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Take 5 with worship leader Matt Redman

17 Aug

Every week at church services, youth group meetings, on the radio, and in our home, millions of people probably sing a worship song written or influenced by UK-born worship leader, Matt Redman.  Known for such songs as “The Heart of Worship,” “Blessed Be Your Name,” “You Never Let Go,” and a slew of others, Redman recently released his latest album, 10,000 Reasons (Sparrow) and a book, Mirror Ball (David C. Cook).  This busy father of five also co-writes songs with his wife (I just had to throw that in here!) took time out to provide insightful answers about new album, books, and life in general in Backseat Writer’s latest Take 5.

You’re released eight albums, written several books, and compose songs that are sung in millions of churches every week.  What is it like to look back on your career?  To think back to when you first started plucking out tunes on a guitar?

Honestly, I feel so encouraged by all that has happened through the songs. And yet I know that what people are responding to isn’t some kind of creative cleverness or innovation on my part. They’re responding to the truth in the songs—the wonders of a God who is utterly high above and yet knows our names and holds our lives. I have a deep conviction that if we can write songs that present the truth of Jesus in a real and relevant way, they’ll make an impact somehow.

One of the biggest surprises and encouragements has been how some of the songs have traveled to different countries around the world. It’s so fascinating to show up in some part of Asia, Africa or Eastern Europe and start to lead a song like “Blessed Be Your Name” and realize people already know it. Of course, this whole thing also carries a weight of responsibility. For any of us writing and recording congregational songs, as exciting as that is, we also need to realize the seriousness of putting words into people’s mouths in worship. There’s a responsibility to try and make sure the songs are thoroughly biblical and honoring to God.

Your newest album, 10,000 Reasons, was recorded live with over 1,000 participants at LIFT: A Worship Leader Collective—why did you choose live over studio recording?

There’s something about the people of God coming together and singing their hearts out which is just so powerful. If you can capture the essence of that on a record, in can be a really wonderful thing. I hope that is what’s happened with this 10,000 Reasons record. The people at LIFT were a complete joy to lead in worship. I loved how they sung out to God through these new songs with such passion, and even created their own crowd harmonies a few times which we didn’t teach them. I guess that’s what happens when you get a thousand worship leaders and singers in one room! The whole LIFT event was brilliant.  Louie Giglio and Chris Tomlin hosted it and I felt like the flow of the whole couple of days was just so inspiring.

While all the songs on 10,000 Reasons are meaningful, would you please share the story behind a song or two on the new album?

“Never Once” is a song of God’s faithfulness. When we look over our lives we soon see what an amazing track record Jesus has in our lives and that gives us a great hope for the future. In one way we don’t know what the future holds, but in another way we do. It will be sure to be filled with the goodness and greatness of God shining down upon our lives. I love an old Charles Spurgeon quote, “The future is as bright as promises of God.” What a fantastic thought.

This song was written shortly after we left the USA and moved back to the UK. Our house in Atlanta was still unsold, and I was back there for a few days. My family was gone, and so was all the furniture. So I stood there in that empty, echoing room with just my guitar and started to think about the faithful hand of God in my family’s life. He’s provided for us for this two yearlong Atlanta adventure, and even though I didn’t know exactly what the future held, I had such a strong sense that He would continue to be enough for us. The chorus of the song says “Never once did we ever walk alone; Never once did You leave us on our own.” I wrote this song with Jason Ingram and a UK friend named Tim Wanstall, and we really hope that is will breathe hope into the lives of those who sing it.

The title song “10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)” was the last song to be written before the live recording. In fact, it only got finished a few days beforehand.  My co-writer friend Jonas Myrin kept telling me he had a chorus melody idea, but my mind was spinning with trying to finish so many other song ideas that I kept telling him I didn’t want to hear a new one. But then one night after a day of writing I said, “Why don’t you just play me that idea quickly?” And the moment he played it we started wrapping some lyrics inspired by Psalm 103 around it.  Actually about 75% of those verses I reckon were spontaneously, there and then. I think I still have an iPhone recording of that happening; it was just such a fantastic moment.

Songs don’t always get written so fast, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with some hard work and perspiration when it comes to the creative process. But now and again you get a little inspired worship moment like this, and it can be really special. The song of course became the title of the album, and I’m so grateful for it.

