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Repost: Hitchhiking with Bebo Noroman

16 Mar

Originally published September 21, 2010. 

Because Bebo Norman is my most-loved singer/songwriter, I’m sharing this article again.  It was one of my favorite interviews I’ve ever done.  Bebo is gracious, humble, and he uses music and word to cut to my heart.  I’m sad he’s retired.  By the way, don’t bother with any of the links because they’re all dead.  Who wants to start a GoFundMe to buy BeboNorman.com with me?

It was with great anxiety and distress I awaited Bebo Norman’s scheduled phone call the morning after Labor Day.  Normally, I’m not like this, but then again, it’s not every day that I get to interview one of the singer/songwriters who has been so influential in my life.  The phone rang and I said a silent prayer, “Hello?”

“Hi, Amy.  It’s Bebo Norman.” Suddenly, everything was OK.  Disarming me with his quiet charm and easy-going nature, Bebo Norman is by all accounts a gentleman—one of the many reasons the man and his music have become so dear to me since I picked up his first album in 1996 as a mere teenager.

In this, my second interview with Bebo Norman, I decided to let you into our candid, and often, amusing conversation as we talk about our battles with anxiety, Bebo’s life, and of course, his new album, Ocean, releasing on BEC Recordings on September 28.

Amy: So, in celebration of your new album, do you have a favorite ocean?  I mean, there are seven of them.

Bebo: Ah. I’ve spent a lot of time in the Atlantic or the Pacific, but I haven’t spent time in the other oceans.  So I’ve have to go with those.  How ‘bout you?  Do you have a favorite ocean?

Amy: Probably the Atlantic or the Pacific.  I mean, my best friend fell into the Pacific Ocean off a small boat, so I’d have to go with that.  It’s hard to say, it’s like trying to pick a favorite star.

Bebo: I understand.  I’ve never tried to pick a favorite star, but there are so many to choose from.

We chat a bit about sea creatures, including the beauty of humpback whales.  I also learn that Bebo’s been on several cruises to Alaska and that Matthew West lives three blocks away.  I tell him that Matthew West’s new album is really great and he says that he hasn’t heard it.

Bebo: I tend to not be up to date on music.  Isn’t that ridiculous?

Amy: That’s hilarious!  I love that!

Bebo: I have to kind of disappear from music sometimes just to keep my head straight because it’s what I do, it’s my job, and it’s what I love.  I have to have some space.

Amy: Sometimes I get all these new releases and I’m like, “This is all crap and I hate it!” So I have to pop in something good and solid like Bebo Norman or Rich Mullins so I can remember what good music sounds like.

Bebo: I think that’s part of my problem.  I’ve always listened to music because it inspires me and what’s frustrating is that sometimes you listen to music and none of it inspires you, you start to think that no music will inspire you

Amy: I know!  It’s scary because I think, “What if people think my writing is this bad?”

Bebo: That’s part of the insecurity of being a creative person.  Every single songwriter writer, musician, journalist, I know has that same fear or thought.

Amy: Speaking of writing, you said that writing an album is like an extended therapy session.  I’ve been in therapy sessions and they’re very painful sometimes.  So, what is it like for you?

Bebo: It’s very painful, very painful, and it’s very beautiful.  It’s a cathartic process, which is the beauty of writing.  I didn’t start as a songwriter because I had any intention of playing songs for anybody.  When I started writing songs, it was just an extension of me trying to process life.  I found that, for me, whether it was poetry or songs it was the best way I could process things.

I wrote short stories and poetry before I started writing songs, but the combination of music and words is a pretty powerful and sort of inspiring thing.  That’s what caught me the most about songwriting.  I could write a poem or I could hear a piece of music and both of those things would be beautiful, but when they’re together there’s something magical and powerful that happens.

In ways, it’s the only way I really know how to process life.  It forces me to sit down and be quiet, and still and reflective and internal.  The busyness of life, especially these days, with touring and my family, my wife and kids, and my community here in Nashville—sitting down and being quiet—it’s hard to find those days.

Not to mention, if you do struggle with anxiety or those things when you get down and depressed, even when you do have those days where you can sit down and be quiet those struggles can sometimes steal the life out of those moments.  Writing songs is a very grounding thing for me.  That’s the same way therapy is—you’re forced to sit down with your thoughts and expose things that might not otherwise get exposed.

Amy: Some of the things I would talk about in therapy, I would not like to release to the world.  You said that an album is the best 60 minutes out of two years of your life, but still, sometimes it’s painful to hear.

Bebo: I’ve always struggled with laying out things that are personal and intimate.  Now that I’ve got a wife and two boys, there’s a certain level of caution to where I have to consider how what I put out there affects the people around me.

To me, everything I experience is fair game for a song.  I used to really struggle with the fear of laying those things out there.  Maybe I’m just old enough at this point or I’ve just been doing it long enough that now I’m not consumed with the perception might be wrong or right.  It’s more a matter of this is where I am and this is what I’m struggling with and I’m certain there are other people that are dealing with similar things, if not the same thing, and it’s important for these things to be spoken.  As believers, we think we’re not spiritual enough if we struggle with certain things.

Amy: Thank you for sharing that.  There are a lot of songs I want to talk about, but we don’t have time.  Let’s just plunge right into your favorite song, “The Middle,” which is also my favorite song.  I was listening to it last night and I was crying because I was feeling like that song is my life right now.  I’m not married, I don’t have kids, and I feel like my life is this middle of not where I was and not there yet.  Or maybe our lives here on planet earth are the middle.  I don’t know.

Bebo: I think you tapped into something there. There’s a reality that our lives in their current state are the middle.  We’re never fully home and our faith is never fully realized until the day Jesus calls us home or comes back.

Here’s the thing, when I say “the middle,” it may not mean the middle of life.  It happened to me when I was in college, and again in my 20’s, and again in my 30’s.  As static as they may feel at times, our lives are always in transition.  I revel in the idea of transition; the real struggle for me is when I’m stuck in between transition.  That’s where this song comes from, like, “Where am I right now in the middle of these things? I don’t feel like I’m moving.”  Like you mentioned a minute ago, you feel stuck and you’re in this place where you’re not quite sure where things are going and where they’ve been.

It’s not a song about being middle-aged.  I feel like we’re always in the state of being in the middle.  When we’re on this earth, we’re always in the middle and we’re always going to be stuck between our flesh and our spirit here.

