Today’s reading is yet another stark message from Jesus. Woe to us if we cause another to stumble. We’re also called to rebuke those who sin against us, but to forgive if those who sin against us turn from what they have previously done which has caused us or the community to stumble. Some of us in Churches are a little too good at rebuking. Others of us are a little too good at appearing to repent, and then proving that our repentance isn’t true repentance, because we continue to live/do/say just what we did before. We’re called to be a forgiving people, including (especially) being forgiving of ourselves. At the same time, it is our responsibility to seek to do all we can to avoid causing another to stumble. Ultimately forgiveness is God’s and we are to seek His help in living a grace-filled life. We’re not to become puffed up or conceited in our righteousness, our forgivingness or the amount of work we do for the Kingdom. We’re not special because we work for the Kingdom, we’re special because we are called, and known by name from before the foundation of the world, by God. Let us not become puffed up in the success of our Christian life, or despondent about our failures. Let us instead be balanced, and continually thankful in the perspective that the glory is not ours, but God’s.
After yesterday’s look at the Parable of the Shrewd Manager, today we find ourselves with the story of Lazarus and the Rich Man. I remember that one of the first sermons I ever preached was on this passage, regarding Heaven and Hell, and it was the first time I came across Surprised by Hope, Tom Wright’s brilliant discussion of the subject. Quite a deep subject to get your preaching start with! There are several things that interest me about this passage. One is that the “destinations” of the Rich Man and Lazarus are denoted as entirely natural. It should not be a surprise that the poor man is at Abraham’s side, and the Rich Man is in torment in Hades. Perhaps a nod to some of the quandary I found myself in yesterday?! Abraham’s comments in verse 25 and 26, explaining the reason for the Rich Man’s repose and suffering in Hades are similarly natural-seeming. This man has given no regard to God during his earthly life and received all his treasure in full. Added to which the gap between Heaven and Hades cannot be covered by any man (except, Jesus, remember it is Jesus telling this story).
The desperation of verse 27, as the Rich Man pleads that his family might be allowed to hear is chilling, as is the answer he receives: they should have all the information they need make the right choice. And then the crux of the whole passage comes…
“‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
“He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”
In the light of what happens at the end of the Gospel account of the life of Jesus, we might be tempted to nod sagely at this point. However I think it’s all too easy for us to take the prophetic voices (whether they be biblical or contemporary) we hear pointing us to make the most of the opportunity for life, hope and peace with God now for granted. I know for myself I have the tendency to seek improvement and influence, happiness and well-being in the here and now, rather than listening to Jesus’ exhortation to live not only for now but with a mind on the things of heaven and the Kingdom. Are we willing to change our priorities so our lives are lived, and appear to be, lives which prioritise the things of God? Will we seek the well-being of others over our own? Will we consider how we use our money, our time, our talents, in a way which speaks loudly the truth in love, to those around us who need to hear it?
Whether Heaven and Hell are as they are described here is not, I believe, the point Jesus is trying to make. In the prophets, in Moses, and ultimately in the life and story of Jesus Himself, we as the Church have the life and hope we need to show those we love the best way to live, now and for eternity. What a challenge that is. What a privilege.
The first review for Mirrors is in, thanks to my friends at Louder Than the Music for their kindness. Here’s the review:
Haydon Spenceley has done it again. He has bounced back with another stunning, haunting, electro rock inspired magical piece of music in ‘Mirrors‘. Nobody creates music like Haydon, he really does have his own style and sound, and that is a very rare thing these days.
‘Come Undone’ is a mixture of electro bleeps mixed with a strong drum beat that is infused with the distinctive vocals of Haydon. A wonderful opening number. If you ever thought modern rock songs had to use big synths and dance loops then you might want to take a look at this track, this song strips rock music back to where it belongs.
As already said, Haydon has a very distinctive voice, and this comes over brilliantly in the song ‘Friends For Life‘. This foot tapping song is an instant hit with distorted guitars adding a great edgy sound to it.
