Tag Archives: the christian manifesto

Take 5 with Sarah Reeves

12 May

Self-proclaimed lover of hats and hair dye, singer Sarah Reeves is the quintessential teenager…with a record deal. Oozing genuine humility, Sarah’s as sweet as can be, and yet one she starts singing—her inhibitions are let loose on her debut album, Sweet Sweet Sound. The album’s title track has even been endorsed by teen star, Selena Gomez (“Wizards of Waverly Place”).  Not only did Sarah agree to do a Take 5, she also recorded an audio interview with me for The Christian Manifesto (available this Friday, May 15).

Because you are 19, you have a unique opportunity to speak to teens and young adults and be heard in a way that older musicians are not- how have you found this to be true?

I find it easy to relate to teenagers and young adults, because I’m in this with them. I face the same pressures and battles that they do. While we are all different and go through different obstacles in life, I believe that God has allowed me to face some of the many battles that young people face today to help them and encourage them. I have such a passion for my generation to find freedom in Jesus.

I know that Plumb’s Tiffany Lee has been guiding you through the music industry. What are one or two important things that she has impressed upon you from her experiences in the industry?

One of the most important things that she has taught me is to stay true to who I am. There is so much deceit in even the Christian world. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of popularity or fame. She tells me to not allow anyone altar or try to change who I am in Jesus and to always keep my eyes on Him.

On your MySpace page, you do a cover of “Lamb of God“, which is lovely. Do you plan on recording this on an upcoming release? Where can I get this song?

I had the honor to record this song for an Easter compilation called Raise up the Crown that came out in March of this year. You can find it in your local Christian store or on iTunes.

Of course, your original material is wonderful too. Tell me about one or two songs on your debut album, Sweet Sweet Sound that are particularly special to you.

One of my favorites is “Come Save”. A couple of years ago I started praying a prayer that has been wrecking my life. It is simply, God, give me your heart. Let me cry when you cry. Let me laugh when you laugh. I remember flipping through channels on my television one night and everything that I saw grieved my spirit. I went in my room and began weeping before the Lord and for the first time, I believe I felt His heart – how hurt He must feel over my sins and the sins of this world. He then lead me to the scripture 2 Chronicles 7:14 where it says, “If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways. Then I will hear from Heaven and will forgive their sin and I will heal their land.”

Now it’s time for a lighter question. Describe your favorite accessory, like your most comfortable pair of shoes or your favorite necklace, and tell me why it’s your favorite.

I love hats! Every time I see a cute hat, I can’t help but buy it. I also love wearing bright colorful accessories. I usually like to buy something simple then dress it up with accessories. It’s cheap, but fashionable!  =)


Take 5 with Abandon

28 Apr

I’ve never heard a band discovery story like Abandon’s so when I interviewed lead singer Josh Engler for The Christian Manifesto (Listen to “Profess Interview with Abandon”), I asked him to retell the story.  Sure enough, it was true.  EMI CMG Director of A&R Chris York heard Abandon rockin’ out while dining at a restaurant adjacent to the band’s venue.  One thing led to another and Abandon released their self-titled EP (Forefront) on April 21.  Hailed as U2-meets-The Killers, Abandon’s style of alterna-rock is ripping up reviewers and music fans alike.  And after doing an audio interview with me, Josh still agreed to “Take 5” with Backseat Writer…what a guy!

Since you guys are releasing your first album, I need to get to know you a bit.  What do the members of Abandon do for fun?

Well some of us are into extreme sports like skateboarding and motocross. We all enjoy going to see other bands that we like in concert. Some of us really like shopping for new clothes or shopping for previously used clothing, like at Goodwill. We are always on our MySpace page talking with our fans/friends that write in.

Your song “Providence” is about Peter’s denial of Christ.  What prompted you to write this song?

This song is really about how Jesus told Peter that he would deny him and Peter refused to believe it until he heard the sound of the rooster crowing. We believe that Peter never had a choice in the matter because Christ told him that he would. Providence took its hold!

Tell me a little about your work with The Seven Project.

The Seven Project is a public school assembly project aiming to teach moral education and present the gospel at a weekend rally to America’s students. This program pretty much gave us the inspiration for our first record, from the stories that we have heard from the students we have talked to, to the scene of hundreds of students giving their lives to Christ.

