Nothing Is Wasted: Thoughts On A Music Video

I’m grateful to be able to announce the official “Nothing Is Wasted” music video! Several weeks ago, I wrote a piece about how “Nothing Is Wasted” came to be chosen as the next single and why a new mix was made for radio.(You can read that here.)

Once it was decided what the next single would be, our talk turned to what kind of concept would shape the video to accompany it. We decided to gather the team who brought “Remind Me Who I Am” to life: Doug McKelvey and Darren Thomas as well as Jonathan Richter, whose art I’ve admired for years (check out Doug and Jonathan’s remarkable collaboration, “Subjects With Objects”—a book of Jonathan’s paintings and Doug’s interpretations).

The idea was to create a miniature world with scenes of brokenness and loss that I would sing over as an outside observer. As we talked about what kinds of symbols to use in our wasteland, we hoped to strike the balance of images that were not too obvious or heavy handed but that still had emotional resonance.  We brainstormed a list of visual elements we hoped would gently evoke loss and regret.

Having just read Brennan Manning’s All Is Grace, it was important to me to include a symbol of failure and addiction.  Around the same time, I played for the St. Paul Union Gospel Mission on the coldest day of our Minnesota winter. The place was packed with people trying to get off the street and find warmth. The mission had printed out some poster-style flyers for me to autograph for those who wanted them. When I asked each of the men who came through the line who I could sign their picture to, every one of them asked me to inscribe it not to themselves, but to someone who loved them, someone they had failed, someone waiting for them. Their desire to give something—anything—to someone they loved moved me deeply. I think of them and Brennan in the broken saint statuettes next to the liquor bottles.

Two of my favorite images are a couple that Doug and Jonathan came up with: the downed air balloon and the red tricycle. The balloon registers as sad in my mind, but without feeling melodramatic or morbid. What does it represent? Disappointment? Dreams that never fully got off the ground? Failure? And I wondered what the back story behind the red tricycle was. Because of how subjective it is, I imagine its resonance depends on what you bring to it: if you miss your child who’s grown up, or if you ‘re worried about poor choices your child is making, or if you have regrets as a parent, or even if you’ve lost a child. It’s remarkable to me how choosing such a simple visual piece opens the door to let so many different stories inside.

It's a wrap: Doug, me, and Darren

It’s a wrap: Doug, me, and Darren

I write the songs I need to hear, and “Nothing Is Wasted” is indeed a very personal song I wrote from my own experience. But I also keep specific people in mind when I write as my way of helping keep me honest. It’s too easy to throw answers at other people’s pain. Hope can be lethal, and those who aren’t mindful of that can be cruel in their mishandling of it, like a fool madly waving a scalpel around in an operating room. If I dare presume to be so bold as to make the statement that nothing—nothing!—is  wasted, then it needed to be grounded by compassionate respect for very real loss. So I imagined the song as a conversation with two very precious people in my life who lost their eight-year-old son to cancer a little over four years ago.

Watching the way they bravely continue to trust God and how they bring their hearts to the world around them when it would be easier to curl up inside of themselves—wow. I feel honored to have a front row seat to such a courageous story. Do I really believe “Nothing Is Wasted” for Tom and Deb? Do I dare presume to say that from their deepest wounds beauty will find a place to bloom? Is this hope true or is it just wishful thinking? Though the song is not specifically about the loss of a child, remembering my friends revealed where the words needed softening as well as gave substance to the hope they whispered, because if it’s true of their story, then it may be true of mine, too: nothing is wasted.

Doug knows that this is how I write songs and he has kindly made it a part of the storytelling of our last two videos: the pictures taped to my guitar in “Remind Me Who I Am” as a representation of the stories of others I carry with me, and now the camera that projects me into the miniature world of “Nothing Is Wasted,” letting me enter it, so I can sing into the scenes of brokenness and loss.

It’s nice to have a friend like Doug.

The miniature world and the visual effects were created by Jonathan Richter, and the shots were set up and filmed by Doug and Darren. I just got to show up and try to not look like a fool. Even with my best trying, it took considerable editing to keep me from being an embarrassment to myself. Again, it’s good to have a friend like Doug.

Richter's World

Richter’s World

Over a Skype call in late January, as we were wondering how the video would end, we found our way to the idea of flowers blooming in the wasteland. I wasn’t sure how we would pull it off visually, but trusted Jonathan to bring it to life. The closing shots are my favorite part about the video.

I hope you like it, and that if it’s a truth you need to be assured of, that it rings true and brings comfort.

Thanks for watching and listening.

The “Nothing Is Wasted” remix (compliments of Ben Shive) is now available on iTunes (The EP features the new mix plus 4 other songs that were previously only available as part of the Special Edition)