Hi, Julie here and let’s face it—whether we pen novels, poetry, magazine articles or music—we have been gifted by God to write, merging melody or words to move, inspire or motivate people. And I ask you, seriously—what higher calling is there than to move, inspire or motivate people for God?
Today’s guests are two young men who are doing just that. Their aspirations to write music for God, and their trials along the way, are much the same for each of us who aspire to write Christian novels. Todd Creston Larson and Dan Chancellor are songwriters who have answered the higher call to write Christian music, and their story and their music have been an incredible inspiration to me, as I hope it will be for you. They call themselves An Epic, No Less and to give you a glimpse at what these two remarkable guys do, I strongly encourage you to check out their video link below. I will be giving away two CDs of their music today (coupled with two signed copies of my latest book A Hope Undaunted) because their music is just flat-out outstanding! It’s honestly all I listen to these days because it’s that good, and I hope it grabs you like it grabbed me. Here’s the link: An Epic, No Less Video
And now, I give you Todd Creston Larson from AN EPIC, NO LESS:
I'm finding out more and more, how little I have to do with my own faith. I have been given faith, not because I earned it, not because I have had strength enough to believe, but only because God gave it to me, because He wanted me to have it. And, concerning my life and journey with Him, all I can say is that, for my part, I have done my best to manage the pieces that God has given me to work with. I take that back; there have been times when I did not manage the pieces so well at all.
I sing. My "career" in music, to me, has been like a river, like a stream, a kind of winding journey with currents, bends, rapids, ups and downs. There was a long period of time when I was using my musical giftings, but clearly fighting against God's perfect will for my life. You see, while I have been given faith, I also possess doubt. And, during those years that I fought in the stream, it was my philosophy that if I were to achieve success in music, (the only thing, I was convinced, that would bring happiness to my life) it would be because I had MADE it happen. And any success that God gave me was solely because I had the strength and ability to do it MYSELF. In fact, I sincerely doubted that God could handle my music better than me.
During my time in different musical currents, I would hear so clearly, the voice of God telling me it was time to get out of this particular river and move on to the stream where He wanted me to be. Aside from the knot in my stomach and constant anxiety over my music career, God would often speak through the broken-down vans or the record label that dropped us 12 hours after signing, or the manager in LA that stole a thousand dollars from me and was, of course, never heard from again. Looking back now, I’m not sure the Man (God) could have made it any clearer that I was in the wrong stream.
But still, I fought against the current. I did not trust God enough to surrender my musical career to Him. I did not want to lead a life where I continued to be miserable in the occupation I had. I assumed God wanted a life of mediocrity for me. I was also POSITIVE that I did not want to create a WORSHIP RECORD! How could I achieve happiness laboring in an art form that I felt was so neutered and ... just ... boring? Still, the thought spun around in my gut like a tumor: I needed to place my dreams of rock and roll aside and follow His leading in praise and worship music. I suppose God can speak through figurative tumors as well as any other method ...
It took a disaster, but there came a time when I simply could not run anymore from God. I got the guts to leave my current musical endeavors and rearranged my life's priorities, placing my wife Tara at the very top, a person, who in all honesty, had been placed on the back burner in exchange for my zeal for rock and roll success. And with her, we began praying for what would become An Epic, No Less.
My drummer Daniel Chancellor and I hung the title, An Epic, No Less on our worship project after reading a quote talking about the life of Christ. In that quote was power to stifle my fear of a life of mediocrity. Not that the revelation came all at once. Even in the midst of the toil that came from recording our Worship CD (those times when we stared blankly into the carpet after hours of writers' block, or even when I walked out of the studio, declaring to myself that I would never sing again), we slowly saw God pour His blessing upon us. The Lord provided every dime we needed, every idea, every mic, cable, and chance encounter. Hallelujah, we are living examples of God providing for our every need.
Our goal was to create art, skillfully and with integrity, and also be easily accessible to the general population. We wanted it to be something that people would understand immediately, without comprising our own skill. This was not an easy feat. Our result came in the form of a record called We are the Echo of Love, which you can see and hear in the video above.
When it comes to writing music or any art, it's been a hard realization that, despite how much time I put into my craft, my abilities will always be limited. Up until the beginning of this project my outlook on writing music was very totalitarian. I assumed that my opinion and skills were best and any outside suggestions were rubbish. Although we did find limited success being malevolent dictators over the songs we wrote and performed in bands past, we never achieved the proverbial breakthrough that we wanted. In reality, our songs, just weren't accessible to enough people. Putting pride aside, I approached a producer whom I trusted and told him that I wanted he and I to co-write songs and essentially, tell me everything I was doing wrong.
Much like Maverick in Top Gun, I just grip too tightly ... The help of an outsider brought both a lot of freshness and apprehension. But in the end, I put the trust in a seasoned professional. Our styles clicked nicely when writing together. Forgive the metaphor, but I would liken my experience with our producer as him providing me with a piece of bright red construction paper, while it was my job to sprinkle glue and silver sparkles over its surface. In other words, his base for lyrical ideas gave me liberty to find creative moments throughout our music.
After all of this, I know in my heart that I have found the stream I am supposed to be in. To my surprise, I have gained a passion to sing songs to the Lord. I have been released from anxiety and fear concerning my musical career, no longer waking up in the morning and feeling first the dread over my failures. And in this stream, we have seen God's hand guiding us while I have kicked back my legs to enjoy the jaunt. I believe we have found liberty in realizing how little we have to do with God's plan. My philosophy has since changed to: "We must allow God's perfect will and not our own." I realize now that satisfaction and joy have no correlation to success. Real satisfaction comes in simply allowing God to work through us, doing the things He intends for us to do. Simply put, we need only to manage the pieces that He gives us.
Daniel, (drummer) Hannah (his wife and additional vocalist), and I are just a few of the pieces in a plan that we feel God has for An Epic, No Less. We play worship songs. And, fortunately, we have had the opportunity to record them. Please take a listen at www.anepicnoless.bandcamp.com. I hope that the songs encourage you, help you in prayer, and draw you closer to the Lord. In fact, I hope they do the same for me.
Julie here again, and I'd like to thank Todd and Dan for being here because as we all know, music is one of the most powerful forms of writing we have today, especially lyrics and music written specifically to glorify God. So whether you are a songwriter or not, I invite you to leave a comment or question for a chance to win their fabulous CD along with a copy of my latest book, A Hope Undaunted (Whoo-hoo, #5 on Booklist's Top Ten Inspirational Fiction for 2010!!!). I am giving away two of these prize duos (the An Epic, No Less CD coupled with a signed copy of A Hope Undaunted), so let the comments and questions begin!
And may we all hit the "high" notes in the song God has given each of us to sing!