By: Kevin Max
Ask most any artist to explain what he does-why he writes music, what it means, how he does it-and you're likely to get the same five-word answer: "The song says it all."
It's understandable. Writing songs, making records, standing on a stage and singing your heart out-they're personal forms of expression. And the best music, the most honest and up front, encapsulates the essence of the person who created it. It's a mirror held up to an artist's soul, a way of being real, exposing your deepest thoughts and feelings, and that shouldn't need any further explanation.
If a song touches a listener, stirs something in the spirit, or makes a connection that rings true, that's all anyone really needs to know. A song that succeeds in saying what the artist truly intends is one of the best, most complete, and most satisfying forms of communication God has given us. A song really can "say it all."
But I also understand why audiences and fans want to know what's behind the music that moves them. We've all had that magical moment: we hear the lyrics and melody, and it's as if suddenly someone is singing exactly how we feel, what we think or believe, hope or fear. A right song at the right time speaks for us in a way that maybe we can't, summing up perfectly the unique mix of emotion and experience, passion and perplexity, that makes us who we are. "How did he know?" is the question we find ourselves asking when we hear a song that puts into words and notes the truth of who we are and who we want to be. Considering the incredible ability of music to reach us and teach us, it's no wonder we're curious about how that miracle is accomplished.
That is why I wanted to write this book.
I've been a songwriter and musician most of my life. I know the power and the responsibility that come with the gift. I can't count all the times fans and friends have told me that a track on an album or a song in a concert meant something special to them. In those moments, the look they give me is one full of expectation, as if they're waiting for me to reveal how I could stare into their lives and make music out of what I found there. And I always feel that I've disappointed them a little when I shrug and smile and tell them, "The song says it all."
It's true. The song does say it all if it's honest and from the heart and drawn from real life. Maybe that just means we all share more than we imagine; everybody is connected by common chords, musical and otherwise, that we can recognize when they're touched.
But I also think it means that there really is a story behind every song. Music stands on its own, but it doesn't exist in a vacuum. Artists draw inspiration every day from what they see around them and what they feel inside them. The circumstances and situations sparking that inspiration explain a lot about the person who sings the song as well as the one who is listening. I've heard it said that context is everything, and I believe it. The right song at the right time can change a person's life. But no one's life can be summed up in a song. Music, at its best, can be the expression of a person's individual reality. Maybe knowing a little of the history-what went into the message and meaning of a song-could help others who are trying to make sense of their lives, just like that artist.
When I first had the idea for this book, I knew I wanted to say many things. The story of my life, from being an adopted baby to becoming one-third of a major musical attraction called dc Talk, is as much a part of me as the music I've been making for most of those years. I've had more than my share of high drama and low comedy, surreal situations and conflicting conditions. Searching for my birth parents, finding my voice in dc Talk, learning to live with the woman I love as a husband and as a friend, keeping hold of my soul in the music industry big leagues, and most important, trying to stay true to my faith in Jesus Christ-I have been on a wild ride. And it's not over yet.
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