Your latest book, Mirror Ball, is released on July 1.  What is this book about?

Yes, I’m excited about the Mirror Ball’s release. I wrote it on and off over the period of about three years. Some of the themes of the album songs actually tie in with the content of the book.  In fact, some of the song names also ended up being chapter titles in the book. The main theme of the book is living boldly and shining brightly for the glory of God. My hope is that it could inject a new confidence into the lives of many worshippers of Jesus, that they truly might get a sense that their lives can make a difference in the kingdom of God.

And our last question is just for fun.  What are some hilarious things that people assume about you because you’re from England? (Or just share something funny.  Let’s have a good laugh together.)

You have no idea how many people from the USA asked me, “Did you get invited to the Royal Wedding?”! I’m sorry to say the answer (of course) is “no”!

For more information on Matt Redman, visit him online at his online hub, MattRedman.com, where you can find chord charts for 10,000 Reasons and Matt’s previous album, We Will Not Be Shaken, Matt’s online store, how to connect with Matt on social networks, and a plethora of news and insight into Matt’s life.

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What’s your favorite Matt Redman song? Or album?  Or book?  What something surprising insight you learned about Matt?  Are you surprised that he wasn’t invited to the Royal Wedding, but Joss Stone was? What do you think of Matt’s latest album (if you’ve heard it) and/or book (if you’ve read it)?
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Take 5 with Tim Sinclair, author of BRANDED: Sharing Jesus in a Consumer Culture

5 Jul

As I was reading Branded: Sharing Jesus with a Consumer Culture (read my review), I just wanted to cry at times.  I remember going on urban mission trips, handing out tracts, asking random passersby if they knew where they were going when they died, but it all seemed so meaningless.  I remember coming back from these trips or outreaches with a “praise report” on how many souls we saved.  The congregation cheered and I just felt empty.  I wondered what happened to these people who walked away after praying for salvation on Market Street in Philadelphia.  To what kind of homes did the children who gave their hearts to Jesus at VBS return?  And, I wondered, what difference did we make at all?

I don’t know how our actions impacted eternity.  I do hope that drunk that said he would attend AA meetings actually did so and the poverty-stricken single mothers did take their kids to the church on the corner.  It’s easy to be a Christian on Alternative Spring Break—chatting with hung-over college students by day and hitting the beach during free time.  But what about where we live?  What about the mass exodus of young adults from church?  Thankfully, author Tim Sinclair shows readers a different way and I would argue a better way at sharing our lives (and yes, even Jesus) with those with interact with on a daily (and long-term) basis.  So, I’m ecstatic that Tim agreed to Take 5 with Backseat Writer.

Tim with morning show co-host, Pam.

You’re a radio personality with a popular morning show, but as we know, things don’t always run smoothly.  What has been one of the craziest on-air happenings? (If you don’t have any, make one up.  We need to laugh.)

My co-host Pam has a way of mistaking one word for another. It’s become kind of a “thing” recently. During March Madness, she called it the NAACP Tournament, rather than the NCAA Tournament. She’s used Medusa instead of Methuselah…and just the other day during a remote broadcast said that someone had just dropped off a “shipload” of shoes. (For the record, it can be very difficult to differentiate the “p” sound and the “t” sound on the radio. Oops.)

Now let’s talk about Branded… I’ve read a lot of books about how the Church needs to reach out to “the postmodern generation,” but yours struck me as unique.  Market your book to my readers, what makes Branded different?

Branded is principle not policy. It’s not a 1-2-3 guide for how to share your faith. Those have been tried (with varying degrees of success). My goal was to encourage readers to thoroughly embrace who they are and where God has placed them, and then give them permission to let Him lead their discussions and actions, rather than the traditions of the Church.

In the past, most evangelism models have thrown relationship out the window. We’ve been told to accost people on the sidewalk, interrupt them during dinner, and boycott their organizations when they do something we don’t like. Yes, we’re called to “speak the truth in love”…but I believe that the level of our relationship with someone helps dictate that balance. Close friendships allow for more truth, while distant relationships (or complete unfamiliarity) require more love.

Your statistics about companies that “made” it and didn’t “make” it due to their lack of adjusting to an ever-changing consumer market (i.e., Best Buy vs. Circuit City) were fascinating.  This seemed to add an intellectual edge to Branded.  How do these examples resonate with the audience you want to reach with the message of this book?

