Monday, October 13, 2008

Hey kids, rock and roll

It's contest time again...

One of the tough things about my crazy traveling schedule last year was that I had a lot of trouble finding space in my brain to write songs. I mean, I had spent a good chunk of 2006 writing and recording the music for Soulspeak, and then a good chunk of 2007 writing and recording the music for Perhaps, so I guess I was due a break.

But writing songs is what I do. Though I’ve got lots and lots of jobs, song writing is the thread that binds all those jobs together.

So when I found myself overwhelmed with organizing and booking house concerts (not to mention actually doing them), which included a tremendous amount of phone calls, emails, flight-booking, place-to-sleep-finding, receipt-keeping, and money-counting (mostly one dollar bills, but still), I just really didn’t have anything left for the creative endeavor that is song writing.

That was tough, but obviously I had a blast. As I’ve said before, the whole experience has been really fantastic, and I look forward to getting back “out there” again soon.

In the meantime, my new job, though busy and time-consuming, is consistent and predictable and, at some levels, easier on my pea-sized brain.

So I’ve been writing again. A lot. And, cooler still, I’m actually writing really different stuff. For example, I can’t tell you the whole story, due to a contractual obligation (that’s not a joke), but some stuff happened this summer (someday I’ll either be able to tell you the story, or perhaps you can see it for yourself) that got me thinking about writing for advertising. Like jingles. So I’ve actually been writing some jingles. Just local stuff, but it’s been a blast. I write 30 seconds of music and lyrics, and people pay me. It’s been a blast. It’s challenging and weird, and of course it’s the absolute epitome of “selling out,” but you know what? I don’t care. I make money for writing music, and that’s the dream. So there.

In addition, I’ve been writing some hymn-type worship music. Long story, but I’ve been studying old hymns and old styles of worship, and I've been writing in response to what I've learned.

I've actually got almost all the music ready for an entire project of half-original, half-re-worked or re-arranged hymns. I can’t wait to show it to you. I don’t know when I’ll do it. Hopefully early in the spring.

And finally, I’ve been writing children’s music (that's the reason for all the pics of my kids; it's not just an excuse to rub your nose in the fact that they're so cute and talented). Those of you who are parents know that there is just a lot of bad children’s music out there, especially in the “Christian” category. And I just decided that I’d try my hand at it. I don’t know how good I am at it, but I’ve been writing a lot.

And also…

OK,OK, I’ll get to the contest. You know how I am. It’s not like you ever expect me to just come out and say something. I have to give the whole, long, drawn-out delivery. It’s my way, and you love me for it.

I mean, “Clear the Stage” is nearly 6 minutes long, and it’s your favorite. Just admit it, and we can move on.

So, the contest:
I’ve got about 7 songs completed (and about 3-4 half-completed) for a children’s record. Some of the songs are overtly “Christian,” meaning I wrote them deliberately trying to point people to Jesus. And some of them are just about “kid” things.

Here are some of the topics of the songs:
--The books of the Bible
--Being ok/secure with who/how God made us
--Playing outside (as opposed to spending all day in front of the TV or whatever)
--Trying new foods
--The concept of the Trinity (I’m serious)

Stuff like that. It's sort of all over the map, I admit. Some of the songs are kind of funny/goofy, and some are more serious. But it’s all aimed at kids. It’s been a blast working on it all.

I’d like to have 12-15 really solid songs for the project, but I’m running out of ideas. I need ideas!!!

So you folks have to send me your ideas, and I’ll pick ones that “inspire” me. If I write a song based on your idea, I’ll give you a credit on the CD, and of course I’ll send you a couple of free copies.

That's the contest. That's the pitiful prize.

Lots of you are parents, and you know that music helps your kids to learn things. So just be thinking about what kinds of things you’d like to hear your children (or any children) singing, declaring, learning, etc.

Send me whatever you’ve got. I don’t care if the ideas are explicitly “Christian” or not. I don’t care if they’re silly or serious. I just need ideas.

Within a month or so, I’ll try to post a demo or two of some of this stuff so that my faithful blog followers can get a taste of what’s to come (kind of like I did before the release of Perhaps).

OK, bring it on. Who wants their name in the liner notes?


Jeff said...

