Showing Up Writing With Kids

Day 212: I Came To Surf

At last I’ve made a start on 50/90! I’ve posted 2 songs – I Came To Surf which I wrote on Friday and recorded on Saturday. I’m not sure about the tone of the lyrics whether I crossed the line of irreverance or not, let me know (the file is a little slow to stream/download – sorry).

And song two is a tune I wrote with a couple of 6 year olds at Ukelele Club! It’s called Big Ben.


More songs by Matt Blick



Day 210: Let’s Go Surfing Now

Yesterday I didn’t have enough time to finish off Never Be Silent so I started a new song. It’s called 3/Smack Em In The Teeth.

Bear with me.

Reading through the Psalms recently I’ve been struck by the giant gulf between what I feel comfortable singing, or even just expressing in conversation, as a Christian and the range of emotions that the Psalmists feel at ease with singing. And by extension what God feels OK with, ‘cos it made it into his book. And I know not everything is there to be emulated but it must mean it’s OK to at least say some of these things out loud if that’s how you feel. So I’ve been toying with setting some of these unmentionables to music to try to break through some of my own cultural hangups. At the same time Tom of Cookie Finger has inspired me with his stripped down lofi Punk approach to 50/90 – so I’m going to pretend to be the Ramones.

So for reasons musical and exegetical I don’t anticipate (Psalm) 3/Smack Em In The Teeth is ever going to appear in anyone’s Sunday service. But it might remove a few of my emotional blind spots.

So that was the plan. But today I decided I didn’t want to kick off my 50/90 with a negative song that was prone to misunderstanding. So I wrote a song called I Came To Surf. What do I know about surfing? Nada, dude. But I know Wikipedia. I’m following in the great tradition of Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, who had never been surfing in his life

Download my new song: Faithful & True for free!!!
Other free songs by Matt Blick


10 Random Thoughts On Last Night’s Iron Maiden/Airbourne Gig

1) Airbourne, your sound guy hates you. Or loves bass drum. Or both.

2) The whole ‘let’s put Jedi as our religion on the census form‘ thing was an internet hoax. Didn’t you get the email Bruce?

3) You’re never too old to rock Janick. But you’re definitely too old to skip around the stage like Hannah Montana.

4) Just once could we have a tiny Eddie on the front of Nicko‘s drums and a huge anamatronic Sweep at the back of the stage?

5) Are you sure you need that many amps Airbourne? When Rob Huskinson said “All the lights were on, but I suspect dummies were involved.” I assume he was talking about the backline.

6) Steve Harris rocks so hard, even his bass sweats.

7) Sheesh, I thought Christians were bad at clapping in time, but Iron Maiden have the most arrhythmical fans on the planet. How do you stay in time when thousands of people are clapping ten beats per minute faster than you and accelerating rapidly, Nicko?

8) Airbourne. When you’re called ‘Airbourne‘ it’s probably not great to have a giant truck as your stage backdrop. No, the fact that one wheel is a few feet off the ground doesn’t count.

9) Some of the semi-naked moshing swerved past male bonding and crashed into foreplay. Fat semi naked guy, your concern for younger moshers was touching but now I feel all creeped out and dirty for just looking at you.

10) If you’re writing a song about the devil 5/4 time is good. D mixolydian, not so much.

Roger Murtaugh, I know how you feel. SCREAM FOR ME NOTTINGHAM!!!!!

Download my new song: Faithful & True for free!!!
Other free songs by Matt Blick

Showing Up

Day 207: Look Ma! I’m A Bulgarian Choir!

Today, after almost 2 months, I finished Never Be Silent. Well apart from fixing and mixing. I’ve been out of the blogging loop so long, here’s a few thoughts

Songs aren’t finished, they’re released. I’m learning that all over again.

I’ve learned a massive amount about singing, phrasing and accents, through recording this song. Also Bulgarian harmonies and arranging for voice.

