John Mark McMillan on Songwriting, Radio & The Medium Is The Message

by Bobby Gilles

in Exhortations And Musings

John Mark McMillan live in concert at The 930 Art Center in LouisvilleThis past weekend I sat down with Integrity recording artist John Mark McMillan during his tour stop in Louisville. We talked about worship, songwriting, the music business, the stories behind his songs like “How He Loves,” “Death In His Grave,” “Sheet Of Night,” and more.

I’ll publish the full interview next Wednesday, April 25. To whet your appetite, here are a few quotes about things John Mark McMillan has learned along the way:

On Songwriting

“… lots of times when you’re writing songs and you get stuck on a word or phrase, what you need to do is just put in whatever words occur to you, then finish the first draft of the song, rather than just stopping because you’re hung up on that one lyric.  It’s like if you were building something; at first you want the ‘1000 foot view’ of something and then you go back to the details later.”

On The Danger Of Trying For Radio Success:

“… you have to be careful about putting the cart before the horse. If you’re just driven to do whatever it takes to get on radio or whatever other benchmark you use to feel successful, then you’ll end up listening to your music, saying “I thought there was something here that I was excited about but now it is such a Frankenstein: we removed this to reach this demographic, and we did this to be accepted over here, and we shortened this …” 

On “The Medium Is The Message”:

“I could write a song that talks about God being infinitely creative, and sing lyrics like “How creative you are, God.” But if the music sounds exactly like everything else, then I am saying a true thing but I am making light of that by expressing “God is not creative enough to do anything new in my music.”

“John Mark McMillan in concert” photo taken by Chuck Heeke at Sojourn’s music venue The 930 Listening Room, 4.25.2012

{ 1 comment }

Mark Snyder April 17, 2012 at 9:20 pm

I do his first one all the time – use throwaway lyrics so I can feel whether the overall song works, then go back and struggle to fit something.

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