Does “Hold On” come from your work with teenagers or was it inspired by something else?

It absolutely comes from our work with teenagers and our passion to give them some kind of hope, a song that reminds people help is on the way.

Why did you choose to release a six-song EP instead of a full-length album?

Well our label and management helped us decide it was the best way to release a new band in this crazy world we live in.

Bonus Question (from my BFF Sarah):: What’s your favorite piece of furniture and why?

Definitely the “coffee” table, its so versatile and everyone has a different style that suits them. Its so interesting how a lot of people put a huge amount of thought into what they want their coffee table to look like. It can be a big furniture dilemma if you’re not careful.

Behind the Songs & Free Music Downloads

23 Apr

Information on debut artists, free music downloads, and the like has been flooding my inbox the past few days, and I thought, “Wow!  This is great stuff and the people need to know about it!”

Meet debut artist SARAH REEVES, whose stand-out vocals blow me away!  Look for an upcoming “Take 5” with this young lady, plus an audio interview over at The Christian Manifesto.  Anyway, super publicist Mandy at Savvy Media sent this out yesterday…

Behind the Songs with Sarah Reeves…

Sarah Reeves shares the inspiration behind “Come Save” from her April 21 debut, Sweet, Sweet Sound. To hear the story in its entirety, visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xTj2NThZntY

“Over the past few years I have been praying a prayer that has absolutely wrecked my life. I prayed that God would give me His heart, that I would cry when He cries and smile when He smiles. As I was flipping through channels on the television one day, a deep sadness came over me. All I saw was immorality, horror, violence, you name it. I went to my room and started weeping over how God’s heart must be torn. All I could pray was Lord, come save. My heart not only breaks for how He must feel, but how badly I want this world to know the unconditional love of Jesus. This is a cry of desperation that God would come save our land.” –Sarah Reeves

Download the song for free this week at iTunes as part of its “Discovery Download” promotion or access an audio stream at www.myspace.com/sarahreevesmusic.

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There there’s debut artist DANYEW, whose press kit I’m eagerly awaiting.  I checked out his MySpace profile and received a free download of  the song “Streetlight” from EMI, and I am psyched out of my mind about DANYEW!  And guess what?  The fine folks at EMI are offering you a chance to get your own copy of the song by clicking here:: ““Streelight” by Danyew

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Behind the Songs with Kristian Stanfill…

Kristian Stanfill shares the inspiration behind “Beautiful Jesus” from his April 21 debut, Attention. To hear the story in its entirety, visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xv9JCWhbpas

Creator…Savior…God with flesh and bones…heir of all things…the radiance of God’s glory…King…Jesus. Mediating on these things, the melodies and lyrics of this song started coming out. Jesus is at the most central part of what we believe as Christians. His sacrifice on the cross opened the door to community with God. We praise Him for this, but also because He is Creator and Ruler of all. I wanted to be very specific with the lyrics in the verses. Instead of large, general pictures of Jesus, I wanted the listener to experience what I was singing. Seeing Jesus’ majesty in a thunderstorm or a quiet cloudless day is something we all can relate to. One of my favorite lines is the first about Jesus’ blood poured over His sinless hands.” –Kristian Stanfill

Audio stream of “Beautiful Jesus” available at http://www.myspace.com/kristianstanfill

Review:: Concept Album Comeback with The Decemberists and Falling Up

23 Mar

I like the idea of concept albums—tell a story, try something new, develop a “concept.”  However, I have a difficult time “getting” them.  Despite my ability to understand Shakespeare and Bob Dylan, I’m finding I need artists to lay it out for me when it comes to concept albums.  Of course, it doesn’t help that iTunes never plays the songs in the intended album order, which definitely further confuses the plot.

Despite my fuzzy understanding of albums that tell entire stories, I am fascinated by two such projects, which both coincidentally release today, March 24.  The first is by popular indie-ish band, The Decemberists, and it’s called The Hazards of Love and the other is Fangs! from BEC Recording Artist Falling Up.

The Hazards of Love is the band’s second story album, the first being The Crane Wife, based on an old Japanese tale of the same name.  After discovering British folk revivalist Anne Briggs 1966 EP entitled The Hazards of Love, Decemberists’ front man Colin Meloy decide to write a song that befit the enigmatic title.  What emerged was not a single song, but an entire album following the journey of a young woman named Margaret, who sets out into the forest to tell her beloved William that she is pregnant.  Oh, and did I mention that William is a shape shifter, which I gather makes him rather hard to find?  Naturally, William and Margaret encounter trouble along the way from the jealous forest queen and an unprincipled journeyman.