Amy: You had this goal that you were going to write one blog post a day…what happened?

Bebo: It was way too ambitious a goal, and I knew that!  But those are the only kind of goals I know how to set—one that’s too ambitious

Amy: I told you that in your comments section, not that you listened.

Bebo: I even said in the first blog post that I will mostly likely fail at this and what I mean is that, I will fail at this.  But I really did want to go for it.  I have a dear friend who wrote a new song every day for one year of his life.  He said that 90% of the songs weren’t that special, but it taught him what the day had brought him. That’s kind of what I was hoping for with the whole blog thing.  I can’t just write a blog and say, “I took the kids to school and I slept late.”  There has to be some thought in it.  The reality of the busyness of life at this point; it just wasn’t even possible.  I could have sat down and written it, but it would have been at the expense of the people I love.

Amy: Well, that would have been utterly ridiculous!

Bebo: But it was a lesson learned.  That would be a good entry in and of itself—to talk about how it started taking it away from the people in front of me to appease a group of people I don’t even know, which is the real danger of social networking.  That’s why I failed miserably at it.  Well, that sounds too noble.  Actually there were too many days I didn’t feel about it.

I give Bebo some expert blogging advice, which he recognized from his comments section.  I tell him that he ignored my comments because I’m a “girl.” Then we talk about how guys always think girls want to hit on them.  I tell him that his recent blog, “Idols of Misdirection” was excellent and seemed to go with one of the songs on his new album called “Could You Ever Look at Me.”  Bebo keeps talking, even though I’m keenly aware that he is going to be five minutes late calling his next interviewer.

Amy: One last question—how can we be praying for Bebo Norman?

Bebo: A lot of what I was writing about in that blog post (“Idols of Misdirection”) is probably what I would ask people to pray for me right now, and that is being thankful for the source of the good things in my life.  I’m in a season of struggling with that.  There’s a certain level of distance I feel right now from God, which is odd because I talk about my faith a lot.  It’s not that I doubt the truth of the Gospel because I see it fulfilled as truth every single day.  I feel like it’s robbing me of the beauty of every day.

To catch up with Bebo Norman, visit him online at BeboNorman.com, follow him on Twitter (@bebonorman), and read his blog, which he updates sometimes.

Feature:: Paul Baloche: The Same Love

13 Mar

“There are a lot of songs about the Cross on this record. People are almost apologetic about it, and yet I feel challenged not to shrink from it. Our tendency is to make our language inclusive and seeker friendly. And I get that, but we also need songs that point to the truth of the new covenant.” – Paul Baloche

By Melissa Riddle Chalos  There’s a certain blanket of wisdom that, if you seek it, comes over time. It wraps around that place in your life where you’re settled in, a place where you’re surrounded by good friends and family and have nothing left to prove. A place where you know who you are, you know your purpose, and you’re content to leave the details up to God.

“If you do something long enough you uncover life lessons along the way,” Paul Baloche says.  “You aspire to be faithful to God’s calling in your life, pressing through even when you fall short. And when you hit a certain age, as you grow in your faith, you recognize the potential and the burden of being a leader, realizing ‘I’ve got to step up and be more intentional toward the people God has put in my life.’ And your prayer becomes, ‘Lord, give me grace to finish well.’”

After 25 years of marriage, 23 years leading worship at Community Christian Fellowship in Lindale, TX, 12 albums recorded with the same label, and hundreds of teaching resources provided free for church leaders (via his web site leadworship.com), one might think Paul Baloche had already qualified for a great finish.

But for this modern hymn writer, mentor and teacher who once aspired to be a priest, ministry is not a sprint, but a marathon, a long series of obedient steps in the same direction. A path where every aspect of life is forged in fires of passion for Jesus and His Church, and the result is almost always an honest prayer for the Church to sing.

All this is at the heart of The Same Love, an organic collection of worship songs from the worship leader best known for such modern classics as “Above All,” “Open the Eyes of My Heart” and “Your Name.” The Same Love mirrors Paul’s love for the Church and gives new expression to the complete faithfulness and overwhelming mercy of a gracious God.

The same love that set the captives free

The same love that opened eyes to see

Is calling us all by name

“One of the reasons I love the process to this day is that it’s a bit of a frontier, a mystery,” Paul says of the creative process behind The Same Love. “You can’t put your finger on it. Nobody can. It has a sense of adventure, a Lewis & Clark kind of thing. All explorers, over time, are trying to go places they’ve never been. Writing for worship is a lot like that. You’re trying to go places you’ve never been, deeper into ancient biblical truths, stirring up your modern soul, if you will. You’re testing the tension and the harmony of several things, combining that with what’s going on musically at the moment… And you end up with all these different elements — harmony, chords, lyrics, melody, vibe — and out comes something new.”

Co-produced with longtime collaborators Ben Gowell and Michael Rossback, The Same Love continues to walk a modern edge musically, while delivering unforgettably rich lyrics composed in the context of community.

“From project to project, I try to wipe the slate clean, to consider what’s happening right now, in my church, in my own soul, in the church at large and to ask ‘What do I sense in the hearts of the next generation, how do they perceive God, the church, fellowship and community?”

Grammy Award-winning engineer Chris Lord-Alge (U2/Switchfoot) mixes the title track and first single of the project, co-written by Paul and Michael Rossback. This is the touchstone for the entire collection.

“God is not this impersonal force,” Paul says. “The truth is that from creation to the crucifixion, God has been calling us – by name. He’s giving us a challenge, calling us to the cross, asking, ‘Are you ready to give up your way of doing things? Come as you are, pick up your cross daily and I will transform your life.’”

The four songs that follow—the anthemic, Coldplay-esque “We Are Saved” (co-written with Jason Ingram and Ben Fielding), bluegrass tinged “King of Heaven,” “All Because of the Cross” (a modern spin on “Nothing But the Blood”) and “Your Blood Ran Down”— follow a path often resisted, even in worship. “There are a lot of songs about the Cross on this record. People are almost apologetic about it, and yet I feel challenged not to shrink from it. Our tendency is to make our language inclusive and seeker friendly. And I get that, but we also need songs that point to the truth of the new covenant.”

