Here’s a bit of a look at our songwriting process. It’s something that makes us a bit different to plenty of musicians and composers, and something that people like to ask about, so I thought I’d share – hopefully some of you read this and get inspired to rethink your songwriting approach!
Unlike plenty of people, we tend not to sit down with the intention of writing songs. Some of the tracks from this album were birthed in corporate times of worship, where one of us would sing a few lines or a verse that came to us in the moment, over some simple chords, probably following a more well-known song. Sometimes these moments come and go, but others stick in our heads and seem to follow us around for days, until we relent and sing them into our phones (we love iPhone Voice Memo!) or, rarely, write them down (on this ancient medium they call paper). Come Let Us Rejoice, I Take Joy and Fire By Night were examples of this. Songs that come this way can be so refreshing, because we tend to not overthink them. It ends up being the thoughts and meditations that are actually on our hearts, rather than just the ones that we know SHOULD be there, so, at least for me, this is when songs feel authentic! I think most of us songwriters can have a real tendency to be so theologically careful in our songs, which is fine – truth is essential – but in the midst of that, it’s important that we actually mean what we say! If you’ve got writers block, stop trying to write – just worship! It’s a lot more important than your plans or your recordings!
Most of our other songs tend to come about in a similar way, but just when we are worshiping on our own or as a couple at home. This is something that I think is really important – letting songs flow from your heart’s worship, not letting your worship flow from songs. Once an idea is there, yeah, it sometimes takes some hard work finishing lyrics, chords, melodies and arrangements, but I never want to come to God saying, “inspire me so I can write a song”. I’d much prefer to just come to Him, not intending to get anything at all, but rather to give. In those moments, the genuine comes. You Restore My Soul, Pour It At Your Feet, Set Me Free and Here I Wait for You are all examples of songs that came from us worshiping at home, in a very unstructured and sometimes not-pretty-sounding way. The chords that go along with most of our melodies are simple, and we’ve been very deliberate in trying to keep them that way. If the songs are too complicated, it becomes hard for most people to play them to God themselves or in their church, and so it kinda defeats the purpose of writing to help other people!
Once a song is written with lyrics, melody and a chordal accompaniment (either acoustic or piano), we normally show it to Jen and Batty (our incredible friends who rep the drums and bass) and just worship with it. Songs change a lot at this point, and some songs end up coming here to die! Often we’ll rearrange things as we worship, or even end up playing totally new sections. Once the dust settles there’s either a song there, ready to have extra parts (electric guitars etc) added to it, or we realise that maybe it’s not that great, and can just stay as something between us and God! Don’t be afraid to let songs stay that way – ultimately they’re meant for God anyway, and He’s heard it, so it’s important to not be too precious!
If you write songs, particularly congregational worship tracks, I want to encourage you to play them with other people, worship with them, and let them bless others. Ask for honest opinions from those you trust. Be willing to ditch songs. Be willing to pick them back up again. Believe what you sing. Whether you’re incredibly gifted or just new to music, it’s a sweet sound to God, because He made you creative in the first place.