The Hazards of Love is my introduction to The Decemberists, and what a find meeting it has been!  Meloy’s vocal intonation combined with enticing Old World lyrics and sometimes eerie melodies produce an album different than most others.  Even without the storyline, each song can be enjoyed on its own.  Even so, I do have my favorites, which include the fast-paced “Annan Water” in which William (voiced by Meloy) contemplates how to cross the river to get to his beloved Margaret.  There are four actual songs entitled “The Hazards of Love,” which are each telling and soulful. Each character is given life by a different singer—Becky Stark of Lavender Diamond as Margaret and My Bright Diamond’s Shara Worden as the forest queen.

Falling Up’s Fangs! is decidedly different.  Based on a script written by lead singer Jessy Ribordy, Fangs! is narrated by an unnamed hero who has journeyed to a nearby planet after the children on his own planet have been struck by golden arrows causing them to fall into a deep sleep.  The songs are a series of reports that the hero is sending back to his home planet.  Instead of following a defined plot like The Hazards of Love, Fangs! contains a series of sequential songs, which are stories in and of themselves.

Ribordy’s vocals are haunting and the lyrics are often perplexing, yet beautifully woven.  Really, Fangs! is poetry in its purest form, similar in style to early Greek epics like Oedipus or Antigone. In “Goddess of Dayspring, Am I” nods to Shakespeare’s Ophelia (Hamlet), who is found dead with flowers woven in her. Since I’ve done a “Take 5” for Backseat Writer (read it) and an audio interview for The Christian Manifesto with Jessy, I think you should check those sources for more information about this unique and clever album.

Both The Decemberists and Falling Up do more than make mere concept albums, but instead turn the world of music on its head with something new, and yet strangely old with tales of fantasy and fiction set to a backdrop of brilliant orchestration and poetic lyrics.

Take 5 with Falling Up’s Jessy Ribordy

23 Mar

It’s a story contained in an album brought forth with the fusion of poetic verse and experimental rock.  It’s called Fangs and it’s the latest album from BEC Recording artist Falling Up.  Based on a story written by lead singer Jessy Ribordy, each song on Fangs is an observation of our hero’s journeys on a strange planet called Neptuenne.  Eerily beautiful, strange, and ambient, Fangs captivates listeners with its many creative layers.  Besides giving me the pleasure of an audio interview for The Christian Manifesto’s Podcast, Jessy also graced Backseat Writer with a “Take 5.”

*Fangs is a very different album in that it tells a story written by Falling Up’s own Jessy Ribordy (you!)   How did the concept for your tale “Neptunne’s Cavern” come to life?

Well, as hippie as it sounds, I spend a lot of time in the woods out here in Oregon. There is a place that is pretty close by and it’s one of my favorite hiking areas up in the mountains. Casey Crescenzo, the producer, and I had been talking about the new record and what we wanted it to sound like. Casey’s idea of the songs I had written, sounded, to him, very mythological. Vaguely familiar to our Greek myths, yet remaining mysteriously foreign.

While I was on the hike I was imagining how crazy it would be to come across some ancient fortress or statues, that looked like Greek gods, but weren’t any that we were familiar with according to our history. I figured, for that to actually happen, I would have to be on another planet. And then the idea of the story just kind of came to me. Over the next few weeks, I developed the story more and more and slowly turned it into what it is now. Casey offered a lot of suggestions and I reworked it to fit the songs I had already wrote (which was about half ) and then continued to write the remaining songs exactly off the plot line.

*I have to admit that Fangs is a difficult album to talk about because it’s so complex.  It’s got a plot line, characters, and articulate lyrics.  What were some of the challenges in crafting an album with so many layers?

It’s difficult to create a group of songs based off a story. There are certain rules in songs that I believe I need to follow. A song has a miniature version of a story within it, but it doesn’t necessarily need to have dramatic irony, climax, or conclude. So to follow a story with songs, I had to manipulate both the lyrics and the plot summary of the story to fit one another. I had to bend the rules on each and compromise in some areas so that they molded together fairly well.

