expressive worship

Too Good for This?

I was ready for two days of work with a band in Baltimore.

I wondered how it would go, because they’re great musicians and have always been told this. Typically musicians of this caliber would say, “We’re good enough, we don’t need any of that Tom Jackson stuff!”

But to their credit, someone in the band realized their show was still lacking, after hearing Tom speak. They saw the value in getting some help, ordered Tom’s videos, watched them together, then got on the phone and asked me to come up and do some one-on-one sessions.

I don’t think I’ve ever worked with a group more receptive to what I brought to the table! [Read more...]

Passion Sells

This title might seem crass and cheap at first glance, but let me explain. I was on a flight home from working with a speaker who is just beginning a tour in which she delivers five, 5-7 minutes talks to arenas filled with Jr. High kids. An audience NOT for the faint of heart, I might add!

We had spent 2 days together, weeks before the tour, crafting the talks she’d written, getting the right words and thoughts together, finding the best scripture translations, and worked on her storytelling. Since this girl is just 15, what she was saying needed to sound like how someone that age would say it, as opposed to how an adult would.

We also had to think about her audience and make sure what she was saying made sense and was relevant to how a Jr. High mind thinks as well. [Read more...]

Rules Don’t Limit!

There are rules for writing a song to be played on radio.

Some of those rules are obvious: a song shouldn’t be shorter than 2 1/2 minutes and shouldn’t be longer than 4 minutes. And generally you need an intro/verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge/chorus format.

There’s a plan, a form to get played on radio.

We willingly follow the rules for songwriting to communicate for the format called radio because we want people to hear our music and our message, we want to influence people, and (sometimes) we want to earn a living.

But most artists don’t know there are rules to communicate from another format called the stage. When it comes to the stage, most artists operate in ignorance and generally just “wing it.” Great athletes don’t “wing it.” They understand they don’t get four strikes in baseball or five downs in football. Rules bring a format and a context for the great athletes to shine! [Read more...]

Winging It, or Planning It?

Being in this music industry for at least… well, a lot of years, I’ve seen most people “winging” it. There’s nothing wrong with learning as we go, because that’s life.

But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to a show (a big show) and I watch the artist backstage with their band or producer, and ten minutes before the show they’re writing out a set list.

And, depending on where someone has to change a guitar or whatever, they put a big “T” for talk. Someone needs to talk there. [Read more...]

A Fine Meal or Goulash

I want to give my audience what they came for – and they came to experience moments!

As musicians, we assume the audience is there to hear some good music. We have some great musical moments for them, and some cool lyrical things going on. In one song there’s this awesome bass lick, and in another song the lead guitar is stellar.

But audiences can’t discern that stuff because they’re not musicians! It’s like a big plate of goulash to them. So we need to make it more obvious – [Read more...]

I Don’t Want to be Interesting

One of the Facebook comments I get pretty often after people see me teach a conference class is: “I saw you at ____, and you were so interesting.”

My mind always goes a million ways when I read something like that. I’m glad someone saw me, and I certainly am glad I held their interest. I even appreciate that they found me on Facebook and thought enough of my class to comment!

But I’ve realized, I don’t want to be “interesting,” entertaining, or even fun for singers, bands, and musicians! At least that’s not my #1 priority. [Read more...]

All Because I Wanted Their Picture

I remember the feeling. Too amazing for words really.

Our band was invited to play in Sao Paulo, Brazil at a huge festival. The driver threaded his way from our hotel past scores of buses that lined the streets for miles leading up to and around the soccer stadium.

People had come from all across Brazil for this 2-day event. Arriving near the venue, we were then led through what seemed liked miles of underground rooms and tunnels. Finally we climbed a stairway that opened up to the bright lights of the huge stadium.

In front of us were 110,000 people. Word was that there were another 10,000 not able to get inside. My heart raced – half adrenaline, half fear. How was I going to get through this? Your mind tells you that you just have to go out there and do what you always do. [Read more...]

Paper Jamz and Big Fun at Christmas!

A couple of years ago, I met Kevin David and Tim Yates of Valley Church, West Des Moines, Iowa. They came to one of our Nashville Expressive Worship Workshops.

They really took to heart what we talked about that weekend, and Kevin has been studying my Live Music Method ever since!

So recently, when he tagged me on Facebook [Read more...]

Relationships Up, Down and Sideways

During the Christmas season, I think a lot about my relationships with family, friends, and neighbors. I’m reminded that, whether I am speaking at a worship conference, working with an artist, or out shopping somewhere, I need to keep this proverb in mind:

“A good name is more to be desired than riches.” (Proverbs 22:1)

When I interact with people I want them to be honest with me, respect me, and even show a little kindness on top of that. So I need to follow the same standard with them!

That kind of relationship building with others can [Read more...]

Celebrate Your Uniqueness

The great 20th century French painter, Henri Matisse, is quoted as saying, “It has bothered me all my life that I do not paint like everybody else.” Thank God he didn’t. His use of color was so unique that it ended up making him stand out from the rest.

Being a singer/songwriter, I’ve met so many singers/recording artists over the years who have wished desperately [Read more...]