Monday, April 20, 2009

Nashville in a Nutshell. (A Really Long Nutshell)

Okay, so Matthew says I have to post about my trip to Nashville even though I think it will be Dullsville to everyone except songwriters. So, as my writer-friend Allie says on her blog: Warning- Songwriter nerd talk ahead! Anyone not interested feel free to check out now.

I flew into Nashville Thursday afternoon. It was only my second trip, so I still got a kick out of the stages set up with live music throughout the airport. Nothing like a little Willie Nelson cover tune while you wait for your baggage. The Avis people informed me that the coupon I had booked the reservation with required that I also rent a GPS unit. This is exactly the kind of thing that I would end up throwing out the window on the freeway but I took it anyway so that I could use my coupon. The woman said I could choose between a 4 door sedan or a PT Cruiser. Obvious choice for someone who normally drives a minivan.

I called my first co-writer Kevin and told him I was on my way. I punched in the address on the GPS and followed the prompts. Once I was sure I was in the wrong place I called Kevin back. "You're where?!?" he asked incredulously. Strike one on the GPS. He talked me through as I backtracked 20 minutes of freeway miles and finally arrived at my publisher Randy's studio. Kevin, Randy and I worked on a song that we had already started, so work was quick and successful. We finished up a Christmas invitational song to fill the slot at the end of a musical. It turned out very nice and I'm looking forward to hearing the finished product.

I grabbed some good southern grub and headed to my friend Ericka's house where I was staying. Her neighborhood was so beautiful- rolling green hills, brick and stone houses, and dogwoods blooming everywhere. I found her house just fine without the GPS, using my preprinted mapqwest directions. I met her family and her 7 year old daughter that I had displaced from her room for 3 nights, who showed me no animosity in spite of it. We hung out in the living room and watched Nanny 911 until we felt really good about ourselves as parents and I retired to my room.

Friday morning I headed to a co-write that had been set up by a friend with Caleb, a writer I'd never met. He was a very talented piano player and melody writer and we wrote well together while his cat, called Mouse, sat indifferently on the window sill. Two and a half hours later we had a song that we both really liked about trusting the sovereignty of God and not always needing to understand what He is doing in times of trial in our lives. Yet another song about suffering from someone who has yet to know it firsthand. But it is coming, I'm sure.

Straight from there I went to my friend Dennis' studio and gave him a country lyric that he put a melody to. We had a good time and came away with a completed work tape which is always a wonderful thing. Then it was off to Randy's studio again for a Writer's Night which is basically where we eat dinner together and then go around and each play a song. I love those things. I had some great food and heard some great songs and came away feeling creatively energized. Stayed up way too late that night forgetting that I was two hours later then Arizona, but once I did go to bed I slept great.

This is getting sooooo long, but I don't want to have two posts on this so I'll just push on through for whoever is still awake. Saturday was a writers workshop at Randy's studio where we had breakfast and several very talented and insightful men imparted creative wisdom to us. Then we ate lunch, then some more wisdom, then on to one more co-write before the end of the day. I met up with my friend Phil and we chased a Mary song forever but really didn't end up getting anywhere. But I had a great time talking with him and it was good to stretch the creative muscles for a while. I tried the GPS again to find my way home. I was on Commerce between 7th ave and 9th ave. It told me to turn on 8th ave. So I turned on 9th. "Re-cal-cu-la-ting...." I cruise past Church Street waiting for my next instructions and it pipes up. "Turn left on Church street". Needless to say, the unit spent the remainder of the trip in the glove box.

Sunday morning I woke up to rain tapping on the window pane and tried chasing Mary again. This time I think I caught her. At 11:00am I met my publisher and his wife at their church which is the oldest church in Franklin. It is a super old-school Episcopal church that was used during the civil war as a hospital and a horse stable. You could see the marks on the walls where the horse troughs were hammered in. It was a beautiful church and, as I expected, the service was quite different from what I'm accustomed to at home. All the clergy wore robes and people carried stuff on golden poles down the aisle and we sang from a hymnal and read from a liturgy and there was a secret code that I never figured out when at random times everyone but me would cross themselves simultaneously. I felt rather out of place, but it was cool to see a church that worships differently, especially seeing all that they do to reach out to their surrounding world.

After church they took me out as promised for my authentic southern fried chicken. It was great. Even the corn was battered and fried. We finished up with plenty of time for me to get to the airport. I said goodbye to them and went back to Ericka's house to send a few more emails and stuff everything into my backpack. At the airport I grabbed a sandwich for the flight (no onions out of consideration for my fellow passengers) and a stuffed screaming monkey wearing a Nashville t-shirt for the kids. I spent the majority of the flight working on a song based off of a series a pastor friend of mine is preaching and made quite a bit of progress. We landed 10 minutes early and my dad drove me back to home sweet home.

Trip Totals
Days in Nashville: 3 1/2
Co-writes: 4
Songs Completed: 4 1/2
Pounds Gained: Yet to be Determined

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Inside Out

This morning I went to get the diaper bag ready to go when I realized that it smelled funny, so I emptied out the contents and threw it in the washing machine before heading to church. When I got home I began to transfer the wet load into the dryer and I checked out the bag. I was disappointed to find that it still smelled, and now it had some kind of mush flecked on the outside. I followed the trail to a forgotten compartment deep inside the bag and found what I have pretty confidently identified as the remains of a Nutrgrain bar.

Before I re-washed the entire load, I knew I had to get the stuff out of the diaper bag. At first I tried to just dump it out into the trash can without actually having to look at or touch the substance, but I found wet Nutragrain bar to be quite tenacious. Next I got a paper towel, reached inside with crinkled nose, and gingerly tried to extract it, much like I remove chicken giblets. This method was successful in getting much of the mush, but there were still colonies of it clinging to crevices and hiding in folds of fabric. Finally I sucked it up and did what I should have done in the beginning. I opened up the bag and turned it inside out, totally exposing the liquefied cereal bar and enabling me to see and reach it every disgusting particle.

The last week has been crazy around here. It has been a whirlwind of self-examination and evaluation for Matthew and me and in the midst of it we have definitely found some mush. The thing is, no matter how disgusting it is and how unpleasant to look at, you can't deal with sin by just peering in and poking at it with a paper towel. You have to take your heart, often with the help of others, and turn it completely inside out so that nothing is hidden and nothing is justified. I don't like coming face to face with sin. I don't think anyone really does. But thankfully we will never find anything in the deep recesses of our hearts that isn't covered by the blood of Christ.

So here's to the freedom that comes from the Gospel, the practice of self-examination, and a thorough check of all compartments before washing a diaper bag.