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JFH Staff Blog | June 2018

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

'Reflecting A Holy God' by Here Be Lions


This past summer I took my family to Disney World, the supposed “magic kingdom.” And I can tell you that none of my wishes came true while I was there! I wished for a hoverboard that would take me around the park. I wished for an endless supply of free food and drinks. I wished for lower ticket prices and smaller crowds. Guess what? It didn’t happen. And I knew who was to blame for all of the craziness. It was not difficult because his statue was right in the middle of the park… none other than Walt Disney himself. 

In ancient days, rulers would erect statues to let you know whose kingdom it was… reminders of who was ultimately in charge. Have you ever considered that God made you in His image for the same reason? He positioned you on Earth so that you can reflect His holiness and brilliance.  Isaiah 61:3 says you will be “a display of His splendor.”  1 Peter 2:9 says, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”  

Did you get that? We are called to be a Kingdom of priests that declare His praises. We reflect a Holy God to the world around us. People make judgments on God based on the actions of those who call themselves Christians. Because of this, it is imperative that we set Him apart in our own lives. What do people believe about God when they look at your life?

Jesus told us to pray that the Kingdom of God would come on Earth as it is in Heaven. Part of that prayer is your responsibility. If you want this world to look like Heaven, then as a Kingdom of priests, you need to do your part. We get a glimpse of it in Revelation 22:3-5, “The Throne of God and of the Lamb is at the center. His servants will offer God service—worshiping, they’ll look on his face, their foreheads mirroring God. Never again will there be any night. No one will need lamplight or sunlight. The shining of God, the Master, is all the light anyone needs. And they will rule with him age after age after age.”

Friends, you become what you behold… you reflect what you worship. 

-Dustin Smith of Here Be Lions


Friday, June 22, 2018

Song by Song Description of AWOL by Kevin Max

 1.  Melissa - One of the first songs written along with Yeshua & Moonracer for the album. I wrote this at Blind Thief Farm with Kieran Kelly and Erick Cole, starting off with chord arrangement ideas on guitars. After getting a finished structure of the song melodically, I wrote the lyrics down a few days later…. The song became a depiction of a couple different relationships I  had with people back in my high school days growing up in Grand Rapids Michigan. I always felt drawn to outsiders and misfits, and a couple of these stories came back to inform the character I sketched in this story. Melissa is ostracized from her surroundings because of being different and is obviously undergoing feelings of judgement within the church and school system. I  completely understood this as I went through some of these same feelings growing up in tight-knit Christian community. 

2.  Prodigal ( Run To You) - I  have always wanted to write a song as a modern parable reference and ‘Run To You’ was the culmination of real life experiences and the story of ‘The Prodigal Son’ from scripture. The first part of the song is a direct translation of a prophecy that was made over me about generational sin. I took this to heart and actually prayed against sins of the past and possible spiritual blockage from it. I also wrote about how most of us are always running from something, but inevitably want to find our way back home. I love the line ‘I know its weird but take a look at the trees, feel the universe in a gentle breeze and know, you shouldn’t be lonely.’ The parable of the Prodigal Son relates to me on many different levels, and I  am proud of the way I was able to reconstruct the story in my own way. God finds us where we are and most of the time, it isn’t where we should be. 

3.   Glory Boys - My producer on this album ( Kieran Kelly) and I, wrote many of these songs together and Glory Boys is a great example of us seeing eye to eye in our tastes and styles musically. We both have a healthy appreciation for the new wave 80’s movement, with bands like duran duran, The Smiths and The Cure. The idea was to create a song that was reminiscent of Rio from duran duran, with its energetic and exotic synth patterns. I wrote the lyrics based on what it was like being a teenager in the 80’s and being drawn to characters who were flamboyant and original. One of the biggest high school accomplishments for me was finding a home in music over sports. As athletics were such a huge part of growing up in Michigan as a teenager, I  ended up playing varsity tennis and baseball, but singing was what inevitably set me a part of my peers. 

4.  Half Of The Better One - Its a hallmark card of romantic origins but touched by the odd combination of my love for the band The Smiths and using ultimately awkward words in sentence phrasing. I’ve never written a song like this one before… as it is the most simple song about finding true love. I  joked with Kieran about writing a song for my wife that could be used at weddings in the future, but with one catch… It had to be a new wave wedding song for the future. 

