In The Audience And On Stage: How Does Live Music Relate To Worship?

Today I’m playing a little gig at our neighborhood block party. It should be quite fun because as far as I know, most of our neighbors downloaded my album, thanks to my mom. I find it awkward and funny and awesome all at the same time, but regardless, I’m going to play guitar today.

Last night my dad and I went to see Rend Collective. They’re a Christian band from Ireland, and they’re hysterically funny, talented, and otherwise awesome. My dad and I are concert buddies, and we were very overdue for some live music. The best part about it was that I was kind of in a foul mood before the show, but after it, I was happy as a fed guinea pig.

I was kind of thinking to myself that a rock concert isn’t exactly conducive to worship, but apparently it was without me explicitly knowing it. At one point the lead singer said something that I almost missed, but now I think I agree with it very much: he said Christians tend to think that spirituality has to be serious all of the time. The truth is that we’re supposed to celebrate and have fun. It’s sometimes hard for me to get past what I do wrong, and when I screw up, and I pray for forgiveness and I pray for him to fix me when I’m already forgiven.

I think this can be hard for a lot of people, including myself, because what we celebrate is, quite frankly, kind of confusing. When I really think about it, it actually pisses me off, what Jesus had to go through. I’m just going to go ahead and say that he was the nicest person ever to live. It’s pretty hard to argue with that. He was also the most innocent person ever to live, and he willingly went to a death he didn’t deserve. That confuses me and pisses me off.

What we’re supposed to celebrate is the freedom we now have and the salvation we have because of what he did, but there’s a bit of guilt that comes along with that. We’re not supposed to feel guilty, but a lot of times we do. It’s natural, and quite frankly, it’s annoying.

Last night I got an idea for a new song. Part of it was, despite the fact that the three bands who played last night were stylistically very different, they occasionally used some of the same motifs and metaphors in their lyrics. It’s a trap Christian bands often fall into. Rend Collective turned out to be a bit more creative, which I appreciated, but I decided that if I’m going to write a new worship song–which I am, it’s kind of what I do–I’m going to try and sneak away from convention. The idea for my new song is that the world is really loud and cluttered, and what seems to be missing is complete silence and complete darkness. I don’t know if I’ll even end up using these lines in my new song, or if they’ll be modified, but this is what I came up with last night. I think I like it.

I want to find the silence
I want to find the darkness
I want be where time Is endless
And there’s nothing between us
Nothing, nothing

I have a feeling the idea might end up getting muddled if I’m not careful, but then I’m the queen of convoluted. Very few of my songs are actually straight forward. Maybe it’s a problem, but I don’t think so. I decided something else last night as well. I decided that when I perform, I’m never going to explicitly try and make my shows into worship sessions, whether I’m playing at a college, or a bar or a church. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but it’s hard because when you go to see a show, at least from my experience, you’re kind of going to see the band and freak out about how good their music is. Then again, I find that it’s sometimes easiest to worship when you’re with a whole bunch of people who are singing the same songs, maybe even harmonizing, and jumping around because, yes, the music is EPIC. In reality, whether it “works” or not is on us.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Faith, Doubt, Patience And Getting Famous

I wonder what it’s like to be the friends and family of U2 or Pearl Jam or Paul McCartney. I wonder what it was like growing up with them, having no idea they would become huge, international rock stars. I wonder if there were doubters. I wonder how their parents felt about the fact that they spent hours on end writing songs and playing guitar in their basements instead of doing homework. I wonder how they feel now.

I know there are doubters among my friends and family and acquaintances. I won’t say who they are. It’s annoying to me that people ask, “well, do you know what you would do if music doesn’t work out?” It’s just their way of saying, “You’re destined to fail. You need a backup plan.” Maybe I’m crazy, but there isn’t a doubt in my mind that I’ll make it. I don’t care about being famous. I just don’t want to have a day job. More importantly, though, I want to dedicate my life to music because it’s my most meaningful way of dedicating my life to God. I know I’m a good songwriter, and I know that talent came from him. I can’t do anything else because I feel like I would be wasting that talent.