We are children of your mercy, rescued for your glory,

we cry Jesus set our hearts towards you

that every eye would see you lifted high…

“Look Upon the Lord,” co-written with Kari Jobe and Jason Ingram, began as a time of worship, an effort to linger and focus on Jesus and His sacrifice. “We felt such a strong presence from God as we were writing it that we decided to record the song around our original demo, keeping Kari’s worshipful vocal and Jason’s keyboard part.”

I don’t know where You’ll take me

But I know You’re always good…

 “My Hope,” featuring Kathryn Scott and co-written with Ed Kerr, with whom Paul has written over 100 songs, gives voice to the spoken and unspoken prayers of people in times of need. “Life is hard, people are looking for hope, and there’s not much to be found outside of the hope we have in Christ,” Paul says. “My prayer is that this song will help others express to God what they really feel and point them to His promises.”

In each and every one of these church-tested songs, perhaps even more intentionally than ever before, Paul Baloche continues to draw from deep roots of devotion and ministry to feed the fire in his spirit. To create songs in community with like-minded worship artists who understand the hearts and prayers of those they serve, the people in the pew… and those who are still seeking.

“I can’t deny what I’ve seen and experienced in the presence of God,” Paul says. “I can’t deny that I’ve witnessed His goodness and faithfulness over and over again. God is alive. The same God who created the world calls us by name.”

The same God that spread the heavens wide

The same God that was crucified

Is calling us all by name

 “When I meet people who are full of the Spirit—despite their present circumstances, beyond their temperament or attitude—I’m inspired. I want to be that kind of person, to be in His presence, to read and digest his Word, to make it part of my DNA, to walk it out – to live it out. In the end, I want my life, my music to facilitate a conversation about God and who He is.”

For more information on Paul Baloche’s ministry, go to www.leadworship.com. AAAAAAAAAAAnd head over to Paul’s Facebook page to download a FREE song from The Same Love.

Kari Jobe: Where I Find You

24 Jan

Note from Amy:  While I’m working on my DaySpring review, editing a post that will appear later this week, and gathering material for Friday Faves, I hope you enjoy this article by my friend, Christa Banister, about Kari Jobe.  Kari is an incredibly talented artist whose dynamic voice really packs a punch.  And I should note that Christa, who has contributed to BSW before, did not write this article exclusively for BSW!

Kari Jobe: Where I Find You

By Christa Banister  After being established as one of the industry’s premier worship leaders with her Dove Award-winning, self-titled debut, Kari Jobe continues to serve as a worship pastor at Gateway Church in Southlake, Texas, and will release her highly anticipated follow-up album, Where I Find You (Sparrow) on January 24, 2012.

Produced by Ed Cash (Chris Tomlin, Chris August) and Matt Bronleewe (Natalie Imbruglia, Josh Wilson), Where I Find You, which includes Kari’s new hit radio single “We Are,” is an engaging departure from her previous effort—both sonically and thematically speaking.

Rather than simply emphasizing the beauty found in God’s presence, Where I Find You is a clarion call for listeners to experience His presence to the fullest. And not surprisingly, the accompanying soundtrack is just as bold with a buoyant mix of fresh musical textures and timbres.

“After singing about the importance of making time for intimate worship on my first album, I wanted to take the next step on Where I Find You,” Kari shares. “These songs come from such a honest place of praising God for what He’s done—and what He’s continuing to do in our lives—because of His grace and goodness.

“Ultimately, it’s about declaring who He is and enjoying the simplicity of knowing the Lord is near,” she continues. “He’s for us, He loves us, and sometimes, we need to just stop, enjoy His presence and take that in.”

While recording the album, Kari says she was often reminded of that very truth—a theme that resonates through the lyrics of “Here,” a reminder to press pause, even when our culture insists we constantly keep moving.

“There were many instances when we had to stop whatever we were working on because I needed to go outside, take a walk and have my own time with God for a few minutes,” Kari remembers. “Again and again, I was so overtaken by how present He was while we were recording, and it’s my hope and desire that people really feel the strength and intercession that was taking place while I worked on the album.”

Another decidedly counter-cultural idea that resonates in these new songs is how God never lets believers, including worship leaders, get too comfortable in their faith or permanently reside on the proverbial spiritual mountaintop.

“This past year has been the season of being completely uncomfortable and going through things I didn’t understand that were really hard,” Kari shares. “I was literally having to hold on in my heart and trust He had everything in control. You can even hear that a little in my vocals, especially on songs like ‘Love Came Down,’ ‘Run To You,’ and ‘What Love Is This.’ It was a season that stretched me.”

Even through all the growing pains, however, Kari says she was continually reminded of God’s faithfulness.

“I think there are times as believers when we feel entitled and that life shouldn’t be hard. We live in this culture of convenience that says we can do everything ourselves and find all the answers on Google,” Kari says. “But if we can learn to fall more in love with the Lord and trust Him in the middle of every storm, we build our endurance to keep running the race.”

Naturally, these declarations of God’s faithfulness couldn’t help but make their way onto her album.

“‘We Are’ is a song of commission for us as believers,” says Kari, “to be reminded of what we’ve been called to, and that is to impact people’s lives in everything we do.”

In the track “One Desire,” which she co-wrote with Jason Ingram, Kari uses simple, heartfelt language that reminds her of one of her favorite worship anthems when she was young.

“During our writing session, Jason and I were talking about the simplicity of worship; how it doesn’t always have to be so ornate,” she explains.  “When I was a kid, I remember how much I loved singing the song ‘I Love You, Lord’ because it was this sweet, simple song straight from Scripture.”

In stark contrast to the straightforward worship of “One Desire,” another key track, the aforementioned “What Love is This,” features powerful imagery of the Centurion soldier’s reaction to discovering that Jesus was the Son of God after He’d been crucified.

“I often think about what it would’ve been like to experience that and to say ‘Truly, you are the son of God,’” Kari shares. “You realize you were part of His death, you were the one of the people who’d nailed Him to a cross. He must have felt so incredibly broken—to believe the lie and then experience the truth. I really think that’s like all of us. We’ve got to have the perspective that without the Lord’s presence, we’re all in darkness, and ‘What Love Is This’ is my love song to the Lord for His love song for my life.”

Also serving as a grounding force for Kari when life gets complicated is her tight-knit Texas family. Although she turned 30 this past year, she still considers being a daughter one of “life’s greatest blessings.”     

What’s also been a blessing is a new dimension to her ministry. In addition to ministering in churches, arenas, theaters, festivals and conferences across the globe, Kari has also found another outlet for sharing God’s love in partnering with the A21 Campaign, an organization dedicated to abolishing human trafficking in the 21st century.

