To celebrate the eleven songs soon to be released from my new album Vulnerability, we begin a blog series titled Chapters. Each chapter will explain something about the writing and revelation of the song, giving you, my readers the most intimate experience of the creative process. My hope that this will not only tell fascinating stories but inspire you in worship and creativity. The Chapters are listed in song order (not chronologically) and now that you have access to the track listing, I think these stories will give you a autobiographical experience of the album (even before you hear the full project).
Chapter 1: The Unexplained
The thirty minute drive to pick up my guitar from an over-due service became the perfect opportunity to listen to a mix tape (CD actually) of new music. A friend who was yet to release a batch of songs had asked me to listen to the tracks and see if I could come up with melodies and lyrics. The second song on the rough project caught my attention, it had mood and groove and while chilled, had some sort of intensity that was calling me. Singing randomly to it, I clicked a continuous repeat until these words lodged “The unexplained, the unthinkable, it’s how you move, it’s who you are.” Over. And over. And over again. Eventually the car turned left up a deep-in-to-the-countryside lane, I grabbed my phone and pressed record singing this lyric repeatedly. It stuck and I liked it.
Fast forward three or four weeks, and the same song whined repeatedly with no more lyrics (insert sad emoji). Surely, if a chorus arrives within thirty minutes why wouldn’t I be able to create at least a bridge or a hook or something!
Some songs are meant to die a while. It was clear I was going to make limited progress, and so it became a stack of unfinished songs on my unfurnished shelf. As I wrote several other songs for the album Vulnerability it became obvious that to make the album really work, we needed a few upbeat tunes. ‘The Unexplained‘ as I had already titled it, surely could become that, but who else could I work with? Historically I have struggled with co-writing. I get too uncomfortable and nervous ending up agreeing with what really doesn’t sound great, and second guessing my gut instincts. This was until I met Feranmi.
Feranmi had a way about him, a confidence beyond his years and talent for days. We got chatting at a mutual friends wedding, putting a date in the diary to meet, write and hang out. Our first session went swimmingly. He was deeply interested, wanting to know all about me, calming my nerves. He was creative, and mad with it, which outed my inner weirdness. Perfect! Oh, and we wrote a song together, which you’ll hear more about in Chapter 7. Success! One month later, it was time to unleash this beast of an untamed song on him.
It was time for lunch, and neither of us were enjoying the suggestions of the other. Feranmi’s white board had long been filled with lyric ideas. My pad, more lines crossed than ticked. Our chemistry was waning, the song reluctantly clinging to the depths of the universe, allowing us no room to pluck it out. We had at least found a vocal hook, but even deciding the structure was tricky. Was the hook the chorus? Was the now-chorus a pre chorus or even bridge? I wanted to write about the grandness of God, having walked through quite a season of songwriting (nearly 40 songs) when personally I was struggling. Coming out of this time my desire was to declare that although God was unexplainable, He was always GREAT, and ultimately with questions answered or not, He is to be worshipped.
I’m unsure how, but I’m sure Feranmi inspired it. We came to this bridge which seemed to lift the song to another level “Mountain high, I’ll show no fear. Valley low, I know you’re near.” Perfect – the summary of the whole album in twelve words.
The verses took longer – “I’ve come to a place where you’ve been for all time” summed up our searching for God in a season when He has already been there and waiting for us to see Him in it. Then it started to click in verse two, the real musical lifter, explaining the peace, awe, power and Kingship of God. This wasn’t my wallowing any longer, these were statements, confessions of faith. The chorus no longer became a question but a proclamation.
Feranmi was jumping up and down shout-singing the chorus, we were elated! I couldn’t believe that we’d been able to wrestle through that song to the point of completion. In the process of a day I’d lost the will to song write with anyone ever again, to strutting back to the tube with a puffed out chest knowing we’d created something special. What do they say about songwriting? 90 percent perspiration, 10 percent inspiration?!
It was a pleasure to invite Feranmi to drum on the record, with the additional de-tuned toms and kick drum rolling like thunder (listen to 3:07, 3:14, 3:18 for the fills).
Last, but not least, you can now pre-order Vulnerbaility from iTunes today.