Even more intense is trying to create dramatic irony from song one and then paying it off in song four. That’s when it gets difficult to make things work because then you have three elements all working at the same time to produce a similar result. One of the ways we were able to keep an eye on the plot throughout each song was to record the songs part by part from one to twelve. As long as we were in order, we were always reminded of where the story was heading, and if changes needed to be made, they would be in the correct chronology.

*People are going to ask—why on earth are Christian rockers making an album that doesn’t even have a reference to God or Jesus or anything?  How do you respond to those questions? (Let’s assume the people are just asking the question curiously, not in a harsh judgmental fashion.  Basically, “How are you glorifying God with this album?”)

I have always been a believer in the idea that music can create all kinds of emotions, memories, and feelings that aren’t always based off the creator’s original intentions. For instance, when I was 16 I dated a girl and our favorite song together was “Come Home” by Matchbox 20 ( I know, I know, make fun all you want, I was young ). That song had a very romantic meaning between us. Come to find out, that song’s meaning is exactly opposite anything romantic- it’s about a guy basically getting suffocated by the presence of his overbearing and intrusive lover. It was written very beautifully and so it’s hard to realize that it has a pretty negative meaning. But you see now, whenever I hear that song on the radio, I can’t help but remembering the innocent days of young love, and that’s opposing from the intentions of the writer.

With all that being said, music creates emotions that are relative to the situation. One may listen to a record of a punk band on a road trip with friends and remember that fun, amazing summer. Yet the writer was pouring out his heart about capitalism, corporate folly, and igniting anarchy. There are spiritual ideals that bleed through the fiction in some points, and I hope those get recognized by the listener. I have always been a big fan of encouraging people, but sometimes it’s okay to have music that is just music and allow our relationships with one another to be the true encouragement.

*Additionally, this album doesn’t necessarily fit “industry standards.”  How do you hope to challenge the Christian music industry in general with Fangs?

Most of the standards, in which I hope to challenge, are in radio. Essentially, there aren’t any “singles” on Fangs. Of course, that is “singles” according to how the standard is set, not actually how it should be; based off the favorite. Standard makes sure the song is within a certain time bracket, structure, sound, lyrical content, catchiness, and marketability. The problem is that a lot of people have favorite songs on a band’s record that would never make it to radio because of those rules.

Mainstream radio has always bent and broken rules to give the listener what they want. Christian hasn’t. They have played it too safe and that is the reason why it’s suffering right now. The industry should take the advice that John Steinbeck gave us in The Grapes of Wrath. The risk taker will loose everything, yet survive. For example, one of the songs on Fangs called “Golden Arrows” could easily be a radio single. But the problem is that it doesn’t follow one important rule: structure.

The Christian radio structure is as follows: Heavy hitting intro, toned down into the first verse, short pre chorus, chorus. Then verse two, no second pre chorus ( that’s supposed to be tricky ), more intense second chorus. Then this is always my favorite- The bridge that’s “supposed to take you to a different place for a brief moment.” ( which really is just a slight key change and, for most of the listeners, their least favorite part of the song ) and then a musical pause with just the singer beginning the last chorus and into…the pay off chorus at the end, usually played twice, in which the climax then concludes with a ring out of feedback or a small drum loop.

“Golden Arrows” doesn’t follow that and that’s why I realize radio would never pick it up. I would hope that I could really challenge the structure approach so that bands, musicians, and artist can allow their beautiful songs to breathe, without having to stuff it in the industry standard so that it’s accepted.

*What are a few of your favorite epic tales?  And, of course, what do you like about them?

Watership Down, although not considered to be an epic tale, is my absolute favorite. I picked up the book and didn’t set it down until I finished it. I had never laughed out loud, paced in expectation, or cried over a book that much before. It’s just a beautiful story and I think every human being needs to read it. I am also a big fan of Greek mythology, especially anything with the sirens or mermaids cause I have always been fascinated with that idea.

Bonus Question::

*I’m curious—what further plans do you have with Fangs and “Neptunne’s Cavern”?  A book or a musical or play?

I think a book would probably be next. I have a few other screenplays I am writing,so I am hoping to not generate too many ideas without allowing any of them to flourish. I think Fangs needs to have its own separate interpretation, and a book would be the right outlet.

