Sunday, December 27, 2009


Wanna hear me show off my jingle-writing chops? Wanna see cute pics of my kids? how about a look at the ukulele that my in-laws got me for Christmas? All that and more (well, there's actually not much more, that's pretty much it) if you watch the video below:

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas thoughts

With only a few hours until it's actually here, I thought I'd share a bit about the holy day. The holiday.

I’ve been thinking a lot about all the beautiful paradoxes and surprises that you find in the Christmas story. They’re really the same kinds of paradoxes and surprises that you find throughout the life – and death – of Jesus. The parents who hadn’t enough influence or charisma to find a hotel for the night gave birth to the baby king who would someday have, still, no place to lay his head. The child whose birth illuminated a star for faraway travelers would grow to become a man whose death would blot out the sun for an afternoon. The infant whose first visitors were shepherds without sheep would one day look upon the uncertain masses among him and see them as sheep without a shepherd. The star-worshiping priests of a false religion, led by the Spirit to usher in His birth, would be replaced by Jehovah-worshiping priests of a true religion, led by Satan to usher in His death.

I suppose the list could go on and on, and if it did, we’d only grow increasingly more confused and perplexed and enchanted by it all.

It’s all so beautiful and mysterious, and – if we’re honest – not at all what it “ought” to have been. Not at all what we thought it would be.

No one anticipated (or wanted) a king born in a barn on a cold and lonely night. Nor did anyone anticipate (or want) a king who offered both sides of his face to be slapped, both hands to be nailed, both shoulders to bear the weight of a trillion criminals, and doing so with criminals at both his sides (two spots that Zebedee’s wife had once requested for her sons; no doubt she would’ve changed her mind on that day).

But I’m getting ahead of myself. The point I want to make could be made at any point in the story of Jesus, and perhaps in the stories of any of His followers throughout history. It is simply this: His Kingdom is not of this world.

Said another way: there are lots and lots of kingdoms in this world, and Jesus doesn’t belong to or submit to or care much for any of them.

It’s not that He’s a superior-acting snob or even a revolutionary. He is, by His nature, Superior. He is, by His essence, Revolution. In every way He is higher and greater and set apart. He is Other. For Him to stop pursuing His business to take interest in our kingdoms would be like a firefighter who stops racing toward a burning hospital to settle a quarrel between two ants fighting over a potato chip. His thing is just infinitely more important than ours. Infinitely.

He is simply too great for our understanding. And that’s why so much of what He does makes no sense to us. That’s why we God-following humans spend so much time trying to over-explain Bible passages that don’t make sense to us. “Oh, it doesn’t really mean that.” “That would’ve been completely different had you read it in Greek.” “He’s not talking about the same thing in that passage that He was talking about in that other passage.” Fire doesn’t mean fire and all doesn’t mean all and He doesn’t change His mind even though He just did.


And on and on we go trying to make sure He stays within our doctrinal understanding of Him, because of course we’ve already decided what He will and will not do. Our poor God is in a theological judo hold, unable to ever do anything that we haven’t pre-destined Him to do.

Don’t hear me saying context isn’t important. Quite the opposite. I’m actually saying that context is everything, and that our context is so small and narrow that we may never – this side of Heaven, at least – comprehend His context.

And even as we try to understand His context, we’re also busy inserting Him into ours. Only He doesn’t really fit into our context. At least not in the way that makes sense to us. Sure, He fits if we’re okay with a baby born in a smelly barn. He fits if we’re thrilled with him scaring off a good crowd of followers with talk of cannibalism. He fits if we like cryptic, down-home parables for the lower class and insulting, crystal-clear metaphors for the upper class.

And of course now I’ve gotten far away from the Christmas story, haven’t I? I’ll go ahead and tie this thing up, lest I lose all 3 of you.

I was just trying to say that I think the Christmas story is alive to me again this year. It’s alive to me because I love how unexpected and surprising it all was. And in that way – if in no other way – our crazy, over-commercialized gift-exchanging is sort of appropriate. Presents, wrapped up and secret, under the tree, waiting to be opened. We all love a good surprise. We all love a gift that changes everything. Even when it isn’t what it “ought” to have been. Even when it isn’t what we thought it would be.

Merry Christmas, world. Happy Birthday, Jesus.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


I did my best to make that pic cool and interesting, but instead it just came out creepy and odd and well, a little unsettling. Probably not the best way to market my kids' record, right? Funny you mentioned it, because that's the point of this post. Read on...

OK, some of you pre-order-ers may have already gotten the CD, and I know that it's been downloaded some as well. And many of you will get them tomorrow and Tuesday. So let's start getting some reviews. Here's all that I ask. If you like the CD, tell people about it!

Again, the Ross King World Tour Promotion Machine is kind of tiny and sad and pathetic, so I need your help to get the word out.

Here's what you can do. If you use twitter or facebook or myspace or if you blog or whatever, just go on the world wide internets and say "hey, I just got this new kids' CD and it's very, extremely (insert your own verbiage here) and you should go get it too." then you can link to iTunes or Amazon or my website or whatev (I've been hanging out with college students a lot, and they say stuff like "whatev.")

Of course if you don't like the CD very much, I suppose you could tell a bunch of people not to buy it, but that's just cruel. I mean, at least play it for some 5-year-olds and see if they like it before you make a judgment.

Anyway, I'd love to hear feedback from anyone who's got the record, and I'd very much appreciate your free PR help. Hey, I'm more than willing to come do a house concert for anybody who sells some of my music.

Thanks everyone. I hope to have a couple of other fun things up before Christmas. But either way, have a great holiday.

I leave you with a second attempt:
There. Is that better? No? Seriously, I need help here.

Friday, December 18, 2009


go get it!

Check your mailboxes tomorrow and Monday if you pre-ordered!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

New Christmas song, etc

Three things of import!

First, it’s my awesomely hot wife’s birthday today, so if you haven’t already told her happy birthday, do so now on her blog or, if you’re her “friend,” tell her on facebook. Or, and this is really crazy, call her on the telephone. I know, I know. Who uses telephones anymore?

Well, I do, but only to shoot videos. But I’m getting ahead of myself. More on that in a sec.

Secondly, I have confirmed that the CD will be delivered to my home/office – and available for download – on Friday. Expect to be barraged with info on my various networking sites. And hey, if you want your pal Ross to sell tons of records, get on the aforementioned facebook and tell all your friends to be a “fan.” And if you’re not a “fan” yet, that’s just sad.

Thirdly and finally, here’s something I’ve been working on. Lots of folks have been asking me about my “regular” songwriting career. You know, the songs for grown-ups that I used to write. Well, as I’ve said a few times lately, I am diligently working on those kinds of tunes for a new record that I will hopefully record in, I don’t know, 6-7 months and maybe have out late in the summer. I’m just guessing here, but that’s my plan at this point.

Anyway, in the meantime, I’m going to try to be better about sharing new songs as I work on them. I like the idea of my closest fans/friends/supporters being in on the creative process. It’s a little scary to show things to the world before they are completely done, but I’ve been writing songs – and being critiqued as I do so – for over 15 years now, so I think I can handle it.

Having said that, I’m not totally sure this is the “final” draft of the song, in terms of writing. There are aspects of it that I’m not sure I love yet. It’s not really a song about anything specific (I mean, other than the Christmas story), and that’s not my usual way.

Whatever, I’ll let you be the judge.

Other thoughts, as you listen: I’ve been fascinated for a while with 3 distinct aspects of the Christmas story. In no particular order, they are angelic encounters, massive cultural change, and “favor.” I’ll explain.

Angels encountering humans:
In the Christmas story, there are several angelic encounters. And it seems like every time the angels appear, they have to assure the humans who are seeing them that there’s no need to fear. I think that’s interesting. Are angels scary? They’re never scary in Christmas plays, cartoons, Christian bookstores, or TV shows? I don’t know. It’s just interesting. Some of you may have heard another Christmas song that I wrote called “Song of Gabriel.” I used to have it for free up on my site. Anyway, that song is pretty much centered around the idea that angels are scary beings with weird jobs. I’ll record it formally someday and you can hear it.

Massive cultural change:
This one is simple, but it’s something that I don’t know that I ever thought much about until recently. When Jesus arrived on the scene – as a baby born in a barn, no less – people must’ve had a terribly hard time believing that this was the promised messiah. A messiah coming changed everything about their world and their view of life. Moreover, a messiah born as a baby in a barn changed things further, because it wasn’t at all what most people expected. I won’t go into this too much, because there are countless sermons and books (and probably songs) that cover it in depth. But I just think it’s cool, and I sort of wish I could understand what it felt like to be there in that world at that time. I wonder if I would’ve believed it.

