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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Lots Of Coffee

I envy those who can write a song at the drop of a hat. Those who write year-round, no matter where they are. Those who have mastered the art of balancing discipline and inspiration. Those who do justice to the term "song-writer". I think I'm a bit of a higher maintenance song writer. I need peace, quiet, solitude, and blocked-of time periods to write well. Oh - and lots of coffee. I also have come to rely on the tools I have at home to make the process more seamless. I have everything I need in my home studio to produce a great demo, with all the instruments a rock band could require. And things have come up a couple notches since the songs on "Thunder After Lightening" were demoed.

It has become a tradition - or more, a habit - that after finishing an album approximately every 2 years, I put down the ol' pen for months at a time. I believe I went almost a full year after recording "Wide-Eyed" without writing a single song. We (Jason and I) managed to write some of our best stuff for "Ending Is Beginning". But I wonder how much better it could have been had I exercised the muscle of writing more faithfully and regularly. Sure, a guy needs a break, and I thrive on the diversity of what I do for a living, i.e. writing, recording, performing, traveling, etc. Keeps it interesting for sure. But they say an artist lives and dies on their songs, and you wouldn't know it for the amount of time I put into the craft... proportionally speaking.

The crazy thing is that the reason why I take those long breaks is precisely because I take those long breaks. Follow me? The way I've functioned as a song-writer for the past decade is feast and famine - mainly out of necessity. I wait until the record label gives me a deadline, so that our management can block off "writing weeks" on the calendar. Then I gorge myself on writing with every free moment I can muster for 6-8 months. Then, hit the studio, record for a couple months, and come out the other end completely exhausted from the process, not wanting to think about writing again until I absolutely have to. So I/we have kinda cornered myself/ourselves into this endless cycle.

I've always had a tendency towards procrastination, and we've all heard the studies showing how procrastination adds so much stress on life that could easily be avoided by planning ahead, blah blah. (Yet, somehow I manage to remain pretty mellow.) Easier said than done, though, with all the days we spend in a 15-passenger van. Then again, I often write some of my best stuff under pressure! So what's the answer to this conundrum? To each their own? If it ain't broke, don't fix it? Apply for a government bail-out? The deadline for the next album is now in sight, so if any changes are made, they will have to come after the next record is in the can... and after I've recovered from the process again... ugh. You SEE??? (Don't get me wrong. I do love it.) Until then, I'll be writing my little tail off. One bright spot on the horizon this time around is that, thanks to many kind and generous people, we are getting into a bus soon. This could be conducive to on-the-road writing, which would be new territory for me. Yusssss! Here we go!

Your prayers are coveted.



Anonymous Carrisa said...

I can relate to your problem as my husband is afflicted with that as well. He's a graphic designer and most of his work is for musicians. He needs to see that deadline to get him going. And in the end he cranks out some of the most amazing stuff. And I agree that Ending is Beginning was amazing. When I listen to songs like My Last Amen or Coming Back Home it's hard to explain the rush I get.

You guys are some of the most talented musicians I've ever listened to. Even my husband agrees and he only ever listens to Christian music when I make him.

I don't know how you will break the cycle, but I'm also of the mindset that if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

I hope that your tour bus brings you joy in all the ways that it should. And if we get some awesome songs out of it, then bonus.

And please remember to always include Tulsa on your tours. And ignore Jeremy if he says anything about needing extra security while you're here.

6:34 AM  
Blogger Mindy said...

Thanks Marc for bringing us to the attention of how you write. It's always great to see other people's timeline for things. I just write when I feel a song come on(though my stuff isn't nearly as great as yours, but I enjoy writing it and I think it turns out well.)But then again, I don't have any deadlines to meet :)

Prayers are always with you guys! See you in a month in Michigan!


6:52 AM  
Blogger Jennifer J said...

Marc, you're one of the most talented song-writers I've ever had the privilege to listen to. Everyone talks about your beautifully talented voice, but that talent would be lost without amazing songs to sing with it. So, please keep up the good work and know that, regardless of the method, whatever you're doing is certainly working. :-)

Oh, and I'm so very happy you all are getting into a bus soon! Yea!!

8:53 AM  
Blogger Emily Lynn said...

From one chronic procrastinator and finnicky writer to another, I'm praying for you. That cycle you described is so familiar. Also, I'm so glad that you're going to get a bus! Blessings abound!

10:58 AM  
Blogger jaz said...

This is so encouraging! "To each his (her) own!" I love it!

Why should writers fit themselves in the same category as other writers. Could you imagine what songs and literature would be like? "Blah, blah" True craft and genious lies in the ability to create under pressure, I think anyway.

As somewhat of a writer myself, I have to see the deadline, for a paper in my case, in order for me to pull the paper together. And quite often my best papers have been produced under the looming of a deadline. For some reason it makes me kick it in gear, otherwise I would let it fall by the wayside.

Thank yo for being transparent!
Have a Joyful Day!

4:41 PM  
Anonymous Tychicus said...

The ancient Greeks believed that inspiration for music and the arts came from “the Muses,” a group of goddesses who bestowed creative graces upon the artist. The term “muse” has since come to refer to any power that inspires an artist’s work. As Christians, we trust that God has called and gifted you for serving Him through music. We see abundant fruit from what He has given you in the past. We therefore pray that, wherever He chooses to inspire, God will be your “muse,” and will give you and Jason the grace to listen and to write.

In this context the word “music” lends itself to a fitting equation: music - muse = ick. Too much of today’s “Christian” music appears to be just plain ick. It seems to lack the proper source of inspiration. May the Lord be your “muse,” and may He continue to glorify His name and bless His people through you.

11:19 AM  
Blogger HoustonRollerDerby said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

8:56 PM  
Blogger Kiki said...

For me, writing (not song, but otherwise) comes with the same kind of guilt as devotionals. By this I mean, if I miss a day of devotions, I feel like poo and don't want to go back and face it the next day, so then it becomes the next and the next and the next. Same with writing. It becomes a mental guilt block and it stinks on both counts. I'm working on that. I do think that you could apply for and receive a bailout--then maybe you could fly to your favorite place in the world alone or take a cruise to the Bahamas and write and the government (I mean, taxpayers) would cover it.

Just so you know, the word verification is "enticess."

8:57 PM  
Anonymous Valerie said...

I gotta say that Downhere is the first band I have ever listened to from A to Z. I've discovered your album when I came to Saskatchewan and people here think I'm creepy because I listen to your songs at work, at home, on my cell, and in the car. It's not even about the band (even though you guys look great); it's totally about the lyrics and the music. Songs like All at war, Coming Back Home, and Live for You are priceless.

Thanks for including your perspective, feelings, and beliefs in your music. A wonderful marriage of life's subjectivity and the objective truth of the Bible.

Looking forward to see you guys play in Montreal (one day!)

12:45 PM  
Blogger kathryn said...

coffee works for lots of people! I'm thinking 'don't fix it if it ain't broke', unless your unique process feels broke and you want to make a fix? i can't imagine the pressure of 'Write x amount of songs. . . and GO!' Do you ever feel like you have all kinds of things incubating in the mind and you just can't pull them out? or if you try before they're done, they're too raw. I often feel that way. I'll pray for you in this. God has so much yet to impart.

8:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh Marc, try not to make yourself feel pressure to write unless you feel your best work comes from it. I do poetry and my creative writing teachers say to write every day even if it doesn't make sense or mean anything. That allows you the opportunity to write something great. And by writing every day, it could be something as simple as a journal or blogging!! You're on the right track!!!

6:40 PM  

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