Man, I love kids...
1. brushing your teeth, staying clean, etc
2. learning to do things (like reading, writing...pottying)all by themselves. Or, on the same note, getting rid of old habits
4. Listen to your parents, cause they love you (why go to school, church, have manners, etc)

1. Moses, Jonah, the Good Samaritan, and Jesus feeding the 5,000 all have great imagery for children
2. What is prayer?
3. What does loving others look like for kids?
4. Why are some people different than me (race, gender, age, poor, rich,etc)?
5. What does sacrificing mean for kids?
6. What has God promised for me?

...have any pointers on these? Too broad or anything?

Lauri Hahn said...

1) Just because your brain's synapses are still mapping out AND you're mad because you want/don't want to do something doesn't mean you can kick, bite, shove or otherwise overreact over and above the usual & acceptable toddler obstinance you need to figure out your boundaries (Self Control).

2) Since kids are very literal, make Jesus literal (REAL, like He is). Avoid over-used, creepy, hard-to-get-your-head-around phrases like, "I asked Jesus into my heart" and "the rod will drive your sin far from you." Because you know, Ross, your music is chock full of over-used, creepy phrases. :)

3) Some people actually like formality, liturgy and programs, some people really like borderless, free-style & super-casual. It's how Jesus made them & He's with them in worship even if they don't go to our church. (Hey now! Only Jesus knows! Not my job! Wish it were sometimes!)

4) Something about pretend play & being free. The RK Ministries brand of Jesus FREE.

5) Please don't eat your boogers.

Christy@pipandsqueak said...

1. With a 2.5 year old we are trying to figure out ways to get scripture into her. She memorizes nursery rhymes so easily but not scripture because it has a lot of words that don't mean anything to her and it does not have rhyme. So, non-cheesy songs that are scripture to music. Sometimes I wish scripture songs were written with words that were easier for kids but really I think I still want it to be a main translation because they will stick in their heads for life. Maybe a kids version of the Lord's prayer, Psalm 23, 1 Cor 13.
2. Another good clean up song besides the one by the purple dinosaur would be great.
3. A song about obeying your parents and God.
4. Proper behavior for kids and how to love your friends.

Laurie said...

Liner notes? I'm in!!

My kids listen to BOZ a lot. Are you familiar with him?? They love the music and DVD's. However, mom and dad walk around singing these songs in our head ALL the time(and sometimes find ourselves making up new words!!)

Anyway, we would LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, some new songs about the topics they already love and new topics too!!

Here are a few....

1.God's creation
2.Making things with our hands
3.God loves you the way you are.
4.Being active
5.God's love
6.Being clean (baths and teethbrushing)
7.Independence (learning to ties shoes and etc on their own)
13.Shapes and Numbers
15.Helping put their toys away
16.Playing hide and seek
18.When a friend moves away.
19.Jesus is the ultimate superhero!
20.When a new member is added to the family. How a new baby in the family changes routines and such.

Okay I have more but I will stop. This has been on my mind!

Happy Writing!

kathryn said...

You know I don't have kiddos yet, but I'm still going to throw an idea out there.

I'd love to know more kids songs that allow them to express a variety emotions through song. Anything from "I'm happy - Jesus loves me" to the "I will praise him still" variety. Even if they aren't obviously Jesus-focused, I still think there is great value in kids learning how to express themselves through music and song.

I'll give a example in case that's too vague. You could write a song expressing anticipation-type excitement. About going to a friend's house, going to play with the whole family, celebrating an upcoming birthday, Jesus coming back - whatever kids get a sense of anticipation about.

Even though that's a happy-song example, I think sad songs would be good, too. As far as a CD that people can pop in the car during a drive, I can see why you wouldn't want to include a non-upbeat song that would help a child have words for loss or mourning, but I'm pretty sure I wasn't the only 6- or 7-year-old that would have benefited from more words to express less-than-happy emotions.

billy newhouse said...

How about something on possessions? A song to help kids understand that the toys or food or whatever are not "mine."

Robert Conn said...

How about a song about why (daddy) loves (mommy) so much?

Justin Roberts is a pro at all things related to kid-like randomness.

Robert said...

1. Forgiveness - especially toward a sibling or a friend that hurts your feelings
2. Loving your "neighbor" as yourself
3. Saving money, conserving, giving to the Lord, etc..
4. Enjoying being a kid while you are a kid, i.e. having fun, laughing, running, and playing around in a way that only a kid can do.
5. Helping Mom & Dad around the house
6. Knowledge that all "gifts" are from the Lord
7. A creation days type what was created on what day to help with memory.
8. Sympathy toward those who need us.