The angel tells Mary that she’s “highly favored.” The scriptures then tell us that she was very troubled by that message. Isn’t that strange? Mary was told that she had high favor from the Almighty God, and it troubles her. Boy, I wish I had some context for that one. But then you jump ahead 9 months or so, and she’s shivering in a barn with her carpenter husband, squeezing out a baby with sheep manure filling her nostrils. You have to wonder if she thought, “favor, huh?” I mean, I’m not doubting Mary’s faith or her tenacity or any such nonsense. Don’t worry. Again, it’s just interesting.

OK, anyway, that’s enough set up. Go watch/listen. Here’s the tech talk, if you care. I recorded the video on my iPhone. I recorded the acoustic and vocal at the same time with my Edirol handheld recorder. And I added the production with Ableton Live. The production isn’t anything fancy. Just some stuff to make it sound more interesting. Oh, and I didn't edit any of the singing, so beware of pitchy notes here and there.

If you have thoughts, feel free to share. But I warned you that it may not be finished yet. I’m being vulnerable here, so don’t beat up on me too hard.

More new CD info coming as I get it!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Fans of my face: Unite!!!

OK, at the urging of my good friend and pseudo-publicist Andrew, I now have a "fan page" on facebook. I know, I know. But seriously, this is how REAL musicians sell records, so I figure I have to do it.

So, what are you waiting for? Go inflate my ego.

Also, it helps me pay the bills.

But mainly it's good for the ego.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

2 mo day

If you haven't already pre-ordered the new CD, hurry hurry! Sometime Monday afternoon I'll be pulling the plug on the pre-order option. After Monday, you'll have to wait until the 18th to get your grubby little paws on it. That's when it will be available at iTunes and Amazon, etc, and that's when I'll be mailing all the CD's out. So go get one (or 20) for $9 while you still can.

thanks! More updates throughout the next week.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

He likes it!

My good friend Todd Wright has posted reviews on his ubiquitous vlog and on his not-as-ubiquitous-as-it-once-was-before-twitter blog. But he hasn't posted anything on his schlog or his phlob or goobletyglob. Sorry, I just had to do that because I felt so silly using all those words that were only invented in the last week or whatever.

Anyway, go hear what Todd thinks of the record. He's my pal, so I'm sure he would've had a hard time saying "this record is depressingly bad and makes me want to smash my nose with a caveman's mallet," but it as far as I can tell, he likes it. Todd is a fantastic musician and songwriter in his own right, so he's got some street cred. He seems like he's being pretty honest about my record, and I know him well enough that I can tell he ain't working too hard to sell it for me.

So if you're curious to get a song-by-song evaluation of the record, go here and here. And while you're at either of thos places, get to know Todd and his extremely loyal group of internet pals.

Oh, and buy Todd's music.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The continuing saga of self-promotion

OK kids, I've got 3 pieces of news fo ya.

First, I've switched out the songs one last time on the myspace player. Two more songs, plus I've uploaded the actual mastered versions of some of the tunes that you've already heard. Basically, they'll just sound louder and cleaner than they did before. This will probably be the last time I'll mess with myspace for awhile, so you can quit going there if that's been difficult for you. I've heard from several of you who feel as if you need to shower after spending time in my space or in anyone else's space.

Anyway, with these new songs up, it means that if you've been following along, you've had a chance hear most of the record. Lik 9-10 songs I think. There are 13 total, so that's definitely more than half. Basically this means that, if you still aren't convinced to buy it after hearing all those songs, the record stinks. Or you have terrible taste in music. I sure hope that neither of those things are true but I mean, what else am I to conclude?

But you know what? This isn't the kind of negative talk that we champion here at RKWT. Let's not dwell on how stinky my record might be or how knuckleheaded your artistic sensibilities probably are. Let's move on from that. In fact, let's move right over here and give these tunes a listen. Go listen and let the magical whimsy overcome you. Or whatever. Then go buy it. Or if you've already bought it, go buy a few more and give them to friends who have forgotten how to smile. I think this record is a cure for all chronic frowny-faced grumpertons.

OK, second thing. I will officially shut down the pre-order deal one week from today. I anticipate that the record will "drop" (as they say in the music biz, which I am totally a part of even if you think I'm just pretending) on Dec 17 or 18. Both the "real CD's" and the downloads should be ready by then. So I will cut off the pre-orders a few days prior to that, on Mondy Dec 14. That's your warning. One week from now, no more pre-orders, and no more super-cheap pre-order prices.

Thirdly, we're trying out some stuff with the rosskingmusic site, so be patient as it goes thru some random changes over the next several days. I hope to have it all worked out by the time the CD comes out, but the Ross King World Tour and Music Producing Machine is kind of a mom-and-pop deal, so sometimes things are a little messy.

That's all for now. I will probably post almost daily from now until the release, so my apologies if you're already sick of hearing from me.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Me on TV

So a couple of days ago, Staci and I decided to take the kids to this new locally-owned yogurt shop here in town. Everybody's been making a big deal about it, and it's basically ice cream that lets you pretend you're not a gluttonous double-wide lardo, so of course we thought we should check it out.

Well, we get there, and there's this news camera guy there shooting video of everybody loading up on yogurt. This particular establishment is self-serve. You choose your flavor and then you add toppings. The topping selection is overwhelming in that way that Toys-R-Us is overwhelming to a toddler on a sugar high. They have sprinkles and chocolate chips and all the normal stuff, plus really ridiculous stuff like cheesecake chunks and brownie bits and -- I'm not making this up -- sweetened condensed milk in one of those hotdog-mustard style squeeze dispensers.

Let me just say this as frankly as I can. Sweetened condensed milk is the elixir of the gods. It is ambrosia flowing like a waterfall down a candy mountain in Narnia. It is the stuff of dreams. I suspect that it is made from Entwash and Unicorn milk, hand-stirred by hobbits who have passed thru the Grey Havens and entered into Hobbit Glory. When it touches your lips, it brings a pleasure so immeasurably decadent, you feel the need to repent and cover your nethers with fig leaves, for certainly you have tasted of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and now you must surely die.

Only you don't die. You live on. Cuz it's just sweetened condensed milk, and ain't nuthin' wrong with drinking it! Live on to run your finger around the rim of that can until it's shiny as a new quarter. Live on!

So they have that stuff out for you to put on your yogurt, just in case you were afraid that eating yogurt was somehow robbing you of the chance to consume butterfat.

Anyway, the news was there filming, and I hate being on TV. Most people find this odd. First, it's odd because, as we know from watching Cops and The Today Show and all of reality television, Americans love being on TV. It's part of who we are as a culture, like our love of ranch dressing and our excellent public education system. Americans will do what they gots to do to get on the TV. So it's odd that I, fine American that I am, don't want to be on TV.

It's also odd because (tangent coming!) about a year ago, I came very close to being on national TV. I've wanted to tell this story for awhile, and I've even promised to tell it once or twice, but I've always chickened out when it came time to post something. There are some legal issues at play (contracts and such).

Anyway, I still won't tell it (contracts may still apply, and I’m too scared to find out), but I will say that due to some extremely strange occurrences, I got asked to try out for a reality TV show last year. Man, I really want to tell this story. It's easily as ridiculous -- and every bit as true -- as this and this. But in the end, it turns out kind of like this. Other than getting to play a couple of my songs in front of the creepiest musician-turned-TV-star ever, it wasn't all that life-changing.

Anyway, in that situation, I only submitted myself to the possibility of national TV because it was a chance to play music for the world, and because (I am not making this up, either) they called me on my home phone and asked me to do it. As a general rule, when a major network casting agent calls your home and asks if you want to be on TV, you at least consider it. So I did. Long story. Someday maybe I'll tell it and just risk getting sued.

In the meantime, ask around and get one of my friends to tell it to you. Or ask me about it next time you see me at a house concert.

But listen, even in that situation, the prospect of being on TV was so scary to me that, in the 3 weeks leading up to it, I lost 15 lbs. I was too nervous to eat. These cameras add 10 lbs! That's what they say, and I am too pudgy to risk not believing them.

So back to the story I'm actually telling (not the one I'm not telling but only giving hints about). There I was about to maybe be on TV, and not only did I not have 3 weeks to lose 15 lbs by being extremely vain and unhealthy, but I was maybe going to be on TV for serving myself dessert!

If you’re just joining us (or if you’ve been skipping paragraphs hoping to get to the point), I’m just trying to stress the fact that I don’t like being on TV. And here was this news guy filming people loading up their self-serve yogurt buckets like pigs at the slop trough. No thanks.

But I really wanted that yogurt. And that sweetened condensed milk. And my kids would’ve cried if we’d left without getting anything. They had already spotted those rainbow sprinkles that taste like candle wax, and they weren’t leaving until they got some.

