Could you share the story behind your latest song and what inspired its creation?
On the Rock or the Sand started a couple years ago as I fleshed out the main acoustic riff that you hear in the verse. It was fun to play and unique, so I was hopeful that it would evolve into a keeper, but it took a long time for all the parts to rear their head into what the full song is now. I tried so many different ideas for the chorus, bridge and vocals that seemed decent enough, but still felt like I would be settling for something less than great. I just had to let it sit and marinate and be patient until things eventually fell into place little by little, and I sang a lot of gibberish in order to nail down all the vocal melodies over a long period of time. I had no idea what this song was supposed to be about, so I prayed and asked God to give me the lyrics. He pointed me to the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 7:24-27, which describes the foolishness of building on a foundation of sand as an illustration of what happens when we don’t trust and obey him. As the world continues to be filled with uncertainty and daily turmoil, it’s as important as ever to make sure our life is on a strong spiritual foundation.
How do you approach the process of songwriting, and are there any specific themes or emotions you tend to explore in your music?
For some folks, the music is of higher importance than the lyrics, and for others, it’s the exact opposite. I call them music-first fans as opposed to lyrics-first fans. Both are important to me, but I am definitely a music-first fan, and if the music doesn’t appeal to me, it doesn’t matter how good the lyrics are… I won’t want to listen to it. Therefore, all my songs start with the music first as I explore ideas on my acoustic guitar. I will record ideas into the voice memos app on my iPhone and I will listen to them over and over again until the cream rises to the top.
I write songs that I personally enjoy listening to over and over again. We all know lots of songs that we liked for a short amount of time before they got really old really fast. Some songs stand the test of time, but most don’t. So I scrap any song idea that I don’t continue to like for months or even years before completing it. I have a massive graveyard of song ideas that I eventually grew bored of. This is one of many reasons why it is so important to not rush the creative process. It often takes me many years before the initial song idea turns into a completed work.
The lyrics are the last thing I complete for a song and I don’t start that process until I have composed all the vocal melodies, so I make the lyrics fit the melody rather than vice versa. I ask God for the lyrics because he’s at least a trillion times better songwriter than I am. The reason I create music is to help people encounter their Creator, so everything I write is meant to point people to Him. I often paraphrase biblical scripture or write about my personal faith experiences and journey in my lyrics.
As an indie musician, how do you navigate the balance between creative freedom and commercial appeal?
Great question, and it starts by recognizing these two extremes because you can’t seek balance without knowing both ends of the spectrum. It became much easier for me to strike this balance once I stopped writing music for selfish reasons and started writing music to honor God. In my youth I had delusions of grandeur and thought I was on my way to rock stardom, and I would have no doubt sacrificed creative freedom for commercial success if the opportunity presented itself. But now I don’t pursue music for fame or money, and that has given me an incredible amount of creative freedom (and spiritual freedom at that).
What do you find most challenging about being an independent artist in today’s music industry?
Avoiding the temptation of comparing your journey with other artists. You are constantly inundated with the likes/views/etc. of other musicians and everywhere you turn there are people who are far more successful or talented than you. It’s humbling, and that’s a great thing as long as you don’t let it cross a line to where it becomes discouraging.
And just as challenging is always showing up to “work” every day. When you are your own boss, it’s tempting to take the day off and choose laziness over productivity.
Can you talk about your experiences collaborating with other artists or musicians? How does it influence your creative process?
Unfortunately at this season in my life I rarely get to collaborate with others because my schedule is packed full. In addition to gigging, writing, and recording music, I’m a full time IT professional, part time pastor, and dad of seven kids ages 3 to 15, so I have no margin for collaboration right now. But I am hopeful that God will give me the opportunity to do that in the future. I love playing alongside other musicians in the band at my church some Sundays, and I look forward to the day where I can grow from a solo act into a full band live performance.
What role does technology and social media play in promoting your music and connecting with your audience?
It plays a massive role. Being an IT professional has helped me immensely because the amount of technology required to cover all your bases can be pretty overwhelming to put it lightly. I place a strong focus on increasing my mailing list subscribers through my website. The primary social media platforms I maintain a presence on currently are TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.
Are there any particular artists or genres that have had a significant impact on your musical style?
Radiohead, The Beatles, Nirvana, The Smashing Pumpkins, Ween, Led Zeppelin, Elliot Smith, Supergrass, Air, Failure, Stone Temple Pilots, and Ray Lynch. As a teenager in the 90s, the alternative-rock/grunge movement had a huge impact on me and while we all hold childhood biases based on our age, I still believe the early 90s was a particularly special time in music history. In my upcoming single, On the Rock or the Sand, I hear the influences of Air, The Smashing Pumpkins, and Ray Lynch the most.
Indie musicians often have a close relationship with their fanbase. How do you engage with your fans and build a dedicated community around your music?
I love people and I enjoy connecting with them. I respond to every comment, message, and email I receive, and I am intentional about talking to as many people as possible at my shows.
Could you describe a memorable live performance experience or tour that has had a lasting impact on you and your music?
In 2003 I saw Supergrass at a venue in Austin called La Zona Rosa that has since closed down. There was hardly anybody there and you could walk right up to the stage without having to push through a crowd. I wondered if I was dreaming because they were an absolutely incredible band of MTV fame with a huge following in the UK, yet somehow had a super low turnout. But they still put their hearts in it and played as if it were a sold out show. I sometimes think about that moment when I play for a very small crowd and it serves as a reminder to put my heart into it regardless. Do yourself a favor and play their album “In it for the Money” on repeat… an absolute masterpiece.
In an era of streaming platforms, how do you feel about the changing landscape of music consumption and its impact on independent musicians?
I know a lot of artists dislike this change, particularly as it applies to how much they get paid for their work, and I certainly respect their opinions. But in my opinion, these companies have every right to do what they need to do to be sustainable and profitable, and I am grateful for them because it allows my music to reach a larger audience, and if they don’t make money they cease to exist. I wasn’t forced to put my music on their platforms, but I willingly chose to because I’m on a mission to help as many people as possible encounter their Creator through music. Music is only one of many industries that are repeatedly being disrupted by technological innovation. This day and age you have to be flexible and willing to adapt and adopt new tools if you want to maximize your audience reach.