Monday, November 24, 2008

GOD HAS COME TO EARTH

In 2006 I thanked my listeners with a free download of O Come O Come Emmanuel.
In 2007 I did the same with a quiet version of Silent Night.
And for 2008, I with the help of Mr Martin Luther himself wrote a song that I call "God Has Come To Earth" which is yours for free, we're not even going to ask for your email and zip code this time. (my favorite submission was from jjj@rrrrr.kk with zip code "qwert". We won't be contacting them to let them know when we're in the area)

I started writing this chorus years ago and thought it just screamed of Christmas. I wanted a chimey melody like bells that would be reminiscent of an angelic proclamation. I loved the chorus, but as always, every time I tried to write verses, I just laughed at their silliness. That's why I'm learning to like the art of co-writing. Especially with people who have already died. They never argue with my ideas. Martin Luther wrote a Christmas Carol around 1500 called "All Praise To Thee Eternal Lord" that compares and contrasts the Powerful King that Christ was, in charge of The Universe, to the tiny baby He became in the next moment. The words are powerful. So I snagged them. :)

I'll write more about the background of the song soon: but for now, Enjoy it! and Ask Your Local Radio Station to give it a Spin! Go ahead, don't be shy, give them a call! ;)

CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE ON ITUNES (free offer only available in 2008)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

More About Stars


Every night before my little boy crawls into bed and after all the bedtime routine is done, we take him to the bathroom one more time and I run into his room with my flashlight and go around to every one of the sticky glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling and make sure each gets a good long beam of light, so that when we tuck him in and the lights go off, he gets the most amazing 'night sky' I can give him.   I take so much pleasure preparing it night after night after night, knowing that he'll love it.  

Tonight as I balanced precariously on the edge of his mattress, reaching for that one far off star for the hundredth time, I thought, "I wonder if God didn't take similar pleasure when He created the stars so long ago, knowing that one day, I would stare at them"  

I believe that every shimmering star, every sunset, every Spring blossom, every Autumn leaf and each quiet snowfall was designed for the delight of His children which, in turn, leads to His Glory.  

Friday, November 21, 2008

Stars Will Fall...(even if we're not looking)

One of the new songs I've written (this one with Jason Ingram) is called Stars Will Fall.  The theme is, in a nutshell, that when we are at the end of our rope, there is power in calling Jesus' name.  "Stars will fall like rain, all the heavens and the earth will start to shake, every mountain will be moved and cast away at the mention of Your name".  Now that I have preliminary copies of the recording, I played it for my parents when they were over last week, and this morning my Mom called me to tell me she was in bed last night, looking out her picture window which gives her an incredible view of the night sky and the stars were especially bright.  She told me that my song was traveling through her head at the moment she saw a bright shooting star race across the sky from one end to the other.   She was still relishing that moment and hoping for another when, lo and behold (I've never actually ever typed those words before) there shot another star! 

She wondered how many shooting stars actually take place on average, but we are just too busy with what's down here to notice.  

It's not to hard to glean some lesson out of that.  God performs miracles, large and small, all around us, everyday, maybe right in front of our faces.  But unless we 'lift our eyes', chances are we'll miss them. 

Paul Baloche said it: "Open the eyes of my heart, Lord, I want to see you"
Bebo Norman said it: 
"I will lift my eyes to the Maker of the mountains I can't climb.
I will lift my eyes to the Calmer of the oceans raging wild.
I will lift my eyes to the Healer hurt I hold inside.
I will lift my eyes...to You."

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Mr. Shust Pet Peeve: Bad Driving.

Warning: No Spiritual Application Found Within This Blog!

I just drove across the street to pick up a case from storage.  As I was driving in my turning lane, protected by a solid white line, a driver, who obviously wanted to be in front of me, laid heavily on the horn because I didn't let her in.  I wasn't expecting anyone to even try since no turn signals were on and...it was a solid white line.   Anyhow, we both turned right and I waited for my dotted white line so I could make the immediate Left I needed to make, and she crossed Another solid white line and was trying to pass me!  Again, no signal, although mine had been on.   She wasn't happy.  

On the way home (this is a 50 yard drive, people) i saw people blocking intersections, trying to pass other cars in a line of stopped traffic with only One lane (double parking basically), holding up traffic in a left turning lane because they decided to cross 3 lanes of traffic and turn Right instead of left & AT the green light.  

I'm a little amazed.  And if my family had been in the car with me, I'd probably be pretty upset.  Cause I was almost just in 5 accidents in as many minutes, and I only drove across the street.

Maybe everyone should have to take the written Driver's Test every 4-5 years or something. 

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Birth of a Song

Writing a song is a lot like having a kid I think.  

Sometimes when you don't plan it, a song is conceived.  Maybe you hear a phrase someone says in a movie, or at church, or soaped on the back of a car, and you think, "Wow, that would make a great song!"  You scribble it down on the nearest piece of paper, or sing it into your phone's recording device, or leave yourself a message on your answering machine: you can't forget how this little melodic and lyrical idea goes!

The pregnancy is the development of the song; what it will look like, how the verses will support the chorus, is the chorus universal enough that it can be sung over and over?  Does the singer progress throughout the course of the song?  Is the listener taken on a journey somewhere?  How with this be conveyed musically?  Fast? Slow? High? Low? Rocker? Ballad? Steak? Salad? (what?)