For more information on Falling Up, visit myspace.com/fallingup.  And befriend Jessy on Twitter (link); he needs more friends.

Matt Bronleewe:: Producer-Turned-Writer

30 Oct

FROM NOW UNTIL NOV. 8, IF YOU LEAVE A COMMENT ON THIS POST, YOU WILL BE ELIGIBLE TO WIN AN AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF MATT BRONLEEWE’S LATEST NOVEL, HOUSE OF WOLVES.  (Make sure to leave a valid e-mail address when you comment so we can contact you if you win!)

By Jake Chism (The Christian Manifesto) Matt Bronleewee is one of Christian music’s most sought after music producers. Within the last few years, he has tried his hand at a new discipline—writing. His first book, Illuminated, was met with critical praise and now he is back with his most recent title, House of Wolves. We recently caught up with the producer-turned-writer to ask him some candid questions about his writing, working in the music industry, and what’s coming over the horizon.

Your background is quite different than most novelists. How did a successful music producer become a successful novelist?

Wow! You make me sound cool! Ha! I’m a simple farm kid from Kansas. I can’t take credit for anything that’s happened. I’ve just tried to be diligent to work hard when God opens a door. As far as the jump to novels goes, it really came about because of a meeting I had with producer/genius/guru Charlie Peacock. I explained to him that I was starting to do some writing and he hooked me up with a remarkable agent/publisher named Don Pape. The rest, I guess, is history! And now I’m just racing to keep up with my ridiculous schedule!

A big congratulations on your success with the August Adams novels. Where did the idea for this series come from?

Like most characters, August is a mixture of things. Partially, I wanted to create a modern Indiana Jones. I loved those movies growing up, and wanted to throw a fresh spin on the idea of a true adventurer. Another influence was a story my manager Dave told me about a rare bookseller in New York. Apparently, he was a really quirky cool guy who went to elaborate parties and sold books to the ultra wealthy. He’d stand before a priceless painting and say to the host of the party, “What if I could get you that,” he’d point to the painting, “but in book form?” They’d take the bait and he’d make a mint! I loved the idea of this extravagant, over-the-top bookseller… and wha-laa!! August Adams was born.

House of Wolves is the second book in the series and just hit shelves. What a trip this story is! What can you tell our readers about it?

House of Wolves
is a thriller that focuses on one of the most dangerous books in history – the Gospels of Henry the Lion – a book that was stolen by the Nazis during WWII, disappeared for fifty years, and then suddenly was purchased for nearly $12 million dollars! House of Wolves blends fact and fiction into a frenzy!

So far both novels have revolved around famous rare books (The Gutenberg Bible and The Gospels of Henry the Lion). Did you have a personal love or interest for rare books before you started this series?

I wanted to write books about books. Sounds a little boring, right? That’s why I took things to the next level…throwing rare books in the middle of worldwide conspiracies and secret societies and adventure-seekers and gun-wielding hitmen. I’m definitely learning a lot about rare books…and have had the opportunity to see many in Washington, DC, New York, and Paris. The research has become my own personal adventure!

Your books certainly have a DaVinci Code element to them and they are loaded with conspiracies and secret societies. While these are obviously works of fiction, I know a lot of your ideas are based on facts from your research. What are some of the most surprising revelations you’ve uncovered in your research? How real is this hidden world of conspiracy and secret societies?

One big surprise…secret societies are REAL, they’re not just fiction. And I’ve really focused on writing about secret societies that have a strong historical base. Maybe someday I’ll just make one up! But for now, I want my readers to be able to continue the adventure after they’ve finished my books. For example, just go to Google and type in “Order of the Dragon” or “Holy Vehm” and you’ll see what I mean! Some of the things I’ve learned have been baffling…unbelievable…and I’ve tried to cram a lot of that true history into the August Adams series!

Writing is often such a roller coaster experience. What has surprised you the most in the creation of this series? What has been the most challenging part?

The most challenging part is the schedule. I’m relentless in my pursuit of making every minute count…whether it’s writing a song or a book or hanging out with my family. As both the music and author sides of my life continue to progress and grow, I’m constantly faced with making wise decisions with my time. Luckily, I’ve got a great team of people around me that help make everything run smoothly!

Let’s go back to your background in music for a moment. How has your experience in music shaped you as a writer? Has it helped or hindered you?