“I’ve become really invested in that ministry and strongly believe that we all have to play a role and do our part to fight against the modern form of slavery that affects 27 million people and growing,” Kari says. “It’s so incredibly dark, and I feel a responsibility to do what I can. Most of these victims are girls like me, and I can’t imagine what life would be like to be stuck in that place.”

Along with her sister, Kris, Kari has created an exclusive line of jewelry and t-shirts where all the proceeds go to the cause of bringing an end to human trafficking and injustice.

“Whether I’m participating in an effort like this or leading worship, it’s all about making a difference,” Kari concludes. “That’s the reason I’m doing what I’m doing at this specific moment—to see God’s name lifted high, to encourage the hurt and the broken and to remind everyone to draw close to Him because He really, truly does care about each and every one of His children.”

And that’s ultimately the message behind Where I Find You, enjoying the beauty of God’s presence, praising him with your whole heart and letting your light shine in a world that needs to experience the true grace and hope found only in Jesus.

For more information on Kari Jobe and her ministry, please visit www.karijobe.com.

Listening to Bebo Norman

10 Aug

Photo by Beckham Photography (pulled from BeboNorman.com)


I’ve been listening to a lot of Bebo Norman lately.   Even though I have piles of new (and wonderful) music to digest, review, and prep for interviews, I continue to listen to my old stand-by Bebo Norman.  When I don’t know what else to do and everything seems all mixed-up in my heart and mind, Bebo’s music is like salve for my wounded spirit.  Something about his music—the chords, the melody, the lyrics—bring peace in madness.  Lately, Between the Dreaming and the Coming True has been a companion in the melancholy.

The first track, “Into the Day” has been particularly inspiring—sometimes bringing tears and other times giving me the strength to make it through the day (or at least brush my teeth.)  This lyric is particularly striking: “The ache of life is more than you are able.  Hold on, love, don’t give up.  Don’t close your eyes.  The light is breaking through the night.”

If you’ve been reading Backseat Writer for a while, you know that Bebo Norman is my favorite musician in the whole wide world!  That’s a pretty important title when you consider the sheer amount of music I enjoy!  The first time I interviewed Bebo Norman by phone I was trembling and sweaty.  The phone rang and I could barely answer it.  It was Bebo.  I was terrified.

Normally, I handle interviews with a little more flair than that.  But this was Bebo Norman—someone whose music has been vastly important in my life.  Knowing that Bebo also suffers from anxiety disorder, I knew I could confide in him.  The result was a beautiful, encouraging conversation.  No longer were we journalist and musician, but two people talking about our experiences living with the horrors of anxiety.  That interview not only produced a wonderful article (read “Bebo Norman: From the Ruins”), but has helped me tremendously in my own walk as a woman living with mental illness.

The next time I interviewed Bebo I told him what that first interview meant to me.  We talked about his latest album (which happens to be his latest album, OceanYou can read that interview, too.) and again, Bebo encouraged me.  He was present in the interview (some artists zone out, go off on tangents, or give pat answers) and it felt like a real conversation.  I appreciate that about Bebo.

We’re not friends—Bebo and me.  Sometimes I say things to him or about him on Twitter, and every once in a while he responds.  I doubt he would know me or my name without a bit of coaching, not because he’s a jerk; it’s just the nature of being a well-known musician who is interviewed by a lot of people.  However, when I do jog his memory, he knows exactly who I am.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if Bebo Norman knows my name or remembers my story.  What matters is that his music leads me to God, when I can’t find my way in the darkness of life.  It matters that during our interactions, he is been kind, gracious, and humble (I think he’s an introvert by nature).  It matters that Bebo Norman has shown himself to be a man of God, through his actions and through his music.  It matters that Bebo’s songs are personal, transparent, and lovely.

Most of all, it matters that when I am struggling with the ache of life, when it seems more than I am able, I can listen to Bebo Norman’s music over and over again.  And somehow in the mix of words and melody, I find God and I find peace.

Is there a musician or band that helps you find God when you feel alone?  Have you had the chance to meet or personally thank the artist?  What did you say? (Or what would you say if you had the chance?)

Friday Faves: Werewolf Attack Edition

5 Aug

I’m ba-ack!  Clearly, I’ve been “back” for over a week now, but I think I missed “Friday Faves” the most during my mini-vacation and blogging break.  For more deets on my adventures, check out my post on Backseat Reader, “Where She (Me) Went,” which also includes links to a ton of giveaways!

Now on to new business…I have survived a vicious attack by a [Boston terrier mix] werewolf named Bloodthirsty One [Buddy].  What, you ask?!  Werewolves in Macungie?!   Yes, friends, they’re not just in London anymore.  I suspect by the next full moon I will be howling at the sky, joining a pack of hairy dudes, and maybe getting a T.V. show of my very own called “30ish Wolf”, that won’t be nearly as awesome as the original movie starring Michael J. Fox.  I would show you a picture of the injury I sustained, but I fear the pictures are far too horrible to publish on the Interwebs.  Suffice to say, I had to get the BIG band-aids at Target, and yes, I did cry.

Not the werewolf who attacked me.

Fortunately, Bloodthirsty One [Buddy] doesn’t seem be accepting any new members into his werewolf pack  [is up-to-date on his shots],  only maimed me for life [my injury isn’t serious], and didn’t steal a bit of my soul [all my flanges are intact].  However, due to his heinous behavior,  I will not be reading any werewolf novels for a very long time.  I’m sorry, Andrea Cremer, author of Nightshade and Wolfsbane, but I can’t read your books now after what Bloodthirsty One [ Buddy] did to me.

Also not the werewolf who bite me. *Sad*

I won’t [will] relent, not even [especially]  if you, Andrea Cremer, personally send me autographed copies [or even random used ARCs] of your fascinating books.  Someone’s got to take a stand against these werewolves or we’re going to turn into that town on the Red Riding Hood movie starring Lehigh Valley native Amanda Seyfried.  I don’t care if her werewolf-boyfriend *is* hot; we can’t let these beasties push us around anymore.  Well, maybe the hot ones can take a little nibble…

Enough of this werewolf talk!  I have a lot of faves to share with you and anti-werewolf legislation to draft, so on with the show…

*Currently the Summer Giveaway Hop is in full swing!  Around 300 bloggers are giving away bookish goodies, including me!  Right here at Backseat Writer, you can win a copy of the book that “ruined me”Passport Through Darkness by Kimberly L. Smith (read review)!  The giveaways end on August 7, so get enterin’!