‘Rise‘ takes the level of the album down to the ballad arena. This anthemic pop rock song has a great melody flowing through the chorus that is not just catchy but also powerful. ‘Beyond The End‘ has a brilliant guitar solo and epic drum beat in the middle, it could have easily have been on the Radiohead album ‘OK Computer‘, it has that same style and intensity.
Title track ‘Mirrors‘ is a little punk/rock, without being the mainstream punk/pop you sometime get in the charts. This in-your-face power track has some hard hitting lyrics that are well worth getting your teeth into.
‘Interlude‘ is what it says on the tin, but this isn’t a wasted instrumental track on the album, this is a wonderful piece of music, so beautiful to listen to as the sun is setting.
One of my favourite tracks has to be the eccentric ‘Gloria‘. There is something very Beatles, Muse, Radiohead, or Delirious about this song that really speaks to me. It may not come across as great for radio, but it’s a great track with some fantastic sounds.
LTTM have always been a fan of the work of Haydon, he seems to know how to put together a great song and then put it on a record with loads of other great songs. He is a creative songwriter who sticks to what he wants to do, and will not change his sound and the way he writes music for fast moving trends.
My first thought about this collection was that it sounded like it didn’t fit what was out there at the moment, but isn’t that the whole point? This is pushing the boundaries. Haydon could have made these songs much more dance inspired rock, but what he has done here is taken the model of good rock music and added a modern Haydon twist to it. It takes guts to do something you really believe in, and Haydon must be applauded. The songs speak for themselves, the production is of top top quality, and there isn’t much I didn’t love about this record! I hope you feel the same too.
Review by Jono Davies
Beyond The End
And so, here I am. On the other side. This morning I woke up and, oddly, felt quite ready to put on a green clergy shirt and dog collar. Fortunately I put on some other clothes too. The last few days have been incredible. As the response to my last blog has been so favourable (even my mum liked it) I thought I would write again and let you in on how ordination retreat, and the ordination itself, have left me feeling. If I did this fully, it’d take a lot longer than I have, so here, once again, are the key contents of my head this Monday afternoon.
Firstly, even though I spent most of the last few days in silence, I feel like I made a lot of new friends. There’s an odd kind of companionship and intimacy which develops in silence. I couldn’t tell you an awful lot about the cohort of people that I retreated and was ordained with, I have very little memory of where they all are today, what they used to do, how many kids they have etc. I do know though that those ordained deacon and priest in Peterborough Diocese this year are, without exception, a wonderful group of people. Each has their own history, call and future, but I am so looking forward to getting to know them, ministering and serving alongside them in the years to come. The site at Launde Abbey was relatively accessible to me (in the way that a thing is accessible as long as one is assisted) and to a man or woman, each person did all they could to enable me to participate fully in every part of the retreat. This was no small feat, and I was very humbled by the servant-heartedness of all. This might sound trite, but I really mean it. If you wanted a mark of a group of people who were fit to serve in Churches, this was one. I hate having to ask for help. Maybe one day I won’t need any anymore? Who knows. So, in a funny kind of way, one of the key things I will take away from this last week is a whole group of new friends. What a great gift that is.
Secondly, robes are exceptionally warm.
Thirdly, I had a clear sense that God was with me. I’m not a person who clearly senses very much most of the time. A combination of cynicism, scepticism, anti-depressants and so on usually puts paid to that these days. That said, it was very clear right from arrival at Launde that I was in the right place, at the right moment, doing the right thing. This is not common in my everyday experience, and it was, well it was just really great. I can’t really describe it any better than that. I was acutely aware of the prayers and love of many people, near and far, especially every time I survived showering on the picnic chair that played the role in this production of “The Shower Seat”. Thanks for looking out for me, pray-ers and well-wishers.