So we stayed. We got our yogurt on. And I avoided that camera. It was kind of amazing, really. The yogurt shop ain’t that big, but I somehow managed to stealth around that place, invisible as a miniature ninja on a moonless night. I’m not even sure that anyone could prove I was there. I mean, other than an empty squeeze bottle of condensed milk, I left no trace of my presence.

But I had 4 people with me, and they are all beautiful and extremely camera-worthy. So I’m busted.

Go here, watch the video, and see if you can spot me. I was wearing a cap, a brown jacket, and a hoodie. For a ninja trying to not be on TV, I was looking kinda bing-bang-boomtastic. It's a curse, really, to be so effortlessly fashionable. But you won’t see anything but an occasional glimpse of me in the background.

You'll definitely spot my hot wife, who looks insanely hot even when she's carrying an infant and trying to put sprinkles on yogurt.

Wait for the shot at the end of Jude, my 3-year-old, making the place look funner than DisneyWorld.

Now, if DisneyWorld ever starts having self-serve sweetened condensed milk on the Space Mountain ride...

More music in my personal space

I've switched out some of the tunes on the myspace player. Go hear two new songs from the record. I'll change out one or two more in a few days.

Also, I'm trying to think of ways to get reviews for the record. Does anyone know of any high-traffic blogs or kid-focused websites or music websites that might want to review this thing? I'll give a free CD to anyone who can hook me up with such things.

Finally, I'm working on some fun video stuff to promote the record. Think low-budget, very amateur, homemade music videos shot on cheap cameras. I mean, those are the best right? It's all taking longer than I'd hoped because me and the wife are both fighting thru a nasty cold. My voice is pretty much gone. And of course being sick affects my dance moves, which will of course be on full display for any videos.

Prepare for blessed awkwardness, coming asap.


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Purchasing has begun!

Thanks to all you extremely trusting folks who have preordered. Both of you are very kind.

No, seriously, thanks. I won't say how many people have pre-ordered because I'm not a bragadocious boastful braggart. But if I was, I'd be seriously bragging about how many copies I've sold. Like a whole bunch.

OK, now that we've covered me not bragging about the truckload of CD's I've already sold because I'm awesome, let's talk about a little bit about me.

I kid, I kid.

Do the people who come to this blog know that I am, at times, a little bit sarcastic? Goodness I hope so.

But now I'm really being serious. Two things: first, I am going to be switching out the songs on the myspace player over the next few days. I want to give people a chance to hear almost everything on the record. So if you have been directing people to go there and hear certain songs, you better warn 'em that I'm changing out the songs later tonight. But I will be replacing them with more songs from the record that nobody has heard yet, so that's the upside. It's like musical chairs, only without the chairs, which are really the worst part of that humiliating, Darwinian game.

Second thing is this. Some of you have asked me when I'm going to do another project of my "normal" music. Like this one or this one. Well, don't worry. I don't have any plans to become Nickelodeon's new high-paid music star (though I'm open to it as a side job). I'm still diligently writing music about Jesus for grown-ups. I won't make promises about how soon I'll do another record (if you haven't noticed, I'm not so good at predicting these things). But I will say that I am already writing for a new record and I'm eager to get back in the studio with an actual band (as opposed to the way I did the kids' record, which was mainly me and a keyboard and some tamborines), and I'm eager to talk about deeper stuff than boogers and juiceboxes and monkeys that know karate.

Wait, maybe not. That actually sounds pretty awesome.

In the meantime, I would still love to plan some house concerts for the spring if anyone is interested. I can do kid shows, grown-up shows, or a mixture. If you have questions or thoughts, comment here or email me (

Anyway, that's all for now. Be watching for more announcements and such as the release date draws closer.

Oh, and if any of you are into the twitter, I'm doing that now, though I'm not sure why.

Saturday, November 28, 2009


Still haven’t pre-ordered the new CD? Need more incentive? Not sure if the thing is going to be any good? Well, I’ve uploaded 2 more songs to the myspace page. Go check ‘em out. And after you get done dancing around the room with a huge grin on yo’ face, go here and order a big pile of 'em before you have to pay regular place like all the common folk.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Lend me your ears!

Remember myspace? Me neither. Well, apparently it was the cool thing before facebook, which was the cool thing before twitter. But that was before we all just got video cameras embedded in our underwear and psychic microchips implanted into our skulls and the world lost all sense of privacy and discretion, but at least we were always up to date on current events and funny quips from John Mayer and Sarah Palin.

No seriously, remember myspace? Seriously, me neither.

No, SERIOUSLY. I'm being serious this time. Some of you have asked to hear some clips of the songs on the new record. I'm going to have some up on the website by the end of the week, but in the meantime, I've posted some songs on myspace. It was weird. I hadn't signed in to my page in like 6 months or something. I felt dirty for some reason. Poor myspace. So judged.

Aaaaaaanyway... go here and listen if you want to get a sense of what you're buying before you pre-order. And remember, you save $3 if you order before the release, which wil be in about 15-20 days.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Orange you ready to hear it?

Come on, you had to know I was going to go there with the jokes.

But seriously.

If, like me, you believe the children are our future, go here now and pre-order.

Pre-announcing the pre-order in advance

OK, the CD is being mastered this week, and we expect for it to "drop" around Dec 15 or 16. But, we will begin taking pre-orders at within the next couple of days. I'll let you know here and on facebook, etc.

If you pre-order the CD, I will guarantee that it will get to you by Christmas. And, pre-orders wil be $9, no shipping cost, for an actual hard copy of the CD. Once the CD is out, it will be $10, and mail orders will include a shipping charge of (probably) $2, so you're saving $3 if you pre-order. Also, since there are 13 songs on the record, it will probably cost more than that on iTunes and in other download spots (they usually charge 99 cents per song). So this is a deal you don't want to miss.

By the way, this is (basically) what the CD will look like:

The left side is the back. The right side is the front. Fun, huh?

So, who wants to buy some cheap, hilarious, educational, and family-friendly music for Christmas gifts? Check back tomorrow bring yo money!

Friday, November 20, 2009

extremely awesome pictures of my face and body

That headline was misleading. The pics I'm referring to are extremely awesome. My face and body are not.

Go see for yourself. Here's a link to the blog of Tim and Kristen Douglass, the very creative and gifted folks who took my pictures for the new record. The current post is about the photo shoot that we did. Listen, I hate photo shoots. The camera adds ten pounds, and I can't use jokes to distract people from my physical inadequacies, because pictures don't contain audio. Maybe someday, when we get the rocket cars and the pills that turn into turkey dinners that are served to us by robot maids. Until then, I have to count on great photographers to make photo shoots bearable. Tim and Kristen pulled it off. I actually had fun. So go check out the cool pics and commentary on their cool blog, and maybe peruse their site as well.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Various and sundry

First, we just sent the kids' project to be mastered. That means I'm done working on it. It also means that, God willing, it will be out in 2-3 weeks. Weird. It only took a year.

I'll be posting something about pre-orders within the next week or so, hopefully. I'm going to make the record sigificantly cheaper for people who order early, so be on the lookout for that.

Second, I need promotional ideas. Who has thoughts on cheap ways to tell as many people as possible about this? I'm not all that savvy with the twitter and the facebook. And I don't think anyone is uing the myspace these days. Anyone? Thoughts? Brilliance? Good ideas will get you free copies.

And speaking of free copies, my recent contest had the worst turnout in RKWT contest history. I guess people don't think Nickelback is as bad as I do. Well, that's just a really sad statement about our culture, but whatev. At any rate, my old pal and former bandmate Alex Burdine was the clear winner, so he gets the prize. Alex, send me your address and I'll get you a copy asap.

Next, there will be a new look at very soon, like this month. No, I'm serious. I have to do it now. Since I have the new record coming out, it means I can no longer have a website that says "under construction." Musicians with "under construction" websites don't sell records. I'm no marketing genius, but I know that much. So you can expect to be slammed with "new website!" posts and emails and tweets and such fairly soon. I'll be trying to get folks to go see it.

Here's a pic that I'll probably use on the site:

I have lots of jobs and passions and hobbies and such, so I thought it would be appropriate. Get it?

Finally, I'd like to start talking about concerts to promote the new record (but also to play my other songs as well, of course). So if anyone would like to talk house shows (or non-house shows) please let me know.

That's all for now.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

I want my nickel back, nickel back, nickel back.

While my kids’ record is being mixed, I’m spending the weekend at a conference in L.A. The conference is for Taxi, an independent A&R organization that I’m in. Remember when I sent out those free instrumentals and told you guys to look for them on TV, etc? That was a connection I made with these folks.