Munch Munch is available for adoption from Prarie's Edge Human Society

*Know what makes a great pet? (Not wanna-be werewolf Boston terrier mixes, that’s for sure!)  Guinea pigs!  In fact, my first pet was a lovely brown and white guinea pig I named Darcy.  I was a mere 6 years-old, but I was ready for the responsibility of caring for my guinea pig (my dad changed her stinky cage), feeding her healthy food (let’s just forget about that time I almost poisoned her with grass doused in weed killer), and of course, dressing her up in little outfits and carting her around in a toy baby carriage.  Come on, what girl doesn’t take her guinea pig for a stroll around the block?  When I saw PetFinder’s information on guinea pig adoption, I felt a little nostalgic about my ol’ guinea pig, Darcy.  Then I remembered Vanessa, Gwynne, Mya, Harry, and Abigail (R.I.P. one and all!) and decided that I should leave some GP’s alive for the rest of y’all.  Still, guinea pig adoption–what a great idea!

*You may think I only love Jonalyn Grace Fincher’s book, Ruby Slippers: How the Soul of a Woman Brings Her Home, because of its pretty sparkly cover.  While I admit Jonalyn’s book cover does start me into a Wicked sing-a-long, Ruby Slippers offers freedom for women who have long felt out of place in a patriarchal church society.  Similarly, Jonalyn continues the work she started in her book on her Soulation blog.  Recently, Jonalyn posted an intelligent response to Mark Driscoll’s “opinions” of gender roles.  I’m not going to lie; Mark Driscoll scares me.  Jonalyn, however, doesn’t back away from stating her opinion, even using *gasp* the Bible.  Here’s one of my favorite quotes from Jonalyn’s post: “Mr. Driscoll is another unfortunate example of theology that justifies strict gender roles wedded to a fallen male-driven honor culture. The mixture is toxic, not just for women, but for the men who must now take all responsibility for success or failure. Not even God thought Adam should handle all that.”  To read more of Jonalyn’s excellent insights, visit her at Soulation.org/jonalynblog.  You will love her, be challenged by her, and most of all, you will find unwavering honesty in Jonalyn Fincher.  (Her husband, Dale, is pretty special, too!)

*Maybe the video’s been posted on YouTube since May, maybe I told Bebo’s publicist that I would post this video 2 or 3 months ago. Maybe.  After the stress of my recent werewolf attack, I can’t be sure about anything.  And isn’t the important thing that I’m posting it now?!   The song is called “God of My Everything” and it is from Bebo Norman’s latest album, Ocean (Read interview.) I have a very special post about Bebo coming up in the next week or two (it’s heart-warming!), but until then, just watch this video repeatedly.  After all, Bebo Norman is my absolute favorite singer/songwriter on the planet.

*Finally, Crystal at SoulMunchies mentioned on Google+ that she started reading One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp, and I said, “Crystal, what are you doing?  We need to read that together!”  Well, Crystal told me that she isn’t that far along and with my awesome reading skills, I’d be able to catch up to her in no time!  Without Crystal’s approval or knowledge, I invited other people to join us in reading the book, and I guess Crystal was OK with it since she ReTweeted it on Twitter.  Anyway, so if you want to read the book with us, let me know!  I have no idea what it means to read the book with us, but I’m sure it will be fun and glitter will be involved!  While I’m on the topic of glitter, I mean Crystal, I’d love for you to check out a wonderful post she wrote this week on BibleDude.net called, “I Will Not Leave You Orphaned.”  And it’s not a big advert for adoption either.  Read it, think on it, pray over it.  Thank you, Crystal, for your beautiful writing!

And, thank you, lovely reader, for supporting, reading, commenting, and subscribing to Backseat Writer!  A lot of writers say they write for the pure joy of writing, and while that’s why I write in my journal, Backseat Writer is all about reaching out to you!  So if you’re reading this, then I want to let you know how much I value you and thank you for being a part of Backseat Writer.  Have a wonderful weekend!

So…do you like or dislike werewolves?  What about Michael J. Fox–do you like him? What do you think his best T.V. or movie role was?  What was your first pet?  Are you thinking about adopting a guinea pig?  If so, what will you name him or her?  What did you think of Bebo Norman’s “God of My Everything” music video?  Did you enter my giveaway?  Want to read One Thousand Gifts with Crystal and me? Do you think I need to talk about more manly topics to get in touch with my male readers?  Doesn’t Jonalyn have beautiful hair?  I mean, doesn’t Jonalyn have a beautiful style of writing?

Praised Singer/Songwriter Josh Wilson Launches Website in Response to Fan Reaction of Latest Single “Fall Apart”

16 Jun

From The Media Collective: (Nashville, Tenn) June 16, 2011–Sparrow Records’ critically acclaimed artist Josh Wilson has a history of penning riveting songs that tug at the heartstrings of listeners. As with his captivating chart topper “Before the Morning” (Life is Not a Snapshot, 2009) and now his latest single Fall Apart(See You, 2011) testimonials from fans are pouring in explaining how the song has touched their lives and how God has pulled them through when they too had “fallen apart.”

Due to the influx of responses, Wilson has launched www.whenifallapart.com, where listeners can watch a touching video from Wilson and hear personal accounts of how their faith pulled them through tough times. Wilson’s hope is that the website can serve as an outlet and resource for those who want to share their story or be encouraged.

Wilson was moved to write “Fall Apart” after he witnessed a friend endure a difficult divorce.

“Right in the middle of it, we had this really amazing conversation, and he said that even though everything was falling apart, he felt God’s presence more than he ever had,” says Wilson.  “He saw how much he needed God. Hard times are a magnifying glass on how much we need him. That’s when we feel God’s presence the most.”

This fall, Wilson will continue to perform the single in addition to other songs from See You, as he shares the stage with GRAMMY ® award winning artist Steven Curtis Chapman and Andrew Peterson. For a full list of tour dates please visit www.joshwilsonmusic.com.

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Read Backseat Writer’s interview with Josh Wilson, “Seeing God’s Hope in Pain” and BSW’s review of See You.

