Tag Archives: caedmon’s call

Derek Webb:: The Cure for Stockholm Syndrome

1 Sep

If you thought Derek Webb was controversial before, you should have seen Stockholm Syndrome’s pre-release showdown.  Would INO Records release his song “What Matters Most” even though it contained profanity?  Would Derek Webb allow the album to be released without the song (or the song without the swear words)?  As it so happened, a compromise was reached—INO kept the song off Stockholm Syndrome and gave Webb exclusive rights to distribute the song as he saw fit.

Of course, Webb doesn’t fault INO for their decision—it was just business, not personal.  “INO Records—it’s a great record label.  You might be tempted to consider them a core Christian record label because all the music they distribute is explicitly Christian”, says Webb.  But, he adds, it’s a company owned by Sony.  If his song didn’t fit the mold, then it was a smart business practice not to release it.

A savvy businessman himself, Webb has been giving away his new album, Stockholm Syndrome, for weeks through a USB drive delivery taking place in over 15 major U.S. cities, plus fans could listen to the recording on his website.  Not only that, he is co-founder of NoiseTrade, a website devoted to the distribution of music to fans.  For a monetary donation or spreading the word to five friends through e-mail, listeners can download tracks and even full albums from their favorite artists, some popular and others up-and-coming.  And it works—in less than a year the site garnered 1.28 million album downloads.  Webb’s innovative methods are discussed in the upcoming book, Free: The Future of a Radical Price by WIRED Editor-in-Chief Chris Anderson.

A former member of the award-winning band, Caedmon’s Call, Derek Webb released his first solo album, She Must and Shall Go Free, in 1999.  The Americana project was followed by I See Things Upside Down, an experimental rock record.  Next up was Mockingbird defined by Webb as “advanced orchestrated acoustic” and finally, The Ringing Bell, which was purely rock and roll.  Webb’s latest project, The Stockholm Syndrome, seems to fall into a category all its own—inorganic.

“I think anyone who’s been listening for a long time might have been initially surprised by the sound of the record,” unblushingly admits Webb.  However, by carefully following the discography, Webb believes that long-time fans will “get” it.  While the previous albums have been laden with acoustic and electric guitars (the only similarity Webb says run through all his albums), Stockholm Syndrome relies on electronic sounds and funky beats, a definite departure from his traditionally folk roots.

Of course, Webb doesn’t see it like that, “I initially got into folk music because of the protest songs of the 60’s and 70’s, like Joan Baez, Woodie Guthrie, Pete Seger, Bob Dylan.  I was really attracted to the language they were using and the way they were using songs [to communicate a message].” Webb was impressed by how folk artists served as agents of change that upset the status quo.  However, today’s acoustic music is a far cry from its roots.

“I traced the thread of folk music, you know, the music of the people and I don’t really find it in acoustic music anymore; I find it in urban music,” shares Webb.  “I think today’s folk music is hip hop.  I think that’s where you find the real stories of the people and real issues being addressed in an unfiltered way.”  Webb started to listen to a lot of hip hop music and it “blew his mind”.  He was attracted to the way these artists used sounds, samples, and their computers to “repurpose old music.”  The possibilities were endless when an artist used a laptop to make sounds. Webb says, “You can make any sound you hear in your head.”

Therefore, when it came time to produce a new album, Webb couldn’t help but incorporate these inorganic elements onto Stockholm Syndrome, which is full of heavy beats and synthesized sounds.  The album’s topics—social injustices, government corruption, and prejudice—are classic Webb.  Songs such as “Jena & Jimmy,” “Cobra Con,” and “Black Eye” are lyrically spot-on with what long-time fans are familiar, even with Webb’s new, or rather evolving sound.

“I’ve never made two records the same, never made two a like.  Each one is a little different from the others,” states Webb, who still considers himself a folk artist.  He explains, “Folk music isn’t really a style; it’s more of an approach.”  Therefore, Webb believes he must tell the stories of his culture, whether people like it or not.