It’s been an interesting experience for me, being here. There are about 2500 musicians at the conference: songwriters, producers, singers; pretty much every genre you can imagine is represented. In addition to that, there are lots and lots of “important” industry people here. Well-known songwriters, publishers, record label execs, that kind of thing.

The point of the conference, as far as I can tell, is sort of two-fold. First, we’re here to attend all kinds of seminar classes and informational panels and keynote speakers and such. Those have been pretty good. Classes about what music supervisors are looking for when they are trying to find music for TV shows, movies, commercials, etc. Classes about how to make great sounding recordings without spending lots of money. Classes about how to market your own music cheaply and effectively. Etc, etc.

Second, we're here to network and schmooze and hand out business cards and CD's and such. That part of it is pretty much a nightmare to guy like me, but I'm trying to be teachable and jsut go for it. There's a weird tension in trying to promote yourself while also fully embracing the Gospel. I won't go into all that here. You guys know that I'm always asking silly questions like that and taking all the fun out of stuff.


Right now, I’m in a huge room (The Grand Ballroom!) listening to a panel of big-time record label A&R reps who are critiquing music that is being played for everyone in the room. Basically, conference attendees can put their music in a big box and hope that it will be chosen, at random, to be played. If chosen, their song is played for maybe 45-60 seconds, and then the panel will critique it in front of everyone. If this sounds brutal, it is. I’m sitting here thinking of how thankful I am that I didn’t put anything in that box.

The conference as a whole has been excellent, but this last hour or so hasn’t been too good.

However, here’s something I just couldn’t resist telling you. A few minutes ago, they chose a rock song to play. The song wasn’t bad, but the singer was pretty great, at least within the rock genre. It was that typical gritty rock singer sound, and the singer did a great job with it. But here’s the fun part. One of the panelists is pretty involved in the pop/rock genre and, when asked what he thought of the song, he said this:“It’s not bad, but this kind of song has to pass The Nickelback Test.”

He then proceeded to tell us about this test. I don’t remember what he said, because every time I hear the word Nickelback, and it isn’t followed by phrases like “sucks toilet water” or “is terrible” or "makes me want me to stab my own ears with meat thermometers," my brain shuts down and has to reboot.

After my brain rebooted, I was sort of curious to know more about this Nickelback Test. Could I pass it? Is it a written test? Essay or multiple choice? Would there be a word bank from which to choose answers? How smart and original would a singer/songwriter have to be before they were disqualified? Would there be any sort of physical or medical qualifiers? Maybe you have to have a bad perm-and-dye job to pass? Maybe it would be necessary to bludgeon the listeners in the ears over a 3 and a half minute period in order to pass The Nickelback Test.

I can’t answer any of these questions, because I didn’t hear the explanation of this elusive test.

So I’ve decided to run a quick contest. The winner of this contest will get the notoriety of being honored on this blog, as well a free copy of Words that Rhyme With Orange when it releases here in a few weeks.

Here’s the contest: Come up with a compelling, convincing theory about The Nickelback Test.The theory must answer questions such as these. What is it? What purpose does it serve? How does one pass it? What happens if one fails it? Does The Nickelback Test have an application fee? Maybe a dime or 6 dollars? If one passed The Nickelback Test 5 times, would that make them a Quarterback? If a band consisted of 5 pennywhistle players, could it be automatically absolved from taking the test? Stuff like this. I just need to know.

I'll take submissions for 3-4 days. Enter as often as you like!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Is this the end for me?

It's funny, because as the whole kids' CD developed, I kept making jokes about how I was making a record of "booger songs." At the time, I honestly hadn't written any songs about boogers. That was just my way of joking about it. When I'm insecure about my career, I make jokes, OK? It's not something I'm proud of, but there it is.

Anyway, people started saying stuff like "I can't wait to hear those booger songs!" or "I really need my 5-year-old to hear this song because he eats his boogers" or "my husband wipes his boogers under the couch and I think he needs to see a therapist." I didn't know how to help with that last one, except to advise that husband to be a little more covert about it.

But all those comments got me thinking that maybe I really did need to have a booger song on the record. I mean, I know it's extremely immmature and low-brow and such, but that's exactly the kind of stuff that I find hilarious. Monkeys! People getting pummeled in the crotch! Boogers! That's comedy.

So I wrote something. And when it came time to record it, I decided to invite my old college roommates for the background vocals. I mean, one of them is the VP of a big bank, and the other works for ministry that reaches out to street kids and gangs. Neither one of them has ever sang in the studio or performed at all, really.

So of course they were perfect.

I had to make a video. It is below.

In other news, the CD is now being mixed. The artwork design is nearly done. This means the record is less than month away from release. Thanks for your patience.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

More kid stuff

OK, so I think I told you about a week ago that I was done tracking the kids’ CD. That was true, and then I wrote two more songs for it.

So I tracked one of those yesterday, and I’ll track the other one tomorrow. I’m very excited, because the one I tracked today allowed me to fulfill my lifelong dream of pretending to be a hip-hop artist. Many of you know that I dabbled in the hip-hop world way back when. As successful as that foray was, it was to be short-lived. Since that time, I have longed to return. But, since I’m still very white, and since I’m even less cool than I used to be, I knew I had to be careful. I needed some help from someone who could increase my hip-ness. It was one of those times when it pays to be an old guy who other people “grew up listening to.”

This guy is one of those people, and he had told me before that he’d be glad to help me if I ever needed it. Well, he’s more famous and more talented than I, and way better at sounding like he belongs on hip-hop songs, so I called him. The video below chronicles a tiny little bit of our session. You won’t get to hear the whole song. Only enough to show you how I am totally channeling Kanye, only without the congnac-inspired public jackassery.
Anyway, enjoy. The song is called “juicebox,” and you’ll hear it soon enough.

In other news, below are a couple of pics that we took for the new record.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Music about boogers for the glory of God

“Going Secular”

That’s what we used to call it when a Christian artist all of a sudden appeared on mainstream radio (or even – gasp! – in a music video on MTV) with a song that didn’t mention Jesus, or maybe only talked about God in the vaguest of terms.

He’s going secular!

She went secular!

I think they’re trying to go secular!

It sounds ludicrous to me now, but at the time it seemed like juicy, scandalous news. It was sort of the ultimate sin in Christian entertainment (every time I say those two words together, I either giggle to myself or shudder a little).

In the late 80’s and early 90’s, this sort of thing was big news in the evangelical Christian community. And it was all really controversial and divisive, too, because you never knew where people were going to stand on it. Was “going secular” tantamount to denouncing one’s faith? Was it a divinely-inspired way of doing ministry to the world outside of the CCM culture? Or was it something in the middle? Something more organic and unintentional? Like, simply, a particular artist was making music that was so good that it suddenly demanded to be heard by people, regardless of faith or lyrical content?

I honestly don’t know. It was probably a case-by-case thing. I’m sure there were some folks who “went secular” because they stopped believing in Jesus (or at least stopped believing in Him in the same way). And I’m sure there were some who just got embraced by the “secular” world without even trying or changing a thing.

Personally, I’ve never cared for all those labels and divisions. I wish people could just make music and not try to pre-categorize so much. There’s a lot of really inspiring, God-pleasing music out there that never makes it onto the shelves of your local Christian retailer.

Where am I going with this?

There’s something sort of distinctive about my soon-to-be-released kids’ record, and that same something represents what seems to be happening in my career as a whole right now. So I figured now was a good a time as any to talk about it.

Confused? Gimme a little of your time and I’ll work it out for you.

Can you handle a little backstory? I really think this will help.

OK, so maybe 15 months ago, when I first started thinking about the possibility of doing a record strictly for kids, my first thought was that I would just write whatever came to my mind, with no regard for how overtly “spiritual” any of the songs needed to be. The thread that would hold the songs together would simply be “things I want my kids to sing and learn and enjoy.”

So the songs, as I started to write them, had the potential to end up being about obeying God; or they could be about eating boogers.

Hey, I want my kids to understand both of those basic principles. They’re not necessarily on equal ground or whatever, but you get the idea. I mean, if you raise up a little scripture-quoting, sin-overcoming saint who eats his boogers, that’s a fail in my book. Nothing ruins a witnessing opportunity like a booger snack.

Random Stranger: “I really appreciate you stopping on the side of the road in this heat to fix my two flat tires. Why would you do something like that?”

Your Super-Godly Kid: “Well, Jesus said He came to serve, not to be served, and I just want to live like Him, because He loves me and saved me.”

Random Stranger: “Wow, tell me more about this Jesus! I am really interes… Hey! What are you doing?!?”

