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The Value of Co-Writing

Brian Johnson

0:35:44 · Songwriting

Brian Johnson shares about writing intentional songs for the Church, the value of co writing, and being disciplined in scheduling songwriting. 

Writing for the Church

  • “It’s important for us to position ourselves as songwriters not just as to be open for everyone to hear and see our personal journals, but that you would hear from God and sing songs in a way that your church can receive it.”
  • We get to take on the role of a pastor or prophet, and hear what God is saying, and then put that into a form that works. We want our songs to work, not just for us or our moms, so the church can grab ahold of it like it’s their own song.
  • Reckless love has become an anthem for the church and it has gone so much further than just Cory Asbury’s journal entry. 
  • In Luke 7:36-50, when the woman poured perfume on Jesus’ feet, it was a personal moment until God opened it up for the world to hear, because it had power that transcended that moment. 
  • The goal isn’t to write hits or to be known. 
  • There are moments where God breathes on what you’re doing and makes it work for the church.
  • Brian started writing when he was 17 years old when he picked up a guitar. From day one something grabbed ahold of him. 
  • When pumping an old water pump, it starts out muddy and then as you pump it becomes clearer.
  • Brian’s youth pastor asking him to play a song at his youth group, and it was the first time when Brian noticed that people started singing along because it meant something to them as well. 
  • “Everytime we write, we are connecting to someone else out there who needs to hear that message.”

Co-Writing

  • Brian used to write tons unfinished songs. What helps is to get with other people and to help finish the songs. Brian hasn’t written a song by himself in nine years. 
  • Cowriting works well when writing a song for the church. More ground is covered and things are said much clearer. It’s can be difficult at first, when you feel like you’re handing over your baby. It’s important for us to have open hands with our songs.
  • We want to win for the greater good, we want this to work so that the ministry of our song does what it was originally supposed to do.
  • Use your songs as prophetic statements of where you want to see your church in 5,10, or 20 years.
  • “Our songs should be filled with faith and truth that lifts the church out of what they’re going through.”
  • Songs about what God did for us never get old. If we can attach what we are doing now with faith and eternity, that’s powerful.
  • There’s an element of risk when cowriting. Dare to be dumb and when you’re cowriting throw out ideas. “Vulnerability is a big part of co writing. There’s no such thing as a bad idea if it leads you to a good idea.”

Writing Intentionally

  • “Every song is an encounter waiting to happen. Songs start awakenings, revolutions and revivals.” 
  • Be intentional with what you’re writing.
  • When Brian writes songs he likes to close his eyes and pretend he is singing it in front of people, and ask himself if it will work and if people will grab ahold of it. After trying it and it doesn’t work, he has to be honest with himself that it doesn’t work. 
  • “If we’re writing for the church, it’s our job to help them find their song. We are doing this together.”
  • Sometimes it’s just the difference between a lyric change and a melody tweak that makes these songs great. 
  • Brian had the chorus written for One Thing Remain for 7 years before writing more to it. 
    When you get an idea and you know it works, guard it with your life and don’t put anything around it unless it’s as good, or it supports it. 
  • Don’t push out a song too soon bc you’re in a hurry to get it out. Sit on it for a while.

Q & A

  • Q: How do you deal with making revisions to songs while co writing and not offend other people you are writing with?
    • A: “If i’m the co writer, I always say ‘Here’s my idea, take it or leave it.’ Just throw out ideas, and If they’re the ones steering the ship, there’s no hard feelings or offense because I’m not the one controlling it, I’m just there to be a generator. If I’m the writer with other co writers the roles are reversed. You have to be really humble about it. You’ll gain a place of respect after a while.”
  • Q: What do your calendar appointments looks like to schedule songwriting?
    • A: In the last year, I told my assistant, that any available slot that I had, to fill it with songwriting, and then I can take it or leave it when it comes. It takes sitting down and filling all those slots with songwriting. Quantity is not the answer, be intentional about learning how to be picky. Write to be great, read to be great. Surround yourself with people who are great. I’m not the best lyricist, I’m a melody guy. So I go and ask ‘here’s melody, what do you think?”
  • Q: What’s your process of coming to songs with a vision?
    • A: “Keep the theme alive and in front of you when you are writing the song. Keep that vision and theme alive because that’s the special thing that God is giving you for the song.”
  • Q: How do you decide who you want to co write with?
    • A: “It’s the first person I think of. The goal is going long term. When you join arms with someone from another church or movement, that connection is very important. It’s awesome when our movement and their movement sings the same song. But if we burn bridges we lose that influence. Right now we are seeing all different denominations co writing with each other.”