Fall into me

It’s a well known fact amongst those who know me best that I’m a bit of a “space cadet” at times; which is often the perfect setting for a songwriter. You need to see the world differently, give yourself chance to read between the lines and quieten yourself in order to hear things other miss.

However the time always comes when you need to pop that thought bubble, exit the dream and begin working hard to build what you’ve been imagining.

Although the ideas for “Fall into Me” were born in a flurry of emotion and lines upon lines of verse; it was actually written around a solid songwriting structure.

It is over a year ago that I joined Taxi Music, an A&R company based in the US and began writing music to brief. It gave me the chance to pitch my music for commercial use and get useful, constructive feedback from industry professionals on how to improve. The whole experience has made me a better, more honest songwriter. It has taught me to be tough, critical of my work in the best sense and to deal with rejection with dignity.

piano

The brief for Fall into Me was essentially this: “A Major Record Label is looking for SINGER/SONGWRITER SONGS to be re-recorded and released by one of their TOP FEMALE ARTISTS. “

They requested that the song be in the stylistic ballpark of the following artist: Lana Del Ray, Sia & First Aid Kit. They wanted dark, moody minor chords, a down tempo feel and a stirring, soaring melody.

This gave me a set of keywords to use as a guide in my songwriting session: singer/songwriter, moody, dark, minor chords, down tempo, stirring, soaring melody, Lana Del Ray, Sia, First Aid Kit.

These were my parameters, and what the client was looking for.

Give yourself limits
Which brings me to my first point. Surprisingly, it’s a good exercise to give yourself restrictions and limits which sounds like a contradiction to the creative soul. However, it is good practise to give yourself keywords to work with. If you set out to write a song in the style of Lana Del Ray, then it will only distract you to look at the work of Jay Z. They are polar opposites and will only water down your songwriting efforts.

In the end, it doesn’t matter if you’ve end up with a kick-ass reggae dance anthem, the client stated what they wanted, and reggae wasn’t on the list.

It was in this narrowing that I found flexibility and room to mould my ideas. Where I thought I would find restriction, I found freedom. I could discount certain ideas and styles; when forced not to go off on a tangent it freed me up to focus on what was in front of me.

Research
With the parameters in place, it’s time to research and review. You might have a few existing ideas; a melody line, hook, rhythm or lyric. It’s time to build around those ideas by what is essentially “Pinterest for song ideas”. The client gave three artists to reference, so it’s was time to hit YouTube and make notes of the similarities in the three tracks.

Using the keywords, I made note of similar chord progressions, instrumentation, harmony and form. This helped me build around my existing ideas.

Make yourself an oasis
First of all get yourself centred. Find yourself a good, tidy creative space with no distractions. Do everything you can to make yourself as comfortable and confident as you can! Whether that’s a slick of lipstick or looking at your previous work that you’re proud. I have a friend who loves to light candles to get themselves focussed; do all you can to get confident.

Get yourself a cup of tea, plenty of paper, your instrument of choice and a method of recording.

Know your Audience
If you are writing for yourself, locate the best parts of your voice, remembering to reserve the higher, more “sparkly” notes for the chorus and bridge. This will help give the piece momentum. If you’re writing for others then be aware of vocal ranges and whether the piece of music is a stand alone piece or congregational.

Once I’ve figured this out, I sit down and start playing around with some ideas.

Blue Micraphone

Record Everything
You don’t need to have a sophisticated piece of equipment at this stage; your mobile phone, a dictaphone or laptop will do just fine. Make sure you make notes of the key you’re in, the chords and if you read music notate everything.

I’ve learnt the hard way in this regard. You’ll come back to your work the next day, draw a blank on that great idea and panic! What was the key again? I had a KILLER hook and now it’s gone!

Save yourself the self-deprecation and write it down!

Don’t let fear hold you back
Write as often as you can and remember inspiration can strike at any point. Sit at your piano for hours and just enjoy playing. Scribble lyrics on napkins, keep your eyes open and go experience the world live your life! After all, how can you write about what you don’t know.