Furthermore, I’ve already put so much time, money, effort and prayer into this dream of mine. I feel that, as a Christian songwriter, I have an obligation to spread a message. A week ago I was thinking; why did God make us in the first place? It’s not a thought that had ever really struck me. It had crossed my mind before, but I had never really thought about it. The conclusion that I came to after some reading and thinking was that God made us because he loves us. Before we were made we were loved. Furthermore, God is good, so we are good and the world is good because he made all that exists. I feel obligated to share that message LOUDLY.

Admittedly, I do want music to work out for selfish reasons. I don’t want to sit behind a computer for several hours a day researching or editing articles or whatever it is most English majors end up doing. I don’t want to teach either. I definitely don’t want to teach. All of it sounds boring, tedious and unfulfilling. I get so much joy and fulfillment from performing and writing songs, partly because it’s fun, and partly because I know people are hearing what I really want them to hear.

Sometimes trying to get gigs and only getting to play two songs at church open mics or tiny restaurants is frustrating, but I know it really is all worth it because it’s better than nothing, and will amount to something eventually. I do believe that God will open doors for me, like he already has, and this project will go somewhere. I have found that I get in my own way sometimes. It’s easy to forget that it’s all for his glory and not mine. I get a giant ego trip from applause and compliments after my sets, and I have to be careful of that. I’m not too worried, though. Doubters can be frustrating, but I know this is going in the right direction. I just have to be patient. That’s something I have trouble with sometimes. I’ll get to where I need to be eventually. I’m just a passenger on this crazy road trip anyway.

The Latest Version of “Passenger”

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Songs Of Good And Evil

Last night I played an open mic at the Gulu Gulu Cafe. It was great fun. There weren’t too many super great performers, but it didn’t matter. The hosts were horrible and hilarious as always and the audience was pretty into the music, which is always a plus. There was also one slam poet who performed a very personal poem about getting sober. Artistically, it was nothing special, but it definitely came from the heart, and that’s really what matters when it comes to poetry, in my opinion.

I finished writing a song yesterday. It still doesn’t have a title. I almost played it last night but ended up deciding not to for two reasons. Firstly, I didn’t feel like I had the lyrics quite memorized enough. Secondly, the feature performer played a song that he said was basically about the fact that there is evil in the world. While he was introducing the next song, my dad said, “You should play ‘Good In Things.'” It was sort of funny because “Good In Things” is basically the  polar opposite of his song. I don’t normally talk about God when I perform, even though I want to, partly because I’m chicken and I don’t want people to think I’m a dork. I’ll admit, I am self conscious when I’m on stage. Last night however, I got on stage and said, “I’ll make this quick since my first song is kind of long, but it’s called ‘Good In Things’ because yes, bad things happen, but it could always be worse. Furthermore, God has his hand in everything. Ergo, everything is awesome and there is good in things.” Then I proceeded to play a seven minute long, obnoxiously happy song.

On the way home, my dad told me something that really made me happy. He said, “When people are up there the audience is usually sort of doing their own thing: eating dinner or playing games or what have you, but when you’re up there, there’s usually a handful of people who are absolutely captivated. I think it’s because your lyrics are so positive. You may end up saving someone’s life. There was a woman in the audience tonight who had a look on her face like, ‘maybe the world is worth saving after all.'”