I’m really working hard on singing in my real voice (rather than a mid Atlantic drawl). It’s harder than you think. Talking to a speech therapist from my Church helped.

Weird things happen to your head when you know you will not finish the song you’re working on tomorrow or the next day. You start to live in the song. In fact I’ve lived solely in the 3rd chorus for about a fortnight. It becomes a bit of a comfort blanket. You have to pick a smaller chunk and say “I’m going to finish THIS tomorrow”.

I am SO going to write a whole bunch of punk rock songs with one track of vocals next.

Been thinking a lot about God’s Eden proclamation – It is not good for the man be alone. As an DIY musician I spend most of my creative time on me onesee. And yet I know some amazing singers, musicians, producers and visual artist. So I’m going to try to invite more people in. I had a great time last week recording Grace Church Cellist/Bassist Rachel McClean. You’ll be hearing her work on Never Be Silent and a rerecording of Let’s Build An Airport soon.

Speaking of friends I went to see (ex-workmate) Tom Dempsey and (ex-bandmate) Tracey Beebe tear the Heart in Hand pub to pieces the other day with ‘Balkan wedding band’ Aistaguca . Who’d have thought 2 saxes, a sousaphone, a guitar and a tiny drum kit could wreak such funky havoc?

Download my new song: Faithful & True for free!!!
Other free songs by Matt Blick


Songwriting Worship Leading

What Is Wrong With Praise And Worship Music?

Tom Waits vs Your Worship Team

Tom Waits has described his music as “Beautiful melodies telling you terrible things” (if you want to put some flesh on those descriptive bones check out Poor EdwardNo One Knows I’m Gone or Dead and Lovely). It occurred to me the other day that this description of his music is the antithesis of a lot of Christian Praise & Worship – which often amounts to terrible melodies telling you beautiful things.

I have always known this. At various stages of my Christian pilgrimage I have attacked it, criticised it, repented of criticising it, enjoyed it, defended it, excused it, ignored it and endured it. Sometimes I’ve done all of these on a single sunday morning.

But ever since I started blogging through all 211 Beatles songs at Beatles Songwriting Academy I’ve come to the fairly settled conclusion that much (most?) of the songs churches sing represent the lowest standards of songwriting around outside of the top 30 singles chart (and yes, Mr. Stickinthemud, I would include many revered hymns in that too).

Here’s a few things that might help

1 – We need to develop a robust methodology (rooted in theology) of dealing with a divinely inspired source text. Christian songwriters don’t really know how to handle the Bible. Not in the theological sense of “dude I don’t think he did say ‘I am the Lord of Dance‘ and I’m pretty sure ‘his feet did NOT in ancient times walk upon England’s mountain green‘”, but in the sense of how you take inspired prose and poetry, both of which were written in another language, and set them to music in a form that is effective for people a few thousand miles and few thousand years away from the text.

No song we ever write will be inspired in the way the Bible is inspired. We need to do some hard thinking about how we take something holy (the Bible) and make an average every day item out of it that people can use (a song), without confusing or contradicting the original message.

Christians need to develop this methodology because secular musicians generally think words don’t matter. What they appear to mean to the listener is just as important as what they mean to the writer. We obviously can’t take that on board. But ramming a passage unchanged into a musical structure is not the answer either.

2 – We need to study songwriting. From ANY writer that writes memorable songs that people sing along to. The Beatles are a great place to start but you could look at Abba, Billy Joel, Broadway writers, Motown, Bob Marley. Writers who know how to make a memorable melody that lifts the lyrics, who can distill an idea down to it’s essence and who can make a melody seem fresh and familiar at the same time.

3 – We need to write more songs about nothing. Worship is one of the hardest genres to write for. You have to balance objective truth in the lyrics with simplicity, knowing that your songs will be sung and played by amateurs with little or no time to rehearse. It’s really hard to learn your craft and juggle those balls. So don’t. Learn your craft by writing songs about your cat/girlfriend/football team. I’m not saying give up trying to write for a congregation. Just that it’s easier to learn by tinkering around with structures, how words ‘sing’ and melodic shape on something that doesn’t really matter. Then bring all that skill to bear on weightier matters.

