Humanity

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The past few days of my life have been pretty rough. My first car accident and the death of my sweet cat were among the stuff that has happened, and I've cried more tears in the past few days than I have in a long time. All of this is happening the week of a big Christmas production that I'm very involved in, so I can't help but feel like there's no time for me to pause and process while I run back and forth between work and rehearsals.

In the midst of all this insanity, however, I'm noticing how amazing the people around me are. Coworkers who are normally loud and angry have been softer and kinder to me, offering sympathetic words and simple "I'm sorry"s. Authority figures who are normally strict with me have offered me gentle advice and encouragement. Friends who live far away have been texting me to show me love and support. And my closest friends have been there for me through it all.

This is something I've never experienced before in a time of struggle; up until just recently, I actively pushed people away and tried to impress everyone by how "independent" and "strong" I was. And when I did let people in, it was often just because I wanted attention. As a result, I had very few close friends, and found myself alone during every difficult season. I'm not sure exactly when that changed - maybe it was just a part of growing up and maturing over the years.

As sucky as this week has been, it's been so beautiful and humbling to see other humans gather around me like this. God is opening my eyes to how powerful kindness is - even small simple kind words to someone you barely know can make a difference in their day. People always say that, but this week I'm experiencing how true it is.

The reason I write this post is not so you would feel sorry for me; I just want to stress the importance of loving the people in your life, even if you don't know them well, and letting people in when you need help. Don't let your pride tell you that leaning on others is a sign of weakness; it's actually a sign of humanity.

Peace On Earth: A Christmas Production

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Every year, my church puts on an amazing Christmas program, and it's always a ton of fun to be a part of. This year's program is called "Peace On Earth" and it's already been a blast to work on!

If you enjoy inspiring musical performances, creative storytelling, free homemade cookies, or just an overall excellent show, you will LOVE Peace On Earth. This event is free and open to the public, so I'd love to see you there! I'll be on stage at the Warren campus playing keys.

Here are the times/locations:

Warren Campus - 14300 E 13 Mile Rd
Friday Dec 15 - 7PM
Saturday Dec 16 - 5PM & 7PM

Chesterfield Campus - 54205 Washington St
Saturday Dec 16 - 7PM
Sunday Dec 17 - 9AM & 11AM

St. Clair Shores Campus - Avalon Elementary, 20000 Avalon St
Saturday Dec 16 - 7PM
Sunday Dec 17 - 10AM


Not only am I arranging a lot of the music and producing tracks for this, like I did in past years' programs; I was recently hired by the church to manage their social media. I get to make cool graphics and videos promoting Peace On Earth, and I've been documenting what goes on behind-the-scenes on our Instagram story. It has been really interesting to go around getting videos of different areas as they prepare, like band & vocal rehearsals, kids' ministry preparations, cookie baking, and more! Follow us on Instagram to see more of that!

The Story of Overflow (Coming November 1st)

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I’ve produced a total of 4 albums now for both myself and for other people, and the last month or so before an album release is always so strange. You’ve finished all the music and submitted it to the music stores, so then all you can do is wait, and it’s really weird. Overflow is the same way. For almost two years, I worked on this music for hours after getting home from work every day. Now that it’s done, I don’t know what to do with my free time, but the excitement I feel for the coming release date is stronger than I’ve ever felt before.

Making your own solo album is always an introspective learning process. I learned early on in Overflow’s process that I had to step out of the way and let it shape itself, which was definitely a challenge at first. I had a very different idea of what Overflow would look like when I first started making it; the lyrics were more sad, the music style was completely different, and it was an EP with only 3 or 4 songs. But when I gave up trying to control it and started letting it take its own shape, I learned that the sad lyrics and moody styles weren’t me, and the “story” of the album would not be complete with only 3 or 4 songs.

Instead, Overflow ended up becoming a beautiful reflection of my life and my brain over the past year and a half. The style is definitely me, and the 9 songs form a complete “story,” a story that was never planned or even thought about. It simply just came together. And now, when I listen to it all, I think “huh, that’swhat God was doing in my life. I had no idea.”

The “story” you hear when you listen to Overflow could be different than the one I hear, but here’s the main thing that inspired this album: Imagine standing in a waterfall, water crashing into you and soaking your hair and your clothes and flowing down into the river you’re standing in. That’s God’s love for you. The love of God is endless and overflowing, and it will never stop pouring over you, regardless of how long you’ve been ignoring it or what you’ve been doing. That’s what I’ve personally experienced over the past 2 years, and that’s the basis of this album.

I’m so excited for November 1st. I can’t wait for you to finally hear this music.

 

I’ll be posting previews every week in October on Instagram and Facebook, so make sure you’re following me!

Bay Shore Camp 2017

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This past week, I had the incredible privilege of returning to Bay Shore Senior High Camp to help lead worship and to be a camp counselor. I originally didn’t want to go, but I knew from the beginning that God would end up changing my heart over the course of the week, so I vlogged the whole week in an attempt to capture the heart change as it happened.