I think we’ve all seen these industries evolve in recent years, but have never really thought much about why. As a kid, I remember Waldenbooks being in every single mall. But now you can’t find one. They’re extinct. Barnes & Noble and Amazon had the exact same goal (selling books), but decided to do it in a much more relevant way. The same with Netflix and Red Box. They’ve pretty much bankrupted Blockbuster because they “got” where our culture was headed instead of stubbornly insisting that the old sales model was the only one that would work. Once readers start looking for these transitions, I think they’ll see them everywhere.

I admire the fact that you didn’t say old methods of outreach were horrible, just out-dated.  Because we live in a consumer culture, you take a marketing approach to evangelism (note to readers: This does not cheapen Jesus or Christianity, so don’t worry!)  We also live in a media rich culture, how can we use social media to initially begin a conversation and/or relationship?

The simple answer is, “Be yourself.” Seriously. Don’t think of social media as an evangelism tool, think of it as a relationship tool. Relationships are developed through honesty, and any attempt to be purely church-y, or flowery, or smiley will come off as disingenuous. Mainly because it is. The stronger (and more genuine) our relationships are with others, the more likely we’ll be to have impacting, life-changing conversations with them about Jesus. Twitter and Facebook should simply be an extension of who we are…not the totality of our evangelistic efforts.

When you said that some of the conversations with have with our non-Christian friends may take a lifetime, I felt free because I haven’t been one to lead people to God (at least in the traditional sense).  In fact, you’re engaged in an ongoing Facebook conversation of your own started by an old friend from high school named Alan.  In the final pages of Branded, you said that Alan agreed to read the book.  What was his reaction?

Several months ago Alan got the chance to read the introduction and conclusion of the book. He said, “You know, I’m beginning to think that maybe agnostics need some re-branding too.” While that wasn’t an endorsement that God exists, it was an admission that the concepts within Branded work when trying to spread an idea. Jesus has a HUGE perception problem, and (of course) it’s not His fault…it’s ours. My hope is that Alan’s perception of Christ will begin to change over time.

Plus 1–Sorry, but I’ve got to make this a Take 5 + 1.  What up-and-coming musicians do you recommend to my readers? (Any market. I know this completely *your* opinion based on your musical tastes.)

My personal favorite right now is Sidewalk Prophets. They won the Dove Award for New Artist of the Year in 2010, and are just remarkable guys. Plus, they came and played an acoustic set at my book premiere last week for free!  🙂  I’m also a huge fan of Chris August, Anthem Lights, Dave Barnes, and Mat Kearney. In the mainstream world, my iPhone is loaded up with Bruce Hornsby, John Mayer, Sara Bareilles, and Jason Mraz.

For more information on Tim Sinclair and his book Branded: Sharing Jesus with a Consumer Culture, visit Tim online at http://www.tim-sinclair.com.  You can contact with Tim on your social network of choice, find out how to get your own copy of Branded, and read his blog.

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Now I want to know what you guys think (answer one, two or all of the questions)…Christians, do you think this style of evangelism is effective?  Is anyone offended by the word “evangelism”?  Do you like Tim’s sweater?  What do you think of Sidewalk Prophets?  Do you think you’re read this book?  If you’re not a Christian, what do Christians do that annoys you?  See ya on the comments section!

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.

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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.

Take 5 with author Mesu Andrews (Love Amid the Ashes)

25 Mar

In her first book, Love Amid the Ashes (read review) author Mesu Andrews tackles the story of Job, perhaps Scripture’s second-most famous story on suffering (the first being Jesus, of course).  In excruciating detail, Andrews articulates Job’s trials—the smell and seepage from his physical wounds, the agony of loss, and yes, his restoration by God.  Using her life as a canvas, Andrews writes as one who has and does live with chronic pain and illness.  It is with great pleasure that I present Mesu Andrews’ Take 5 with Backseat Writer.

Dinah, the daughter of the third patriarch, Jacob, is molested at the hands of the Shechemites, which causes Jacob great distress—because his sons take revenge.  Dinah’s is never mentioned again!  Why did you choose to complete her story?