Fourthly, it was so good, after four days, to see my wife, family and friends yesterday morning. It felt like years that I’d been away, but of course it wasn’t. However, as I wrote the other day, I was reminded again of how much we need each other and how fortunate I am to have such an amazing wife and family/friends around me. I know not everyone can say that, but I’m often guilty of taking it for granted. Don’t try and do things on your own. That was the key message of the whole service yesterday. We’re not built for flying solo, in life or ministry. I don’t mean, before you jump up and down, that a life of singleness isn’t valid. What I mean is that we need fellowship, community, a family of some kind. Jesus needed it in His earthly life. So do we. God has it in the trinity. It is impossible, as the diaconal ordination service told me yesterday (as if I didn’t know) to fulfil the tasks I now have as an ordained person in my own strength. God is the one who gives me the strength I need to do whatever He has called me to. It is the same for all of us.
Fifthly, as I was rolling around the shopping centre where my new Church is situated, earlier, I was amused by how many people didn’t know how to react to me. Granted I was in a wheelchair, dressed as a vicar (I’ll get used to it) with a green clerical shirt on, but i was left to wonder, “have I really changed that much?” The shopping centre is one I’ve used regularly throughout my life, a lot of people locally know me by sight (the perils of being obviously different) but here I was in a new state, a new uniform, a new way of being. Things had changed already. The strangest thing of all is that I already feel pretty comfortable with who I am and what the new clothes I wear signify, even as I don’t have much of an understanding of what this new ordained state will really mean for me, my life and the lives of those I love. I suspect that this is the greatest evidence of the activity of the Spirit in my midst over the last few days. I am here and it feels somehow just right. I never thought I would write anything like that.
Lastly, I’m preparing a testimonial talk, to be given over the next few Sundays at the three Churches in the Emmanuel Group. The main idea of this is to introduce myself and Jo and to explain how I think I got to where I am. As I’m thinking about this, I have come to one clear, annoyingly trite and yet unswervingly true answer: it is Jesus that is the reason I am here. Without Him I really would be lost and flailing around in the world, and I’m not even a Calvinist. He has brought me here, to do whatever it is that is coming. How exciting this actually is. I’m here to serve the Church and the community around it, to learn and to grow (hopefully no further outwards). How lucky am I?
I’m a Rev. Blimey.
This past Tuesday (June 3rd) I had the immense privilege of speaking at the Enabling Church Conference at The Bethel Centre, West Bromwich. Later, I will post the text of my talk from the conference, as well as audio links to the two deliveries of the talk from the day. I’ll also be blogging in the next few days exploring a couple of key questions and themes which arose for me during and as a result of the day In the first of my reflections, I want to offer a few general thoughts on the day as I experienced it.
Firstly, it was an incredibly exciting and privileged thing to be a part of. To arrive at the venue first thing on Tuesday and find queues into the car park to get in is quite nice as an ego massage for a speaker at a conference (I was by no means at all the main draw, but still, it’s a nice feeling!) It was also indicative that the subject of disability, God and the Church is being taken increasingly seriously in this country. Throughout the day I met people and heard stories of situations where Churches are engaging in the work of moving towards being more welcoming, inclusive and participatory for those with impairments and disabilities of all types. There was so much wisdom and experience, so much passion and enthusiasm in the conference centre. It really felt like a moment in Christian history, as Cristina Gangemi suggested. As she often says, the time is now for disability issues to play a key theological role in the life of the Church. Gone are the days when a ramp, a hearing loop and a toilet are sufficient. A Church which does not refer to weakness or impairment, which seeks to live only in victory and strength, cannot stand. On Tuesday we had the inspiration of 400 people gathered to commit themselves and the Churches they represented, to continue the onward motion and the coming of this aspect of the kingdom.
It was a great pleasure to hear the Bishop of Lichfield speak with such verve and determination to see his diocese lead the way in this work. Roy McCloughry spoke with his customary vigour and insight in inspiring the delegates to seek for greater participation for all at all levels of Church life, including leadership. John Swinton gave a fantastic presentation on personhood and discipleship, particularly in relation to those with dementia or who lack self awareness, showing that knowledge and the ability to articulate oneself is not required for salvation.
