So here I am, an artist who’s releasing his first album in 12 years. I’m scared, insecure; I’ve got knowledge in my pocket, songs in the vault, and a whole lot of healing in my heart. I’ve tasted enough success to permanently poison me but not enough to kill me. But the artist in me is scared to death. Where do I even begin? Should I do this? And then the question that haunts us all, will anyone like it?
Then I run across this blog post by, accomplished songwriter and artist, Regie Hamm.
Here are a few excerpts:
---“WHY BONO CAN’T FIND WHAT HE’S LOOKING FOR …”Bono has been asking why Christian Music isn't more honest. That's a good question …
---“Some of the most amazing geniuses I’ve ever known reside in the Christian music industry. But they will eventually come to a creative line they cannot cross.”
---“In the end, it will still essentially be created with barriers and roadblocks and hindrances. And there’s the rub. Creativity requires freedom. Why did everyone from the Jonas Brothers to Katy Perry start out in Christian Music …but then leave? For the same reason I did. An artist can only paint the same painting - with implied instructions to only use the same 7 colors - so many times.”
"Christian" music has positively impacted me so much, but something about what Regie writes resonates with me. This is real, this is powerful, and this is sad; this is truth all at the same time. I’ve been the artist that he’s talking about, but I want to become the artist that he’s hoping for, and the funny thing is, he (Regie Hamm) has no idea that he was “coincidentally” and providentially the doorway and bridge to my musical “reawakening” if you will.
Rewind 1 year: I’ve just completed my first year in Nashville after taking a job at a local church where I’m part of developing a ministry for teens (something I’m passionate about and have been doing vocationally for 15 years in different settings). I’m a pastor, a songwriter, a husband, a father, and an artist. Though I don’t know where the art fits in with the pastor piece, I’m not sure that I have to separate the two. All things are sacred to God. ALL things belong to Him. Therefore, I still keep writing and serving Him in everything that I do because that’s what I love to do. And in the midst of all that, I trust; I’ll write the songs that I want to sing, and I’ll write them authentically. If they’re supposed to “be” somewhere, then they’ll get there. I’m not in charge of all that anymore.
One year on the job passes by and by “chance” I need to find a last-minute driver for a beach retreat with the teens that I’m leading. I reach out to a dad (Howie Klausner) who had offered to help me if I ever got in a pinch. While at the retreat, we end up playing guitar together until the wee hours of the morning on the last night. Something clicks, this guy gets life, and he’s living for the right reasons. I’m his pastor, but I’m also gonna be his friend. The two don’t have to be separate.
While on the retreat, a lot of the students express a desire to use their musical gifts to start writing songs. When we get back, I have the idea to get our musical students together and discuss the topic of songwriting as a first step. But I have no clue who we can get to teach us. Howie says he knows the perfect guy.
So we end up gathering the interested students in Howie’s living room to hear from one of his good friends, none other than Regie Hamm. Regie bared his heart to 5 people that evening and gave as much as he would in a stadium or concert hall. His story was authentic and it was powerful. After hearing about his faith, life, and songs, we heard practical insight on “co-writing.” We learned about music and life and how the two are inseparable. When it came time to take questions, for some reason, Howie and I were the only ones asking. It dawned on me later that maybe that night was sparking something not only in the students, but also in us. It was something that we’d both put aside yet something that opens up a door to who God wants us to be. At the end of the night, due to my own insecurities, I couldn't even muster up enough courage to have a long conversation with Regie, but his words have stuck with me to this day.
After that evening, Howie and I decided (though I had to push him :)) to get together for a “co-write.” In case you don’t know, first co-writes are actually worse than any first date that you’ll ever go on. It’s your art that you’re sharing, your ideas, your heart, with someone that may hate it all. That’s the risk, but the payoff is great music. Unlike most first dates, this one went perfectly. Within 2 hours, we had our first song, and it felt great.
Fast forward 4 months: Howie is putting the finishing touches on his movie, “The Secret Handshake.” I later learned that he happens to be an accomplished screenwriter, director, songwriter, AND now friend. :) He’s had hundreds of submissions for a title track, and even has one of the submissions printed on the rough cut of the film, but doesn’t feel like it’s what he’s looking for. He casually jokes, “Derrick, got anything?” Would you have guessed that a song called “Standing Right Beside Me” that’s been in my pocket for the past 5 years, written as a song of hope after the death of my beloved mother-in law, would be the song that would move him to tears? I wouldn’t have guessed it either, but it did, and it became the song in the film. You can’t make this stuff up.
Which brings me back to now: The song led to an EP, which is my first studio album in 12 years. This EP represents who I am, where I’ve been, and hope for where I’m going. I call it Freedom. So Regie, you may never remember me or have any clue who I am, but I want to say thanks for taking the time to be real and serve others. It makes a difference and it inspires me. If it inspires me, it will inspire others. And I hope that this EP is a first step in the right direction of the authenticity that Bono and many others are looking for.
Keep writing and loving people,