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Thursday, April 7, 2011

your love

I met Brandon Heath Knell shortly after he arrived at Young Life's Malibu Club (in Canada) for the first time. He was a teenager, and I had just finished my first year of college. We served on the Outdoor Crew together for three weeks, I as the Summer Staff Garbage Man, and Brandon as the Work Crew kid that sat in the rubber dingy at the bottom of the zip line.

From time to time, Brandon would pick up a guitar and play. I don't remember if it was his, hauled all the way from his hometown of Nashville. But it doesn't really matter to the story, so I'll move on. He had a great voice and was a pretty good songwriter. On two occasions we were able to convince him to sing his original song "The Light" at the talent night that concluded each week at camp. He was a hit with campers and the staff. During his three-week stint on Work Crew, many of us encouraged him to pursue a singing career. But he would always dismiss it. His passion and direction were clear: writing Christian music...for other Christian artists.

Brandon became a pretty good friend at Malibu. We even stayed in contact by letter in the months that followed. E-mail had yet to overtake the U.S. Postal Service and Brandon had yet to start college, which in those years was when most people got their first email address.

Of course, this was all before Brandon Heath Knell became Brandon Heath, Christian music superstar. That's right, this same kid that sat in a dingy, permanently water-logged, for 12 hours each day is now a five-time Dove Award winner, two times winning Male Vocalist of the Year honors. He's a two-time Grammy nominee who recently headlined a nationwide tour. And he is the singer/songwriter of the next song in my series, "Your Love."

It's actually been hard deciding what to write about this song. It is just one of those songs that resonates in my heart. The melody. The lyrics. The honest assessment of his journey to the realization revealed in the chorus "Your love. Your love. The only thing that matters is Your love." Of course, I also think it is awesome that the producers autotune Brandon in the studio version!

Still, what I love most about this song are the verses, mainly because I see myself in each of them. They describe where my life's journey has taken me and where I find myself today.

I felt it first when I was younger,
A strange connection to the light.
I tried to satisfy the hunger.
I never got it right.

So I climbed a mountain and built an altar.
Looked out as far as I could see.
And everyday I’m getting older.
I’m running outta dreams.

You know the effort I have given.
And you know exactly what it cost.
And though my innocence was taken.
Not everything is lost.

I'm posting a video so that you can hear today's song. In addition to a live acoustic version (starting about one minute in), it also reveals the heart behind the song, namely that striving for and attaining success is meaningless if we don't have love and know peace.

And to think, somewhere I still have a cassette tape that Brandon recorded for me in his bedroom after we both returned home from Malibu. A few years ago we talked about that tape. His preference was for it's destruction; instead, I keep it as a reminder of my friend from all those years ago working at the bottom of the zip line.

So, what do you think of this song? I want to hear from you. Be honest. Do you like it? Do you think it's drivel? Don't worry, I won't tell Brandon. Are you rethinking Christian music yet? And speaking of which, how bout we take a quick poll. At least answer me this: In general, do you like Christian music?


Kyle Richardson said...

I LOVE this song! Everytime it comes on the radio I crank it up. Very moving and easy to connect with.

Joe Ahn said...

Thanks for sharing this Robby. Great post about an amazing song/artist.

HannahViera said...

Wow what a difficult question. The Christian music industry is a complicated beast. I really focus on lyrics in any music I listen to, but I'm not big on most of the Christian music I hear, say on several Christian radio stations. It tends to be repetitive and redundant, and the music tends to be less experimental, and honestly it kind of annoys me. Having said that, I'm a huge fan of Switchfoot, (and I like Hawk Nelson, Relient K, FM Static, Owl City) and other bands that are Christian without catering solely to Christians. In church, there are some great songs that sound powerful when they surround you accompanied by the multitude of voices, but just listening to some diva-reinterpreted musical adaption of worship music throws the meaning off for me--it loses the simplicity and authenticity of the lyrics. I guess I'm shallow, but that's where I'm at.