As you can see in that video, God definitely did change my heart.

Something about staying in the same place and doing the same thing for an extended period of time just isn’t good for me. I get too comfortable doing what I do every day, talking to the same people, hiding in my office or behind my computer. It makes me blind to the good things that can be found elsewhere; the great things I have yet to experience, the amazing people I haven’t met yet. It was the reason I didn’t want to return to camp, even after having such a great experience there last year.

Camp was the perfect way to break out of that toxic routine. It forced me out of my house, away from my work, past my small circle of friends. I met incredible people who I otherwise would have never met. I experienced God in a way that I never would have if I had just stayed home. I found myself doing things outside of my comfort zone that ended up being fun.

Now that I’m back, I’m taking steps to break out of the routine more often. My first step: this weekend I’ll be driving all the way to Lansing to visit one of my camp friends, because why not? I want more time with the people I love, even if they don’t live nearby, so I’m gonna make it happen.

If you feel hopeless or stuck in life, I’d say that going to camp is a perfect way to snap yourself out of it.

Announcements/Life Update!

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I realized today that I haven’t updated this blog since February. While I never intended on keeping this blog updated super regularly, I just can’t wrap my mind around how fast time has flown by. So now as we go into June (gosh, it’s Junealready), I have a few exciting updates and things to tell you!

First of all, my album is nearing its final stages! I don’t have a release date just yet, but I’m aiming to get it out there sometime in late summer-fall. You guys are going to love this new music; a few of the songs have words in them, and there are plenty of instrumental tracks as well. I’m very proud of the sounds I’ve created and the words I have written, and I can’t wait to get the finished product into your hands!

Secondly, I’ve been upgrading my gear! I just recently got a new desk, which may not seem like that big of a deal, but you’d understand if you saw my teeny old desk. I also got a brand new Shure SM7B microphone, and I am blown away at how great it sounds. This week I used it to record vocals for a friend’s upcoming album, and we were both amazed at its clarity and tone. I got a new vocal tuning plugin as well. Stepping up my vocal game!

Thirdly, I’m gonna be making videos! (Well, at least I’m going to try.) A few years ago I posted on Facebook asking if anyone would be interested in a series of how-to videos that teach how to play keys in a band and/or in a church setting, and I got a ton of great responses. It never happened, though – I was in high school at the time, and I just didn’t have the time or the equipment necessary to make those videos. But now, I’ve got the time and the equipment, and I’m starting to put together a plan to make those videos! I still have a few things to figure out before I can get started so I really don’t know when you can expect to start seeing them, but I’ll be keeping you updated. (Like me on Facebook to see those updates!)

Lastly – I wasn’t going to include this, but I thought you all should know that I’m no longer the keyboardist in the Stereo Kings cover band. With having to play in church at 7:30am every Sunday morning, staying up until 2am on a Saturday night to play a show at a bar was so difficult. Even just being in a bar itself was honestly too much for me as well, and I found myself dreading every single gig we had. While I believe it’s important to push yourself and to do things that are outside of your comfort zone, I think there’s a fine line between that and forcing yourself to do something that isn’t meant for you to do. I grew so much from the experience and I’m thankful for the opportunity, but I realized that it wasn’t meant for me; I’m the quiet introvert who hates popular music and goes to bed at 9:30pm, and that kind of band needs an enthusiastic person who loves people and loves the kind of music they play. The guys (and gal) in the Stereo Kings are incredibly talented and they deserve a keyboardist who can give their 100% to the band, and that just wasn’t me.

That’s it for now! A lot of great things are in store for the summer and I’m excited to see them come to life. Thank you, as always, for your continued support and encouragement as I do the things I love!

How to Stop Comparing Your Art to Other Art

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This is something I think every single artist struggles with at some point or another, especially when they are first starting out in their craft. It’s embarrassing and painful, but we all deal with it. Comparing my music to other musicians’ work and trying to get my music to sound like theirs was so frustrating that I almost quit making music altogether a few times, and I guarantee any other artist you ask has similar stories. So, what’s the key to overcoming this?

I had a conversation about this with a good friend the other day; we have both been creating our own art for enough of our lives that we have come to learn a few things about it. And here’s the key we have both experienced: We as artists must tap into the vast world within ourselves, the inner well from which all uniqueness and creativity flows. Without access to that well, true creativity doesn’t exist; we have no other choice but to look to others’ work as our source of creativity.

Of course this is much easier said than done, so I’m gonna go into a bit more depth and outline some steps you can take to access your own creative well.

The Dangers of Comparison and Duplication

You might be thinking what’s the big deal? So what if my song sounds like this other guy’s song? It may seem harmless; after all, if you copy another painter’s style of painting or another musician’s sound, they’ve established that style as being “good” and people have recognized it as such, so your similar work will be perceived as “good” too. Right?