“I’m only doing my job, which as an artist is to look at the world and tell you what I see,” says Webb, who adds, “I don’t want anyone to make the mistake of taking anything I say as truth because I don’t claim that.  If there’s anybody making secular music, it’s me.”

It’s not that Webb has given up on his Christian faith; it’s just that his job is to write songs, not minister to the masses, though sometimes the two joyfully collide.  “This isn’t ministry for me; it’s what I do for money.  I love it.  It’s a great job.  Do I look for ministry opportunities in my job?  Yes, I do, just like anybody else.  But I don’t do it for ministry.  Ministry is something I do in my neighborhood, in my church, and with different organizations that I work with.  I’m just looking at the world and telling you what I see.”

And sometimes what Webb sees is heart-breaking.  Citing a study from Dan Kinnaman’s book, UnChristian, Webb shares a disturbing statistic—90% of non-Christians think of Christians as “gay haters.”  “We should not be known for what we hate and what we’re against.  We should be known for what we’re for and what we love,” shares an impassioned Webb.  When asked about the hot button topic of homosexuality, Webb says that with every generation there are a handful of issues that get inflated, and for this generation, our battle is homosexuality.  In the past, he says, we’ve struggled with race issues, sexuality, and women’s equality.

“You can still see the implications of history today,” he shares.  “Even though on paper we’re all equal, there’s nothing self evident about it.  Even to this day, there’s still a lot of racism, a lot of sexism, which has nothing to do with sexual orientation.  It just has to do with white men feeling superior.  White men have always felt superior.”  He pauses and then adds, “Straight white men.  There are a lot of us who feel like combating the idea.  I don’t feel like straight white men are superior.”

The key to overturning the status quo, Webb says, is to go directly back to the words of Jesus, observe how He loved others, and ask God to show us how to love people.  “We have to remember that Jesus was ultimately hated and murdered, not because He took a radical stand on moralism against sinners, but because He loved sinners so radically that it completely disrupted the world of the arrogant [religious] leadership, who could not make sense of it.”  Webb says that we as Christians should have similar reputations—to show love to the most sinful, the most despicable, and the most complicated of people.

But don’t make Derek Webb a poster boy for any school of thought or movement, because he simply won’t accept it.  “I don’t want to be known for a particular brand of theology.  I don’t want to get tagged with that.  It doesn’t help me in any way to do my job and ultimately connect with whoever I can.”  The elusive artist adds, “My whole career is a cycle of self-sabotage. I’m always trying to be careful to not let anyone like me too much.”  Almost a contradiction for an artist who wants to share his art with the world.  But then again, that artist is Derek Webb and he tends to see things upside down.

For more information on Derek Webb, check out his website and MySpace, friend him on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter.  And don’t forget to pick up your copy of Stockholm Syndrome!

Take 5 with Randall Goodgame

11 Mar

Let me just be honest here—Randall Goodgame’s Bluebird EP got lost under a pile of Christmas presents, seasonal depression, and site changes. Randall Goodgame is an artist that should never be lost, but is a joy to discover.  From his work as a songwriter for artists such as Caedmon’s Call and Andrew Peterson, to his solo work, Goodgame’s easy vocals and melodies flow effortlessly.  Bluebird is a bittersweet mixture of upbeat songs like the title track “Bluebird” and mellow (yet lyrically strong) songs like “California” and “All the Years.”  To offer more perspective on his album, music, and life, Randall agreed to “Take 5” with Backseat Writer.

*While listeners may not be entirely familiar with your name, they are probably familiar with some of your other work, including the songs you crafted for Caedmon’s Call and Andrew Peterson.  What’s it like to hear other artists performing your work?

First, I love those people, so creating with them or for them brings me a deep sense of joy, just because of our relationship.  But artistically, seeing songs fleshed out in ways I’d never thought of has really grown and stretched me.  I’m so thankful for that.

* How did a song about a little bird become the title track for the whole album?

Well, the whole record is about broken relationships and longing for the time when they will be restored.  The song “Bluebird” still has some hope left in it for today.  That’s how I’d like to live.

*I love the solid piano melodies on this album, especially in the reflective song “All the Years.”  What’s the story behind this song?

