I really wish we could do this over coffee. Hang time is essential to life, and one-on-one time talking about said life is even better. So maybe, since we don’t have the luxury of actually heading off to Peet’s, grab a cup of joe for yourself and let’s chat!
I am at a point in life that has me doing a lot of things that I really love:
- I play lead guitar for a touring artist.
- I write and produce music.
- I have endorsement agreements with gear companies.
- I write articles for this magazine which are shared around the globe.
None of these things happened by accident, but neither was there some big master plan that led me here. At least not my master plan. The truth is, from the time I started leading worship for student camps, I had already decided I wasn’t comfortable with self-promotion. So, I prayed that God would be responsible for it, that He would open the doors and I would be faithful to walk through them. Here are a few gems I’ve discovered along the way that I’d like to unearth for you, if you have aspirations to do anything similar.
Let Your Yes Be Yes
It’s really easy to let your “yes” be “yes” when you only have one thing on the calendar. Not so easy when opportunities are piling on and vying for your time and attention. And I can’t say that I don’t sometimes wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t kept some commitments over other better-paying or higher-exposure ones. But in letting a “yes” actually mean “yes”, I’ve gained a reputation for being solid and trustworthy, and that is worth a ton when it comes to balancing the “flighty musician” stereotype.
Use Your Position
I have a saying that goes, “You should never use your friends to help your position, but you should always use your position to help your friends.” If you’re in a place of influence, use it to help the people around you. I didn’t come up with this on my own, but I definitely learned that was how I wanted to be because I saw others around me not acting this way. We all have the opportunity at one time or another to build each other up, so let’s use it.
This may seem automatic, but knowing who you are as a musician is vital to your happiness. God created you and your musical tastes for a reason, and that’s part of you. What you say “yes” to as a musician needs to land squarely in the framework of what you love, and lead to forward motion. Things that lead you sideways or backward won’t help you feel valued and will tend to suck life out of you. Avoid that if at all possible! God created us to exist in joy and we will be most joy-filled when we’re doing the things we love.
Be a Joy
One of the most valuable lessons I learned from touring life is that the hang is almost more important than your skill. When I went on staff as Associate Worship Pastor with Lincoln Brewster, he already knew I was capable of doing the music part of the job. When I got the gig as lead guitarist with David Cook, he already knew I had the chops to play the gig. The unknown was what it would be like to be around me, to work with me when we weren’t playing music. My good friend and touring pro, Chris Brink (The Museum, Chris Tomlin) reminded me of this recently: “Sometimes the person who gets the gig is the one who makes an impression with his personality, not how fast he can play.”
Do your best
Our responsibility as believers is to be a shining light on the gospel of Jesus. One way to do that is always doing your best at whatever you are asked to do. If that’s writing a song, then write the best song you can. If that’s playing a solo, then play the best that you can. If that’s learning a part, then learn it the best that you can. I say this often in my articles, but I believe everything we do as musicians, whether we’re practicing at home, leading worship on a Sunday or even playing a gig can be an act of worship. As we employ the gifts and talents God has given us, it honors the Giver of all gifts, and that can be an offering to Him.
I want to include my life verse, from Philippians: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Philippians 2:3-4 (NIV) When you see others as more valuable and worth your effort to champion, it changes your outlook.
As you read this, I hope you understand that my desire is to help you feel valued, that you would glean something from the path God used to bring me where I am.
And whenever you’d like to grab that coffee, I’m in!