Your Super-Godly Kid: “Nom-nom-nom…”

Random Stranger: “Are you eating your…?”

Your Super-Godly Kid: “Nom-nom-nom… gulp. What? Sorry, what was that you were saying?"

Random Stranger (running away now, deeply disturbed): “AAAAH!”

Your Super-Godly Kid: “Where are you going?”

Random Stranger: “I don’t care how nice or articulate you are! I don't want your Jesus, you booger-eating wacko!”

See what I’m saying? And that’s exactly how it would happen, too.

The point is that I wasn’t going to try too hard to write songs in certain categories. I just wanted to cover the whole gamut of kid topics. I’ve always approached writing from a very organic perspective. Out of the 300-400 songs I’ve written in my life, maybe 30-40 have been writing with a great deal of planning-ahead intentionality. Mostly I’ve just written things that seemed important or relevant or urgent. Jeremiah talks about a “fire shut up in my bones and I am weary of holding it in; indeed I cannot.” Like that.

Well, at the same time as all this was going on (in other words, over the last 9-12 months or so), I was starting to get more opportunities to write other not-overtly-Christian music. I won’t go into all the details or reasons, but I was being presented with good, money-making reasons to write everything from country to instrumentals to jingles. Being a person who just really enjoys being creative (and a person who loves changes and challenges and such), I got into all that. Some of it even paid some of my bills and got me some fairly significant “interest” from people who pay significant money for such things.

So suddenly I was writing all kinds of music – and having a great and fulfilling time doing it – and most of it wasn’t the kind of stuff that I would normally put on my CD projects.

There’s a whole other story I could tell here about how, sometimes when I’m alone in my thoughts, I kind of get a little self-pitying about the fact that I’ve been pouring my guts out for 15 years, writing music for Christians, and I’ve never had any real interest from the mainstream Christian music culture. Believe me, when people who don’t know Jesus start to value my talent more than people who do, it makes things weird.

But that’s not entirely relevant to this story, nor is it all that helpful. Maybe I can blog about it some other time. For now, I digress.

Well most of you know what happened with my instrumental work. I have been getting some affirming and financially viable interest in that field, which I’m really thankful for. Many of you also know that I’ve written a fair number of jingles and had varying levels of success in that field as well. And a few of you have heard some of my country tunes. Nothing big going on there at this point, but I have gotten some pretty great feedback from "industry" types as I've pursued that aspect of my art.

The point is that, with regard to the content of the kids’ songs, I found myself writing all kinds of stuff. And maybe 6 months into the process, I realized that I had a ton of music that I really liked, but only some of it was overtly “Jesus music.”

So I started thinking about the Gospel and relationships and how the world perceives Christians and evangelism and such.

And I came up with a plan. Here’s where I might lose some of you. I hope not, but I’m prepared for the possibility.

I’m going to do a different kind of kids’ CD than many of you might expect. Hopefully, I’ll end up doing two CD’s. That’s the plan right now. The first one is pretty much done. Many of you have heard a couple of the songs. We’re already well into the mixing stage. Artwork design is being finalized. If things go as planned, it will be out within 4 weeks or so. But this CD isn’t going to have much God-talk on it. In fact, to the casual listener, it will probably fit right in with this guy and this lady and these people. I have no idea if it’s as good as what those artists do, but it will cover some of the same kind of ground.

What I hope to do is to get this music into the hands and iPods and cars of people who would normally have no interest in my music. People who have no interest in the Gospel or Christianity or Jesus. People who would never let their kids listen to music that promotes what is, to them, “religious propaganda.” I’m not trying to trick anybody or whatever. I’m just trying to do something with my career that is rarely done by “Christian artists.” And that is, to get non-Christians to listen to it. Can you imagine? What a crazy idea!

If I can get people to listen to this CD, maybe I can build a little trust with them. Maybe you (if you are the person who tells them they should get it or buys it for them or whatever) can build a little trust with them.

“Hey, thanks for the tip on that music. My kids really like it, and I like it too. Does that guy have any other music?”

I have no idea if the CD is good enough to endear my art to people in that way, but I think my plan is worth a try. Like I said, I’ve actually been getting some of my best responses, as a writer and artist, from non-church goers lately. Go figure.

I’m not turning my back on any of you. Just letting you know that if I have a chance to share what I do with people who don’t know Jesus, I’m going to do it.

Something else. A few paragraphs ago, I said I’ll probably end up doing 2 CD’s. That’s actually my plan at this point. See, I still have a bunch of kid songs that are very much God-talk, and I want to show those to the world as well. But, if I can get people to listen to the first one – and hopefully, love it – then it will be much easier to convince them to listen to the second one.

That’s the theory, anyway.

Don't freak out about this strange plan. As far as I know, I'm not selling out or hiding my faith or any such nonsense. I'm simply trying to reach a wider, less religious audience with these songs, in the hopes that I (and those of you who buy it and share it) can build relationships with children and parents for the sake of the Gospel, and then share more songs (and more conversations and more life, etc) with them.

Maybe this doesn’t make sense to anyone but me and the few trusted folks who I’ve counseled with thru this process. But hopefully you can trust me that I have a big-picture, long-term plan for trying to share the Kingdom with parents and children who may or may not know (or even want to know) about Jesus.

I say all that to let you know that you can feel free to pass the CD (or select songs, or a link, or whatever) to co-workers and friends and family and whoever, whether they are interested in Christian music or not, and you don’t have to worry that people will think you're throwing religion at them. Unfortunately, that’s the way people think these days. Trust me, non-believers love it when we just give them stuff, without any sort of agenda other than to bless them. If you like the songs, let them be that kind of blessing to your friends.

I’m not trying to propose that we should stop doing overt, controversial things in order to reach the world. If you’ve ever listened to my lyrics, read my blog, or been to my church, you know that I’m okay with overt-ness and controversy. But maybe we can mix in a little of this kind of thing as well.

I’m open to thoughts and discussion on this. I’ve sought wise, trusted counsel, so I feel okay moving forward with this plan, but I really would like to hear from anyone who has thoughts, agreeable or not.

Oh, and two last things. To all of you who were eagerly anticipating a new CD to teach your kids Bible verses and such, I apologize. I really do think your kids (and you) will be pleased with this “going secular” CD. It’s fun and wholesome and I’m really proud of it. Again, if all goes well, the “Christian” one will be out fairly soon as well. I’ve written about 70% of the music already, and I actually even recorded a fair bit of stuff for it, back when I was planning to put all these songs on one CD. I don’t think it will take anywhere near as long as this one took. I’m thinking of actually paying some people to play on it rather than doing it all myself.

And to any of you who are wondering if I'm ever going to make any more "normal" CD's, I can only say that I absolutely plan to keep writing and recording thought-provoking, God-praising music for grown-ups.

I just have to get this crazy kid thing out of my system first.

In closing, I give you this reassurance: of all the genres to “go secular,” children’s music is probably the least scandalous. In fact, sometimes I’m more worried about Christian children’s music than I am about secular children's music. I mean, if we’re honest, which one of these guys is weirder?

It’s a tie, at best, right?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Worship thoughts Pt.3: Why "Corporate" Matters

OK, sorry for the delay in getting to this. Busy busy.

I finally finished tracking the children’s record a couple of days ago. Keith is starting the mix, and hopefully we’ll be printing and releasing the sucker very soon. I’ll keep you posted.

Anyway, continuing on in my multi-part series on worship and worship leading (the other stuff I’ve written so far is here and here), today we’re going to talk about gathering together in a “corporate” (communal, group, lots-of-people-in-one-place, etc) context, and why the “corporate gathering” is important and unique in the realm of singing and God-worship.

This will probably be the least music-related of all my worship thoughts. Many of you know that I have very specific views on the Church. This will speak more to that than it will to music, specifically.

Let me be clear from the outset and say this. When I use the word “corporate,” I don’t have any particular size of form or method in mind. I am simply referring to the fact that it’s always been good and right for believers to get together and worship God, as a group, sharing the same time and space. I have opinions about “institutional church” (whatever that means) and “traditional church” (again, whatever that means), etc. But I’m not going to go into that here.

How do I know that corporate gatherings are good and right? Well, we sure have lots of scripture passages devoted to how to meet and live and be together. Aside from the rather famous passages like 1 Cor 12-14 and Romans 12, one could argue that aside from a handful of New Testament books, the entire New Testament was written to read to a large group. And by “large,” I just mean more than 2-3 folks.

And as for singing together, the word “sing” appears, as an instruction and/or command, more than any other word in the Bible. And –especially in the Psalms – you have loads and loads of text and subtext devoted to song leaders, music leaders, and worship leaders. If there are leaders, then the assumption would be that there are followers. And that adds up to a group.