Following from this, I took part in the Disability stream, along with some people who were much more eminent, articulate and knowledgable than myself (!). I enjoyed speaking, or rabble-rousing, twice during the afternoon, on identity and disability in Christianity. As I’ve said I will add links to the content of what I said, and explore the themes in more detail, later.
Following my talk, Ann Memmott gave a clear and insightful presentation on Autistic Spectrum Disorders and Church life. Ann is a good communicator and speaks with real candour. I have always enjoyed seeing her open the eyes of audiences to the joys and the concerns of ASD and Church. She has a huge gift at making a complex subject intelligible. Jonathan Edwards was next. He currently works for Prospects, having previously been a senior figure in the Baptist Union. I would love to go to wherever he preaches every week! He spoke with real fire about a Christian response to welfare reform in the UK, in a highly practical fashion exhorting the Church to take its role as the social leader of Britain seriously. The sessions were concluded by an audience feedback slot, led by Cristina Gangemi, Disability Advisor to the Vatican for the Catholic Church (perhaps now you can see why I felt a bit overawed!) where once again it became clear, both times, how much wisdom and experience there was in the room. Roy McCloughry chaired the gathering, and Tim Wood facilitated us all expertly.
As we were running our stream throughout the afternoon, I didn’t get to hear any other speakers, but the theme of the day was clear: The Church is God’s. It is for all, not some. Every Church, every Christian, can do something so that the ultimately enabling faith of Jesus Christ can be accessed by all who seek Him. What an inspiring hope. It was enthralling to see a little way in to the future as the day drew to a close and to imagine how far, with the help of God, we might have journeyed along the road in a few years time.
I am hugely grateful to Gordon Temple, Tim Wood, Churches for All and Through the Roof for the opportunity to experience such a wonderful event and to participate in it. It’s truly humbling for me, as a relatively inexperienced speaker, to work and minister alongside so many people whom I look up to.
So, an Enabling Church? What might one of those be? I believe it is a Church which understands the call to abundant life that is offered to all by the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. I believe it is a Church which lives in such a way that that life is made available to all, from participation in which none are excluded except by their own choice. An Enabling Church is one from which the love and grace of Jesus Christ pour out in acts of abundant kindness and generosity.It is one which is fully reflective of the glorious panoply of the creation and soon-to-be-redeemed kingdom of God. It is one which gives high esteem and honour to its “weakest” members, does not avoid pain and suffering, but journeys together with individuals and communities as they do suffer. It teaches and exists to glorify Christ and Him crucified above all else It is a small, as yet imperfect picture of the final, technicolour coming kingdom. It is something that we are invited to be a part of today.
In my next blog I hope to look at the issue of disability and leadership, both from the point of view of disabled people leading in Churches, and those who are abled seeking best to lead disabled people in Churches, and in family life.
In this next installment of our guest blog series from the band Ghost Tree, Haydon Spenceley updates us on the progress of their EP as attention turns away from the recording phase and onto promoting the record. Haydon addresses the idea that God doesn’t really need PR…
Greetings! It’s a chilly Sunday morning here in Nottingham, and I thought it was about time (mostly because Jono told me it was) that I put finger to keyboard and updated you all about the goings on with Ghost Tree, and our very soon to be forthcoming debut, self-titled EP.
Since we last spoke (I imagine our times together as cosy fireside chats) lots has happened. Our EP is now completely tracked, including some fantastic string parts, which are amazing and wonderful (did I mention that they’re quite good?) and mixed. Kevin and Brandon have done a fantastic job of bringing my vision for these songs to life in the mix. They sound huge, and yet spacious, risky yet absolutely spot on. Even my voice sounds OK (miracles do happen). This coming week, Brad Blackwood is apparently setting to work on mastering the record so that, in a few short weeks, we can let it out of the bag for you all to enjoy. Can’t wait for that. At the same time as figuring out mixes, I’ve been working on some ideas for tours for the next few months as we look to make the most of the fantastic platform we’ve been blessed with. We’ll be announcing a couple of very different tours in the next few weeks, both of which I’m very excited about. Also been dipping my toe in the waters of trying to find partners with whom to release the record. I know very little about business, so it’s an eye-opening experience for me to even begin to have conversations with people. No idea what will come of all that.
