I've been writing songs since I was a teenager. My early songs were very issue based, growing out of my faith and upbringing. This meant I wrote a lot of songs about Jesus, morality, caring for the poor and speaking out against injustice. For example one early lyric of which I am particularly embarrassed:
"Now that I've got your attention there's something I'd like to say. Where is the justice in this old world today? The peasant is starving while the millionaire feeds steak to his dog from his easy chair... where is the justice? where can it be? It comes from God above through you and me."(Jade Dagger: Where is the Justice)
I also wrote a lot of love songs, few of them at all original, although they were all heartfelt. For example:
"Boy was made for girl we figured this was it, but after a little while it didn't seem to fit because all the time we spent was in a nervous fit... come to me, might not be easy but you were made for me."And then after I'd worn out the oldest cliches I moved on to slightly more obscure love song imagery.
"Every time when I try to hide it the feeling just won't go. Like a wrinkled old man in a cottage by the shore. Years ago he used to care and he used to roam the seas, searching for a love, a love that would never fail."(Genre: I Fall In Love)
I'm sure there could be some interesting archetypal or Freudian analysis of those lyrics --but hey, at least there began to be images rather than only a string of cliches...
After years of this sort of writing I began to write songs that were basically prayers directed to God. I went through a sort of spiritual awakening in which I connected with God in a whole new way, including emotions and creativity. Some of the songs I wrote during that time were more reflective and personal, while others were exuberant, corporate sing-along-stick-in-your-head songs. Some people (and churches) are still singing some of those songs. Some imagery made it's way into those tunes as well. For example:
"Let your rain come down all around, let the thunder sound, shake the ground, let the waterfall pound breaking down all the lies you found under me,"(Sonchild: Water Fall On Me)
"There is a desert, a place where we all have to go. A place where the sun beats ceaseless, burning the sand. A place marked by dried up rivers and skies without clouds. A place with a thousand inroads and only one way out."(Sonchild:There is a River)
After a good season of writing spiritual songs within the Christian and specifically Mennonite (yes, it's different than Amish) context I began to feel boxed in, segregated and uncomfortable about that. It all came to a head one time when I was at a big youth convention hanging out with "good Christian kids" inside a big convention center. One evening I stepped out of the convention center and the park that surrounded it was full of people all listening to some band from the seventies (something in the Kansas vein). At that moment I realized I had to get out of the isolated Christian subculture and begin to find a way to connect with people. If I was about following Jesus I needed to go to the kind of places Jesus went -- and Jesus was notorious for spending time with people that the religious people thought you should stay away from. So I started JRL.
Next week I'll have more on JRL's story and where it's going now.