The labor starts when you get in the studio and have to make a final decision on how this song will be forever remembered!  Pick the instruments and the people playing them.  Choose a tempo and a key, decide when to come in and when to drop out, when to 'get big' and when to quiet down. 

The Delivery is when a song has been completed and those closely involved in the entire process can listen to it and proudly announce, "It's a Song!"  We marvel at what took so long to develop, and hold it high, sometimes a little too high, but most people are a little biased when it comes to being proud of their own! ;)

Then you leave the hospital and take the baby home, and there's a period of time where you have your new baby all to yourself.  I've heard 4 of my new songs tonight completed for the first time, and I've probably listened to them a hundred times already (not really, but close) but they haven't been released to 'the world' yet.  

Then the Presentation of the baby, whether it's that first Sunday back at church, or when everyone comes over to the house (because you let them).  That's kinda like the Album Release.  Now the world can look, and listen, and tell you what they think about whether or not they like your baby!  

But those of you who are parents (of babies or songs) know that you can't help but love your own kids. 

Self Control as an Art

I've been watching the John Adams series with Sarah the past few nights.  One scene jumped out at me and frankly made me rethink most every other scene in the mini-series so far.  Adams was just appointed the U.S. Ambassador to England shortly after helping spearhead America's independence from England.  (He was highly respected but on 'thin ice' in Great Britain)  He was meeting with the King for the first time.  One on One, mano a mano, and John had been coached on how he must approach the king.  Enter the room and bow, a very low bow, hat off, hands extended majestically, legs crossed as if you just launched a bowling ball.  Then halfway into the room he'd have to do it again, then once more as he would approach His Grace.   All three were performed awkwardly, John was a Massachusetts man, who didn't have time for such frivolity.  He hated it and saw it as silly.  But he did it anyway, and won the respect of the King.   

Even though his character is depicted as speaking his mind more freely than other people (often to his detriment) he still showed restraint more times than he felt was necessary.   Then he'd go home and vent his frustrations to his wife and "best of friends" Abigail.  

We as Christians (and mankind in general) are called to self-control (Gal 5:23) and the guarding of our own tongues (James 3).  While it's good to speak our minds about what we believe, I simply found it fascinating to see portrayed a culture that esteemed self control as a high virtue.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Missouri Again


We had two good shows this weekend.  Kansas City and Forsyth, Missouri.  Actually the Kansas City show was IN Kansas.  not Missouri.  For those of you who think I just stated the obvious, check your map

The show last night in Forsyth was free to the public because a church member footed the bill for the entire event, which just brings the people out!  The place was packed!  Standing room only, they even opened up the back doors and set up chairs in the Foyer.  Obviously the fire marshall did not come, but the rest of the town did!  Anyhow, it was a really fun night.  I didn't lose my voice, no strings broke, (well, Rico broke a string in Franny's set, but fixed it by mine, sorry Fran)

It was a long drive home this morning.  I actually didn't make it home until 2pm, had dinner with Sarah, Daniel and my parents in the back yard; crab legs and sunset.  We have a Korean supermarket across the street: cheap seafood.  You just have to be able to either speak Korean or point well.   Guess which one I do.  

Anyway, good to be home.  Only one more show, then I'm home waiting for a baby to be born!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

This Is As Political As I Get


I figured I'd better post this before the results of tonight are announced.  No matter who you voted for.  No matter who you believe is the better option.  I pray you find rest in these words found in the Bible:

"Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.  The authorities that exist have been established by God."
Romans 13:1

God Bless

Monday, November 3, 2008

Something New Under The Sun?

As a professional artist, something that I've struggled a lot with in the last few years is creating art that is deemed "artistic".  Go figure.  The world is full of nay-sayers who are quick to speak their minds about how a song is a "sad excuse for music" and frankly, people can be downright ugly and hurtful about what some artists have created.  (some toward me, some toward my colleagues) I'm not sure when that becomes acceptable: ugly critiquing that is.  I would never tell an 8th grader that the clay pot she just fired in the kiln was a sad excuse for pottery... "if you could even call it that!"  That would just be mean.  I guess the day I put my products on shelves for sale, I subjected myself to public opinion and scrutiny.  I just wish it weren't ugly. 
So I started thinking about the reviews that seem to flood the industry on the subject of "nothing new".  They go something like, "This artist needs to reinvent him/herself" or "is resting on the successes of their past" or simply "not original songwriting".  

Here's what I thought:  I kind of liken songwriting and the entire CD creation process to painting.  The Renaissance developed a style of realistic painting that is still mimicked today. Or take Bob Ross for example.  People LOVE his stuff.  What if he completely changed his style before he passed away to something completely...'original'.  What if his "happy trees" became "angry trees" in the name of reinvention?

I think people who review and critique professionally getting tired to listening to 5,000 albums per week in the same genre.  I'd get tired of hearing the same thing too.  So while they may want to hear something different, radio stations play exactly what their listeners want to hear.   If you're not hearing what you want to on the radio, and want to listen to things that are unique and original and quirky and cool...there are tons of great Indy artists out there making some pretty unique music.    Soak up some "Abstract Art".

I can promise you that everyone I know, who's making music, is trying to write the best songs they can, and create the best music we know how.  So don't believe it when anyone says that we gave up, or that our songwriting is struggling, like I read someone say about some friends of mine this morning.   We are giving our all for the pleasure of the King of Kings!  And when He becomes the priority, man's opinion, while it can still hurt, becomes unimportant.