I’m sitting here at my kitchen table, listening through Andy’s new songs and charting them out for when Gabe and I back him up tomorrow night at his release show. Each time I get to the end of a song I pick up the sheet of fresh graphite numbers to set it on the pile and instinctively shake my head and say to myself, “Dang, that’s a good song.”
Now after seven or eight songs I’m laughing because of course they’re good songs. They’re Andy Gullahorn songs.
Here’s the deal: I could write you a review of the record. “It’s warm and natural,” I’d say, “with lyrics that hook you with cleverness, then surprise you with a bear hug.” I’d mention that there are “beautiful soaring strings amidst a backdrop of intimate tenderness” and stuff like that.
But you’ve probably heard Andy’s songs before. The fact that these are really beautiful and poignant is no surprise. The surprise, to a fellow songwriter, is how he can keep doing it. Where do you continue to find such personal, soul-baring, inspiring and loving songs?
I speak about songwriting a lot these days and often parrot what I’ve heard from the writers who’ve gone before me: “Where do you get ideas? They’re everywhere! A good writer is always looking around the corner for the next song.”
The problem is, though, that this runs the risk of making you a spectator to your own life. Or worse, a poacher of somebody else’s. You find yourself constantly looking to capitalize on a moment instead of living it.
Where do you find songs like these? You don't. You live life well and they find you. Andrew Osenga
This gets you through records two, three, and four (and possibly into a new set of friends, too, after you’ve burned through the old ones). But once you’ve captured, tamed, and sold falling in love, falling out of love, your baby’s first steps, and the inevitable “deconstruction” of your faith…well, you’re pretty much tapped out.
So, back to the question at hand: How does Andy Gullahorn keep coming up with songs of beauty and kindness? Of heartache, plot twists, and glorious redemption?
Well, you have to live them. That’s how. You have to actually love people. And be the kind of person they turn to when life falls apart. You have to know how to listen more than you speak, and then not try to fix them when you do.
You have to know people for years. You have to forgive them when they let you down. You have to let them forgive you, too (which is, of course, the hardest thing. Until you’ve done it).
You have to walk closely for a long, long time with your spouse, your kids, your friends. With people in your congregation and your neighborhood and your bowling alley and some other church’s basement with old carpet and hard plastic chairs.
You have to ask hard questions without judgment. And ask them again when you’ve been shut down the first dozen times. You have to hold your friends when they’re crying and not look away when it’s uncomfortable.
That’s what these songs are. Yes, there are gorgeous acoustic guitars and beautiful harmonies, the heartbreak of “Death Without A Funeral” and the hope of “Different Now.” There are lines like “I’m sick of cursing the dark, I’m going to light a candle” and “Every stranger is a neighbor, I just don’t know his name, I have to love local for the world to change” and they’re awesome. But beneath all of that wonderfulness there is faithful friendship and a life marked by Jesus and redemption.
So, to the question at hand: Where do you find songs like these? You don’t. You live life well and they find you.