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Candid Conversations at GMA Day 2

April 27, 2009

FileI was up late Sunday night after the show with radio people at Jack’s BBQ.  Josh Petersen and I went out for a late night snack (pizza and calamari) to talk about the week, my new record, and life in general.

I got to my hotel room late and was talking to Taya by phone.  Downhere played a concert near Minneapolis that night and Taya and the boys went to see them, bringing her signature homemade scones and thermoses of coffee to help them through their long drive home to Nashville that night for GMA week.  My hotel roommate was going to be Glenn Lavender (bassist for Downhere) so he said goodbye to Taya only to say hi to me 20 hours later in Nashville.

Monday morning came too early as I made my way to the Renaissance hotel to start my first day of interviews.

For the last couple of years I went into GMA week with a strong sense of what my story was in that season of my ministry, and I was able to deliver it clearly and succinctly for the radio, TV, and magazine interviewers I talked to.  I meant every word and my answers were never “pre-packaged”, but sometimes I wondered if it was all a little too neat and tidy, and if I had so much of a handle on my story that it became something that I had too much control over rather than something messy, complex, and real – was it a story that I was telling, or a story that was alive and in some sense telling me?

No worries about that this year.  My interviews were messy, spontaneous, and a couple times startlingly revealing – even to myself.  I’ve been so busy over the last several months working on the new record that I hadn’t had a chance to sit for a moment and wonder about what it all means.  So, I shot from the hip and enjoyed the tension of not being able to deliver tidy answers in the form of sound bytes.

One of the things I’ve struggled over is the theme of the new record.  I started dreaming about this record with strong ideas about what I wanted it to be: an album about confession.  Since so much of the conversation I have with my audience has been about the virtues of weakness over the past several years, confession seemed like the next part of that story – the idea being that our weakness is useless until we bring it into the light to be redeemed.  It was a noble desire to write a record about this – and who knows? It may still happen in some other form further down the road – but for whatever reason, I couldn’t get those songs to come.

After more than two years of severe writer’s block, I came to the point where I had to receive what came and receive it with gratitude. Beggars can’t be choosy.  The result is that rather than picking songs on the basis of whether they fit the prescribed theme, we were free to pick songs based on their merit alone.  Because of this, I think the best songs ended up on the record.

And yet I feel like there are different qualifications for “best” songs.  Some of them were picked because they stood the best chance as commercial songs, singles for radio.  Some of them made the cut because they were the best songs in terms of saying what I wanted them to say, and others were the best examples of my artistic expression.  These are a lot of different agendas to balance, but I think it will make for a more varied and interesting album.

So at some point, I lost control of the record in the sense that it refused to conform to what I had wanted it to be – and losing control of something is almost always a good thing.  Though I would’ve loved to write a whole record about confession, that road didn’t unwind to meet my feet, and so I wrote the songs that came and am now trying to figure out what they’re trying to say to me.  I guess this is much more preferable to my having such a firm grip on the whole thing that it ceases to have a life of it’s own.

And all this makes for interesting conversations at GMA!

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