4 – We need to sing more bad songs. But not other people’s. Any writer will get better if they write more songs. And if your church is going to sing bad songs they might as well sing yours. Help them by writing exactly what will fit your church’s journey. A sermon series on Leviticus? If you write a song on wave offerings I guarantee it will be one of the top ten ever written. Are the kids in sunday school learning about the good samaritan? Write a fun action song. Can’t find a suitable song for communion, funerals, that quiet bit during the offering? Write one.

What else can we do to improve the level of songwriting in our Churches?
Who are the Christian songwriters that you think really excel at their craft?

Related Posts: 12 way to increase congregational participation
The saviour of Christian music is not a white guy with a guitar

Download my new song: Faithful & True for free!!!
Other free songs by Matt Blick

Showing Up

Day 195: Houston We Have A Problem

So we’re one week into 50/90 and what have I done? Diddly squat, that’s what. Well no, that’s not strictly true.

I’m still slowly dragging Never Be Silent to a conclusion and I think I’m fairly OK with that.

Before FAWM I rushed through Shang Ding Hong Song at an insane pace just to start FAWM with a clean slate but I’ve decided that 50/90 will have to wait for me. Most of my writing time over the last few weeks has been spent trying to create a 10 part vocal line for a chorus that changes key and time signature. I had to write it by feel – singing a line, then another, then a third then going back and altering the second and so on. I also added a cymbala part (finally found a spot for that Christmas present from my kids) and I’m hoping to record a cello part (that will NOT be played by me).

So although the song feels out of control I’ve recommitted to getting it done piece by piece and putting everything else (writing wise) on hold.

Here’s what I still have to do

3rd chorus – 4 more parts
clean up/punch in a couple of lead vocal parts
2nd chorus – some simplish vocal parts – no written yet
outro – few overlapping vocal parts
build up to 3rd chorus – 10 vocal parts
write cello arrangement
record cello

man that’s so boring – as you can guess I’m writing this more for my benefit that yours. I’ve got a few finished songs that I still haven’t put up here – watch this space…

PS I did write a 2 chord ukelele song with some 6 year olds (Ukelele’s are a big deal in the FAWM-50/90 universe).

PPS Nicholas Tozier recently posted another great article on songwriting called
Is Songwriting Mostly Inspiration or Perspiration? that you should definitely check out.
And for the record- I’m definitely on the sweaty side of the room

Download my new song: Faithful & True for free!!!
Other free songs by Matt Blick


Building A Fence

Nicholas Tozier flagged up a phrase I’d used in a recent post where I’d said I needed to build a fence around my songwriting during 50/90 to stop it taking over the rest of my life. He asked if I’d say a but more about how I plan to do that in practice. Though I’m sure to fail in some degree, here goes…

The trouble with open ended work (which is what a lot of us are engaged in) there is no clear finish line, or pass grade.

For instance, working for a church, building a website, caring for a child or writing a song is not like building a wall – which, when it’s done, it’s done. How do we ever know when we have truly finished, or made it as good as it could be?

“This church has been fully led!”
“I have achieved an 80% pass rate in childrearing!”

Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Work Week, says we need to forget work/life balance and pursue work/life separation. And the only two things you can do to put boundaries around this open ended work are to limit tasks or limit time.

In songwriting that simply translates as “I’m going to write X number of songs and stop” or “I’m going to write for X amount of time and stop”.

The tricky part is filling in that X. For me on 50/90 it’s

Write for 1 hour a day and network/post for 1 hour per day max.


Write 20 songs max.

20 might sound ambitious but my problem during FAWM wasn’t getting to 14 songs, it was stopping. To be honest I went a bit mental.

So if I do hit 20 and going to turn straight around and start improving the rushed demos.

Download my new song: Faithful & True for free!!!
Other free songs by Matt Blick