My Biggest Mistake as a Musician

I  have an album of songs I wrote and recorded, but maybe you already knew that.   Recording “Return to Sender” is one of my biggest creative accomplishments, but my mistake is what you probably didn’t know.  I’ve never really told the story behind the album, which is perhaps more remarkable than the album itself.

These days, you can retreat into someone’s basement with a few instruments, mics, and a laptop, and you can emerge with a completed  album in a weekend.  That’s what I did, but in my case the album emerged…8 years later.  What took me so long?  Here’s some of the story:

2002– I’ve written songs for over 5 years, but I feel called to share them with a wider audience.   I want to make sure the message of the lyrics isn’t obscured by technical glitches, so I need a high quality recording.  It feels like a major stretch financially, but we sign a contract with our friend Jeremy to produce an album.   We meet to pick songs and set the overall mood for the project.

Our church leadership chastises us for not consulting them about recording an album.  They accuse us of being selfish and not fully committed to the church.  We back off for almost a year, second guessing our motives  (now it seems sillythat I viewed this as such a set-back, but at the time we were young, prone to people-pleasing, and desperately wanting to do things “right”).   Finally we get a second opinion, and the project is on.

2003– I record my first vocal tracks in Jeremy’s basement studio.  When I’m behind the mic,  it feels like I can do no wrong.  Singing takes everything I have, and yet it’s effortless.  Clearly I was born to sing these songs.

Jeremy’s carpal tunnel  pain slows the recording of the instrumental tracks.  We’re getting anxious to finish.

I lose my voice.  I can’t sing for almost a year, and even talking is torturous.  There’s no diagnosis, and no progress on the vocal tracks.  I can’t stand knowing I’m the one holding up the show.  I’m also angry with God, who I felt sure was leading us to do this recording.  So why can’t we do it?

Jeremy is diagnosed with Crohn’s disease.  The instrumental recording grinds to a halt.

2004– Our spirits are deflated.  Singing isn’t effortless, and I feel like a shadow of my self in so many ways.  But we’re still compelled to bring these songs to life.   We tentatively venture back into the studio and manage to eek out a couple more songs.

2005– We have our second son.  Jeremy has cancer.  We stop even talking about the album.

2006– Months into his chemotherapy, Jeremy calls from his hospital room.  He sounds so weak, but he’s eager to discuss a new idea for the album.  I have no words.

Here’s where I’ll press pause on the story for now.  I want to ask you:  Have you ever felt called to do something, only to confront one roadblock after another?  Where did those roadblocks come from?

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2 comments

  1. Lois Olson

    Yes, I have. I think the roadblocks come from what Steven Pressfield calls the Resistance in “The War of Art.” I also think it comes from the enemy of our soul for since we already belong to Jesus, his greatest job is to distract us from creating the art that we’ve been created and called to do. It often feels like plowing through a mud pit at times. Then there are times of soaring, when we break free of the distractions, focus in on the calling, and push forward one slow step at a time. I say, create anyway, even if it takes much, much longer than we first envision. There’s something about the journey and leaning into it and just being in the the midst of it that brings so much growth. Not always easy to remember in the midst of it and not ever easy, but it’s so rewarding to be in that place.

    • towardabundantlife

      Lois, I can tell from the depth of your sharing that you’ve had some experience with this. Thank you for the reminder of the value of creating in the face of resistance and struggle. Anyone can be thankful, joyful, etc, when they are soaring, but only you can honor God in the midst of your particular personal challenges.

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