Actually, she is mentioned once more in Scripture: Genesis 46:15, where she’s included in the list of Jacob’s family going to Egypt. I fell in love with Dinah when I read Anita Diamant’s, Red Tent. I was fascinated by the possibilities of Dinah’s future after reading Ms. Diamant’s account. However, writing her into Job’s story was not at all my idea! When I began researching Job’s wife, ancient Jewish tradition was split on her identity. Some believed Job’s wife to be the same woman at the beginning of his suffering and at the end, giving birth to all twenty of his children. Another source said Job had two wives, one in the beginning (who died) and a second wife at the end of his suffering. A third source combined the two stories and gave other interesting details to weave into the biblical narrative. Further research named Job as the “Jobab” listed in Genesis 36, meaning Job would have been Esau’s great-grandson. The more research I did, the more Job’s and Dinah’s stories converged. It was like a grand puzzle, putting together the corner and edge pieces and then filling in the middle as it progressed!

I think merging the characters of Dinah and Job is an interesting choice, but some may argue that you are “adding to the Bible.” How do you respond to these naysayers?

I write fiction. But because my stories are based on the unalterable truths of God’s Word, I feel a responsibility to accurately relate the details of Scripture. If I ever write something that conflicts with Scripture, it is an honest oversight (because there is only One flawless Author). That being said, let me share the reason I write BIBLICAL fiction. God’s Word is like the air I breathe. I need it. I love it. I’m passionate about it, and I long for others to experience its life-giving truth. As a pastor’s wife, I heard repeatedly, “I just don’t get anything out of reading my Bible.” Before my health issues, I used to teach Bible studies and offer the added information of a Scripture’s context, culture and setting. These human factors gave biblical passages life and breath to those listening. My goal in writing biblical fiction is NOT that folks read my books instead of Scripture. My goal is that Love Amid the Ashes will send readers back to their Bibles to check out what God’s Word says to them about these living, breathing, suffering, redeemed characters.

My mother also suffers from fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue as well as a host of other physical ailments.  How did your illness contribute to your understand of Job’s (and Dinah’s) suffering?

I think our understanding of Scripture deepens when we identify with the biblical character we’re reading about. I had studied the Book of Job several years ago, while I was in the throes of my early diagnoses, feeling alone, betrayed, unloved by God. Job’s words have a rawness about them that get to the heart of the most desperate of hearts. Later, when I had worked through much of my own emotion, I needed the Lord’s guidance as my family worked through their adjustment to my illnesses. Part of the reason I wrote this book from the perspective of the women in Job’s life was because I wanted people to understand the emotional strain on caregivers, how it feels to watch someone so vibrant and capable dwindle to such a level of dependence. However, writing after I’d worked through many of the emotions of my illness enabled me to really celebrate the redemption that comes when God reveals Himself in a big way.

The story of Job is very important to you personally because you learned through your own struggles that Job didn’t learn why he suffered, but he learned who God is in the midst of his suffering.  How had the same been true for you?

Oh, this one I must blame on my critique partners. Meg and Velynn are—well—graciously ruthless. Is that possible? They love me into complete disclosure. They won’t let me submit a manuscript until I have bled on the page. The first draft of Love Amid the Ashes was very clinical and precise in its analysis of Job’s suffering, whining and redemption. But, as my partners gently pointed out, I hadn’t experienced God with my character, Job. It had been years since I’d dealt with the pain and disappointment of chronic illness. Years since I’d grieved the life changes necessary due to lack of energy, daily migraines, constant pain. I didn’t want to feel again what Job experienced. I just wanted to write about him and what God showed him. Nope. Doesn’t work that way. So, for a couple of weeks, God and I got real honest about suffering. I discovered that He hadn’t changed, but I had. My tantrum didn’t last quite as long this time, and He opened the same warm arms to embrace me. My accusations weren’t quite as loud, and He uttered the same quiet assurances to soothe me. Sometimes, you just gotta roll up your sleeves and dive in. He’s waiting. I still whine some. I still yell at Him some. But all-in-all, He overwhelms me with His presence and love; and I remember WHO He is…and the other stuff fades.

Now, onto a lighter question, tell me about a hilarious embarrassing incident.  Come on, we’re all human, after all!