When it comes to songwriting, it is fear that holds us back the most. It’s a personal and exposing art; your insecurities will try to bait you at every turn. I’ve had and still struggle with these emotions. Do not give in or stop trying.

Remember; this is a skill like any other where only experience, practise and putting yourself out there will make you a better songwriter. Don’t let fear of failure hold you back.

Develop a tough skin; not everyone will get you or like you’re music. But as long as you are working hard and writing music that you are proud of first, and for accolades second, then you are on the right track to creating the right track.

Reading ‘Communicating for a Change’

The Pastor of our church lent a book to my Dad a few weeks ago. My Dad read it, returned it and immediately bought his own copy and lent it to me. After I had finished it, I bought two copies, one to keep and the other to give away to another preaching buddy. I think that is probably the biggest test that shows ‘Communicating for a Change’ by Andy Stanley and Lane Jones is worth a look.

The book’s central argument is that the main purpose of preaching is to inspire and equip people to make changes that will bring them closer to the life God has for them. Preaching is for the benefit and blessing of the listener, not the speaker, so your approach to a message has to be focussed on the needs and ‘journey’ of the listener. That is not to say that it encourages a watered-down Gospel but it does push you to approach preaching in a way that best serves people, even when that means creating more work for yourself.

It’s a strangely formatted book, but it works. The first section is a short story/parable about Ray, a Pastor who is trying to up his preaching game whilst on a journey with a mentoring Gospel-sharing truck driver, Will. During the story Ray learns seven key principles for delivering change-inducing messages. It’s a bit like The Alchemist but much less metaphorical!

Now this storytelling approach could have come across as glib or condescending, but it really doesn’t. The conversation between Ray and Will allows the authors to explore counter arguments to their recommended approach and dig into the reasons behind each principal without the pace dragging.

It helps that Ray is relatable; he is not an incompetent fool but neither is he a squeaky clean perfect leader incapable of getting it wrong, he is utterly human. The problems he faces are real and his discomfort at having to face the flaws in his approach to preaching struck true to me. More importantly, the solutions offered are helpful and achievable enough that the discomfort is fleeting and soon replaced with optimism.

The second half of the book unpacks the lessons from the story and looks at how to apply the principles. Each suggestion is thoroughly explained and often comes with a few examples. This is where things get really practical and as I read through it I started thinking about my own messages and where these points are relevant to me.

By the time I had read the final chapter my head was buzzing with preaching ideas. I was itching to start preparing a message. My fingers began reaching for pens and notebooks to start jotting down thoughts. I was excited to preach again, and any book that can leave speakers feeling enthusiastic and eager is one I want to pass around.

There is one final thing I want to say about this book; it highlights the need for critical thought and evaluations in our preaching ministry. The discussion between Ray and Will is sometimes uncomfortable but it brought home to me the value of talking openly and honestly about these things.

Delivering the word of God to His church is too important a ministry to just let things bob along without continuously checking that it is fulfilling its purpose. When we neglect evaluation we tend to stunt out growth, and when it comes to preaching this means it can also stunt the growth of our church.

Evaluation is hard to seek out because nobody likes to examine where they got it wrong, and with preaching it’s even more difficult to keep a level critical head on, because when you speak you pour your heart and soul into the message. It is a very personal ministry! But I think that knowing that preaching is there to serve others is a big motivation to put ego aside and do whatever it takes to deliver messages that are actually going to help people. Ultimately, it’s not about you; it’s about Jesus and His people, they have to come first.

After I finished the book I did something I had put off for years; I got hold of the recordings of my last couple of messages and listened to them with a critical ear. I was really not looking forward to hearing my voice on tape and it was cringe inducing at first. But, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. In fact, there were parts of the messages that I was really pleased with and when I spotted some things in my preaching that need improving I didn’t feel like rubbish for acknowledging the flaws. In fact, I felt optimistic about trying out these new tools I had just read about. It is easier to face up to failings when there are ideas and suggestions on hand to help you do better next time.