So, I doubt anyone here has serious arguments against any of this basic doctrine of group-gathering-for-the-glory-of-God, but in case you do, post something in the comments or email me and we can hash that out. Despite how opinionated I sound, I really am willing to engage some disagreeing dialogue. Bring it on and maybe we'll all come out smarter.

For now, I’ll move on to the specific topic at hand. I’m a worship leader, rather than a Bible scholar or an ecclesiology expert, but today I’m going to attempt to speak outside of my normal wheelhouse a little.

Basically, here’s what I’d like to propose. Simply this: that the “just me and God” view of worship is, at best, incomplete and, at worst, a little dangerous. And because that view is inadequate, the best thing for Jesus followers to do is to continue to meet together – often and with intentionality – for worship of the Lord (which includes singing) as one body.

Make sense? I'll explain a little further, just in case.

At various times in the early years of my spiritual journey, I heard two principles over and over again.

The first was usually posed as a rather loaded question, and it went something like this:

“If you were alone on a deserted island, and all you had was your relationship with Jesus, would that be enough?”

Sometimes it was the same question, only all you had was your Bible on the deserted island.

When asked this question, you were supposed to be able to say yes. And so of course any time you felt like you weren’t at a place where you could say yes to this question, you were supposed to feel sufficiently guilty/convicted, and said guilt/conviction was supposed to compel you do some stuff that would get you to a place where you could say yes.

Let me give you some free advice before I dive into this. If anyone ever poses a question to you that is supposed to be a litmus test for your spiritual legitimacy, make sure that question has nothing to do with a deserted island. In fact, make sure it has to do with something that is actually practical and real and applicable to life. Why? Well, I have never known anyone who has ever spent significant time on a deserted island, and I would venture to guess that most of you haven’t either. And I don’t anticipate that I, or anyone else that I know, will ever spend time alone on a deserted island. If I did think this possibility was in my future, honestly, I would probably be worrying a lot more about how to make an ocean-worthy raft out of bamboo or how to start a fire with my bare hands or how to survive consuming only palm fronds and saltwater.

I’m not at all ashamed to say that the possibility of being on a deserted island compels me to learn how to be Bear Grylls more than it does to memorize Bible verses or meditate on Jesus with more intensity. Perhaps this makes me a bad Christian. If the point of being on a deserted island is to die and go very quickly from the island to heaven, then I suppose I get the logic. Otherwise…

The point I’m trying to make is that the proposition of spending life in some sort of societal vacuum is sort of ridiculous and inconceivable. It’s certainly unlikely and impractical. So why were people always asking me if I loved Jesus enough to pull it off?

I don’t really know the answer. I think it probably had something to do with the fear that all of us were simply claiming Jesus as our Savior out of some kind of peer pressure or family tradition. I understand that fear. But – and here’s a little more free advice – if I were you, I’d always be a little wary of developing a spiritual ethic around fear of what people might do. Legalism is nearly always the only fruit that that seed will bear. And in this case, I think that fear drove some folks to over-individualize the idea of conversion and sanctification.

All I’m trying to say is that the "deserted island" question – and the answer it was meant to provoke – serves to pull us toward a conclusion that has little value in the life that most of the world lives or will live or should live. Are we going to have times of solitude, some voluntary and some not, in our lives? Absolutely. Can those times be good and growth-intensive periods for us? Definitely. Will we need to have certain spiritual strengths in order to persevere thru those times? Yes. But “just me and God” is certainly not a picture of the primary way that we are to relate to and grow with God thru the course of our lives.

And I would argue that it’s not the primary way we are to express ourselves in worship either. Some of you will disagree with me on that point, and that’s okay.

Before I move on, let me quickly address the second principle that I repeatedly encountered as a young believer.

It went like this:
“If you were the only one who would ever get saved, Jesus would have still died on the cross, just for you, to get you into heaven.”

I promise I’m not trying to be controversial here, but this is, strictly speaking, not a biblical idea. Sorry. Is it absolutely wrong or heretical? I don’t think so. But it’s just not biblically supportable. Yes, Jesus died and rose again to save sinners. But just as important (if not more so) is the fact that Jesus died and rose again to establish His Church and to empower His Kingdom.

The simple fact is that the Bible never says anything like “if it was only you, He still would’ve endured the cross.” That idea can be inferred from scripture, but it’s not a clearly expressed idea in the text.

I don’t know for a fact that He wouldn’t have died to save just one person. And I’m not even saying that it’s a bad philosophical proposition. I’m just saying that we don’t know it to be true. And worse, there’s really not a lot of reason to tell people that. Again, I understand why people went around saying it. I suppose they wanted us all to know that we were specifically known and loved – as individuals – by the Lord God. I agree with that, and the Bible agrees as well. After all, we were knit together in out mothers’ wombs and fearfully made and such.

But the downside to that way of thinking is that it further drives us – like the earlier principle – into a view of our faith as some sort of purely (or at least primarily) individualized endeavor. And that’s just not the case.

You see, we were meant to see ourselves as a collective, “Chosen People.” As a royal priesthood, a holy nation, etc. I am not The Body of Christ in the world. We are. I am not the Bride of the coming Jesus. We are.

We were meant to need each other. We are actually made to need each other. Many of you have heard this before, but in the early part of Genesis, everything that God did was followed with “and it was good” or “and it was very good.” The first “not good” moment was when the Lord looked at Adam and said “it’s not good for a man to be alone.”

And that’s been true ever since. What was Jesus’ prayer in the garden before His crucifixion (John 17)? “… that they [we] be perfectly one,” as He and the Father were one. And what did Jesus, in that same prayer, say would be the most legitimizing factor of Jesus as Messiah and King? Our love for each other.

So, why does “corporate” matter? It matters because when we meet together, we are drawing upon an aspect of our relationship with the Lord that cannot be accessed without the Body. It matters because it gives us a chance to love each other and serve each other and give each other money and put others before ourselves. It matters because, when we sing together, we are saying that we all agree about who God is and who we are. It matters because it forces us to sing along even when the style of music isn’t our favorite. It matters because it challenges us to use our hands and bodies and voices in ways that aren’t the most comfortable to us.

This leads me to my final point. When we all get together to worship, it’s okay if some people stand and some people sit and some people raise hands and some people dance and some people don’t do anything. That’s okay. But it’s not the way it should always be, all the time. Sometimes we should just all do the same thing, as a way of saying “this isn’t about me, this is about us.”

And our level of expression before the Lord shouldn’t always be rooted in what is “comfortable” or “natural” to each of us. Sometimes we should do the exact opposite of what is “natural” simply because the Kingdom of God is a place where first things are last and humble things are exalted. Sometimes we should resist our urges to be “who we are,” simply because you are not your own.

We should always always always be open to the Lord calling us out of our comfort zones, privately and publicly. If you say “well, I will never lift my hands in worship because that’s just not my way,” you’re in trouble. I don’t know any other way to say it. Be careful with that kind of talk. It has no place in the Kingdom. Other than outright sins, Jesus followers aren’t allowed to have “I will never” in their vocabulary.

And that is what is so dangerous about the “just me and God” mentality. It insulates us from the differences between us and other Christ followers. We need to be around other people to remind us that the Body of Christ is made up of many parts, and all the parts need each other. We need to be around other people to see them dancing while we are standing still; to see them sitting in sober silence with their eyes closed when we are singing at the top or our lungs.

When we worship together, we do something emotional and vulnerable together. When does that happen in life? We need that. It shapes us and molds us and reminds us that other people are just as important as we are. And that they are just as messed up as we are. And if we’re open and willing, it reveals to us more of God’s power and Kingdom thru His people.

So, it’s absolutely okay for you and me to sit alone in our closets and worship in isolation with the Lord. In many ways, that taps into a hugely valuable (maybe even essential) aspect of our relationship with God and His Spirit. But if that’s the only way – or even the primary way – that we relate to God, we are missing out on the fullness of what He has for us in worship.

And if you’re a worship leader, this overarching view of the Kingdom -- and the gathering church -- is key to doing your “job” well. Singing together matters. Lifting our hands together matters. Giving our money together matters. Praying together matters. Agreeing together matters. Being emotional together matters.

Corporate matters.


Monday, October 5, 2009

It's not that gross unless you start thinking about it.

I spent the day in the studio working on the kids' record. Got some great stuff. So close! Hopefully I can have some definite news soon. I'm planning to take some photos this week for the CD art. Despite the fact that no one buys CD's anymore, you still have to have CD art so that there is a picture to look at when you play it on your iPod, Zune, or other device.

Anyway, in the meantime, here's something.

On Friday night, I did a concert for some nice, hospitable folks in Fairfield, TX. It was a reall great night. Michael Steele sat in on percussion.

