How To Fly With Angels
Yes, that will be the name of Volume 2... but wait... it's not what you think! First of all: it's not a "how to" instruction manual type of thing. Second, it isn't actually angels. Well, at least not the ones we typically think of when we hear that word. You know, the beautiful ladies with wings, harps, white robes, etc. It is, however, a reference to the beautiful little ladies who call me daddy. Okay, here's the back story:
"How to fly with angels" is a line from the final song of Volume 2. It is a song that I wrote most specifically for our youngest daughter, Aspen. The name of the song is "Walking With An Angel", because Aspen loves to take walks with her daddy. And these walks are absolutely magical. Literally magical... and if you don't believe in magic, I would suggest making an investment in humility and taking lessons from a child. That is essentially what the song is about: all of the magic and wonder that Aspen teaches me when we go on walks. She is teaching me "how to fly with angels": how to observe and appreciate the magic, mystery, wonder, and beauty of all that is around us in this gift of life we get to live.
Not only is that the overall theme of this particular Volume; it is also right at the heart of the overall body of work that will be called "Washed In Wonder". In fact, the abstract ideas of being "washed in wonder" and learning "how to fly with angels" are very much the same. Most simply put: they are expressions of learning to appreciate and embrace the beauty, magic, mystery, and wonder that we experience in this gift of life. The biggest difference in my own mind and heart is that one is the humility of learning from a child, while the other is the need we develop as we mature in this humility to continually return to the experience and be "washed" (renewed, revived, healed, etc.) by the experience.
An interesting and important side note is that though this is a beautiful lullaby type of song written for our youngest daughter, it also contains the darkest and most difficult images of any song I have written for our children up to this point. This is because I decided to deal honestly with all of the experiences that Aspen and I encounter on our walks. Most of the experiences we have are encounters with the sky, flowers, animals, trees, and other various forms of natural beauty. However, we also experience poverty, despair, mental illness, and other various forms of darkness and broken humanity. Yet, Aspen responds to each experience with the innocence of a... well... child. She doesn't respond with the typical judgements, assessments, or critique that most adults would. That type of response typically only perpetuates brokenness. Aspen responds with hope and love. She responds with hope and love because in her innocence, she is washed in wonder. And she is teaching me how to fly with angles.
How To Fly With Angels
One thing that I am always learning is that I am always learning. In fact, if we aspire to live a meaningful life it is necessary to always be learning. As a musician and songwriter, one of the ways that I learn is by listening. Listening to others... to their work... their advice...to their guidance... to their music. My personal "favorite" music is any music that brings healing into my life. And trust me... I need lots of healing. If that surprises you, it might be that you don't know me very well. The thing is, I am somewhat convinced that we all need lots of healing. We are all a mess. The real question is whether or not we are willing to be honest and vulnerable enough to receive that healing. So a big part of what I am learning is that in order to write "good" music (music that heals)... I must be honest and vulnerable.
Here is another important lesson I have learned and am continuing to learn: good music is always ahead of the person who is writing it... essentially leading us to the place we need to go. This is a lesson that I first heard explained by David Wilcox (a song writing master and mentor). He used the analogy that a good song is like head lights showing us the way. At first, I thought that was a little strange, yet something in me knew that it was also profound. Now, I am experiencing that it is simply profound and true. When I was a less mature songwriter, my songs would tend to be a little... (oh, I almost hate to say it)... preachy. It was as if I had something to say to the world and "they" needed to hear it. Damn, was I dead wrong!
As I have matured as a songwriter and as one who is living this intense adventure we call life, I am learning that the best music is always out ahead of me. Leading me. Guiding me. Teaching me. Healing me. It is as if my role in the process is simply to receive. And once I have received... the guidance, the healing, the music, etc... my role is to pass the gift on to others. As one who struggles almost as much with back issues as with heart issues, I have come to know this process as heart chiropractic. When my heart starts to feel all messed up, music is one of the best ways I know to get an adjustment. And it works. Of course, that is only part of why I write songs. Obviously, many of the songs I write (particularly those written for Kristie and our girls) are written from a place of deep joy and love experienced in the now. Yet, so many of my best songs are written as a means of heart chiropractic: the adjustment needed to become the person I am meant to be. And not only to get the adjustment that I need, but to offer the same gift to others. After all, everyone needs an adjustment if we are honest and vulnerable enough to admit it. My hope is that the songs of Three Day Flight may offer you this gift of healing, joy, and love that we all need in our lives.
