My Story of Surrender
“Surrender” might seem like a strange title to give my new EP release. You may find yourself visualizing white flags. But to me, it fits perfectly. “Surrender”encapsulates the lessons I’ve lived through over the past few years of my life, navigating the excitement and joy of love and the deepest pain of loss.
It seems to work this way every time. When I set forth a concept for a project, I experience and embody that lesson throughout every stage of the creative process. My first album, Lavender Sound, was all about becoming. Every song was written in the time period from my late teens to early twenties and inspired by a moment that transformed me. I gathered each piece, each lesson and created the person you see before you.
“Surrender” has been about unbecoming, if you will. Through this project, I had to learn to let all that was unnecessary fall away. I released the false sense of control I have on life’s twists and turns. I surrendered passionately to the moment. I learned with my whole heart that this moment is truly all that we have.
I first learned about true surrender while volunteering at the Children’s Hospital through an organization called Songs For Kids. For six years, I knocked on doors, stood by beds, and sang to the sweetest children and their family members. I’d put on my pirate voice for the Spongebob Squarepants theme song. I would dance my heart out while singing “Shake It Off”. And sometimes, if the situation got desperate enough, I would whip out my rendition of “What Does the Fox Say?”, which seemed to break a smile in even the most critical kid I encountered. Sometimes, I would just come in and sing a song. Other times, I would stay and chat for a while. It was always guided by the people I served and what their needs were. My ego and need to look cool or fit in definitely had to sit outside.
It was my experience doing this kind of work that led me to the Macy Easom Cancer Research Foundation and their Singer/Songwriter competition. As a musician, I’m always looking for opportunities to share my songs. As a person, I’m always looking for a chance to grow and give back to others when I can. Music 4 Macy (an offshoot of the foundation) provided me with an opportunity to do both. Most songwriting competitions require a fee for entry but not all of them use the money for pediatric cancer research. It was a no brainer to enter, even if I never made it to semi-finals.
When I did, it just doubled my excitement. Another opportunity to play. Another opportunity to connect with songwriters like myself. Another opportunity to give back in whatever way I could.
On the day of the finals, we had a full itinerary of workshops from people like Steve Rawls to vocal instructor, Mama Jan. Music 4 Macy wanted all of us to grow and they made a point of investing in us. When I actually won the competition (and the recording time at Real 2 Reel Studios), I already felt like I had been winning all day long.
One of my biggest memories of the night was hearing Macy’s family speak about her life. My father, who was one of my biggest supporters and one of my best friends, had unexpectedly passed the year prior. I recognized their grief and the overwhelming love they felt for Macy. I committed strongly in that moment to help any way that I could.
So, we began! I got to share the stage with Chuck Leavell and Edwin McCain for the foundation’s annual fundraising galas. I spent time drinking coffee and playing from my songwriting notebooks to my producers Michael Bateman and Jonathan Beckner while we debated which songs should make the cut. We spent a whirlwind of a week in the studio with the insane talent of Yoel b’nah Yehuda, Jason Pomar, and Nathan Lathouse who brought so much life to my music and pure joy to the process. Later on, Jason Fowler and David Jordan added their own magical touches which had me grinning from ear to ear as I listened back to the masters. Michael and Jonathan made Real 2 Reel studios feel like home to me. They pushed me vocally and musically. When it came time to record “Reach”, a song I wrote only three months after losing my father, they made me feel safe enough to go there, to surrender to the well of emotion inside of me. When our week was done, I felt like I had learned a year’s worth in that short amount of time. We passed it off to the safe hands of Steve Rawls for mixing and mastering. And it was done.
The first track is a love letter to the families I worked with at the Children’s Hospital. The second track, a love letter to a person who once kissed me on a moonlit night.
The third song is for my Dad - the man who carried my equipment, bragged to strangers about my songwriting, made me coffee in the morning, and taught me to value myself. I still reach for him and honestly, I always will.
I once heard that writing songs could be a bit like having kids. You bring them to life. Then in recording, you watch them grow and raise them right. In sharing and releasing them, I send them off into the world to live a life of their own.
So, here they are. I surrender them to you.
Originally published in Macon’s The 11th Hour.