of “don’t write just to write.” People who have written Christian songs that won Dove or Grammy Awards, are songwriters who try to write a song everyday. They write everyday to gain experience and out of the hundreds of songs they write, they pick the very best to record. Unless you get busy writing, you will always be a beginner.

Pentecostals sing an unbelievable number of Andre Crouch songs. Many of these were written in the 70’s, but today I hear his songs used many times over in numerous churches. Andre Crouch has won seven grammy awards and sold millions of albums. He says, “I try to duplicate what I feel in my heart.” Even after 40 years of songwriting, he started using a digital program, Logic, and asked Swiss singer/songwriter Saschka Wittau to help him. During a month and a half of working with her, he had written at least 80 songs. Although his songs have earned him millions of dollars, he continues to follow his passion and write.

I believe we need Pentecostal songwriters to get their songs into the mainstream and win awards. Now don’t misunderstand me - we write, sing, perform, as praise to God, and every song is a short sermon. If Pentecostal songwriters got their songs recorded by top Christian artists, then the Pentecostal message would spread even further. We cannot compromise our convctions in doing so. I really believe we need more Pentecostal artists albums on the Christian bookstore shelves.

I have noticed beginner songwriters not only tend to keep songs in the same vein musically, but also lyrically. Recently, a beginner songwriter asked my opinion of a newly released CD. My response was, “You are doing good but…….think about every song on your project." Each of them were the same story. In a nutshell, they were, “everything was terrible and bad then Jesus helped me.” It is wonderful when things go wrong that Jesus helps us, but don’t you have some good days just being friends with Jesus? Is everyday bad? This got the young songwriter thinking. I expect to soon hear some other songs from this writer that will tell me how beautiful the world is with Jesus and how much fun it is to worship Him. Find something new each day and write about it.

A benefit to writing good songs and getting them published, is the potential to be recorded by an established artist who would pay good royalties to use the songs. When a song is written, it needs accompaniement that compliments the lyrics. I think picking on the song “Blessed” was a little unfair. Have you heard Rachel Lampa sing “Blessed?” It is a fabulous song and it became a number one hit. I think the lyrics and music gel quite well and Rachel sings it with conviction. The problem is not with the song but rather with the performance of other singers. If the clinician heard the song and it depressed him, then it was a vocalist/musician error and not the song as it was written.

Two more points before I stop this long response. :~)
1. Make sure the song is grammatically correct. Write the lyrics and read them out loud. Do they make sense? Do they jump from first person to third person? Make sure the song is consistent. Sort of like how some preachers talk - “I was studying the Bible and we felt the Spirt…” Is it me or we?
2. Have a message in your song. Keep it spiritual and Godly. I don’t like shallow songs. A good song will touch your heart, give you chill bumps, make you want to cry or dance, and cause you to feel something deep within your spirit. Several years ago an alternative Christian group sang a song, “Rubber canoe, rubber canoe, Jesus, I’m giving my love to you…” Sorry, but it never touched my heart.

Good luck, Jen, in your songwriting.


  1. Thanks so much! I actually already replied to you on my blog so I won't say much here. =) I'll be checking back soon.


  2. Jen - you asked for opinions and I think that is what I gave you. Take the best from everything you hear, put it all together, and get to work writing songs.

  3. Hi Jana,

    I find this and the original entry Jen placed on her blog very interesting. I do, however, wonder about your statements about Pentecostals and the aminstream. When you say mainstream, do you mean popular modern Christian music - the kind that plays on Christian radio?

    Because if you do, I say great, for two reasons 1) most of the music is Christian-lite (they could use some help) and 2) Pentecostals do have a way with praise and worship that seems a bit deeper. (These are generalizations, and I don't mean to imply that outer signs show the depth of one's worship, because that isn't true.) We are talking about song writers here, not Christians in general.

    But if you meant Pentecostals have a different message other than the saving grace of God through Jesus and the joy and sorrow of a relationship with father, Son and Holy Spirit, I'm confused.

  4. Helen - you have presented a good question. When I said we need more Pentecostals in mainstream Christian music, I meant on the radio, in the bookstores, etc. Bryce and I recorded at Daywind Studios in Nashville and the director of custom recordings said he wished they could get more Pentecostal artists because they feel more in their music. You used the word "Christian-lite" for what I term "shallow." By that, I mean the depth of the lyrics. Many Pentecostal writers put depth into their lyrics which induces a greater sense of praise and worship. That is why I said, "the Pentecostal message would spread further," if we could have more Pentecostal artists in the mainstream. I am speaking of the depth of the written song and its presentation, not doctrine.

    I have been a fan of Andre Crouch for many years because his songs have depth. You would probably recognize some of his songs. I feel strong conviction when I hear his song, "The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power." Now that is a song that has depth. I believe a Pentecostal artist could record that song and, if it made it into mainstream Christian music, it would further spread the Pentecostal message.

    I hope I have answered your question clearly. Sometimes I jumble my thoughts.

  5. Thanks for explaining what you meant. You are crystal clear.

  6. Helen - One thing about Jen's question is to keep the focus on songwriting. I think some of what she heard at the music conference she attended strayed away from songwriting and actually dealt more with the performance of a song. The important thing to me about a song is I must "feel" it. I want it to grab me and take me into another realm with God. Tears or laughter, praise or worship, and not shallow meaningless repetitions.

  7. Great post Jana. Thanks for encouraging my niece. I'm proud of that gal. I'm amazed at how far she has come musically in such a short time. I have noticed a shift in the mainstream Christian music in the past few years myself. It seems like the songs coming out center more on what God can do for ME and not as much on what we can do for God. I don't hear as many songs about the blood either. They do seem more shallow to me...more full of fluff and lacking in conviction and spirit. Not meaning to be critical, but that is what I have noticed on the radio. Like you, I want a song that will move me and inspire me and that has depth and meaning to it. Thanks again for sharing. Love, Karen

  8. Karen - The new quartet that Bryce started, freeWAY, has several songs that were written by Marty Funderburk. He is another incredible gospel songwriter who always has a great message in his songs. Maybe some day Jen will join the big time songwriters rank. :~)