Again, anyone who is honest will express deep grief at their capacity to love someone else well.  Relationships are hard, and life is hard, but you can’t give up.  That’s what is going on in “All The Years.”

*Besides being a husband, father, songwriter, and many other things, you have also been open about your struggles with ADHD on your blog. I appreciate your openness about what can sometimes be considered a taboo issue.  How has talking about your experiences with ADHD been helpful to others?

Honestly, so far, talking about it hasn’t made much of a stir.  Most folks I know that struggle with it are reluctant to talk about it because it is difficult to gauge.  It acts differently for different folks.  So, it’s not like talking about the flu, which people can relate to.  It’s like saying your depth perception is a little off.  Well, by how much?  And what kind of a difference does that make in your life, really?  And, it is difficult and expensive to medicate.  I’m off my meds right now, and I’m not sure I’ll go back on them.  So, I can understand there not being a big rush to talk about it.

*I know you have a seven year-old daughter and a wife with an amazing first name (Amy’s of the world unite!), but you are also seeking to add to the Goodgame family.  Would you mind sharing a bit about your adoption plans?

Actually, my daughter Livi is now 8 years old, and Jonah is 5.  And yes, we are in process to adopt from Ethiopia in 2009.  We began the conversation about adoption in 2007, and are more excited than ever about going over and getting our kids. The most we can say is that we are sure we have no idea what we are getting into, but that this is where God has led us.  Crazy.

For more information on Randall Goodgame visit him online at randallgoodgame.com or myspace.com/randallgoodgame.

Amy’s Favorite Things (Take that, Oprah!)

13 Dec

By Amy Sondova Every year, Oprah Winfrey features a few of her favorite things on her daytime talk show (“Oprah’s Favorite Things“) and then adorns the audience with each and every one of her favorite things.  Well, I’m not Oprah, and therefore, cannot give all Backseat Writer’s readers samples of everything that I adore.  But I can tell you where to get ‘em.   Without further adieu, I bring you “Amy’s Favorite Things,” which I hope will help you as you finish shopping foryour favorite people this holiday season (and beyond.   These are timeless suggestions).

Altered Art Charm from TickleMePinkBoutique on Etsy.com

Altered Art Charm from TickleMePinkBoutique on Etsy.com

*Etsy.com—Have you visited this site?  It’s a entire craft show right on your computer screen with everything from Scrabble tile pendants to handcrafted shoes!  There are a plethora of cool things for guys and gals alike.  Don’t believe me, guys?  Check out some of the screen printed messenger bags and t-shirts.  There’s something for everyone, and unique is the bottom line.

*Music—Every year almost everyone on my Christmas list can expect to get a CD or two.  This year there are a few artists who are hot on my list—debut artist Josh Wilson and music veteran Bebo Norman.  Besides being two of the nicest and most open guys I’ve ever interviewed, they’re also great singer/songwriters who released albums this year.  Bebo Norman’s self-titled release, Josh Wilson’s Trying to Fit the Ocean in a Cup, and Jon Foreman’s Limbs and Branches are must-haves!  But perhaps you’re looking for something a little rockier, then look no further than Seabird’s ‘Til We See the Shore or This Beautiful Republic’s sophomore album, Perceptions.   If you want to support indie artists, then get lost in the vocals of Tara Leigh Cobble’s Playing Favorites or Justin McRoberts’ latest project, Deconstruction.  And here are a few more recommendations: Narrow Stairs – Death Cab For Cutie; What If We – Brandon Heath; The Nashville EP and the Bee Sides – Relient K;  Opposite Way – Leeland;  With Arrows, With Poise – The Myriad;  anything by Caedmon’s Call, Fernando Ortega, Phil Keaggy.