Much love and healing to you,
An Epiphany While Mixing Songs
(Written in August of 2016, while working on "Separate/Same")
This past week we spent some time in the studio working on our new album "Separate/Same". We are getting close to being finished, so at this point we are mostly mixing what has already been recorded. One of the songs that we finished this past week was a song that I wrote for our daughters called "Precious". The song is already deeply emotional to me for obvious reasons. In addition to the obvious reasons, all of our daughters will be featur...ed in this track on the album. Savannah will be playing saxophone and all of the other girls will be laughing, playing, cooing, and contributing other variations of cute sounds.
Swimming in this lovely sea of beauty and cuteness as we listened to the overall mix, Steve (the engineer) suddenly did the unthinkable... he began to mute all of the channels so that he could listen to the specific sound of one part at a time. In other words, all of the cute sounds suddenly disappeared. To make matters worse, the parts he was listening to one at a time were somewhat disturbing for me to hear. Though I had at one point recorded each vocal part individually, since that initial recording, I had always listened to these parts all together... never individually. The parts are essentially background vocals that swell dynamically in and out to create a sort of lullaby ambiance. Together, the parts combine in a choir of harmonies. Isolated, each part sounds disturbingly vulnerable. At first, I became intensely critical of my voice singing falsetto parts... parts that now sounded similar to sounds I imagine a suffering beached whale would make. It was almost enough to make me scrap all of these parts and start from scratch, but I reminded myself that the parts sounded good... together. So, the next phase was to ease off a bit and recognize that the vocal parts really didn't sound like suffering whales. They simply sounded... vulnerable.
And that was when the epiphany came crashing over me like a turbulent tide at sea. Honestly, the principle is very simple: isolated and alone, the parts sound vulnerable and it is easy to become critical; together, the parts create harmony and unite in a choir of beauty. Thus, the theme of the entire album was alive in metaphor before my very eyes... Separate/Same... When we isolate and individualize others, it is easy to become critical of their particular set of faults and imperfections. When we come together in unity, vulnerably combining all of our faults and weaknesses with all of our beauty and strength... individual imperfections seemingly dissipate as we create the gorgeous harmonies of Love.
We are all creative! This is something I have been learning... or, perhaps, relearning.
We are all creative! Some of us have simply forgotten. Even people who believe that we are created in the image of a Creator often forget that we are all creative. Of course we are! Look at all that we have made...
We make beautiful things: We make babies. We make music. We make food. We make love. We make movies. We make peace. We make art of all kinds.
We also make horrible things: We make war. We make noise. We make promises that we cannot keep. We make messes. We make weapons. We make mistakes.
Regardless of what we make, this truth remains: We are all creative!
Now, I am learning to embrace this truth more each day. For several years, I have been experimenting with my own ability to make music. At first, I simply made music by singing. Then I started playing notes on a piano or a saxophone, or rhythms on a drum. Then I learned how to read music. Then I learned how to play songs "by ear" (listening to songs and playing/singing my rendition of what I have heard). For years, I have made music by playing in bands with other musicians. And for a few years I have experimented in what has felt like the most dangerous type of music making: writing songs.
Yes, dangerous! It takes so much bravery (at least for me) to lay your heart on the line and offer the world what lives inside. It is dangerous for a fragile, wounded heart to risk offering the world something new. Something that they may not like. Something that they may reject or even criticize.
Perhaps this is at least part of the reason that so many of us have forgotten that we are creative. We are afraid to create something new, because the world may reject it.
For me, the music inside of my heart has grown to a point that I can no longer keep it there. Despite the risk, what is inside of me is there for a reason. I have come to see that I must make the music in my heart and offer it to this world, even if the world rejects and criticizes it. And I have come to a point where I am learning to let go of the fear that keeps me from creating this art. It is worth the risk if even one person is healed. Even if the only person healed...is me.
So remember: we are all creative! You are creative!! Do not be afraid to be who you are... create. Make beautiful things: make art, make peace, make food, make music, make poetry, etc. Whatever you make, create with love! Create with the hope that what we make matters! Offer it to the world, and if the world rejects what you make and breaks your heart into pieces... take those broken pieces and pour them into more art. And offer it again with the hope that your brokenness will help heal others who are broken. Offer the world your brokenness with love, and that love may just heal you and this broken world. This has been my experience, and continues to be my hope!
We are all creative! So don't be afraid... choose to create, and choose to create with love, my friends!!
So much love to all of you!!!