I tend not to watch the audience when I’m performing because I sort of go into my own little world, so I really didn’t know this. It was exactly the kind of thing I wanted to hear, though. It made me feel like even though I’m pretty much unknown on a large scale, my music is touching and maybe really helping people. That’s really what I want from it. I don’t care so much about being famous. I just want to be well known so that I can reach more people. I’m ready to start outwardly talking about the real meaning behind my lyrics when I perform. Before I got on stage last night, I asked God to bless my performance, and I think he did. There is evil in the world and evil in people, but we are created in the image of God, and this is his world. We just have to drown out the evil with love and joy, and we can totally do that.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Slipping

Today in chapel, the speaker talked about living for something worth dying for: giving everything are and everything you have to Jesus, and using all your resources to make the world a better place. It kind of made me feel bad to be honest. It sounds easy in a way; praise the Lord, pray for the world and be nice to people. On another level it’s really hard. I don’t know what it means to give all I have, partly because I feel like I don’t have much to give. I’m broke, so I can’t donate anything, and I’m disabled, so I can’t go anywhere and offer service to anyone.

I know that dedicating my musical ambitions to God is a good thing, and I know praying is a good thing. I do both of those. I pray every night, and I’m still trying to maintain that kicked-in-the-pants drive when it comes to music. I go to the studio once a week, which I’ve been doing for a while, and I’ve been practicing and writing more than usual lately. I’ve also been doing research when I have time, on top of school. I just feel like my mood is slipping. I think I know why, and I think it suffices to say that it probably has something to do with lady issues.

I’m on Spring Break as of Thursday, and I’ll be busy enough, which will be good. I’m playing at an open mic on Wednesday, March 12, and I have a recording session the following night. I’ve also been in touch with a woman who is very interested in becoming a songwriting/performing duo. She was the only person who replied to the craigslist ad I sent out last week, and she’s several years older than I am, but she seems very nice, and we seem to have the same idea of where we want our music to go. She’s also Christian and is committed to using music to glorify God, which is the whole point of this craziness. I’ll be meeting up with her either at the open mic or some other time next week. It should be super cool.

I guess I have to keep things in perspective. I prayed earlier today that God would give me patience and courage. I think great things can come of my project, but it’s going to take time. I’m just too expectant for results now. I’m hoping my new potential band mate (Sam) can give me some pointers, because I think she has a little more performing experience than I do.

I’ll leave you guys with some song lyrics

I will sing Hallelujah
‘Cause there is good in things and I believe it
I can see that it’s true
And it’s beautiful

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Kicked In The Pants

I feel like I was kicked in the pants yesterday– in a good way. I’ve been in a bit of a slump lately, and I don’t really know why. I just haven’t been performing or writing much, partly because of school, and partly because I’m lazy. Yesterday, though, a realization came over me. I’m not going to get anywhere if I don’t do anything. It seems obvious, but sometimes I start to fall asleep in the co pilot seat, and I just wait for good things to happen instead of making them happen.

Yesterday, though, I decided I was going to change. I’m going to more actively seek out gigs and opportunities to play music, and I’m going to make sure I have my cards with me so I can promote myself wherever I go, and I’m going to try and put myself out there one the internet more; i.e. set up a Twitter account (even though Twitter is stupid).

I also decided to dedicate a portion of every day to music; whether it’s practicing, or writing, or networking, or what have you. I contacted a few venues yesterday, and practiced my songs for a while, and today I sent out a craigslist add for band members. I’ve done that once before, and I didn’t get much of a response, but this time I was much more specific about what I was looking for, so I’m hoping I’ll get some takers. I’m also going to make sure I pray about it too.

I’ve also written a to-do list for myself with what I need to do once my album gets really close to being finished. My thinking is that in this order I need to: Form a band, find a venue for the album release party, get my album copyrighted, and get it on iTunes. Those seem to be the most important things to get done in the near future.

I’m really hoping this random kicked-in-the-pants feeling doesn’t wear off, because I’ve been awfully productive in the past two days.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Super Happy Obsession Type Things

I looked at my music page on Facebook a minute ago, and realized that I am now up to 70 “likes.” Of course a large percentage of these people are close friends and family, but you know what? 29 of them are people I don’t even know, which is super cool! Since a lot of you guys who follow my blog are interested in my musical shenanigans, I thought I’d ask a favor: if you’re on Facebook, would you mind going to my music page and hitting the “like” button? You can totally ignore anything I say, but sometimes I post pictures or YouTube videos or random happy things that you might be interested in.