Still need to figure out what to do with my hair.
At the same time, I moved to Nottingham yesterday to start theological college (I’m training to be a vicar from tomorrow – bonkers) while others of us in the band are having joyous family experiences, and some sorrows too, as some seasons come to an end and others start. It’s got me thinking recently, life goes on, seemingly, whatever happens. Life isn’t all about music and bands and good hair (although I really wish I could do something with mine). If nothing else, this year’s taught me that the songs I write and sing should match the life I live, and the words I do and don’t say. I want to be welcomed home as a good and faithful servant, to know Jesus, God made man, not my own construct of who I think Jesus is, but who Jesus actually is. I want others to know Him too. This is the point of all that we do as a band (I hope) and if we ever get lost up our own bottoms, or chasing after a different dream, I hope that we have people around us who will tell us off, dust us down and set us on the right path again.
This morning I woke up thinking about brackets. I read a lot of press releases, and often, the humble bracket plays a crucial role. What happens often goes something like this: “Blah Blah band announces the release of their new album Seismic Shift in History of Modern Music. The new record was produced by A.N. Other (someone who should make you go “ooh, ahh, I must buy this record forthwith if not sooner”)”. What got me thinking is, we could do this. People who worked on our record have worked on some very cool pieces of music, and continue to do so. It’s very tempting for me, as I start to think about promoting the record in the next few weeks, to litter our PR stuff with said brackets. I could easily press the right buttons, play the right games, and impress people a great deal. There’s a big temptation to do it – part of my brain really wants me to make back a lot of money, or even, gasp, make a profit, so that i might be able to support myself, think I was stewarding my resources widely or, double gasp, have enough money to make another record. Thing is, God doesn’t really need PR does He? He doesn’t need, require, or even want me to manipulate how I present myself in order to ensure more people listen to what I have to say. Or maybe He does, maybe He wants me to make the most of the blessings and opportunities He’s given me. I really have no idea. I guess I just struggle with the idea that this is the standard way to do things. I don’t want to come off as idealistic and pretentious. I just want to honour God, and I’m not sure how to do that….So, in a few weeks, when you see our PR stuff and it’s plastered with brackets, you’ll know that I capitulated!
We’re so close to having stuff for you all to listen to now, it’s very exciting. I can’t wait for the chance for you to see/hear what all the fuss is about!
Please pray for me and for us this week. It’s so inspiring to be part of a community of faith, and to know that we’re not alone, and not doing this for our own benefit, but to serve and bless people, and to bless and thank our God. Let’s hope we all find ways to live our lives along those lines this week.
In the fourth part of our series of guest blogs from LTTM friend Haydon Spenceley about the recording of his new band Ghost Tree’s debut album, Haydon gives us an update on the album and explains the heart behind some of the songs.
So I look out of my window as I begin to write this fourth blog entry for you about Ghost Tree’s recording trip to Nashville. It is cold, it is grey. It is raining. I must be home. It’s amazing that you can so comfortably gauge whether you’re in the UK or not by whether it looks like it might rain or not. I’m looking back over the last couple of weeks since I last wrote for Louder Than The Music and I have no idea where to start in how to describe simply how awesome, exciting, frightening and fattening the latter part of our trip has been. I suppose, as I wrote about my toilet travails last time, I should pick up from where I left off.
You’ll be pleased to know, no doubt that the only lasting damage from my brush with the bathroom was to my pride, but that was by no means the last of my hazardous health histrionics. Indeed, on the very next day, while Ben and Mark were tracking at Brown Owl (which may be one of the coolest places on the planet). I discovered a large bite on my arm. Upon inspection at the local hospital, it turns out I had been dinner for a Brown Recluse Spider. I don’t know whether I’m exaggerating, so please excuse me if I am, but apparently bites such as these are potentially fatal, so I was freaked out more than a little bit. Anyway, come 3am the next morning I was home tucked up in bed, having been treated well, but still a little bit scared, I must admit. One of the things that had scared me was the potential financial cost of visiting the hospital and paying for treatment (high). In this, as in every other aspect of this trip, God was faithful, and provided me with a route to claim on my insurance, and pay for the prescriptions I needed to deal with the problem. I am pleased to say that now my arm is completely healed and I am back to health. It was a sobering reminder of my need for God though, the kind of reminder that seemed to come for all of us who were involved in the record at one point or other in the trip.