It’s helped tremendously in every way. I’ve been able to look back at my songwriting and realize that I was a storyteller…and now that storytelling has just taken on a different shape. Although, let me tell you, a three-hundred page book takes a lot longer to create than a three-minute song!

I can’t imagine how busy you are with all of the music projects you are involved in. Not to mention the major book deal with Thomas Nelson. What is the writing process like for you? How do you find the time to write novels while you are making records?

I’m a bit of a madman. I jump back and forth between songwriting and producing and bookwriting constantly. Almost every day, I do a little of all three of my “careers”. Sometimes the jobs intersect. Many times they don’t. Most people stare at me like I’m crazy, and maybe I am, but I just can’t imagine not having a bunch of plates spinning all at once…it’s so much fun!

I assume that the next August Adams book will revolve around another famous rare manuscript. Any hints? What can you tell us about the next book and when can we expect it? How many August Adams novels are planned?

The next book is called The Deadly Hours and I promise it’s going to be another level up from the last two books! I’ve really worked hard on the research side. For the first time, I’ve visited every location August goes in this next book…from forgotten museums in New York City to mountaintop chateaus in southern France. It’s going to be a wild ride! The Deadly Hours will release August 2009. (And here’s a hint…every August you can expect a new August Adams adventure to hit shelves!)

What authors have inspired and encouraged you the most in your writing career?

I read a lot of Tolkien and Lewis and myths and legends and stuff like that growing up. I love BIG STORIES and that’s hopefully what I’m bringing people with Illuminated and House of Wolves. I also really like some of the newer authors who are pushing the boundaries of both style and genre…people like Michael Chabon and Jonathan Lethem and Dave Eggers…I think all three of them are amazing.

How has your walk with Christ shaped your writing?

“…the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” That says it all! Christ is the true author, the only author that matters, so I’m forced to recognize that no creative work is my own…it’s His.

What advice would you give to any aspiring novelists?

Forget “write what you know”. Write what you’re passionate about!

Where can people go online to find out more about you and your novels?

Join the Unsecret Society at  www.mattbronleewe.com.

Any final thoughts?

This is an exciting season for me. Things are exploding for House of Wolves! The most fun part is connecting with readers from all over the globe…so if you pick up the book and check it out, make sure you let me know what you thought! My email: matt@mattbronleewe.com. Thanks!!!

Print copy of interview.

::This article appears in Backseat Writer courtesy of our friends over at The Christian Manifesto.  Please visit TCM to for more interviews, book and music reviews, so much more!::

Bebo Norman :: From the Ruins

14 Sep

Talking with Bebo Norman is like chatting with an old friend; except I’ve never met Bebo Norman. However, I’ve closely followed his career.  Easing into our phone interview with a joke, Bebo informed me that he’s running errands while he talks.  Moving into a safe icebreaker, we chat about his family and rearing of his one-year-old son. Specifically, who is better at diaper duty: “I’m better at it; there’s no question,” laughs Bebo.  “I haven’t timed it.  I pride myself on cleanliness rather than speed.”

It’s this articulate attention to detail in lyric and music that has made Bebo Norman a popular singer/songwriter since 1996.  Looking back on the past 12 years is like reading an autobiography. “I really have a unique opportunity, a gauge of where my life story has been and how God has been so strangely consistent in the middle of all that.  I say ‘strangely’ because sometimes I can look up and wonder where God is, but I have this constant reminder of the consistency of Him through these songs and through my story.”

After finishing his first record deal, last year, Bebo signed with Seattle-based BEC Recordings, home to artists such as Jeremy Camp, Kutless, and Chris Taylor. On the heels of releasing an immaculate Christian album, Christmas…from the Realms of Glory in 2007, Bebo’s latest project is a self-titled album and probably his most revealing and vulnerable. “My prayer—and I really do hope this happens—that every year I live, I can be more vulnerable relationally and musically.”

Similarly, Bebo draws from his life humbly noting, “I don’t really know how to write songs unless I’m writing them out of life.”  Take the song “Britney,” a quiet apology to women who have been ravaged by lies about true beauty from culture and media.  Ironically, the song was inspired by Britney Spears.

“Truth be told, who writes a song about Britney Spears?” rhetorically asks Bebo with a chuckle.  “I was up late one night because I couldn’t sleep.  I was flipping through the news channels when I came upon a pretty tragic story about Britney,” referring to Spears’s hospitalization.

