Thursday, March 26, 2015

Songwriting is a Muscle

Songwriting is like a muscle.  If you don't work it out its going to get mushy and weak.  With this in mind I try to spend time every day writing something.  That doesn't mean I'm always sitting down with guitar in hand or piano keys under my fingers.  Sometimes I just sit and write out lyrics even if those lyrics never get used.  Whatever it is I am working out that creative muscle.

Here is a little something that came of a creative writing session.  I wasn't actually planning to get anything much out of this particular session, but I grew rather fond of the sound I was coming up with.  Here is the rough draft of "Always For Me".

(If you listen closely at the end you can hear my in-laws wiener dog barking in the background.)

Inside the Sprawling World of Christian Music Festivals

Brought to you by James Rickman on Papermag.
To the nonbeliever, Christian music festivals can conjure up lasers piercing clouds of weed-free smoke, Jumbrotrons flashing relentlessly positive refrains and seas of blissful arm-waving. How to get beyond the stereotypes if you're in New York, far from even the touring Christian festivals of early 2015?

As part of our "Do You Believe" issue, we wanted an insider's look at these massive gatherings. We also wanted to talk to some Christian rock artists who, in one way or another, had dipped their toes in the secular pop world. We called up four people: Colton Dixon, a 23-year-old Tennessee native who sang both sacred and profane songs during his fan-adored stint on American Idol; David Crowder, who injects a quiet sense of humor into his churning "Appalachians and Ibiza" sound and whose big beard, specs and trucker hat suggest Brooklyn as much as his native Waco, Texas; John Cooper, singer of the Memphis-based Skillet, which exists on a level of crossover success shared only by Switchfoot, P.O.D. and a few others; and Josh Caterer, a solo artist and worship director based outside of Chicago, whose band Smoking Popes was an early-nineties institution (see: "Need You Around" from the Clueless soundtrack) and whose subsequent band, Duvall, marked Caterer's rebirth as a Christian.


2 share top honors at ASCAP Christian Music Awards

 Brought to you by The Tennessean
Two accomplished songsmiths got to share the night's top honor. David Garcia and Ben Glover are co-writing and co-producing partners and thus tied for the Songwriter of the Year award. In the past year, they were responsible for Mandisa's "Back to You," MercyMe's "Greater" and Francesca Battistelli's "Write Your Story." Those three tunes were among 25 most-performed songs presented with awards on Monday.

Let Me Pray About It: The Excuse We Use to NOT Act

Harkening back to an earlier post regarding justice and our responsibilities as worship leaders, I wanted to make all my readers aware of a MAJOR need and heart breaking crisis.  And I'm not asking you to make the typical Christian excuse of "I'll pray about it and see if that's where the Lord leads", cuz lets be honest, that's a total load of garbage.  Nowhere in the God's word did He ever say to stop and pray about serving the poor.  He asks us to pray, sure, but that prayer was NEVER meant to be an exit door for us to get out of taking action.

1 John 3:17-18

"But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth."

I'm not coming at this as if I'm above anyone here, I'm absolutely guilty of "the cop out prayer", I just want us to open our eyes together and stop making excuses for not making our love a thing of action.  So why am I so fired up about this today?  Well let me tell you...

In co-operation with the #WithSyria Coalition of 130 non-governmental organizations, scientists based at Wuhan University in China analyzed satellite images and have found that, since 2011, the number of lights visible over Syria has fallen 83%.  Yeah, lets read that again.  83% of the lights are out in Syria.

The reality here folks is that Syrian refugees now make up the largest refugee population on the planet.  Here is a little perspective on the massive impact this crisis is having.

Some of the worst humanitarian disasters over the past 20 years:

The Indian Ocean Tsunami impacted 5 million people.
The Rwanda Genocide impacted 4.3 million people.
The Haiti Earthquake impacted 3.5 million people.
Hurricane Katrina impacted 1.7 million people.

The Syria Crisis has impacted 12.2 million people.

Actual Impact of Some of the Worst Humanitarian Disasters in the Past Twenty Years - See more at:

  • Syria crisis: Impacted 12.2 million people
  • Indian Ocean tsunami: Impacted 5 million peopleExternal Link
  • Rwanda genocide: Impacted 4.3 million peopleExternal Link
  • Haiti earthquake: Impacted 3.5 million peopleExternal Link
  • Hurricane Katrina: Impacted 1.7 million peopleExternal Link
  • - See more at:

  • Syria crisis: Impacted 12.2 million people
  • Indian Ocean tsunami: Impacted 5 million peopleExternal Link
  • Rwanda genocide: Impacted 4.3 million peopleExternal Link
  • Haiti earthquake: Impacted 3.5 million peopleExternal Link
  • Hurricane Katrina: Impacted 1.7 million peopleExternal Link
  • - See more at:

  • Syria crisis: Impacted 12.2 million people
  • Indian Ocean tsunami: Impacted 5 million peopleExternal Link
  • Rwanda genocide: Impacted 4.3 million peopleExternal Link
  • Haiti earthquake: Impacted 3.5 million peopleExternal Link
  • Hurricane Katrina: Impacted 1.7 million peopleExternal Link
  • - See more at:
    So what is it going to take for us, the ones who call ourselves followers of Jesus, to take action?  When I see the faces of these children, when I hear their broken dreams, I see the face of my daughter.