Limbs and Branches - Jon Foreman

Limbs and Branches - Jon Foreman

*Sock Monkeys & socks—Is it just me or are you always running out of socks, too?  Whether getting lost in the wash, stolen by a shih tzu who shall remain nameless (Maddy!), or developing ginormous holes, pairs of socks seem to lose their mate after a month or two.  Therefore, I wear a lot of mismatched socks–argyle, plaid, and all patterns funky are worn together and I become a candidate for “What Not to Wear”.  Besides becoming a fashion mishap, there are are only things to do with those single socks.  You could make sock

monkeys, of course! You don’t even have to limit yourself to monkeys, there are patterns for all kinds of creatures online (sock monster, sock owl).  Then you can sell your creations at etsy.com.  Or you could just buy a conventional sock monkey at sockmonkey.com.

*Digital Cameras—The first time I got my hands on a digital camera, I took pictures of everything in sight, and I haven’t stopped.  My first pictures weren’t that great; then again, my camera wasn’t that great.  Yet I treasure the images of my grandmother’s last Christmas with our family.  Buy yourself a camera to capture the moments that truly matter, and then buy one for someone else.  Check around for the best prices and give yourself a gift that goes far beyond an electronic device.  I highly recommend Canon cameras, but if you want to go a little cheaper, Olympus makes great cameras as well.

*Anything handcrafted by you—Maybe you’re not into making sock monkeys, but there are tons of other projects in which to immerse yourself.  Try your hand at crocheting or knitting (you can even use a knitting loom like the Knifty Knitter) and make everyone scarves, hats, and SOCKS!  (See what a valuable gift socks can be?)  You could paint a thoughtful picture or make a collage.  If you’re not crafty, melt chocolate wafers and dip some pretzels; chocolate-covered pretzels make great gifts!  If all else fails, just make your dad an ashtray like you did in kindergarten—he’ll still think it’s cute (hopefully!)

Psych - Season 2

Psych - Season 2

*Amazon.com—Free shipping on orders over $25 and books, music, and DVD’s galore.  Every year Amazon is adding to its inventory.  I check back every day to see what’s on sale so I can nab Psych Seasons 1 & 2, Bones Seasons 1-3, books like The Inner Voice of Love by Henri Nouwen, The Jesus I Never Knew by Philip Yancey, the chick-lit novels of my fave fictionista, Christa Banister and those aforementioned CD’s at discounted prices.

*Ebay.com—Whatever you can’t find on Amazon.com, you can find on Ebay.  There are literally millions of treasures on this site from low, low prices on video games to truly bizarre items like vintage hand towels.  But whatever you’re looking for, you can probably find it on Ebay.  You can also find a bunch of stuff you weren’t looking for, too.

*Michael’s, A.C. Moore, Joann’s—Craft stores are slashing their prices, and signing up for their e-mail newsletters allows customers to get even more coupons (especially if you don’t get them in your local newspaper).  Remember that camera I told you to buy?  You can get beautiful frames for those pics on sale at any of these stores for 40-50% off during the holiday season.  Plus, custom framing is 60% off (I say buy a frame and do-it-yourself!)  Not only that, but you can find deals on Christmas décor, craft kits for the kids, and nice gifts like candle holders and scented candles for your co-workers.  Even if you aren’t crafty, craft stores are a great place to shop for gifts.

Even though Black Friday has come and gone, you can still save money and give great presents to your loved ones…and those people you don’t really like that you still have to buy for.  We know Christmas isn’t all about the presents, but if you’re like me, you sure do like to get them (hey, I’m being honest here).  Plus, great presents show cleverness and creativity that has little to do with price and everything to do with thoughtfulness.  Our mere trinkets can never compare to the gift of God’s Son wrapped in humanity, so as we give to one another let us remember the greatest gift that mankind was ever given.

Click here to see all my my favorite things!

Concert Review :: Derek Webb

25 Aug

By Amy Sondova While my list of favorite bands and artists grows ever longer, there is one man who has remained at the top since his solo album debut in 2003—that man is Derek Webb. She Must and Shall Go Free rocked my sensibilities about what should and should not be said in songs by a Christian singer, especially one who had been in Caedmon’s Call. However, the more I listened to songs like “Wedding Dress” (which uses the word “whore”) and “Beloved” and the title track, the more I thought, “I love this!” The music started a change in me.