-Robert Radke

the katy cake lady said...

hmmm, could be the pessimist in me coming out but oh well. how about a song called lies,lies,lies and talk about all the lies that the world will want them to buy into. i.e., debt, vanity, being someone you're not, self-medicating, acceptance of sin disquised as "tolerance" or "diversity", shame, guilt, you know all those good things. And then you can wrap it up by telling them that the truth will set them free. we all want to be free, right? even kids. and there are plenty on mommies and daddies out there that need to hear a song about such things as well, so it would be a winner all around.

rk said...

Wow! So many great ideas! Thanks everyone. Keep it coming. I may have to make this a double CD.

D.O. said...

eating organic, locally grown food.

Just kidding.


Scott from Texas said...

Ok ok. First time to comment. I found your music almost a year ago and have been content with just blog stalking. But I do have 3 RK cd's now so I think I'm entitled to my say in it...
I don't care what other songs go in there, but if the "5) Please don't eat your boogers." from lauri doesn't make it in there I'm going to jump up & down and throw a fit!!! PLEEEASE Ross, my 3 year old REALLY needs this song.

Ok and maybe this... not fearing fear. The whole God is bigger than the boogie man need an overhaul. Oh great, I can't get away from the booger thing...

Or... My dad (who is a boy) is married to my mom (who is a girl) and for some reason seems to like it...

or... Please don't let me grow up cause' I don't wanna be dumb like my parents... (I have 2 "tweens" besides the 3 yearold and I can see them singing a song like that).

that's all for now...

kathryn said...

I was just coming back to add that fear would be a great song topic, but now I'll just have to second what Scot wrote! God is bigger than the boogie man was the first thing that popped into my head, too. So, fear. Amen.

And knowing that booger-eating is a big problem many people deal with on a daily basis just helps me be more content with this life stage.

Michelle said...

Tonight Austin gave me some money and asked me to give it to God. When I asked him why, he said, "Because, He is my King." (Earlier in the day Austin commented on what it means to give God money. He said it is because God can use it to give stuff back to us.)

Def not as good as some of these ideas...but cute to inspire! Funny things kids say!

p.s. I love the idea of Daddy (a boy) loves Mommy (a girl) - but they didn't kiss till they said "I do"!!!! (you know, sort of a 'saving innocence' theme in some way - I do think kissing is ok before marriage)

Michelle said...

oh, and one more idea on different 'ethnic' types to explain to kids about skin color, etc...that I think is cute.... when Aaron was born, this happened to me:

May 2006: Austin and I went to Walmart and Aaron was only about 7 weeks old. WHile we were checking out, we saw a black girl holding a baby and Austin told her, "we have a baby just like that; except he's vanilla".

(Austin used to say he thought Sam was "swirl", but in summer he is chocolate.) We NEVER had discussed skin colors before - he was only 4 when it happened. ;)

aggierudy3 said...

I teach sixth graders, so my list has to do with things I wish they had deep in their hearts instead of just in the rule book.

1. Modesty as a heart issue for girls and the corollary for boys: treat women and girls with respect.

2. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, 24since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. (Col 3:23-24)

3. Do everything without complaining or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe 16 as you hold out the word of life—in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing. (Phil 2:14-16)

Chrys and Mike said...

* there's some great, fun music for kids out there but i prefer anything that will teach them God's word - straight up scripture. let's give them steak!

* o just memorized psalm 1 and i think it would make a great song. also psalm 23 or psalm 100.

* it wouldn't be easy (b/c they don't rhyme) but i would love, love, love the westminster catechism for kids. i have thought about doing a children's book but keep running into the problem that even changing one word (to rhyme or make it easier to remember) could change the meaning and i can't do that!

btw, we went to voddie's FIC conference in houston last weekend. my head is still spinning from all that i learned. amazing.


Nathan T said...

Man, those kids in the photos are pretty clever, I selfishly desire a song that tells them "babysitters are almost as smart as your parents, so stop with the crazy mind games." But then again, they keep me on my toes...

Eric said...

1) "I saw Mommy eating boogers too" - to the tune of "I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus". This would be a song about the confusion in a kid's mind when he sees a disconnect between his parents words and actions.