    I see her in their shoes fighting for her life, losing what childhood she's had.  If these children were mine, how would I respond then?  What if this was your son or daughter? 

    I'm asking you to put your love in to action.  I'm asking you to forget about politics.  Forget about any hangup or religious view and just see people.  See children who are desperate and dying.

    The time to act is now.  Don't stop to pray about acting, just act.

    Put your love in to action here...

    Wednesday, March 25, 2015

    Worship Music is Getting Dubstep'd & I LOVE IT

    Dub step is one of those things that I think you either love or hate.  I once saw an episode of King of the Hill where Hank Hill asked his son, Bobby, what he was listening to.  When Bobby placed his, very 1990's, headphones on his dads ears Hanks expression changed to one of shock and horror as he exclaimed, "It's just a bunch of toilet noises!"

    Well I don't agree with good ol' Hank Hill, because I have a special place in my heart for Dubstep.  This music not only has the ability to amp me up, I have a playlist I use when I go running, but also has served to help me focus and block out distractions.  Beyond that, there is an insane amount of creativity and musicality that is put in to this genre!  I would challenge anyone who airs on the side of Hank Hill to prove me otherwise.  The detail that goes in to something like this, without completely understanding all of it, has got to be insane!  If the artist is using samples of songs for their mix they have to often bend and re-tune it to fit the mix.  On top of that they have to understand how to work with waves.  Then there is the process of actually putting all of this together in to a product that thumps you in the chest like an external heartbeat.

    I love Dubstep and I am EXCITED by the fact that some worship music has been getting a makeover.  That's right folks!  Worship Dubstep!  I recently came across a great YouTube channel that's specifically for showcasing the best in Christian Dubstep.  Check it out!

    Tuesday, March 24, 2015

    I Don't Care: A Hymn is a Song is a Pslam

    Ok kids, lets either agree to disagree or at least play nice... This probably isnt really that violent of an issue in the church but it is one that I've run in to countless times in churches of every type, size, and age group.

    "Zach, why don't you do more traditional hymns?"

    "Man! We need to stay relevant and get down with the newest Jesus Culture album!"

    "I'm afraid of change... Can we just sing Shout to the Lord again?"

    As a worship leader it can be a HUGE challenge trying to please every audience.  Some church cultures have a very contemporary feel, City Church (Pastor Judah Smith) is a great example.  They have a very contemporary and cutting edge sound but that sound doesn't appeal to everyone.  Nor does the traditional hymn appeal to the contemporary worshiper.  So how in the name of Pete (whoever Pete is, he must be important) can we please everyone?  Let me tune you in to a little secret I've learned to operate on...

    I. Don't. Care.

    That's right!  I threw care to the wind years ago when I realized something.  King David is one of the more famous musicians and songwriters we've heard about right?  He's known as the psalmist.  Well, that being said, doesn't that make any worship leader who writes songs a psalmist?  That means that, new and old, these songs are modern day psalms.  So why would I, as a worship leader, limit myself to one particular pocket of songs?  I want to experience the full spectrum of the music available to me and that means tapping in to everything from Phillip Paul Bliss, to David Crowder, to Robert Lowry, to Israel Houghton and so many more!

    So my friends, this is where my "I don't care" attitude comes from.  i just refuse to box myself, as a worship leader and songwriter, in to the personal preferences of a few when there is such a massive tapestry of psalms available to us. 

    A hymn is a song is a psalm.
    They are the same.

    Trent Dabbs - Believer

    There are a few resources I use to find new and interesting music.  Amazon Prime is one that I'm test driving at the moment and I'm pretty happy with it so far.  I also tap in to magazines like Relevant for some great insight in to new tunes.  Being as picky as I am when it comes to my music library I can be a bit hard to please but today Relevant pleased my musical pallet.

    Check out Trent Dabbs album Believer.  The sound is definitely singer/songwriter, sporting an extremely raw and honest sound and all the acoustic deliciousness my little heart could handle. I'll let you be the judge, but take a look at Relevant's article and be sure to listen!  My favorite songs on the album are "Goes Without Saying" and "Here On Earth".

    Believer - Trent Dabbs  (Via Relevant)