5.  Eurorail - If Bram Stoker and Fodor’s Travel Guides got together and made a story about a gothic midnight runaway train in the middle of Romania, you would have the essence of what Eurorail aspires to. Its a great mysterious middle track in the sequence and I love the bass playing by John Maron. Kieran and I created the ideas for the music after going back and forth with demos that I  was creating at my studio in Franklin. The lyrics are a bit esoteric, but I  love the idea of a good mystery aboard a European train.  

6.   Moonracer - This song was written in the middle of the night at Blind Thief Farm Studio in Centerville TN. Before we moved back into suburbia, the wife and I decided to become adventurous and buy a rural property a good hour outside of Nashville. The upside of our decision was that the property, ( along with horse barn, log cabin and 23 acres on top of a beautiful hillside ) came with a recording studio built by a famous country songwriter. I  spent many evenings writing in the studio, while we managed Blind Thief Farm over a year of living among horses, coyotes and neighboring cattle. Moonracer is one of the songs in my career that I  cannot explain, try as I might…. it just came to me without any editing or contextualizations. The closest thing I  can surmise to its meaning is that it is about time travel and unrequited love. 

7.  Brand New Hit - Most, if not everybody that listens to this song for the first time, will know what I am talking about here. As a member of dc Talk I  was privy to so many great things that happened within this industry…some that we pioneered and some that we were just blessed to be a part of. Being in a band that was so successful in bringing about change, it is hard to be disassociated from it. So when I say ‘everything I do as a solo artist is cast under the shadow of the group I was in before it’.. I say that with pride.  However, it is difficult for some people to understand that I  am my own creative entity outside of dctalk, and that is the thrust of the lyrics behind the song. 

8.  Yeshua -  I’ve always wanted to write a song about Jesus that wasn’t like anything else out there. I  focused on writing about the duality of being God and man. There are glimpses of doubt and suffering within the lyrics that  speak to the human condition…. but there is also that side of Christ who was authoritative, a powerful teacher and ultimate savior of the humanity- those thoughts are encapsulated in the choruses as well…. It is by far one of my favorite musical tracks on the album and this comes from the fact that I had Andy Rourke of The Smiths playing bass on it, as well as Matt Johnson on drums. ( St. Vincent, Jeff Buckley ) It is a focused, urgent piece of music but I  also love the fact that lyrics are not overtly judgmental or high brow… it feels very visceral and honest. 

9.   AWOL - AWOL is my anthem…. it is the backbone to the album, and it isn’t a fluke that it is also the most rock and roll song in the sequence. “We are the sons of Liberty, we spread our love through unity….’ It is one of the most relevant songs because of how boldly it declares a need for peace in the face of ignorance and unrest. I’ve never been an artist that pushes a political agenda because honestly, I  am not political at all.  But I  feel that we live in a time where we need to embrace each other because we are made in the same Image of God who created us. The hatred and the judgement of other human beings because of being different or not fitting into a certain standard must be eradicated. AWOL is all about a peace train or a peaceful march walking through your town and instead of riding on tanks and holding guns, its participants hold trumpets and sing about the beauty of equality.  

10.   Irish Blood Up - This song started with a weird synth program that Kieran sent me and was build piece by piece into a swaggering rock B-side. I  call it a B-side because back in the day any song that wouldn’t be considered a single would be called a B-side. That said, I  do think it has its own merits as a well written song and has some of the funniest lyrics on the album. I  guess if you asked me its meaning… it would be like asking something like ‘ Is the Pope Catholic?’ It is most literately about what its name suggests…. 
11.  Cornucopia Of My Soul -  One of the songs that I  wrote prior to the album, which was slated to be on another release called ‘Mello Drama’ which is now in the KMAX vaults. I  rescued it as a strange little demo I had lying around on my logic sessions. I believe it was originally titled ‘Angels Cry Too’… or something ridiculous like that… Its probably my most vulnerable moment on the album and it could be contributed to the fact that I wrote it initially as a ‘break up’ song. Musically its also one of my favorites as it hearkens back to old school David Bowie or Frank Sinatra. It could literally be sung by Tom Jones as a lounge tune but I pushed it forward into the modern times with the synthesizer and the different chord changes. My good friend Tony Miracle took my original demo and added his graduated keyboard skills to the mix. I really appreciate that this song finishes the album because I  always like to go out with one of the best…. the first should be last… etc etc