I have a song called “I Love You” that sums up both extremes of this ultimate hunt in one go. The chorus is a memorable melody, which was my own personal love song that I would sing quietly to the Lord as I went about my day. After a couple of years, I used it during a worship time when I was leading one day at church. People really liked it and I realized I had the beginnings of a song. It sounds silly, but up until then I had never even thought of it as a song; it was just a little tune that I knew my heavenly Father really enjoyed hearing. The chorus came almost by accident; the verses, on the other hand, were hard work.
I like to use verses to give context to the chorus, so with this song I wanted verses that really opened up the question of “why.” Why do I love Him? This was a hunt that would take me hours upon hours of searching and exploring. I remember we were in America at the time and I had a few days one weekend that were completely free so I locked myself in my room and decided to chase that thing down. I can’t remember how many times I had to rewrite the melody, the lyrics, the rhythms, everything! I came up with versions that I loved, but I would take it to some other trusted “song-hunters” and they would inform me that what I had was “sign”; it was good sign, which meant I was getting really close, but still, it was “sign.” It was one of those experiences where I felt like I had the thing in my hands but I still had to wrestle with it all the way to the ground. But eventually, I had the prize I was looking for!
Everyone starts their songwriting hunt differently. Some hear a line in a sermon that stands out, others hear a melody in their mind that kicks them off. The initial line, thought, theme or tune can come in so many different ways. One of the “signs” I get first in the songwriting process is the melody, sometimes with lyrics, other times without. Often I’ll get a chorus or part of a chorus, which I have to put lyrics to. But whatever kicks the process off, the one area that remains a definite hunt is the lyric content. I am always on the hunt to communicate what is in my heart in an accurate and true way.
I have two questions I ask myself that help me in this area. The first is, “Is this something I really want to say?” It’s important that we write songs that are personally true to ourselves and to our relationship with the Father. In other words, I can really mean what I am singing. It doesn’t just sound good, but it has a depth of meaning in my heart too.
The second question I ask when others will be singing my song is, “Is this something I want others to be saying?” We as songwriters have a unique position where we get to put words into the mouths of others. This is a huge responsibility. A quote attributed to Plato the philosopher says, “Give me the songs of a generation and I’ll change the way that generation thinks.”
Songs have the ability to transform cultures and change the way people think. I believe that songs will pave the way for the church to move in the fullness of His love and power on the earth today!