The next day was another rhythm section day, with some keyboards for me to do as well. I took abundantly great joy in playing a couple of songs on a Fender Rhodes, and another on a wonderful old upright piano, before finishing with some time on a Wurlitzer. All great fun, especially on 4 hours sleep. We concluded at 2am with Kevin (producer) trying to work on a Wurli part that ended up requiring that he play the right hand and I play the left. Teamwork is dreamwork people! I should point out as well that Kevin and Brandon had gone well above and beyond the call of duty in taking me and staying with me all the way through my hospital experience the previous night, so we were all quite worn out by this point!
I also had the pleasure of coffee-ing with Chad Johnson that day. Chad is a total legend, who heads up Come and Live! and seeks God in a way which is consistently challenging to me. Come and Live! have some cool bands, and an even cooler heart for ministry. Keep an eye on what they’re doing, and pray for them.
With the rhythm section stuff laid down (with some amazing help from Chris Vicari), we were on to guitars, keys and vocals in week 3. This was last week, which went by in a total blur, as we powered through the remaining stuff that needed to be put down for the record. Allie Kelly, our guitarist, played some great stuff, and Kevin came up with some great production ideas to augment and improve on what we had. Later in the week, another new friend, Ryan Stubbs, came along and sprinkled some magic dust over various parts of the record with guitar parts that were so cool it didn’t really seem fair. I sang some of the most challenging vocals I’ve ever had to record (including one standing up, which was like my own personal Mount Everest), and then before we knew it, our parts were done, and it was time to go home.
It was fascinating to me that my songs, written (mostly) in my bedroom back in the UK, seemed to provoke such amazingly positive reactions from guys we met in Nashville. Being British seems to be cool right now, and I with my “bizarre” and “silly” chord progressions (I was accused of being Prog at one point) seem to have made an impression on some people. This was cool, obviously, but not just from a vanity point of view. It was cool because I was able to just be myself, write and sing the songs that God had given to me, and here I was on the other side of the world, thousands of miles from home, and they were resonating with people I barely knew. Quite a confidence boost that. I guess it struck me that we need to push in to the things that God has for us. Not to push past Him, or run away from His still small voice, or His leadership down the narrow path that leads to life, but to stay in step with Him, to know that His character is to be generous, abundantly, to His children, and to trust His provision. I’ve worked hard over the years, and pushed on all kinds of doors that were closed, and were meant to be closed, but here was one that was wide open, and had only been made so by the grace of God, not by my merit, or through my ability to blag my way into something. There’s a lesson for me there, and I would guess I’m not the only one! For all those times when I’ve doubted my calling, it strikes me that I’d missed what my calling actually was. I remember writing here once before that life is less about doing and more about being, that it’s not what we do that defines us, but who we are. That statement’s always been true, but it’s so much more real to me now. God made me for Himself, not to be a musician, a Church minister, or anything else. He doesn’t need me to make an album, but He gave me the gifts and the grace I need, so that, with a lot of help, I can make an album to honour Him. Really, it takes a lot of the pressure off when you look at it like that. God provides for us to do everything He asks of us, but the primary thing He asks of us is love. He is love, and it is Him in us who makes us able to love, so we need to focus on Him, learn how to love, and then do it, in whatever area of life we are.
