I just spent a few days building a shed, of sorts – a songwriter’s stage in a studio, really, but it has the look of a shed.
That was an instinctual thing, but the resemblance is more than random. Songwriting and carpentry have a whole lot in common, too.
I built my own house at one point – a cabin I lived in, for over a year, in the woods of Nova Scotia without electricity or running water – and I’ve built a few other things over the years, including an absurd number of sheds.
I’m far from being an expert. Grandpa was a carpenter; I’m a blue thumb journeyman at best. But the experience has taught me enough about carpentry to inform years of songwriting. I’m a journeyman at that too.
Carpenters work with organic materials they can feel and smell and comprehend the weight of. They use the least material possible to make the sturdiest possible structure to define a space.
That space is very similar, I think, to the space of a song. If you build the structure right, the structure itself is secondary to the space created, and as sturdy and beautiful as all get-out.
It’s a beautiful edifice, full of inner bigness, with some of the soaring qualities you’d expect of the term “Gothic” – but it retains the humility of a simple wooden building.
You can see why the builders of a church would eschew stone or steel for plain wood construction.
Jesus was a carpenter, after all. He’d have known about the humility inherent in simple structures made of simple materials, and about the space you could define with a few simple lines.
It shows in the Parables, and the Sermon on the mount.
Jesus would probably have made a fine songwriter too, but that’s not the point.
The point is that if you want to write good songs, ask yourself, “What Would Jesus Do?”
Then go bang some boards together. It can’t hurt, and it may help.