We had an adventure. I could probably write about it and make it funny, but I had my flip video wth me, and got some good footage. So here's a little something that I threw together over the weekend.


Sunday, September 20, 2009

No monkeys were harmed or humiliated in the making of this movie

More worship thoughts and kids’ CD news coming soon.

In the meantime, I wanted to tell you about a conversation that happened in our house a couple of days ago.

The boys were watching a movie, and it was taking longer than Staci and I had hoped. Bedtime was looming nearer, but we really didn’t want to deal with the chaos of turning off the movie before it was done.

So the brief conversation went like this:
Staci: “Is that movie almost over?”
Me: “I’m not sure. Let me check." I go look at the screen for a few seconds.
Me: “I think it’s close to the end.”
Staci: “How close?”
Me: “Well, a monkey is driving an ice cream truck, and there’s also some small explosions. If that’s not the climax of the story, then this is the best movie ever made.”

There are only two kinds of people who willingly watch movies like this: children and weed-smokers. Weed-smoking monkeys, like the one above, would love it.

Bonus points if you can name the movie.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Anyone? Anyone?

OK, so after getting more hits than this blog has ever seen by a massive margin (I wonder if it had anything to do with free stuff?), I've gotten almost zero feedback on these tunes. That either means that you've all gotten together and agreed that, since the songs are so terrible, it's probably best to just pretend that none of this ever happened, or you're all so engrossed in listening to my brilliance that you can't take time away from dancing and clapping to even type.

Or it could be something else. Either way, thoughts? Email or post them here. Also, let me know how the "passing along" is going.

More blogging soon. I mean, I'm on a roll here.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Words that rhyme with frustration

OK, so the bad news is that I had a really frustrating day in the studio. Long story filled with techno-talk, but basically, I was hoping to finish up all the vocals today for the kids' record, leaving me with only a few acoustic parts to do, then mix. But it didn't happen.

That's the bad news. I'm a few days behind now. This shouldn't surprise anyone. I mean, the tentative release date for this thing has changed like 9 times. I think it was originally supposed to come out in '06 or something.

I blame the economy. Or the health-care reform. Or Sarah Palin. I don't know. It's someone's fault.

Anyway, here's the good news. I'm tired of waiting and working and talking about this project with nothing to show for it. And I know that all 17 of you are tired of that as well. I'm really excited about this music and I can't wait to share it.

Sooooo, it's time for more GIVE-AWAYS!

That's right, kids. It's on. Just like last time, only this time you'll be getting (unmixed!) songs from the new kids' record.

But here's the thing. I'm going to make this one a little more involved. I mean, posting a comment on my blog to get free music is a no-brainer. So I think I'll ask a bit more of you on this one, but I also think you're getting something a little more significant.

Here's what we're going to do:

As most of you know already, I'm extremely close to being finished with the record. I'm going to write more about it in the next couple of weeks as the release gets closer, but for now my big issue is HOW DO I MARKET THIS THING?

I mean, I've never done a record even resembling this one in terms of musical style, lyrical content, or target audience. So I'm just honestly at a loss for how to get it "out there." My usual methods for this kind of thing just don't seem like they will work this time.

So that's where you come in. I will send 2 of my kids' songs -- again, these are "rough draft" versions, not the final mixes -- on two conditions.

First, that you promise to send the songs to 3-5 friends each. Preferably these will be the kinds of friends that you think might be interested in the record once it comes out. So, mainly parents of young-ish children.

And second, that you promise to buy the record when it comes out.

I don't think that's too much to ask for two free, pre-release, sure-to-be-chart-topping-hit tunes from a formerly almost regionally famous celebrity like myself.

After you get the songs, you forward them to your 3-5 lucky friends, and then you just email me and tell me that you did it. You must do this! Obviously you'll already have the songs, so I can't coerce you to do it; and obviously if you do it, I'll just have to take your word on it, because I can't monitor what you're actually doing.

But the ethical standards of RKWT blog posters have always been top-notch (other than an occasional inappropriate joke, but I'm usually the only one that does that; and maybe Johnny), so I know I can trust you.

Basically, here's the plan in 7 easy-to-follow bullet-point steps:

Step 1: Post on the comments page, and give me your email (even if you sent it last time; I'm a songwriter, not a book keeper).

Step 2: Wait for the songs to come to your email. Take deep breaths and try not to call me at home and bother me while you're waiting.

Step 3: Enjoy songs with your children or the borrowed children of loved ones.

Step 4: Forward songs to 3-5 friends and/or family members (potential buyers!)

Step 5: Wait with eager anticipation for whole CD to come out, all the while spending inordinate amounts of time on various Ross King online venues.

Step 6: Buy CD upon release date.

Step 7: Hound aforementioned friends and family to buy CD also.This is what the kids call "marketing on the cheap." I am shamelessly engaging in it, and using the lure of free stuff to entice you to do the same.

Got it? Cool.

I think this can be a great tool for buliding relationships and blessing people in your life. I mean, who doesn't want some free music to play for their rowdy kids in the car? You? You sir? How about you, madam? Don't look away from me! Take this free music and find much enjoyment!

So,who wants some free stuff?

Final thought: I'm only going to do this for maybe a week. So don't tarry.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Worship thoughts Pt 2: The Worship Leader

The job/role of the worship leader.

Let me start by saying that, if you want to get into the finer points of this one, context is key. There’s obviously going to be a vast array of places and groups and times within which one might find oneself leading worship. (Wow, that was a sentence that could’ve been better.) But I can’t possibly try to cover all that here. Instead, let’s just paint with a broad brush and then you guys can hopefully do the fine tuning for your own individual contexts.

So, here we go. By the way, I’m going to use some terms that I don’t care for, simply because not using them would force me to find and define new words to replace them. And that’s just more work for everyone. When I have to use a word that I don’t like, I’ll put it in quotes so that you know I’m pulling that word from The Great Ancient Glossary of Baggage-Laden Christian Lingo.

The role (or job) of a worship leader is a 3-step process:
1) Determine the spiritual identity/health of a given “congregation.” You could call this identity/health the where they are (spiritually) of the group.
2) Acknowledge that identity and resolve to love the people right where they are.
3)Take the group as far as you can, in the time allotted to you, to a new where they are, which is to say, deeper into love for and fellowship with the Lord.

OK, so that may be hard to decipher. So let me say it in a shorter way.

The role of a worship leader is to acknowledge where his/her people are and then to lead them from that point into a deeper maturity.

Make sense now?If not, here it is, really short: Acknowledge, Lead, Mature.

In other words, if you are working in a sort of “full time” capacity with a group of people (like, say, you’re "on staff" at a church or leading consistently with your home group or something), then you are constantly acknowledging the identity and health of the group (yourself included, because you’re a part of that group; more later on that) and constantly trying to help the group mature and grow and express at a deeper level.

But if you’re only with a group for a short period (like, say, a one-night “gig” or a retreat or a summer camp or something), you have a different sort of strategy. The overall assignment is the same. You just have less time to do it, and maybe you change your expectations for how far you can go with them.

Got it? Making sense? Thoughts? If so, post them.

Before I’m done, here’s one important note. No matter how long you are with a group (for one night, for two years, or indefinitely), you are part of that group. Every determination that you have about them; every goal you have for them; every frustration you aim toward them; all of those things include you. Always keep that in mind. Nothing ruins spiritual leaders faster than an absence of community.

Which leads me to my last point. I don’t really include this in my broad-strokes description of the worship leader’s job, because it’s just too nuanced to try to work it in, but I’ll say it here, because this is key to the way I lead (and to the way I attempt to fulfill the “3-step” approach that I’ve outlined above).

Be honest. Be real. Be vulnerable.

The two most common things that are said to me are:
“Thanks for singing songs in keys that I can sing.”
“Thanks for being a real person.”

I’ll address the first one later in the series. I suspect that some of you aren’t going to like that one.

But the second one ought to be significant to us. Why would people say that to me so often? If “being real” is fairly common among worship leaders, there would be no reason to pull me aside, time after time after time, and thank me for doing it. And I’ll be honest, sometimes they’re not thanking me, they’re just saying it as a fact, for better or for worse.

I remember a few years ago I led worship at this big week-long college thing where there were like 3000 college students. I was with them for a full 6 days, so they got more than enough of me. I’m not sure what was different about that week than other things I’ve done, but for some reason, I heard some variation of the “you guys are real people” thing probably 25 times. I’m serious. And the funny thing was, it didn’t always sound like a compliment. Sometimes it sounded like a puzzled, what-planet-are-you-from accusation. It wasn’t like they were picking on me or mad or anything. It was just an honest “I haven’t seen this before,” or maybe “aren’t you supposed to be cooler than this?” kind of thing.

