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A New Heart for New Songs

March 18, 2008


Skye Peterson singing "Everything I Own" for me

Skye Peterson singing "Everything I Own" for me

I hope you all had a good Saint Patrick’s Day. We spent the afternoon reflecting on the life of a great man who risked his freedom to share the gospel with the country that had once enslaved him. After that, Taya and the boys and I went to a local Irish Pub to have fish and chips before returning home to watch our favorite Irish movie: Waking Ned Devine.

Well, I wanted to post this blog because I feel like I have a little explaining to do for how quiet I’ve been. After getting home the end of January, I decided to take a little time off to regroup and rededicate myself. I’ve been a little burned out and plagued by a numbness that has persisted and become a cause for concern. I was supposed to begin writing for a new record last June, and everybody started to get a little worried when by December I had very little to show for it. The truth is that I’ve been in the clutches of the worst bout of writer’s block I’ve ever known. A lot of this is due to a busy touring schedule in support of the release of the new CD that had me out on the road for all but about 8 weeks last year. Another part of it is that I haven’t been taking care of myself like I should, so it seemed like now was the time to lay low, just do some smaller local concerts, and try to make space in my life to hear what God would have me do next.

In spite of continued demands (it’s hard to take a break!) I have been able to carve out some time and space to seek and wonder about what the next record and season of ministry should be about. The good news is that blood seems to be flowing again to the parts of my heart and mind that all but atrophied since making “All The Lovely Losers”. After spending some good time trying to tend to family and my own spiritual and mental health, I’m happy to report that the juices are flowing I’ve been reading some good books, intentionally seeking out things that inspire me, and best of all investing time in my family.

I spent the first week of February in Nashville trying to jumpstart the creative process by doing some cowrites and was blessed to hang out and work with some of my favorite people like Andrew Peterson, Andy and Jill (Phillips) Gullahorn, Chad Cates, Sarah Hart (who wrote “You Are Mercy” with me), Marc Byrd (who wrote “God Of Wonders”), and others. I also got to write with one of my heroes: Steve Hindalong – a member of the seminal band The Choir and producer/writer of the City On A Hill records. We wrote and had a good time reminiscing about albums he’d worked on that had meant a lot to me over the years and his work with artists like Mark Heard.

The highlight of the trip was dinner at the Petersons and having their little girl Skye perform “Everything I Own” for me. All sweetness. The Petersons made this amazing sausage bread thing that I ate way too much of, and then we sat on their porch and talked music, books, and life as the Tornados began to roll in that tore up Tennessee. Exciting night!

Back home in MN I’ve been writing with Joel Hanson (of PFR and who wrote “Blessed Be” with me) again as well as spending a couple days up in Minneapolis my bandmates doing a new experiment. I’ve been getting together with Ben Gowell, Aaron Fabrini, and Zach Miller – who play out with me when I do band dates – and we’ve been writing and recording full blown tracks that I bring home and then try to put lyrics to. It’s been fun and the little tracks we put together sound fantastic! The idea is to try some new approaches that will take me musically in a direction I might not otherwise find on my own.

All told we have more than 16 songs started (I want to have at least 20 to choose from for the next record) and 3 pretty well finished. Most importantly, some themes are emerging – among them is the idea of confession. The bible tells us to confess our sins one to another that we may be healed, and yet it seems that it’s often in the church that we learn how to best hide our sins from each other. If my last record was about brokenness, this one – at least in part – may get a little more specific about what to do with brokenness. We’ll see.

Another theme that is emerging is new life. Maybe it’s because it’s Spring and the world in Minnesota is coming to life again after a cold winter. Maybe it’s because I’ve been in a winter of my own for the better part of a year. My sweet Taya who has been concerned for me shared a scripture she read and what she believed was an inspired word for me. In Matthew 9 it says: 

“Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”

As I’ve been desperate for new wine (songs, vision, direction), Taya reminded me that God is just as concerned about the wineskin (my heart – where songs, vision, and direction come from), and that it’s his desire that both are preserved. It was a comfort to be reminded that God cares as much about us as vessels as he does what we as vessels carry.

So now I’m looking for a new heart as much as I’m looking for new songs, and hoping to receive both.

I’ll let you know how it goes. Thanks for reading.

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