Oh, I don’t have trouble sharing an embarrassing incident, just deciding WHICH embarrassing incident to share! Many years ago, I sang in a church choir next to a college student majoring in Voice Performance. She was fabulous! High soprano, vocal chords like an angel…which made me sound spectacular since I stood by her. I was feeling pretty good about hitting the high notes with her, and even more confident when the director stationed the two of us next to the microphone during our Easter cantata. At the most crucial moment of the musical, the soloist held her last note, and my singing buddy and I hit that ultra high C and held it…until I belched. The sound, of course, was amplified through the sound system, and my high C partner and I hid behind our music folders, giggling through the rest of the performance. The worst part of the whole thing was that I had prayed before the performance, “Lord, I’m feeling a little proud of my voice. Keep me humble, Lord. Don’t let me become arrogant.” I’ve never prayed that prayer again before any public event.

Because Mesu Andrews is such a lovely woman, dash to her website (MesuAndrews.com) for all sorts of goodies, including a preview of the first chapter of Love Amid the Ashes as well as a Bible study and discussion questions for the book.  You can even sign up for Mesu’s free weekly e-devotionals!

Take 5 with author Liz Curtis Higgs

16 Mar

Liz Curtis Higgs is my favorite former bad girl.  Author of the Bad Girls of the Bible series as well as a slew of other award-winning books, Liz just released her latest historical novel, Mine Is the Night (read review), which completes the tale that began with Here Burns My Candle.  Both novels take the book of Ruth and transplant it in 18th century Scotland.  The result is a series that is both breathtaking in its historical detail and swoon-worthy in its classic romance.   I adore Liz—her personality, her writing, her zeal for God’s Word—and am beyond excited to interview her for the first time on Backseat Writer.

You have a special gift for retelling stories of the Bible, yet leaving the message intact.  When did you first discover you were a storyteller?

Almost as soon as I started reading, I started writing little stories on paper for my family and friends. My first go at a novel came at age ten. Yes, I still have it, and yes, it’s laughable! But when I hold it in my hands I remember that young girl who dreamed of writing real novels someday. I kept that dream under wraps for many years, through high school and college, through my radio career and the early years of my speaking career. In the mid-90s I finally confessed to a writing friend, “I believe God is calling me to write fiction,” then waited for her to laugh. Instead she said, “Why not? You’re a natural storyteller.” Her kind words gave me the courage I needed for the next step: showing an editor my work. Thank the Lord she didn’t laugh either! I wrote two contemporary novels and a novella before turning to historical fiction in 2003 with Thorn in My Heart.

I read that the story of Ruth, the basis for Mine Is the Night, has been a longtime favorite of yours.  What do you love about this story?

It’s a romance for the ages, one that goes far beyond girl-meets-boy. A young woman leaves behind her pagan gods to follow the God of Israel, then leaves behind her family to follow her bitter, broken mother-in-law, and finally leaves behind her widow’s weeds to marry a man who is older than she, yet wise in the things of God. It’s the ultimate rags-to-riches, loss-to-redemption, sorrow-to-celebration story. Glorious! By moving Ruth and Naomi’s journey to eighteenth-century Scotland, I hoped I might help readers look at their story afresh and discover what God might be saying to us about his loving-kindness and mercy.

What captivates you about Scotland, where so many of your tales find their setting?

The land itself is beautifully green and rolling in the Lowlands, then strikingly barren and majestic in the Highlands. History is everywhere you turn in Scotland, with castles and cottages dotting the landscape. Traditions are woven into their lives like a thick tapestry. And faith runs through the backbone of Scotland like the Great Glen itself. It’s simply a magical place. I’ve been there a dozen times and cannot wait to return.

Your Bad Girls of the Bible books have greatly impacted my life and the way I look at the Bible.  How has sharing parts of your own story through your writing and speaking helped others? (And maybe even helped to heal you!)

It took ten years of sharing my Former Bad Girl story from the platform before I had the courage to share it on the pages of my first book, One Size Fits All and Other Fables, released in 1993 and now long out of print. So my healing was already well underway when I wrote Bad Girls of the Bible in 1999, praying I might help other women break free from the mistakes of their past and embrace the grace that God offers. Jesus loved hanging around with Bad Girls, with prostitutes, with those who were unclean, unwelcome, unseen. What a Savior! It’s been thrilling—and humbling—to watch God work in the lives of our sisters through the Bad Girls of the Bible series.

When was the last time you laughed out loud in a very unladylike fashion?