Here is the link:
Katie Rose Curtis Music

In other news…

I played an open mic on Friday (Valentine’s Day), and I met a very nice young man by the name of Nate. We got talking during intermission, and we’ve decided that we’re going to do a musical duo! Last night Nate came to my recording session and put a viola track on my song “Passenger,” which can be heard (without the viola, unfortunately) here:

We’ve actually done quite a lot of work on it since I’ve uploaded this video, but at least you’ll be able to get a sense of the song.

Nearly all the tracking is done for my album, but there’s still quite a bit of mixing to be done. It’s almost time to start planning for the CD release party, which I’m very excited about. I’m thinking about having it possibly in Portsmouth New Hampshire since a large percentage of my fans are Maineiacs. Then again, it could end up being anywhere between Portland and Boston.

In terms of actual work that still needs to be done, almost all of the songs are finished or close to finished, but they need a little extra help from Brian, who works at the studio and plays keys, or Nate on strings.

I’m really hoping at some point to have a music video made for my song “One,” which is essentially a love peace and harmony manifesto. I don’t really have any great ideas for it yet, but if I get it professionally done (which would be ideal) I’ll probably have to save up for a while first. Hopefully I’ll make a bit of money from the CD release and iTunes sales.

I also really need to look into copyrighting this stuff as soon as it’s finished.

Realistically, though, getting out and performing more will be the most difficult part of this whole package at first. I don’t drive, and I can’t have my parents drive me all over creation all the time. Hopefully that problem will be somewhat solved if Nate and I end up performing a lot together, but getting from point “A” to point “B” is less of a problem than having help with the restroom once I get to wherever it is I’m going.

Another concern is balancing my last year of college with making sure I get out there and perform as much as possible. Ideally I’d like to get signed to a label because that should be a help with expenses and could help solve the travel problem. I have a lot of research to be doing in the next few months, but it’s all very exciting.

Something that I always have to keep in mind is that I’m doing this project for God, and I’ve been praying that he leads me through it and leads me with it. I also hope he will use it to lead other people to him. A long time ago, when I was just learning to play guitar, I asked God to help me have success with music and in return I would use it to glorify him. That deal seems to be working out quite well, so I’m thankful for that.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Email Miracle

Just because I’m in school again does not mean that music is getting left in the dust. Something amazing happened 3 days ago. I had sent an email blast towards the end of my vacation to all the places that would potentially let me make noise in their venue for a night. On August 30th, I heard back from my favorite; the Gulu Gulu Cafe in Salem Massachusetts. I was told that I had 4 hours to work with from 8:00 to midnight and that if I didn’t want to play that long I needed to find openers. Just a few minutes ago I heard back from my friend Nate. He and a girl I met at an open mic named Amanda have both agreed to open for me.

We’ll each get to play for about an hour and 20 minutes, which is super cool. Now all I need to do is come up with a set list that’s long enough and awesome enough to get the audience to like me for that long. I’ll be playing most of my originals, including the ones that won’t be going on my first album and a few covers including some from my friend Ken’s old band since he’ll be accompanying me on lead guitar. You can check them out on iTunes; just look up Meet The Day.

To be honest, I wasn’t expecting to get this gig. I’ve been either rejected or ignored so many times that I was just scratching my head and wondering what to do next or instead. Getting this gig and getting opening acts was so easy that I really do think this some kind of gift or push in the right direction; maybe even just assurance that this is what I should be doing. Sometimes I come across opportunities like this seemingly by accident, and I’m sure that the Lord has something to do with it. It doesn’t always have to do with music either; I think he probably had something to do with finding the right school or getting runner up in a state wide poetry contest that I submitted song lyrics to.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!