As for Brandon Heath, I got really excited by a music video and showed my mom a song of his a couple years ago, and she's been addicted ever since--he's pretty much her favorite musician. I get tired of his music because I hear it so frequently every time I visit her. I do like this song, even if it doesn't capture my imagination the way it does yours.

Thank you for sharing, I look forward to reading good things from this blog.

Bluebedrose said...

I don't remember him playing "The Light" back then, I remember him playing "Breaking Away" :) I too have a copy of "the tape" and I wish it was a CD because even as an 18 yr old he wrote some amazingly beautiful songs. Thanks for sharing him with your audience, he is so worth sharing :)

Robby Larson said...

Thanks for posting, everyone.

Hannah - You are right on. I think that many people struggle with the genre of Christian music for two reasons: the existence of some kitschy songs and a perceived lack of diversity in both style and content. The first reason is a bit inevitable. Every genre has its share of these songs, but for some reason they seem to stick out in Christian music. As for the second reason, unfortunately, I think that this is a result of the limited playlists of most Christian radio stations. What actually makes the airwaves tends to fit within a fairly constricting box defined by the station manager in accordance with the specific target demographic of the station. As a result, the Christian music that most people know is only a small slice of what is out there. As for Brandon, I'm glad that you and your mom like him, even if her incessant playing of his album begins to wear on you.

Jeanette - Was it "Breaking Away"? It was so long ago, I have always remembered it as "The Light". Perhaps he sang that one in our ODC meetings. Either way, he was good then and is good now. And yes, if I could put that tape onto a CD I would do it. Actually, I think I can do that. Hmmm. Good to hear from you!

Unknown said...

--First of all, Joe Ahn is a toolbox.

--My primary issue with Christian music applies to music in general I suppose, but I think Christians are willing to settle and like something because the message is good even though it isn't well-crafted art. We should expect both. It seems the mainstream Christian music enables generic writing and hackneyed phrases. I swear you could put about 50 cheesy Christian phrases in a hat, pull them out in any order, and you could have a Christian song. Of course, this is pop music in general and I've always trended towards songwriting and lyrics over catchy pop sound. That's why I gravitate towards Derek Webb, Andrew Peterson, and Don Chaffer...I'm the same way with worship songs. I want some imagery. I want some storytelling. I love hymns for this reason.

Moral of the story, I'm a language snob.

--I might have that "tape" on CD. I'm not sure. Does it have "Small Town Flame" on it as well? "Last Night?" Still gets regular rotation on my iPod.

Robby Larson said...

Matt -

a) Do you know Joe Ahn?

b) We need to get together (I know you've tried) because we see the world in very similar ways. I want well written lyrics that make me think, and I want music that is interesting and compelling. And I actually have several blog posts started about the power of hymns, and why we should work to keep them around. (We'll see if I post them.) Lastly, you are a language snob, and I like words.

c) The tape in question isn't the same as the "Early Stuff" CD, although some of the songs are on both. I love "Small Town Flame."

d) Andrew Peterson? Stay tuned...

Laura Gifford said...

I first heard "Your Love" while chaperoning some youth group kids at the TobyMac/Brandon Heath concert in Portland at the end of January, and it hit me at a time when I was in a very frustrated and vulnerable place... suffice to say, I was touched, I identified with it and correspondingly, I love it. And I think it's nifty that you are friends!

Unknown said...

Joe is a BHS grad and played hoops for us. His little brother is a freshman this year.

Christy said...

Beautiful song. Love Brandon Heath! And...I like *most* Christian music. I listened to it more in the late 1990's and early 2000's. I also love country music with "christian flare"

kempepe said...

don Heath! And...I like *most* Christian music. I listened to it more in the late 1990's and early 2000's. I also love country ererwer


kempepe said...

And...I like *most* Christian music. I listened to it more in the late 1990's and earl

kempepe said...

d...I like *most* Christian music. I listened to it more in the late 1990's and early