I do that on a daily basis! Though I have to say, this little story that arrived in my morning email made me LOL: A woman was in the bathroom, putting on her makeup under the watchful eyes of her young granddaughter. After the woman applied her lipstick and started to leave, the little girl said, “But Grandma, you forgot to kiss the toilet paper good-bye!” Love it.

For more information on Liz Curtis Higgs, please visit her online at LizCurtisHiggs.com.  She’s also on Facebook and Twitter.  Everyone needs a little Lizzie in her life!

Don’t forget to read Backseat Writer’s review of Mine Is the Night.

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.

Take 5 with musician Holly Starr

1 Mar

Holly Starr is one of young musicians prepped to usher in a new generation of music to the Christian music scene.  Her rich vocals, catchy lyrics, and fresh sound endear the songstress to not only teens desperately searching for good role models, but older listeners who enjoy her mature sound and purpose. Holly was kind enough to take time out of her busy schedule to talk about her new album, Tapestry.

When people see Holly Starr perform or listen to your album, what message do you want listeners to hear?

I am very passionate about viewing things in light of relationship. I desire for people to come to a concert, or listen to the album and say “Hey–I can really relate with you.” For them to hear the reality of good and bad in my life through music is exactly what I want them to hear. We all have it–those who believe in Christ and those who don’t. It’s how
those of us who do believe in Christ respond to those situations through
our real life, that matters. From those places (good and bad) is where I
write from, letting transparency and honesty be the basis.

Tapestry is your second studio album.  What is the main theme running
through the album?

It’s been a really crazy couple years of being humbled over and over by
God’s ultimate control and power, yet at the same time deep struggle with
recognizing and seeing sin in my life. Surrender and sin/struggle is
definitely a running theme. The combination of my horizontal life and the
struggle to stay focused on Him vertically has come together to create this
“Tapestry”. 🙂

How did growing up on a farm prepare you for life as a recording
artist?

Exactly that! 🙂 Living on a fourth generation farm has taught me so many
lessons. Having so much family history in farming has taught me
appreciation for the people who lived and worked before I was alive, as
well as willingness to persevere through seasons. My grandpa and dad are
very hard working men who have taught me to “get the job finished, and do
it right.” Hard work, appreciation, patience, perseverance, as well as
business handling and working with several people all at once are a few of
the many things God has taught me through the farm in preparation for the
music industry. They strangely have a lot in common! 🙂

What is one of your most personal songs on Tapestry?  Please share how
you came to write the song! (You can pick more than one!)

“I Love You Anyway” was written after a very close friend of mine became
almost like an enemy. It got so bad to the point that my community was
telling my family to get a restraining order on my friend. I wrote this
song while in the middle of that struggle, because I was overwhelmed with a
supernatural care and love for her, despite the situation. God has used
that song to teach me about his unconditional love, regardless of my sin.
It still blows me away today as much as it did when I first started
realizing that!!

“I’ll Watch You Dance” was written right as I began making trips to
Nashville and getting involved more there. It was a very difficult time for
me as I was struggling to protect the gift God gave me from being directed
in the wrong way. It was a time of learning deep trust and patience.
Because I am from a small community where the music industry isn’t seen at
all, I knew few people and understood nothing. All I knew were my songs,
and the doors God was opening– and that he was asking me to trust Him
deeper.

You began writing songs for your youth group.  What
advice/encouragement do you have for budding songwriters out there?

Stay in the word. Pray. Pursue Christ. As you chew on scripture, let your
songs come from the things God reveals in your real life through that
process.

Take 5 with singer/songwriter Andrew Peterson

7 Oct

Counting the Stars, Andrew Peterson’s latest album, is a work of beauty.  Despite being a vastly popular album, Peterson makes the listener feel as if he or she is sitting in a quiet little coffeehouse enjoying the music of a guy who is too good to be playing the venue.  A quality singer/songwriter who has been just under the limelight for the past 10 years, Peterson’s Counting the Stars is his best album yet…or so I hear since I’ve only been recently introduced to Peterson’s work.  Andrew Peterson was kind enough to Take 5 with Backseat Writer.

When listening to Counting the Stars, I can’t help but feeling like I’m sitting with an old friend as he plays his folksy guitar (especially with the song “Many Roads”).  I love that you have the connection with your audience—how is this an important element of your music?