Nope, not at all. It’s a lie from Satan himself that is incredibly easy to believe.

You’ve probably heard the phrase “comparison is the thief of joy” – sounds like just another cliche phrase that adults tell teenagers in youth group, but I’ve come to find that it’s completely true. Trying your hardest to look or sound like other artists is not only exhausting and frustrating, it robs you of the satisfaction and joy that comes when you’ve completed a creation of your own design.

God has gifted each of us with our own uniqueness; we all have our own unique fingerprints, eye colors, face shapes, personalities. But our individuality goes deeper than just our physical bodies: our souls were created just as uniquely, if not much more. If we’re not creating from the God-given uniqueness in our souls, the message God intended us to bring to the world is lost.

And of course, any creation that God inspires from your uniqueness will not look or sound at all like the creation that came from someone else’s uniqueness, so comparing your unique work to someone else’s is a hopeless venture that will only end with insecurity and frustration.

We must remember that the enemy is real, and his goal is to steal, kill, and destroy–and if he can steal, kill, and destroy your unique God-given art, he wins.

How to Tap Into Your “Inner Well”

I wish I could give you a straightforward “3 steps to overcoming your problems” type of answer, but it’s just not that simple. Getting to know the unique flow of creativity within you takes time and dedication; I still have a long way to go in mastering it myself. But I will outline the things that helped me.

Learning about true humility and your unique place in the Kingdom of God is a great place to start. I’m not talking about the self-deprecating “humility” that makes you think you are below everyone else; I’m talking about real, God-given humility that gives you confidence in your worth and identity while also recognizing that without God you would be nothing. This will require spending a lot of time in God’s presence, getting to know him for yourself.

Of course, viewing/listening/reading other people’s work is important to growing as an artist in your chosen field, so discipline yourself to think differently and admire that person’s unique creativity instead of thinking “I’ll never be able to do that.” Notice the differences in different people’s work. Teach yourself to think of “different,” even radically different, as a good thing. And when you feel yourself getting discouraged about your lacking skills while looking at a really great work of art, remind yourself that you’re always growing and your skills will improve with time.

A great practical step you can take is to start a project in your chosen art form that is for your own eyes and ears only. Really be secretive about this project and discipline yourself to keep it to yourself. Comparison often stems from a need to be liked (which we all naturally have to some extent), and detaching yourself from that need will require you to entirely step back from the eyes of other people for a while. This really helped me in my own music; I took a year to just create music that was never shared on the internet or shown to friends, and it really helped me to develop my own sound and style that I enjoyed. This went on to be one of my own personal values as a musician: If I don’t enjoy listening to my music, I shouldn’t release it.

Above all, keep at it, and never stop creating. Like I said, I still have a long way to go in this area, and so does every other artist; it’s a slow (and sometimes frustrating) journey, but one that will bring you so much joy and satisfaction. Keep growing, keep pressing in, keep seeking your unique voice, and you will find it.

A List of my Current Gear

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For those who are curious.

Live Keyboard Setup

  • Lenovo IdeaPad y700 laptop – Intel i7 6700HQ 2.6G CPU, 12GB RAM, 1TB HDD and 128GB SSD, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M 4GB GPU, Windows 10
  • Ableton Live Standard
  • Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 audio interface
  • Roland JV-35 (from 1993); mainly used as a MIDI controller

Home Studio Setup

  • Home-built desktop PC (affectionately named “Bobert”) – AMD 6300 6-core 3.5G CPU, 8GB RAM, 512GB SSD and 1TB HDD, AMD Radeon R9 GPU, Windows 10
    (Bobert is also my gaming PC)
  • Ableton Live Suite, Melodyne Essential
  • Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 audio interface
  • JBL LSR305 studio monitors
  • Fostex T50RP mk3 studio headphones
  • Shure SM7B microphone
  • MK Disco mechanical keyboard w/ brown switches
  • Akai Professional MPK Mini
  • Roland JV-35 (see above, used as a MIDI controller)

Happy Anniversary, Where Feet May Fail!

January 15th marks 1 year since my first full-length album was released!

It was a momentous day. I remember waking up so excited to check iTunes and see if it was up there. I received an overwhelming amount of support from friends and strangers alike, and later that day I had a bunch of friends packed in my house, drinking hot cocoa with me as we listened to the album and prayed over it together. It was one of the greatest and most exciting days of my life. Since then, Where Feet May Fail has been downloaded hundreds of times from all over the internet, which blows my mind to this day. It was (and still is) surreal to sometimes hear my friends playing my music from their music library on their phones or from their Spotify playlists.

That being said, I want to say a huge THANK YOU to every single one of you who bought or listened to Where Feet May Fail over the past year, or even just cheered me on during its creation. It was a big milestone, and I wouldn’t have reached it if it weren’t for your support.

To celebrate, I will be offering Where Feet May Fail for FREE on BandCamp on January 15th only. If you haven’t gotten it yet, go grab it!

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