So now, looking back on the trip, I have to conclude it was the best few weeks of my life. Not without challenges or even frightening moments, as I said before, but without a shadow of a doubt the best time I’ve ever experienced. There’s nothing like seeking your calling from God over a prolonged period of time, and then finding that you’re actually walking (or rolling) it out, something I experienced here. I know, talking to the other guys, we’ll never be the same for what we’ve gone through either. I’m excitedly waiting to hear first mixes in a couple of weeks, and already we’re itching to find the best partners to release the record with, so that you can all hear it, and can experience with us something of the beauty and power of the God that we love through these songs.
Really, this is about so much more than a record, or an experience. For me, this was an experience of God, blessing me, teaching me, refining me, challenging me, to see myself for who I am, to see Him for who He is, and to walk in His way, confidently approaching His throne of grace, as He has invited me to do, and then taking the love and blessing I have received and sharing it with the world. That is what we want to do with these songs, this band. It’s cool to have great experiences, but it’s even cooler to know that our faith is on the solid rock of Christ, and I hope that when we come to release this EP in the latter part of this year, you will be blessed as you hear it, and led to worship and the one who loves you most of all.
If you want to keep up with us and our progress over the next few months, you can at @ghosttreeband – we’ll be launching our Facebook, Twitter, Reverbnation and everything else pages very soon!
In the third part of our series of guest blogs from LTTM friend Haydon Spenceley, we get a progress update from Nashville on the recording process for Ghost Tree’s new album, and hear a warning on the toils of public bathrooms!
So, it’s about 8.45pm here in sunny Nashville. Today we scratch-tracked the remaining three songs for the record. These are Hope, Hallelujah and Save My Day. Hope and Save My Day are both new versions of songs that my old band, Freeslave, used to do. They’re both pretty different from the old versions, feeling like the fully formed versions of the songs that I always hoped would make it out one day. Hallelujah is a straight-up worship track which starts off all nice and British, and ends up gritty and messy. There’s talk of a Queen-like vocal ending to this one, which should be fun. As far as the music goes, I’ve had a pretty straightforward day, tracking keys and vocals for the tracks so that the other guys in the band can play over them, and so that Mark and Ben can track the final rhythm section parts over them tomorrow. As I write this, they are practicing the tracks, whilst Brandon, Kevin, Chris Vicari (a cool drummer mate of theirs) and I are listening/pointing and laughing when they make the occasional minor mistake. But these are by far not the most interesting or even dangerous things to happen today. Oh no, dear reader. Oh no.
You see, this morning, Kevin and Brandon had a meeting about something or other on Music Row. The guys in the band and I decamped to a noted local coffee chain for an early-morning snack. All was well until I decided that, prior to going into the deep, dark recesses of the studio (where there is no bathroom, dear reader) it would be wise to, well, you know, make the most of the opportunity of, well, peeing. I did what was needed, and then I lent on the grab rail in the bathroom to transfer, and then…. Well, I kinda don’t know what happened next. Suffice to say that not only did I end up on the floor, but the grab rail came with me. And not only that, but so did the whole of the toilet.The toilet actually moved. It moved. And then, just to add insult to injury, it auto-flushed. I got wet. It was not cool. See, being a wheelchair user, I assumed that the USA would be well set for me, in this modern age. Turns out this is not the case. The manager of said coffee place was verily worried I was going to get extremely litigious. Fortunately for her, and for me, I decided against that, and emerged with a mildly bruised bottom, and an even more bruised ego. I’m also now scared to use the bathroom in public.
As I’ve done my guide parts now, I’m free until Monday. So, Nashville types, what shall I do with my time?!
Join me next time to see if the bruise on my hip has developed into anything, whether I’ve been offered a free Mocha, and hear about our experiences tracking rhythm parts at Brown Owl.
And remember kids, don’t use a grab rail unless it’s securely nailed to the wall.
In the next part of our series of guest blogs from LTTM friend Haydon Spenceley, we find out about some of the songs newly formed band Ghost Tree are working on as they record their album in Nashville.
Greetings friends, we’re coming to the end of another day in Nashville. In a shock move, it rained today. I missed most of it, as I and the band have spent most of the day cooped up in Viking Studios doing pre-production. We’re in Brown Owl Studios on Thursday and Friday recording the rhythm section, so we’re working hard on formats of songs, and getting stuff together. Today we’ve worked on Glorious and You They See. Glorious is a really vibey worship song for the Church, which has taken a lot of sweat, energy (and not a few tears) to get finished, and it feels great now we’re getting to the point of having a solid version for it.