My favorite part about music is not the music but the connection it creates. As much as I love a pretty guitar part or a good lyric, the real excitement for me happens when I get to share it with someone. Walt Wangerin said that art isn’t art until it’s shared. There has to be an exchange. That’s where the rubber meets the road.

Counting the Stars is hands-down one of my favorite album titles ever.  And my favorite song on your new album is, uh, I can’t pick on.  What should my favorite song be?

Oh, I don’t know. I like all of them or they wouldn’t be on the record. I’m just glad you’re listening. Depending on the day, I like “The Reckoning” best.

(Amy’s note: Since asking the question, I have decided that “The Reckoning is also my favorite song!)

“Dancing in the Minefields” is such a sweet and romantic song.  How did your marriage inspire this song?

It was inspired by an argument I got in with my wife right after our 15th wedding anniversary. It was my way of making up. It’s a reminder to me and to Jamie that we made a promise and we’re in this for the long haul. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Counting the Stars is my first Andrew Peterson album.  Now that I’m a mega-fan, what other albums do I need to own and why?

Aw, shucks. Thanks! I think the right way to do it if you’re just discovering an artist is to buy albums in reverse order. It’s fun to see their progression, not just in the way they sound, but in the things they’re singing about. That means your next record is Resurrection Letters, Vol. II, followed by The Far Country. Oh, and you should probably buy eighty-seven copies of each.

When was the last time you laughed so hard you cried?  And what was so dang funny?

Ooh, that’s an easy one. Just last night after the show, “The Captains Courageous” (Ben Shive and Andy Gullahorn) and I watched one of Brian Regan’s comedy shows on Netflix and laughed till it hurt. The dude is funny.

For more information on Andrew Peterson, visit him online at Andrew-Peterson.com, and also check out his grassroots literary and music community, The Rabbit Room.

Take 5 with Rend Collective Experiment

28 Sep

Rend Collective Experiment is a truly unique conglomeration of musicians—15 band members in all!  Hailing from Bangor, Ireland, the band has a new way of making music—in a community of musical friends and it works.  In fact, not only does it work, Rend Collective’s debut album, The Organic Family Hymnal is hailed by critics and worship leaders like David Crowder and Chris Tomlin as brilliant.  And it’s finally being released in North America—today, September 28!

Will Herron, on of the band’s two lead vocalists, was kind enough to Take 5 with Backseat Writer in between bringing “some washing off the line as it had started to rain pretty heavily!”  Don’t you love how his Irish accent comes through, even in an interview?  By the way, Herron also plays electric guitar, mandolin, and once ploughed 1500 acres of land in a John Deere tractor.   How’s that for eclectic?

I love the whole concept of Rend Collective Experiment! A lot of people might find it quirky that you have 15 members in your group. How does that add to the uniqueness of the music you produce?

There are actually four main writers in the band and then we have others in the collective who come on board in the creative process. I think this context can often produce stronger songs lyrically and musically than if we were writing individually. I wouldn’t say we pursue something unique but rather we write lyrics and music we enjoy.

Your sound is so different than the same ol’ worship music. How did you come to develop this unique worship sound?

Each of us listens to a broad range of music, which has a positive influence in terms of creative writing. It also naturally shapes the music and lyrics we produce. Again, we don’t necessarily pursue something unique but we write songs we can relate to and enjoy.

With an album as thoughtful as The Organic Family Hymnal I cannot pick a favourite song. What are a couple songs that are particularly meaningful to you?

I think each of the songs off of the album are particularly meaningful in one way or another. Some were written out of hardship, some were written as a response to God’s movement in our lives and others are a cry for things to come. The songs resonate with what is at the core of our hearts and so each carry a weight of meaning in their own right.

When someone hears Rend Collective Experiment, what is it that you are trying to impress on his or her heart?

Our approach is that of cooperation and friendship, which is exactly what Christ has called us to. We want to show people that we are a collective of people all journeying with God and each other and that we are not “special people on a stage.” Each member of the body of Christ is as crucial as the next and we hope to encourage the Church to its full potential.

Tell me something interesting about your hometown of Bangor in Northern Ireland

Bangor was planted around a monastery in 500AD. In this Abbey they prayed 24/7 for 100 years and trained all the missionaries that evangelized Europe at the time.