Since 2003, Derek’s other albums—I See Things Upside Down, Mockingbird, and his latest, The Ringing Bell—have been in permanent music rotation. To me, this guy is a musical genius right up there with Bob Dylan and Reese Roper (Five Iron Frenzy, Brave Saint Saturn, Roper). So naturally, I wanted to see him perform live to drink in the whole picture. But every time I planned to see Derek Webb, there was a problem—the last which caused me to fly to Atlanta just to see a sold-out show that Derek played with his wife, Sandra McCracken. OK, so I was actually there for a youth conference, but I did twist my ankle walking back to the car after learning I wouldn’t see Derek yet again.

Perusing Derek Webb’s website, I made a startling discovery! Derek would be playing only 40 minutes away at Calvary Church. It was a sign! My time had finally come! But I didn’t believe I would really get to see him until I entered the doors of the church and heard Derek’s vocals resonating from behind closed doors. Apparently, he was giving the “postmodern” church service a taste of what was to come an hour later.

Low-key and dimly lit, the concert started a little after 8 PM with an opening performance by Derek’s friend, Joe Bassett. Finally, Derek took the stage in his typical white shirt/blue jeans ensemble. Singing at least one song from every album, he’s just as powerful in person as he is on his recordings. His set included “Nobody Loves Me,” “Love Is Not Against the Law,” “I Hate Everything (But You),” “I Wanna Marry You All Over Again,” “Savior on Capitol Hill” and one of my personal favorites, “Wedding Dress.”

Before performing “Name,” Derek mentioned that the song was the closet thing he’s ever had to a hit since starting his solo career. Featured on “Grey’s Anatomy,” the song was over a “two and a half minute montage of fornicating adulterers,” explained Derek with a slight hint of sarcastic wit. The crowd laughed nervously and Derek dived into his song. Talking about everything from the upcoming election to his wife, Derek wasn’t particularly loquacious, but he was charming as he picked songs on a whim.

For an hour, an audience was invited to depart from the worries of the world and get lost in songs about rethinking and reshaping the world. Derek made it sound not only believable, but encouraged that it was possible for us to help others experience God’s peace (shalom) on earth.

In fact, Derek’s so committed to social justice, easing the burden of the poor, and other causes, that he’s joining forces with Sara Groves, Brandon Heath, Sandra McCracken, and Charlie Peacock for the Art*Music*Justice Tour this fall. For more information, visit the tour’s site and make sure you get the chance to catch a show. Because as Brandon Heath said in a recent interview (read here), “Besides the fact that Derek Webb’s on it, Sandra McCracken, his wife, is on it, too. That’s the other reason you should go.” I agree wholeheartedly.

You should also check out Derek Webb’s other cause, NoiseTrade, a site that allows independent artists to freely disperse their music to listeners. By referring three friends to the site or donating an amount for an album, you can download an album from various artists including Derek Webb, Sandra McCracken, Sixpence None the Richer, and Alli Rogers.  You can also visit Derek’s fansite at DerekWebb.net (and, no, it’s not one of my secret sites on the side!)

I Wish I Was Beautiful

28 Jan

I wish I was beautiful. Breathtaking, traffic stopping, can-I-buy-you-a-drink beautiful. Not that I really go to bars and get drinks, but sending over a Diet Coke in a friendly dining establishment would work, too.

I’m not hideous or anything. I’m just, you know, me–freckles, flaws and all. The last time I stopped traffic, it was because I was crossing the street when the “Do Not Walk” sign was flashing (almost got run over, too) and the last time anyone honked at me was because I didn’t make a right turn on red due to the “Do Not Turn On Red” sign plastered to the traffic pole.

I may have felt beautiful once or twice. I definitely felt gorgeous when I want to the Winter Semi-Formal Dance my junior year in college. I had a great date, who bought me a beautiful wrist corsage, drove me in his BMW, and treated me like a lady. I asked him to go with me as a friend since I went to an all-women’s college. I mean, I could have waited for one of my classmates to ask me, but I don’t swing that way, though many of them did. It definitely freaked out my date to see girls dancing with girls cheek-to-cheek.