2) "Why did Jesus give me money?"

3) "Why was I born away from God?" - that would be a bit ambitious, but if you're willing to tackle the Trinity, why not go here too?

Laurie M said...


1. Giving God your best at school, sports, all things

2. How each child is made unique, by God, and will in turn be talented at different things (sibling stuff)

3. How God and their parents are 'for' them, not 'against' them

Love, love that you are creating a kids album!

Laurie M said...

I forgot to put my 'lighter' idea

How about a song about 'boys night'...when Staci is away for a night with the girls or away for the weekend. I can only imagine what boys' night is here at my house. I know they have way too much fun!

shell said...

Things we are dealing with or expect to deal with soon:

Adoption: it's Ok that my brother doesn't look like me or that I don't look like my parents.

Selfishness: It's not all about me - regardless of what the commercials say, I can think about others instead of myself. And God has blessings in store when I do.

Prayer: God wants to do great stuff when we ask Him.

Forgiveness: When someone does something to you, and you forgive them, you can't keep bringing it up a year later.

Love, love, love the cd idea! Will be praying about it. You could even throw in a couple jingles -- you know how easily they stick in your head. What better way to learn scripture.

And one more thing, please, please don't have kids sing remakes of popular christian songs -- I can't take it anymore.

Luke said...

I have an idea, albeit maybe it's not a very good one. It kind of ties the hymns project and the children's music project together.

One of the challenges my parents had with raising my brother and I was explaining holidays. We learned that Christmas was an annual celebration of Christ's birth, and some other things like that, of course. But the whole thing seemed very pulled out of thin air. And honestly, as a kid, I remember that a lot of my life was jumping from holiday to holiday, and watching what came next.

Old hymns is the lion's share of what I listen to now. But I think the church of the past had a grip on a concept that we've sort of lost. A remnant of it remains with Christmas, but by and large we've kind of forgotten about the rest of it.

The church used to celebrate an entire calendar...a year that cycled through six seasons, three for the two key celebrations (Christmas and Easter), each of which was prepared for (Advent and Lent), then observed for a time (Christmas and Easter), and then reflected upon (Epiphany and Pentecost). Nobody really does that anymore. In of itself, that's fine--the Bible doesn't command an ecclesiastical calendar. That said, for me personally, I find it very helpful. It brings order to my year, and constantly points me to Jesus.

I also remember a sermon an elder at my church did--a "children's sermon" (meaning it was intended with the kids as a primary audience but was immensely informative for the adults as well), where he got up and explained what those feasts were and what they meant (a slightly longer version of what I wrote above). He had a roll of that streamer paper stuff he'd taped together with the multiple colors attached to each one (blue, white, green, purple, white, green) to illustrate.

I don't know what the ultimate effect of that was, but it's stayed with me. Heh...I have this odd thing I do where I change my highlight color on my computer to whatever the current color serves as a reminder for me, and points me to Jesus.

The ultimate idea of the whole thing is: We order our lives around something. Maybe some folks can use that as a tool to order their lives around the life of Jesus.

So...perhaps a song that talks about at least the two major feasts the church remembers (Christmas and Easter), and which points the child to prepare their heart for it beforehand, and remember it afterwards.

I think a lot of children order their lives around holidays. God said in Exodus to observe the Passover, but also told Israel that their children would ask why they were doing so, and to explain it to them.

So...perhaps a song to explain the holidays we observe.

Luke Sneeringer

P.S. On the topic of hymn CDs: It makes me sad that nobody ever does music for any time of year other than Christmas. I love Christmas hymns, and Christmas CDs with them abound (yay!). I'd love to see a CD where someone covers some of the old (and very beautiful) hymns written for some of the other seasons. It shocks me that searching for "Christ the Lord is Risen Today" on iTunes gets so few results. I think I'm going to be wishing for that for awhile, though. :)

Luke said...

Another (completely unrelated idea), completely coming from my personal bias as someone who grew up with Asperger's Syndrome:

A song about treating other kids well even if/when they don't fit in.

Jeremy said...

howabout a song detailing instructions on eating spaghetti and pudding with your hands. something like:
"put those latex gloves on baby, we're gonna have spaghetti n' puddin'. don't worry, we won't have to wash our hands this time..."