Simple Creativity

          Writing songs has always been something I have loved to do. It’s been a passion of mine

for a long time now. Although I have always loved doing it though that does not mean it has always

come easy. Any creative-minded person will tell you that there are seasons to creative work when you

don’t want to do what you used to love.  There are even times you may hate the thought of

doing it. I’ve faced many times like this. Often these times are brought on by unhealthy

comparison of myself to others or hearing the “No” that I’ve heard many times in the world of

creative work. It can be discouraging and crippling but doesn’t have to be the end of your

journey in creativity. In fact, it may be what is needed to get to the next season: a kick-start or a

rebirth. If you are in one of these times, it can be very difficult to see beyond it and move

forward. If you are experiencing one of these seasons, my advice is this: keep it simple.

          I never thought that I would write a Christmas song. It’s not really something that I was

motivated towards. I think this was due to a couple things: 1) There are so many Christmas

songs already and 2) I feel like a lot of people (myself included) have a love/hate relationship

with Christmas songs. As a worship leader, I know what’s coming after Halloween’s end:

Christmas songs. Most of the time I get excited when I realize that this time of the year is

coming. I like Christmas songs for the most part. Along with that realization, however, comes

pressure- pressure to do something memorable. We’ve all heard the typical Christmas songs, so

as an artist I pressure myself to do something new, exciting, and different with them. It was

perhaps out of this desire that Upon His Shoulders was born.

          As with most of the songs I write, this particular one started with the melody. In this

case, it was the melody that would become the chorus. I love crescendos and I love changes in

dynamics- starting quiet and ending loud. This is where the chorus melody was formed. I

started low and climbed high on the musical staff. There’s a constant movement and lifting in

the melody. It grabbed me instantly. The next step in the process then was to add lyrics. Most

of the time I start with words that won’t necessarily stay in the song. However, in this song, for

whatever reason the phrase that formed with the melody was the one that stuck: “and the

government shall be upon His shoulders.” I loved that Scripture had just put its foot in the door

of this melody. At this point I left this song to gestate for a while and didn’t really think about it

again until the Halloween candy went on sale.

          As we began to plan the Christmas season at LFC I was reminded of that one phrase

song that I left on my creative shelf. It put its foot in the door once again almost as if it was

saying, “Hey, remember me?” So I revisited the song one afternoon. In order to finish it I just

went to the source which in this case was Isaiah 9:6. I was specifically energized by this tune

because I was writing with a distinct purpose: to finish it in time to play it during the Christmas

season. I was also excited to have a “new” idea to put into a Christmas tune. Apart from

Handel, I couldn’t really think of another common Christmas tune that directly referenced the

prophecy of the coming Messiah in Isaiah.  It pushed me and led me. I read the passage through

over and over, seeing what else would jump out as the original phrase had. Over the course of a

week or so the rest of the song came together and it did so by adding more of the prophecy of

Isaiah.

          And here is where keeping it simple is important. There is nothing particularly intricate

or complicated about Upon His Shoulders or even the way it was created. The words are

repurposed phrases in biblical scripture which are placed over chords. But there is beauty in

simplicity.  There is something to be said for looking back to move forward in your creative

work. It’s motivating and inspirational to see where you and your community have been. The

new can be old, the old can be new.

If you are interested in hearing Upon His Shoulders you can download it for free at www.nathanstoreymusic.com

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