You They See is a trippy, rhythmic rock song about who God is and what our identity is, and can be, in Him. I felt like I didn’t have a true sense, or appreciation of who God was, and what His character is, and neither did I really understand who I was, who I had been, who God has made me, and what God’s plan for my future is. The song comes all dressed up in a “British-sounding” slab of minor key goodness. Kevin and Brandon (our producers) seem to like this one a lot! It certainly grooves a lot. It fascinates me as a writer. Glorious has been a real struggle to write, taking a couple of years, and only getting finished with a final re-write on Saturday of last week! You They See took half an hour. It just shows that it’s not all about graft and stress when writing songs. Sometimes it can be fun and come easily too!
There’s nothing like the sight of a room full of head-nodding, grooving musician-types to tell you that a song is getting somewhere near the point where it feels pretty great. I really enjoy this one, I get to let rip a fair bit vocally. Often when I’m leading worship at home I get told I shout a lot (can’t think why). Well, here, it seems being loud is a good thing! We’ve got Hope, All For You and Hallelujah to push through tomorrow. Hopefully the heat, the thunder storms, and the fireflies will allow us to get through what we need to. I’m still debating whether to regret having my head shaved on my birthday. It’s certainly good to have a bit of a draught going up there now!
So, my name’s Haydon Spenceley, and I sing, play keyboards, and write the songs for the new worship band Ghost Tree. We’re in Nashville right now, recording our debut EP. The other members of our band are Ben Lewis (bass), Mark Halliday (drums) and Allie Kelly (guitars). Ben, Allie and I used to play in the band Freeslave, and I’ve done a couple of solo records too, but this is the first time that we’ve stepped over to this side of the Pond to make a record. Dave and Jono from LTTM asked me if I would blog about some of our experiences, so here’s my first attempt….
Howdy y’all. It’s July 4th here in blistering hot Nashville, TN. I had hoped that we would celebrate the day by watching Team America: World Police, but that idea was vetoed by the other guys in the band. As it is, we appear to have spent a lot of the day watching Bob The Builder with Jack, who’s the son of our producer Kevin Bruchert. In America, Bob is American. This is wrong.
We’ve been here for five days now. These five days have mostly involved: recovering from the stress of clearing immigration, recovering from the stress of a lost guitarist, 2 of the longest rehearsal days any of us have ever experienced, some cracking moments when the songs started to come together, and some brilliant learning opportunities from Kevin, and his co-producer, Brandon Perdue. We’ve spent some time teaching them our language, and they have reciprocated. Everything is now “awesome.” I would also say that we’ve all put on some weight too. The food here is amazing, and cheap. A bad combination when you like food as much as I do! So far the clear winner is Thai Phooket (it made us snigger too). You should go if you’re ever in Nashville. (can I get a free meal now?!)
I’m excited to be here, it’s been a long journey, and it’s amazing to see how God has moved and orchestrated things to bring us to this point. It’s such a blessing to be given the opportunity to see music, and business, from a completely different angle than what we see at home. I, for one, am having to modify my view of Nashville “Christian Music” and all the stuff that goes with it. There’s a lot of awesome stuff here. We in the UK could actually usefully learn a lot from the scene over here.
Had a great day yesterday (which was also my birthday) which culminated in playing keys in the band at Anchor Nashville. A great experience, but also highly stressful. Everyone here is a musician, and most of them are amazing. Never played in a Church band like it! We’re here for two more weeks, recording five songs, and then we’ll be into the process of trying to find the right route and partners for releasing the album, and getting the songs out to Churches and to radio and all the other stuff that comes with making a record. I’ll be blogging again through this week and next, and next time I’ll talk about some of the songs and how I wrote them, and what they’re about and all that. If you think of it, pray for us, we need it!