During most of my twenties, I was part of the worship ministry at Life Church in Bradford, UK, where I played keys and wrote congregational songs of worship for large gatherings. I always recall these years as being more about learning and hard graft than about anything else. I do remember vividly the progress I eventually made in learning to play sensitively and creatively in a congregational setting as a worship leader. I also remember the surreal debut moment when a song I had written in my bedroom was sung by a whole bunch of people I would never meet or know.
As a musician (and worship leader) with leanings towards Indie Rock, I had grown up through my formative years (90’s and 00’s) listening to the likes of Oasis, Stereophonics, Travis, Shed Seven, Cast, Kula Shaker, Blur, Reef and The Verve (to name just a few). There was something about this genre of music that appealed not just to my melodic ear and my cathartic ambition of raising my voice in anthemic encores, but also to my emotional need for a sense of connection. Indeed, if melody is the primer for our “inner-ears” to open and to ‘hear’ then lyric is the physical content. Lyric drip-feeds into those deeper places in us where our own musical creativity lives and moves and has its being.
It’s this emotional connection within worship music that is often given bad press from within some quarters of the church. Some might reduce this aspect of our humanity as being superficial, immature, feminised, selfish or even of the flesh. But, on the most basic level, isn’t our faith all about the astounding reality of our fallen humanity being re-connected with His perfect divinity as our emotions soar in response to His?
Here are five tips to best help you hone your own emotional connection to Indie music:
1) Gigs vs Encounters
I know that I’m not cut out to be a ‘performer’ or an ‘artist’ but rather a leader of encounter – a worship leader, if you like. Hence, my own personal journey in writing and leading has reflected this distinction. But you might be called to perform to hundreds and thousands of people in a different way but still from your same devotional root. Therefore, spend time thinking/praying about whether you’re more comfortable in the setting of gig or an encounter. I have turned opportunities down before that have been more about performance because I have known that it wasn’t for me. It’s vital to know how you’ve been made to soar. (Don’t let that box you in to one end of the spectrum or the other – you may be called to both – but I believe you will still have a leaning one way or the other).
2) Sift the Silt
One of the reasons why ‘emotional connection’ in worship can be criticised is because of the truth that we’re not meant to be governed by our feelings. Therefore, within your songwriting and song selection, ensure that your lyric isn’t rushed or compromised or lazy. Give your indie leanings the Spirit life of chiseled, anointed effort that will honour Christ. Resist the temptation to publish or ‘share’ your music prematurely, but rather commit to processes and journeys of incubation so that the best can come forth!
3) Avoid Busyness
One major thing I have learnt over the years is to not be too ‘busy’ in my playing or songwriting style. This is especially important when you play as part of a band and serve as part of a worship team – knowing when not to play is as important as knowing when to play. This principle also applies to songwriting and crafting a) melody that will be helpful for people to sing (or listen to) as well as b) lyric that is full of truth and faith and not confusing, vague, obscure or unbiblical. I think today we need to be especially careful to provide the church/audiences with songs that carry not just theological depth/personal journey but also creative application within our orthodoxy to shed subtle lights of meaning on well-established doctrine.
4) Honing Your Leaning
You love Indie music for a reason! Therefore, don’t try and write classical music or produce pop cover versions; write and play from the preferences and leanings that you inherently have! Don’t allow your leaders, peers or colleagues to ‘correct’ or dilute your style. Rather, I’d encourage you to look for opportunities to bring a different sound into your context whether that be in church or not. Listen to your favourite bands and ask yourself, ‘why do I like these guys?’, then seek to apply principles into your own output.
5) More Than Echo
Finally, while your own list of band/artist influences will hold a special place in your heart (as mine do above) remember that you are created to be more than an echo or a cover version. In embracing your own love of a specific style and genre of music, ask the Holy Spirit to help you to be you! Ask Him to help you find the best balance of being inspired by others but unto being maximally fruitful as the unique, one-of-a-kind legend that you truly are every time you lift your voice, strike a chord or smash a drum.
Musician and Songwriter
If the truth be told, I’ve always hesitated to describe myself as a musician, partly because I’m not a pro. Also, I’ve never been convinced that I was deserving of the title given the superior musical genius I have often been surrounded (and humbled) by. But, nonetheless, a musician, songwriter and worship leader I am and it has been in the context of local church over the last three and a half decades that I’ve served and sought to bless as many as I can through this phenomenal medium.
Nick Franks is a blogger/song-writer living in Edinburgh, Scotland. Learning to love as he should, Nick is engrossed in what it might look like to live a contagious life of worship and prayer, finding and leaving signposts for the Kingdom along the way. Nick sweats under his eyes when he eats too much cheese, adores Liverpool FC and has a strong preference for Earl Grey leaf tea. Nick is married to Mairi.
You can find Nick online:
Like this article? Sign up for our newsletter and get updates on every new article that we publish!