Take 5 with singer/songwriter Matt the Electrician

13 Jun

Matt “the Electrician” Sever is perhaps one of the most interesting singer/songwriters I’ve had yet to encounter.  Hailing from the bustling metropolis of Austin, TX, Matt began work as a “journeyman electrician” during the day and while playing shows at night until eventually pursuing music full-time.  However, the name “Matt the Electrician” stuck.  (To fully appreciate the story, read it yourself on the “Story” page of Matt’s website.) Apparently the full-time musician thing worked for Matt because he has just released his seventh studio album, Accidental Thief, which is a fantastic blend of sounds, instruments, and lyrical prowess.  I’ve been enjoying Matt’s fine melodies day in and day out since receiving his album, and I love it!  So, naturally, I was excited when Matt took time out of his day to Take 5 with Backseat Writer answering his question IN ALL CAPS.  I think it adds a certain effect to this interview.

 Accidental Thief is your seventh studio album. How has your music changed since that debut album?

I THINK THE BIGGEST CHANGE OVER THE YEARS HAS HAD TO DO WITH MY ABILITY TO EXPRESS MYSELF IN WORDS THE WAY THAT I WANT TO.  I’M CONSTANTLY BEING INSPIRED BY THE WRITERS AND MUSICIANS AROUND ME, AND THAT GROUP OF PEOPLE HAS EXPANDED MORE AND MORE OVER THE YEARS, AND I THINK THE BENEFIT OF THAT IS ABSOLUTELY PRICELESS.

My absolute favorite song on your album is “I Will Do The Breathing.” The whole concept of the song, the lyrics, the melody—it’s remarkable. What inspired you to write this song?

MY WIFE’S FATHER PASSED AWAY A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO, AFTER BEING SICK FOR ALMOST 30 YEARS, AND IT WAS REALLY HARD ON HER AND HER FAMILY, AND A VERY COMPLICATED SITUATION ON TOP OF THAT.  MY WIFE IS A VISUAL ARTIST, AND SHE BEGAN CREATING A SERIES OF DRAWINGS AND PAINTINGS THAT WERE BASED AROUND IMAGES OF A DEEP SEA DIVER MASK AND FEATHERS, AMONG OTHER THINGS.  THROUGHOUT THAT PROCESS, AND IT’S STILL FAIRLY FRESH EVEN NOW, I’VE JUST BEEN TRYING TO BE THERE FOR HER, IN WHATEVER WAY I CAN.

THE VERSES ARE ABOUT WATCHING HER DEAL WITH ALL OF THIS, AND IN THE CHORUS, I BORROWED SOME OF THE IMAGERY FROM HER ARTWORK, TO LET HER KNOW THAT I WAS THERE.  BUT WHEN I FINISHED THE CHORUS, I FELT THAT IT SOUNDED A LITTLE ARROGANT, LIKE I COULD SOMEHOW SAVE HER, AND MAKE EVERYTHING ALL RIGHT.  AND THE MORE I THOUGHT ABOUT THAT, THE MORE I REALIZED THAT IT WASN’T JUST ME, BUT A WHOLE COMMUNITY OF FRIENDS AND FAMILY THAT WERE THERE FOR HER.  AND EVEN WITHIN ME, IT’S REALLY ONLY BECAUSE I HAVE SUCH A GREAT SUPPORT GROUP AND NETWORK OF FRIENDS THAT I’M ABLE TO BE STEADY FOR HER.  SO I HAD AS MANY OF MY FRIENDS COME AND SING ON THE LAST CHORUS.  IT WAS MY WAY OF SAYING THAT IT’S NOT JUST ME, IT’S ALL OF HER FRIENDS AND FAMILY, BUT ALSO, ALL OF MY FRIENDS AND FAMILY.

“All I Know” is the first music video from Accidental Thief.  Isn’t it great?
 
 

Another one of my faves on Accidental Thief is the title track. Tell me about it.

I CO-WROTE THAT SONG WITH JOHN ELLIOTT, A FANTASTIC SONGWRITER FROM LOS ANGELES.  IT STARTED MORE LITERALLY.  JOHN HAD ACTUALLY, ACCIDENTALLY STOLEN SOME SUNGLASSES–PICKED THEM UP IN A STORE, SHOPPED AROUND, AND THEN WALKED OUT WITHOUT THINKING.  HE SAID HE HAD WANTED TO WRITE A SONG ABOUT AN ACCIDENTAL THIEF.  ONCE WE STARTED WRITING, IT QUICKLY TURNED MORE METAPHORICAL, AND BECAME MORE ABOUT A GUY (SOMEONE WHO JOHN AND I MAY OR MAY NOT HAVE BEEN IN OUR YOUNGER YEARS)…AND THIS GUY, WELL, HE’S KIND OF A JERK.  BUT HE DOESN’T MEAN TO BE.  AND HE SEEMS TO BE PRETTY SELF-CENTERED.  BUT HE’S NOT SORRY.  BUT I DON’T THINK HE HONESTLY KNOWS, IN THE MOMENT, WHAT KIND OF DAMAGE HE’S DOING. I THINK WE JUST WANTED THERE TO BE SOME SORT OF EMPATHY FOR HIM, ALTHOUGH MAYBE HE DOESN’T DESERVE IT.  BUT AT THE END OF THE DAY, OR A RELATIONSHIP, IT IS WHAT IT IS.  IS THAT VAGUE ENOUGH?

You personally play a lot of instruments on this album, including banjo, trumpet, alto horn, banjo, Wurlitzer (fun to say), air organ, guitars, piano, toy piano (what?!), and glockenspiel (also fun to say.) While this makes for an assortment of fun musical sounds, what was it like learning all these instruments? (And how long have you been playing the glockenspiel?)

SADLY, I HAVE NOT “LEARNED” ALMOST ANY OF THEM, BUT I CERTAINLY HAVE FUN EXPERIMENTING IN THE STUDIO.  I DO PLAY SEVERAL BRASS INSTRUMENTS, AND HAVE BEEN PLAYING THE TRUMPET SINCE I WAS 5 YEARS OLD, SO I WILL TAKE CREDIT FOR KNOWING WHAT I’M DOING IN THOSE PARTS.  HOWEVER, I’M A HORRIBLE PIANO PLAYER.  AS A MUSIC MAJOR IN COLLEGE, I FAILED MY PIANO COMPETENCY TEST 6 SEMESTERS IN A ROW.

Now, onto our final question…what’s the last thing that made you laugh out loud?