I won’t attempt to explain or over-evaluate all that. What I do know is this. Among the thousands of qualified worship leaders in this country, I’m not even close to being the best singer or the best songwriter or the best instrumentalist or whatever. I don’t think those things have been the primary contributors to my 15-plus years in this field. I honestly think people call me because I try to bring something genuine, something “just like you, only maybe more messed up” to the table. And not everybody likes what I do. I’m not offended or holier-than-thou about that. It is what it is, and there is plenty of worship-leading work to go around.

But I do think that people are longing to be led by leaders who are accessible and real. They want to be led by people who are participants in the worship; co-travelers on the journey. They don’t want rock stars. Or if they do, they shouldn’t. Rock stars look at a crowd and see fans. Worship leaders look at a crowd and see family.

OK, that’s enough of my rambling. Thoughts?

Monday, September 7, 2009

Worship thoughts Pt 1: Definition of Worship

Let’s start out with a wide angle lens and then focus in.

For the sake of time, I won’t define worship as anything other than the worship of God. Obviously people can and do worship other things, people, etc. But instead of going into the philosophical and cultural nuances of all that, I’ll just give you my definitions of worship as they relate to the Jesus-following life. I think it’s pretty easy and appropriate to use those definitions to talk about any sort of worship (i.e. to take the God-words out of my definitions and insert other words), but that’s really out of the scope of what I was doing at the seminar. I was speaking to Jesus-following leader-types who hopefully have some mechanism for rooting out idolatry in their lives. So again, let’s just assume that we’re talking about worship of the Trinitarian God here. Cool?

Moving on.

Broadly speaking, worship is simply this: in view of what God has done and is doing, we offer ourselves – momentarily and continuously – to the Lord as living sacrifices. If that sounds familiar, it’s supposed to. I took it from Romans 12. I like using that passage as a blueprint for worship, simply because that’s what it claims to be. I like the idea of saying “sure, singing is worship, but this says that real worship is the lifelong act of offering our bodies up for God’s discretionary use.”

The word-picture is rich: one of a person voluntarily taking on the role that – in the Jewish or Roman (etc) heritage – would’ve been occupied by a valuable, but dead, animal. (Lots of stuff in Leviticus if you want to read up on this.) As a general concept for worship as life, I think this is a pretty great way to go at it.

So, again, if we look at worship from a broad, lifestyle perspective, we’re simply defining it as intentionally devoting oneself to the Lord, over and over, deeper and deeper, throughout life.

Any issues with that? Comments are welcome.

Now let’s get more narrow. After all, most people, when asking for a definition of worship, are probably trying to hone in on something that they can apply in the more specific context of “what are we supposed to do when Christians get together and say ‘let’s worship’?”

That definition has a little more texture, a little more complexity. There will definitely be disagreement about this among varying religious upbringings and spiritual leanings and such, but here’s what I think.

Narrowly defined – and for the purpose of use in basic Christian dialogue and practice – worship is the collective, corporate and unified expression of the people of God, in acknowledgement of Who He is, in appreciation for all He does, and in participation of His Kingdom work. That’s wordy, I know, but this ain’t something that we want to just rush thru. This is the worship of God we’re talking about.

But I know that definition is long, so let me do it another way. Worship is what happens when people who know God get together and agree about – and with – Him (think Acts 2-4, 1 Corinthians 12-14, etc).

Better? Well, either way, now we have a good starting point.

That’s about all I have for this first entry, but let me say this.

Some of you might think “but what about private worship? What about the me-and-God times of intimate praise?”

I’m not saying those times aren’t worship. According to my broader definition, they absolutely are. Time alone (mediation, prayer, fasting, study, etc) is hugely important to the Christian life, but I’m not sure that I’d ever want to call that my primary “worship” time. I’m not trying to be legalistic here. Again, remember that using the broader definition, all that stuff is worship. But one of the things that I’m learning is that we really are missing out on all that worship is if we undervalue the “believers gathered together” aspect of it.

I mean, think about how many times Paul talks about what should be happening in the group as a whole versus how much he talks about personal quiet time. It ain't even close.

And honestly, I just think those personal worship times have been heavily overemphasized in recent years, to the detriment of our corporate, unified worship times. Again, I"m not saying people are praying and meditating too much. I'm saying that sometimes we treat our corporate worship times as personal worship times, and that's not really the point.

Way too many times, we stand in a room full of several hundred people and sing songs about “me.” Way too often, we hear “it doesn’t matter what anyone else is doing, you need to worship God in your own way.” There’s some truth and value in that sort of thing, but there’s some potential harm there as well.

I’ll cover all this a lot more in the “Why does “corporate” matter? sections, but for now, just know that I am trying to get to the heart of what it means to deeply enjoy the worship of God, in all its facets. So I want to make sure define worship in a way that brings balance among those facets.

To that end, let's spend some time talking about the power of unified Jesus followers agreeing in song (and otherwise) that God is great.

More to come.

We’re in Tyler, TX tonight and tomorrow for Naomi’s adoption finalization hearing, so I will probably post part 2 of this on Wednesday or Thursday, and then another entry every 2-3 days.


Thoughts? Disagreements? Questions?

Sunday, September 6, 2009

If requests for free music were $100 bills...

...I'd be a multi-thousandaire today. Hey, thanks to everyone for showing interest in my somewhat out-of-nowhere instrumental music. I just sent out the third batch. I probably won't send out any more for a while. If you still want to hear them, you're out of luck, because I'm done, at least for now. If I get more requests, I'll get them out in a week or so.

In the meantime, I'm going to take the worship topics 1-2 at a time. I was hoping that more of you would actually read what I wrote and actually respond to it appropriately by saying "I'd like to hear about this specific thing," but instead most of you just said, "yeah, I'd love to hear all your thoughts on worship." I mean, I'm flattered, but I've already blogged more this week than I have in the last 2 months, so the prospect of writing a mini-book on worship is a tad overwhelming.

Oh well, I live to serve. And eat queso. But mainly to serve.

So I'm working on the first batch of worship thoughts right now. I'm not going to write a ton (at least not on purpose), but hopefully we can get some discussion going in the comments. Also, the seminar was recorded, so I'll try to get a link to that asap.

Second, this giveaway thing was fun. I'm thinking that I'm going to do another one this week. Don't start sending me your emails yet. I'm coming up with something a little more involved. The songs will still be free in terms of money, but I'm going to make you work a little harder.

I'll let you know within a day or two.

And just in case you've stuck around here long enough to know that I sometimes say "I'll let you know within a day or two" only to not say anything at all for like a month, this isn't one of those times. I'm on a roll this week, and I'm really getting excited about showing you guys what I've been working on with this kids' stuff.

So check back tomorrow or Tuesday for some worship thoughts and some info on more free music.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

I only know about a few things

But this is one of them. Leading worship. I mean, I've been getting paid to do it for like 15 years, so that definitely makes me, I don't know, something.

I did a worship leader seminar today at Grace Bible Church here in B/CS.

(Speaking of "leading worship for 15 years," today, at the seminar, I was told by three very-much-grown-up minister types that I was their first introduction into good/modern worship. They were like, "yeah, I was just a kid and you were teaching me how to..." I appreciated the encouragement, of course, but gee whiz did I feel old. Oh well, you take your atta boys where you can get them, right?)

Here were some of the topics that we covered in the seminar, mostly in response to questions from the audience:

What is worship? (Broad definition and narrow definitions)

What is the job/role of the worship leader?

Why “corporate” matters.

How “corporate” affects what the leader does.

Interacting/co-laboring with teachers/preachers.

The integration of other creative arts into a worship gathering.

The pros and cons of tech/multimedia in a worship gathering.

It went really well. I don't usually enjoy teaching in large groups (read: I'm bad at it), but this was really just a long Q&A with a few planned teaching points. I had a good time.

Anyway, since I've never really talked at length about leading worship on here, I thought I'd see if there is any interest in that sort of thing. It would take days to write on all these topics, but if anyone is interested in hearing about any of this, let me know what stuff on that list is more interesting to you and I'll just kind of regurgitate my notes on here and maybe get some discussion going. If not, I won't get my feelings hurt. I've had more hits on this site in the last few days than I've had in a long, long time, so I'm feeling loved and all that. I'm sure all the traffic had nothing to do with the fact that I was giving away free stuff.

Free stuff

OK, I just sent out the songs to everyone who has asked for them so far. Let me know if you didn't get them, and of course feel free to share any feedback here.

Oh, and if anyone else wants them, let me know and I'll do another big email in a few days.

Thanks for all the encouragement and support. I love sharing this kind of thing with all of you.