I’ve always loved a good song.
I still remember “Your Love Keeps Lifting Me Higher” playing through the tweed speakers and my dad holding me up over his head, cackling. I can see my mother, with a broom in her hand, singing, “It’s so easy to sweep the floor…,” along with Linda Rondstadt’s cover of the Buddy Holly song.
As kids, we listened to the Beatles on LP while we played 8-bit Nintendo. I liked the songs that made me laugh, like “I am the Walrus,” and “Strawberry Fields.” Are those songs really funny? I thought they were then. I liked Paul Simon for the same reason, I guess. I liked to hear those ladies say “Whoop! Whoop! Whoop!” on “I Know What I Know.” I think Mario and Luigi liked that, too.
When I was a sophomore in high school, I heard Rich Mullins’ A Liturgy, A Legacy, And A Ragamuffin Band through a pair of computer speakers in my brother’s bedroom. Formative is the word. That record and all the meaning in it at that moment helped to make me.
In high school I also got into playing jazz. Ironic that I never really listened to it. Charlie Brown is about as deep as I go. But playing jazz all through high school and college helped me learn the math of music.
While all the chord substitutions and alterations of jazz made my brain buzz, the musical energy and the aesthetic character of bands like Sixpence None the Richer and Ben Folds Five hit harder, forming my sensibility about parts and sounds. And then there were those songs that seemed to reach out to touch the hem of God’s garment. They were, in Rich Mullins’ words, “the finest thing that I had ever found.”
I moved to Nashville my junior year of college because I had come to terms, quite suddenly, with the reality that I was a musician. I thought that I might like to be a session-player, like so many of my heroes. I also thought I’d like to be some songwriter’s right-hand-man. Soon after I came to Nashville, I met Andrew Peterson, whom I had heard was the heir-apparent to the late Rich Mullins. I did what I could to get Andrew’s attention, writing and recording a string arrangement for his song “Faith to Be Strong,” as a sort of audition. He responded by giving me a shot at writing string arrangements for his Behold the Lamb of God concert. So I spent my last semester at Belmont writing string parts when I should have been practicing for my senior recital.
Straight out of Belmont I started traveling with Andrew, and I’m still traveling with him today. I’m thankful to be a part of something as meaningful and lasting as our friendship and our work together. I hope to still be playing with Andrew in twenty years.
My first label-record session was with Andrew. The producer was Steve Hindalong, whose band, the Choir, I am still a fan of. That record, as well as a few other God-ordained appointments, got the session ball slowly rolling for me.
The ball is still picking up speed, a little each year. These days, much of my work comes from a producer named Ed Cash, maybe the brightest producer in mainstream Christian music today. Mitch Dane also gets me out of the house and is a great collaborator with big ears (that’s an expression—I’ve never really noticed the size of his ears).
In the fall of 2003, I produced an indie record for Sara Beth, an old friend from Belmont. Since then, I’ve produced two records with Andrew and one with Randall Goodgame, as well as a development record with Universal Publishing for my friend, James Tealy.
Spending so much time with Andrew Peterson as well as the rest of the Square Peg Alliance helped me to start writing songs more steadily and seriously. After a few years of writing, earlier this year (2006) I started work on my first solo record, which I’m calling The Ill-Tempered Klavier. Cason Cooley and I are producing it together. I have no aspirations to be an “artist” or to play shows. I just want to write songs and make records.
And I lived happily ever after.