MY CHILDREN, ON A DAILY BASIS.

For more information on Matt the Electrician, visit his online hub at MattTheElectrician.com, where you can connect with him on all your favorite social networking sites.  And don’t forget to pick up a copy of Accidental Thief and a couple of Matt’s other albums while you’re there.

{With thanks to Matt Sever and  Tim Broun at The Musebox for my review copy of Accidental Thief and making this Take 5 possible!}

Readers, what do you think of Matt the Electrician?  Do you love his as much as me?  What did you think of the “All I Know” video?  Guys, are you going to grow a beard like Matt’s?  Can you play the glockenspiel?  Chime in, folks, that’s what the comments section is for!

Take 5 with Jenny & Tyler (Music)

26 May

When I first heard Jenny & Tyler, I was feeling overwhelmed by the bland music surrounding me.  Jenny & Tyler’s smooth vocals, fresh lyrics, and folk/pop style instantly excited me.  There was an unexplainable synergy between the duo and I picked up on that immediately.  Jenny (of Jenny & Tyler) shares about the duo’s latest album, Faint Not, in this Take 5. (Learn about how to download the single “Faint Not” for free at the end of the interview.)

You two have such great synergy as a musical duo (and I would imagine as a married couple.)  I could really see it in the music videos for “Faint Not” and “This is Just So Beautiful.”  How does your relationship add to the dynamic of your music/songwriting?

I think part of what’s fun about writing and making music together is that we’re comfortable being completely honest with each other. We also know each other really well and sometimes that helps when one of us is having difficulty communicating a specific emotion or feeling. When one of us is stumped lyrically or musically the other can usually pick up and finish the song.

When we perform together (or shoot videos together!) it’s easy to just completely be ourselves. The audience or the listener picks up on that. When you’re being genuine, people can tell. And when you’re not, they can tell too.

My favorite song on Faint Not is (all of them) “Carry Me” (And who’s the guy singing in the background?  Is he supposed to signify the voice of God?)

I’m so glad you like “Carry Me”. It was written from a desperate place. One morning I was feeling really overwhelmed by my sin. In that same moment I was reminded of how big God’s grace is. The best part is that the Lord doesn’t grow weary in forgiving us. The “voice of God” is Mac Powell from Third Day. We had the opportunity to open for him a few years back and when we were writing the bridge Tyler said, “You know who would be perfect for this part?” and we just knew he should sing it. His voice is so strong and really powerful. I think it worked out pretty well.

Another incredibly powerful song is “Song For You.” (Seriously, wow!) What prompted you to write this song?

“Song for You” is about the stubborn love of God and how it pursues us before we know Him or before we want it too. We actually wrote five choruses to the song before we settled on the current one.  Honestly, the song wasn’t inspired about a specific moment; we just wanted to communicate how amazing the love of God is, both in how he feels and his actions. He’s done everything he has to do to bring us to Him, namely in Jesus. The ball is in our court so to speak.

What has been the best part of your musical journey?  The worst part?

The best part is doing this together. Neither of us would want to tour the country and make music alone. When one of us is feeling weak or discouraged the other is able to pick up the slack.

The worst part of our musical journey is being on the road and missing our community. We love meeting new people and traveling, but we do miss our Nashville family when we’re away.

And now onto a lighter question, what was the last book you read? (And did you like it?)

Tyler read and thoroughly enjoyed Desiring God by John Piper. I read Little Bee by Chris Cleave. To be honest, it was a bit disappointing.

***

Because Jenny & Tyler and Mixtus Media are awesome, they are offering a FREE SONG DOWNLOAD from Faint Not for Backseat Writer’s readers (that’s you!) To download the album’s title track, “Faint Not,” click the “Faint Not” logo below. You will be taken to another site for download.  No worries.  It is not run by James or his associates.

Undoubtedly, after hearing this fantastic track, you’re going to want to buy the whole album, which you can do at their website, JennyandTylerMusic.com.  Additionally, if you are so enamored with Jenny & Tyler, that you want to become a J&T super fan, then follow them on Twitter and friend them on Facebook.

Updated Review Policy and My Love Note to the FTC

10 Mar

Hear ye, hear ye!  I have updated parts of Backseat Writer’s Review Policy and added a bit of plain speak to my FTC Disclosure.  Read on, you know you want to…

REVIEW POLICY

Request for reviews/interview/marriage proposals can be sent to amy@backseatwriter.com.

Why, yes, I would love to review your album, book, movie, or product!  Due to time restraints, that book I’m eventually going to write, and my personal preferences, I may not be able to honor all requests for reviews, interviews, or Nigerians who want to wire me money.

Before you hit me up with your latest and greatest, please note that I will only accept music for review (and artist interviews) that is downloadable or send to me via snail mail.  Additionally, I will only accept books that are readable on Kindle or sent to me in hard copy format (again, in the mail).  My reasoning?  I need my music and reading material to be portable—to go with me where I need to go.  That’s how I live life and that’s how I review materials.  I cannot be chained to my computer listening to music or reading books.

Additionally, I retain the right to accept or reject all materials based on quality of content and whether or not I believe the materials fit in with the vision of Backseat Writer.  Usually I can tell whether or not something is a good fit by the press release and I will tell you so before you send materials, so feel free to send your queries to amy@backseatwriter.com.

I also added this to that terribly interesting FTC Disclosure or what I like to call “My Love Note to the FTC”…

I do not get paid to do reviews or interviews (though if anyone wants to hire me for freelance work, I’m listening.)  I do not accept money in exchange for posting press releases or endorsements.  All content is generated for the pure love and joy of writing!

Links included in posts are for informational purposes only and are never composed for the purpose of including advertising.

No record company, publisher, publicist, band, artist, hobbit, or gnome will ever influence the content, topics, or posts made in this Backseat Writer, though they may inspire a few!

Any time you want to review parts of my publications policies, you can click on the “About Backseat Writer” tab and read your little heart out.  It is slightly more interesting than watching paint peel.

Josh Wilson:: Seeing God’s Hope in Pain

9 Feb

When I first interviewed Josh Wilson several years ago about his debut album, Trying to Fit the Ocean in a Cup (2008), we formed a special bond between writer and musician, which continues today.  I have made no secret about my appreciation for Josh, as a musician, friend, and fellow human being.  Naturally, that brings a whole new element to an interview, like talking to an old friend about an exciting project.  Essentially that’s what it was like to interview Josh about his latest album, See You.