For more information on Rend Collective Experiment, visit them online at RendCollectiveExperiment.com.

Take 5 with Dutton’s Logan Walter

14 Sep

Logan Walter, lead worshipper and songwriter for the worship band Dutton, is a diehard sports fan.  In fact, he tells me that because he’s been cursed by his “inability to hit a left-handed slider.” So instead of playing baseball in college, he pursued music.  But it was all in God’s plan.  Really. Because not only has Dutton led worship at David Crowder’s University Baptist Church (UBC) when the band was out of town, they also released their sophomore album, All Things Fade last year.

Logan took time out from watching his favorite Dallas-area sports teams to “Take 5” with Backseat Writer.  But I suspect, he still had the game on in the background.

I read that Dutton got its start as the worship band at David Crowder’s church, University Baptist Church (UBC) in Waco, TX.  How did the band come together at UBC?

David Crowder led worship for my Sunday night Bible study when I was in youth group at First Baptist Church of Woodway.  He knew that I was leading worship on Wednesday nights at Woodway, and he knew of my Dad’s band, Gabriel, from years past.  So, when my Dad asked if his son could tag along for a Crowder Band trip one summer, David thought that was a reasonable idea.  So I hopped in the Crowder band suburban (this was before the tour bus days) and observed everything Crowder did for one week.  From this experience, Crowder gained enough confidence in me to ask if I could lead in his absence at UBC.  I just needed to find musicians who could play with me.  From this need, Dutton was born.

The band released its second album, All Things Fade, last year.  Tell me, why did you choose to title the album, “All Things Fade”?

I grew up going to a church camp called “Sondays” with my youth group.  Chris Tomlin would lead every year, and the last summer that I went as a student, my youth minister brought out a new guy named Matt Chandler to preach.  When Tomlin introduced Chandler as “my favorite speaker in the world,” my ears perked up. The message came from Ecclesiastes and focused on the temporary nature of everything in this life. Nothing lasts. It will all be gone soon. And three generations from now, no one will remember who we are, not even our descendants (ecc 1:11).  For this reason, Matt challenged to dwell on our own death daily and pour everything we have into our eternal God.  This message never left me and inspired the title track to our album “All Things Fade.” Because when all things fade away, our God remains a light of hope in the darkest place.

Since you’re a worship band, a lot of your music is meant to be played live.  What are a couple of songs that are the most fun to play at a live show?

We have a rocking gospel & blues song called “Oh What a Joy,” which lends itself towards crowd participation. I have them repeat the title line “Oh what a joy” and throw their hands in their air like a gospel choir.  We also have a reggae song called “Joyful.”  Before we play it, I explain to the audience that reggae music is “all about the love,” then we all put our arms around each other and sing a love song to God.  At different points in the song, the crowd is repeating certain lines and waving their arms around like a bunch of undignified worshippers. It is good clean fun. This video shows us in crowd participation mode: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i92kLUKub30

What do you think is one of the most misunderstood concepts about worship?

Most worshippers today are not aware that one third of the Psalms are songs of lament. I can see how a non-church goer could walk into a Sunday morning service and, based on the songs we sing, think that everybody is always happy and oblivious to life’s trials.  We are called to cry out to God in our pain. On the cross, Jesus quoted Psalm 22:1, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”  But even in the Psalms of lament, we find a sense of trust in God’s goodness. Psalm 69:29 says, “I am in pain and distress,” and just one verse later, the Psalmist says, “I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving.”  This was the inspiration for our song “You are Good,” which says “You are good when blessings are falling all around me, good when troubles arise. You are good when I feel an overflow of mercy, good when my cup is dry.”

Who is the quirkiest member of Dutton and why? (Or maybe you’re all quirky…tell me why!!!)

Josh, our bass player, wins the band award for most quirks, and it’s not even close.  You should see this guy wash his hands.  You’d think he was preparing to perform surgery in every gas station bathroom.  Many nights, to compensate for the damage done by all that scrubbing, he falls asleep wearing lotion-filled gloves.  I’m not kidding, but it should be noted that Josh puts even more dedication into his bass playing, which has lifted him to a studio musician level of professionalism.

For more information on Dutton, visit the band online at duttonband.com. You can also fan the band on Facebook (facebook.com/duttonband) and follow their adventures on Twitter (twitter.com/duttonband).

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