I know I have a long journey ahead of me in my preaching, and that at some point that is going to involve asking for critique from trusted and wise people (eek!). But right now I am very grateful to be part of a ministry where I get to share God’s heart and life-changing wisdom with people. And I am excited about what comes next!

So whatever your experience level with speaking I really recommend that you give this book a try, if nothing else their enthusiasm for the ministry is wonderfully contagious!

Good Men

This song that eventually became the title track of my EP started with a melody idea I got for the chorus, and I just ran with it! I think I wrote about five choruses worth of lyrics in about half an hour! Obviously that wasn’t going to work so I had to edit it down. I then spent ages agonising over the verses which felt very hard.

Without wanting to force an interpretation – people have told me it means really different things to them than it does to me – it’s about how often we look for things from certain relationships that actually those relationships can’t provide, and as a result both parties are left a bit broken.


Rob’s EP: ‘Good Men‘ and is available to download on itunes.

10 commandments Vs. Monty Python

A whimsical Monty Python-esk adventure through the Ten Commandments made by Dan Stevers.
Dan started out as a volunteer making videos at a local church. The volunteer position became a fulltime job and for seven years he wrote, directed, and animated videos to help share the gospel.

View more of Dan’s work on his website »

Q&A with Rob Moles

Singer, songwriter and producer Rob Moles answers our artists Q&A and shares ‘Everything You Are’ from his EP ‘Good Men‘.

If you had to describe your music in three or four words, what would you call it?

People have described it as a mash-up between Ellie Goulding, Keane, and Coldplay. I try to not worry too much about what it sounds like and just make something I like. – sorry that’s more than four words!

What is your number one tip for song writing?

One thing I always try to do for myself is to listen to a wide variety of music – not just have it on in the background but to give it my full attention and listen critically. Things like: ‘oh I liked how the chorus has this hook in an unexpected place’, and ‘that was an interesting lyric because it made me think of this’ etc.

It’s always said that you can’t expect creativity to flow out of you if you’re not putting things into you – but in addition to that, I think you have to be deliberate and not passive about how you consume media.

Another thing that is important, particularly when you are starting out, is to not worry too much about what you think other people will think about your song. Just focus on writing something that excites or moves you. It might be that the first few songs you write are too precious to be heard by anyone else but you – but that’s ok!

What is your earliest musical memory?

Sitting in the car on long journeys with my Dad listening to classic FM – how very rock and roll! Probably that and playing in church from pretty much as soon as I could hold an instrument. Seriously though, I think the fact that I’ve been exposed to so many different musical traditions is great and that’s probably why I like so many different things.

What is the last song you listened to?

Pink – ‘Just Give Me A Reason’. Just shows how uncool I am I missed this one the first time round. It’s a really great duet between Pink and Nate Ruess. I’m not a huge Pink fan but I really like this song and the fact that the production is quite minimal for a pop song is cool too.

Which of your songs do you love to perform the most?

Probably ‘Everything You Are’ – it’s just quite a simple fun song that you can rock out a bit too.

This song was funny because it came together very fast in about two days – that never happens! I wish it did more often!

To me the song is really talking about legacy and what kind of things we invest in are going to create a lasting legacy that is worth something. When I talk about love in this song I’m talking more about companionship and investing in others as part of a community, rather than about boy/girl relationships to be honest – although I suppose it could be about that too!

What’s next for you? Up-coming events/plans?

I’m currently putting a band together with a view to doing a few gigs over the summer and afterwards – up till now it’s just been me on a guitar which is fine but a full band is more fun for sure!

I also work as a producer/engineer and have a few projects lined up for that. I enjoy helping other people to sound as good as they can be and achieve their musical vision.


Everything You Are is included in Rob’s EP: ‘Good Men‘ and is available to download on itunes.