Available February 8, See You (Sparrow) is an amazing project, in which Josh has poured himself heart and soul (read album review).  Working with my one of my favorite producers, Matt Bronleewe, Josh shows maturation in his craft as a singer/songwriter.  But his sincerity and witty personality remain intact.  In fact, at the end of the interview I told Josh that his self-titled album (a mash-up of his two previous albums) is available as a $5 download on Amazon.com.  In true Josh Wilson fashion, he quipped, “Five dollars?  I better go buy that!”

It is these qualities that make Josh Wilson one of my favorite musicians in the music business.  And just one of my favorite people in general.  After that glorious introduction, I now present our interview.

You have a new album coming out Feb. 8 called See You

I’m incredibly excited for people to hear these songs.  I recorded them last August, so I’ve been sitting on them like a Christmas present that I’ve been waiting to give away.  I’m excited to give it away.

Let’s talk about the title track for a minute.  “See You”—that’s a pretty deep song.  I thought it was going to be a nice, little happy song. It’s a hard song to listen to.

I struggled when I wrote it to figure out how to resolve the song because it deals with wanting to see God in the hard times, but not being able to.  The first verse talks about a sick child—a reference to my friends who have a son with a heart condition.  The second verse talks about a divorce.  I had a good buddy go through a divorce this year.  I think those are two kinds of situations when people ask, “Where is God?  If God is really there and He loves us, then why is this happening?”  I have certainly experienced things in life where I can’t see God.  The song says that in the middle of all this, I don’t see You.

I didn’t know how to resolve the song because I didn’t what to leave it there.  The song is followed by an instrumental version of “It Is Well (With My Soul),” which is a response to that song.  But I didn’t want someone to listen to the album and hear the song, but not hear the resolution—the hope that we do have in Christ.  “See You” doesn’t end with a big bowtie around it but it certainly points to the fact that although we don’t see Christ in those moments, we are going to one day.

I sort of like the unresolved tension.

Yeah, as an artist, as a creative element, I do, too.  I like to watch movies with unresolved endings and I like music that sits in the moment.

You know, I was thinking about this album as I was writing the review (which everyone should read), and I’ve been listening to this album from start to finish, from start to finish over and over again.  And you start with “Sing It” and end the album with the “Sing It” reprise.  This album really should be listened to as a whole project.  It’s not a bunch of songs with a few that sound good on radio.  The whole project sort of fits together and the songs flow together.  Was that intentional?

Not when I was writing the songs.  When I picked the songs to go on the album, I did try to find a common thread.  “Sing It” talks about not having enough words, melodies, and chords to capture God, our Creator.  I wanted to put this group of songs in with that song because that sums me up as an artist.

I wrote “3 Minute Song.”  It was kind of the same thing.  The more I write, the more I’m realizing that I’ll never be able to write enough.  I don’t think that’s necessarily the theme that runs through the album, that’s why I chose to call it See You and that’s why “See You” falls dead center in the track listing.

This is the first album that I’m really proud of the order of songs and the flow of music.  Every song is not the same.  It doesn’t all talk about seeing God.  But I think that theme comes in and out.

How much did your producer, Matt Bronleewe, contribute to that?

A great deal.  This is the first time I have recorded a single album with a single producer.  I feel like this album was very cohesive because it was just Matt and me from the very beginning.  Because of that, he was able to help me string things together.  It makes the album a complete thought.

The other thing I love about your music is that you’re really involved with all aspects of creation, like you played 18 different instruments on this album.

Yeah, that was something Matt challenged me to do and it’s something that I’ve done on previous albums.  Besides bass and drums, there’s everything from autoharp to ukulele to accordion, and a hammered dulcimer.

And a glockenspiel, come on!

Haha, yes, a glockenspiel because it’s fun to say!  I was excited to go into the studio and say, “Could you turn up the glockenspiel?”

That’s hilarious!  I get this idea that when you go into the studio or write a song, you’re like this creation genius, like you have all these instruments around you and you start pumping out songs like Bob Dylan.

Well, I wish it was as easy as walking into a place and it all just sort of happens around you.  But the writing process is a slow one for me.  It takes a while.  When we get into the studio, there is a bit of a mad scientist element.  Matt has all these instruments in there and we’d listen to a track, and I’d say, “Let me try this!” There’s a good element of spontaneity in the recording process.  That’s not to say that every idea is a good one, so Matt helped a lot in that process.

I think you had said at some point there’s more of you in this album.

Hmm…I feel as a writer I’m growing and hopefully each song I write is a little more honest.   That’s why I feel like I can write a song like “See You” that deals with doubt because that’s something I struggle with.  Any Christian who’s honest struggles with the same thing.  Each song is about something I’ve been through or a close friend has been through.  I try to stay close to real life stories and build songs from that.

I noticed in the song, “They Just Believe,” which you wrote about your 2009 trip to India, you say, “I believe, help my unbelief.” This is a direct quote from the Gospels.  What does this mean to you?

You know, the funny thing about doubt is that statement.  I do believe, but at the same time I struggle with unbelief.  At the same time, I have to fall back on the promise that Jesus made that He’s with us, that He’s never going to leave us or forsake us.  In the moments that I don’t see God or don’t feel like I can, I have to remember what He’s brought me through.  When you put it all together, it makes the most sense to say, “I believe; help my unbelief.”

That’s my prayer a lot of times.

Absolutely.  Sometimes it’s the most appropriate thing to pray.

As we wrap up, is there anything about this album you think the folks need to know?

I really am proud of this album.  I’m really excited for people to hear it.  I hope they hear honesty and I hope I haven’t skirted any hard issues in these songs. Scripture doesn’t do that; Jesus doesn’t do that; and life certainly doesn’t do that.  We can’t pretend that everything’s always smiley.  While I do deal with a lot of hard things, what I want people to take away is hope.  As Christians, we are equipped to deal with the most difficult things in life because Jesus went through them.  I hope people will take away hope in the middle of pain.

For more Josh Wilson goodness, head over to his website at JoshWilsonMusic.com and hook up with Josh on all your favorite social networks, including Twitter (@joshwilson) and Facebook (facebook.com/joshwilson).  Also, you can see Josh live on the summer festival circuit and this fall he’s touring with music veterans Steven Curtis Chapman and Andrew Peterson.

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