“She was being taken off in a stretcher.  My first instinct was to respond cynically, and then there was a freeze frame moment.  She had this look on her face where she was completely lost in brokenness and despair.  The thing that struck me—paralyzed me—was that I’ve had that look on my face before.  I was able to look at her life with compassion, not as a tabloid story.”

Not excusing her poor choices, Bebo continues, “Who, if not the Church, is going to say ‘hope is here’ to the culture, to someone like Britney Spears?  We are called to live with compassion in a broken world.”

Though it is the opening song on the album, “Pull Me Out,” is one of Bebo’s most personal songs to date.  Recently opening up about his struggles with anxiety and panic attacks over the past five years, Bebo lays it all out in this song.  But for the purposes of this interview, he was more than willing to candidly discuss anxiety with a fellow sufferer.

Suffering from panic attacks which seemed to revolve around playing music, Bebo says he felt as though he could not breath and his heart would race and sweat would pour down his face.  “I would try to convince myself before I played a show that I could do it.  ‘I know how to play these songs, which I’ve literally played a thousand times and I can breathe; I’m breathing right now.’  Despite the positive self-talk, Bebo shares that sometimes he would “literally lose it. It is the most helpless feeling I’ve ever felt.”

By opening up to those around him and getting help, Bebo is learning to manage his anxiety.  At first, he was ashamed to tell anyone about his attacks. “I was praying about it and praying about it and reading Scriptures about it and praying that God would heal me from it—all these things.  I don’t believe this, but subconsciously within the culture of Christianity, we communicate that if you’re not alright, then something’s not right with you spiritually.”  But it wasn’t the judgment of others that keep Bebo suffering silently, it was his own inability to reason through his anxiety.

“I’ve always prided myself on my ability or what I thought was my ability to reason my way through things.  This whole struggle with anxiety has been the first thing in my life that I haven’t been able to reason through… that was the scariest moment for me. I didn’t understand why it happened or when it was going to happen again.  For years and years, I felt a lot of shame and frustration in that; I was trying to fix it on my own.”

While anxiety has put Bebo on edge, it has also allowed him to cling to the very edges of his faith. “The older I get, the more I realize that faith is not about this accumulation of wisdom or wealth or knowledge or spiritual gifts.  Faith is literally, as defined by Scripture, a desperate clinging to Christ.  In that sense, anxiety has done nothing but increase my faith because it has forced me to do nothing but cling to Christ.” He thoughtfully adds, “Clinging to Christ doesn’t mean that the anxiety is going to go away, but it does mean that God is in the middle of that anxiety.”

In his musings about anxiety, Bebo swings back to the first song he wrote for the project. Inadvertently, “Ruins” became the theme song for the whole album with its simple phrase: “Let my ruins become the ground You build upon.”  Bebo shares. “Anxiety has stripped me of a lot of things.  It has broken down notions in my mind about control, vanity, and reason. It is from brokenness that I want God to rebuild this faith structure that I have, which isn’t built on my own abilities.”

Rebuilding and starting afresh are what Bebo Norman’s latest project is all about. His admirable vulnerability only add to his ability as a songwriter to strengthen this man of God, as he lets his ruins become the breaking ground of faith.

In the Headlights :: The Christian Manifesto

10 Sep

Have I ever told you about the fine folks at The Christian Manifesto?  No, but I should have.  Ever since Cal (that’s what I call C.E. Moore, founder and head honcho over at TCM), left a comment here on Backseat Writer, we became fast friends and decided that collaboration is the way to go.  As we work together to provide you with the best in art, music, books, and what not, we want you to know that our sites will still independently feature the things you love.

Last week, Cal decided that I should be a big internet star (his words, not mine.  OK, they’re my words) after listening to my interview with Bebo Norman.   After editing it, mixing it, and making it sound very cool, I’m pleased to announce that the interview will be available for your listening pleasure over at The Christian Manifesto and my article about Bebo Norman’s latest project will be available here on Backseat Writer.  It’s truly the best of both worlds!

Plus, Cal and Wayne Beason do a weekly podcast that is pretty darn amusing, so you should definitely check that out while you’re hopping around the site, as well as the great content available for your consumption!

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