Sometimes I look back at pictures where I think I should have felt beautiful, and I just didn’t. A couple of times, I look at a picture of myself, usually one that’s not posed and unexpected and I think, just maybe, I’m beautiful. Or at least I can flicker within moments of beauty if the light hits me just right.

I’m trying to get over myself. I mean, does it really matter? I’ve listened to “Piece of Glass” by Caedmon’s Call (“Who are you that lies when you stare at my face, Telling me that I’m just a trace, Of the person I once was, Are you telling the truth or a lie, On you I just can’t rely, After all you’re just a piece of glass”) and “Beautiful You” (Beautiful you, all of the time, Jesus in you makes you shine, Beautiful You, Beautiful You) by Considering Lily so much, I could do a mean karaoke version of those tunes should the occasion ever arise. I’ve read Captivating, Falling In Love with Jesus, and a slew of other books that talk about biblical femininity and beauty, and yet I sigh when I look at the pictures of the authors on their bio page. They’re all beautiful.

Someone once told me that a woman at peace with herself is truly beautiful. My friend, Shannon, is like that. In her 50’s, she has piercing blue eyes, long flowing hair that’s brown highlighted in natural grays, and she’s tall and slender. Shannon is also one of the wisest, godliest women I have ever met. Whenever she talks, I want to soak up her words and etch them into my memory.

I spent time with her on her boat (Pacific Catalyst II) in October along with her husband and some friends and had many chances to seize upon her sagely wisdom. Shannon told me that she isn’t flirty and doesn’t use her feminine mystique to manipulate men. That’s how she’s earned respect in church circles, which largely remain a man’s world. The thing about Shannon is that she has no idea how dazzlingly beautiful she is.

I’ve noticed that a lot of truly beautiful people, ones who enchant me, don’t realize their true beauty. They just bounce through life like me, looking in the mirror, and singing the chorus to “Reflection” from Mulan. “Who is that girl I see, Staring straight back at me, When will my reflection show, Who I am inside” (see Mulan clip below).

I believe that all girls long to be beautiful. But even more they long to be beautiful on the inside and valued for their thoughts, gifts and talents. Yet a beautiful girl with amazing gifts and talents seems to get a leg up in the world of love and dating. Ordinary or even less-than-ideal girls only have personality to gauge the attention of the wandering male eye.

I wonder if I was really, really beautiful would I be married by now? Sometimes I think that what I perceive as my lack of physical beauty has held me back. Or that guys are just so repulsed by me they wouldn’t dare think of pursuing anything more than a friendship with me. I also ponder if I was a guy, then would I be married? Guys can be pretty unattractive and still hook up with a nice girl, who is usually easy on the eyes.

I’ve come to falsely believe the problem of my existence is that I’m not beautiful. True, beauty comes with its own problems. Beauty invites, and anything less than beautiful isn’t quite as inviting.

I know I should see myself as gorgeous because I was created in the image of God, but at the same time, it’s hard to think that way. It’s unnatural to women, I believe, because of the Fall. We lost the idea that we are beautiful and captivating. We don’t see that we are the image of God’s beauty, and in fact, we are often treated as being less than human by men throughout history and in some countries in the world today.

Besides, it’s not like Christian guys are any different. They all say they want a Proverbs 31 woman, yet many can’t even describe what a Proverbs 31 woman is in today’s culture. Yet Christian guys, committed Bible-reading Christian guys, still get goggly eyed over chicks in skimpy clothes. Not only do nice guys finish last, nice girls do, too. Maybe they could date each other.

I know that beauty is only skin deep and that character counts. I just need to let my inside shine out for all the world to see. I need to be a confident woman, a go-getter, full of enthusiasm, and content in my self-worth. That’s what guys want, I’m told, a chick who doesn’t care whether or not she’s a hottie, but one that is at peace with herself. That sounds really hard.

Still, I wish I could stop a guy dead in his tracks with one look. I wish I could get a guy across the room to buy me a Diet Coke. I wish I was what society generally accepts as “beautiful”, at least for one day.

Read follow-up post, “A Confident Woman”.

Here’s a clip of Mulan singing “Reflection” (vocals by Lea Salonga)

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