Learning to Co-Write Life

I try to hear what God is saying in each season, so I can continue learning and growing. Then I like to pass on those lessons to whomever will receive them.

Co-Writing Songs, Co-Writing Life

Recently, I’ve been growing in community. Here are three things I’ve learned through working with others as a songwriter and a family member. 

Prune and Pursue

Be willing to let some things go to pursue better things.

John 15:2b “[…] every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”

“I could choose… but I choose you. You’re worth it all.” (I Choose)

songwriting teamIn January, my church’s songwriting team looked back on 2018 and found we had almost 40 songs available to develop or finalize. But in the whole year, only 1 was used, and about 5-7 songs were in the production process. Part of this was because excellent songwriting takes time, but we also had to figure out what was most worth pursuing. In our first 2019 meeting, we had to humble ourselves to sideline a lot of songs. As hard as it was to let go, this allowed us to focus on developing our strongest few songs (the ones right for our congregation now) into the best songs they could be. Personally, this helped me edit two songs in one week!

sandyAround this time, I had a choice to make: I could be concerned about getting Sandy, my cellist, in to record her final two songs before moving to Seattle, OR I could live my lyrics. After 4 years of preparing to record, I finally was able to start… but then my Grandpa began the dying process late-January, up in Rochester. As I was praying about what to do, the phrase “ministry of presence” came to mind. I knew God wanted me to go. My cellist affirmed it, reminding me that it’s good to live my lyrics. As hard as it was to let go of the recording goal, I was glad to obey… knowing I was in the center of God’s will for me gave me peace, and I had joy that I was able to show love to my Grandpa and my family by setting aside my everyday life in order to help in his care. This has been a fruitful time in so many ways. I’m trusting even more fruit will come from this time, and from the music because I allowed the pruning, and pursued the better.

Iron Sharpens Iron

Better things come from collaboration.

Proverbs 27:17 “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”

“We’ve all got a lot to say… but who’s gonna listen?” (Heartbeat)

I brought in a song. With a few minor tweaks, we all thought it was basically done. But then, little by little, more tweaks came… until it became a very different song altogether. Bekah noticed something didn’t quite flow. Ryan noticed the concept could use some developing in consistency. Josh suggested simplifying the verses. Bekah suggested a couple melody shifts. Each of these critiques not only improved the song, but challenged me to dig deeper to figure out what God really wanted to say through the song. The concept went from simple declarations of trust, to exploring the purpose of God calling us out into hard places. I’ve learned a lot about this by experience, and, looking back at the process, I believe God wanted me to share these Scripture-based insights through this song, so people can know Him better. Had I not opened this song up to serious critique from my church family, and just left it at the initial feedback, I never would have written the very thing that I needed to share through this song.  

togetherMy first night in caring for my dying Grandpa was a bit rough. I had only been there a couple days and was just getting the hang of his needs. But I felt ready to do what I had come here to do. My Uncle slept in the chair next to Grandpa. I was on the other side, praying I’d be awake when Grandpa had a need. There were a few times when I tried to do something, but my Uncle either questioned my choice or told me after how I could’ve done it better. I could’ve gotten defensive and angry, allowing my pride at being grown and an experienced caregiver to dictate my response. Instead, realizing his heart for Grandpa to receive the best care possible, God helped me choose to listen and respect his correction for next time. Following that night, it got a lot smoother.

Beauty of the Body

We all play our part.

1 Corinthians 12:14 “Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.”

“You’re not good enough, and I’m not good enough… but love can make a way.” (Love Can Make a Way)

chordEven though we all go to the same church, and we’re writing for the same church, our songs are as diverse as the people on the team. Cultural background, church history, theological understanding, music interest, and passions all play a part in bringing a unique song. Ryan’s songs sometimes have a bit of an Irish flavor, and he is incredible at writing modern hymns. In editing, he’s been my chord variation and lyric critique guy. Bekah’s songs have been great at portraying profound truth in simple phrasing. She’s my melody critique. My songs tend to be filled with story and imagery. I mostly help with lyric improvements and making songs more congregational-friendly. Other team members have written differently and added editing value in unique ways. Critiques are all done with love for each other and our city, and a commitment to excellence that reflects how incredible our God is. Once a song goes through our team, it might have a slightly different flavor than the writer brought, but it’s usually a much better version in the end. If any of our teammates are missing from the process, we feel it, and the song suffers. BUT when everyone comes together, it’s a beautiful thing, with powerful results! The variety of songs that are developing is a picture of the body of Christ at work; the diverse work will reach way more people that one person could alone!

Mom BumpaIn caring for my dying Grandpa, the beauty of a family (and community) coming together is unmistakable. We could all focus on saying our goodbyes to Grandpa, the family home, and generations of memories within, because of everyone doing their part. My sister took care of chores at Mom’s house, and I stayed at Grandpa’s to do “night shift” care. My mom came between bus runs, led medical care, and stayed some nights. My Aunt Sue came in from Florida to help, my Uncle Kerry took a leave of absence from work in order to spend nights (and days) with him, and my cousin Craig and his wife Emilee spent almost every day helping. Family members and friends came evenings and weekends. North Greece ambulance brought oxygen tanks when our power went out, and our community provided abundant meals to us throughout the process. Hospice care tried discouraging our family from taking on Grandpa’s care at home, but we have lived like the body of Christ, each doing our part to honor our Grandpa’s wishes and give him loving care at home in his final days this side of heaven.

Just like songwriting, life is done better together, isn’t it?

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“Remember in December” series: Senior Living

Remember in December: finishing the year by looking back at some of my favorite concerts, through some never-before released videos.

Just released: Legacy of Love – Senior Living

I always knew I had a soft spot in my heart for the elderly.  It may have come from the hours I spent as a teenager talking on the phone with my sweet Grandma Peter. Or the years when Grandpa Peter would dress up as Santa for the grandkids. Or the giggles we’ve share over Grandma Lemcke’s silly antics and Grandpa Lemcke’s unforgettable catch-phrases.

But that soft spot grew exponentially when I had the opportunity to get to know and serve some incredible people through my job at an assisted living and memory care facility.

Being totally transparent, I didn’t have to work outside of my music business during this time.

But God placed me there for a season, out of love for them and for me.

I will always treasure that time… and the time when I got to express my appreciation for them through the song I wrote for my own Grandparents, but so truly applied to them as well.

We had a blast that day! Out of love for them, I really wanted to give them a good show, so I pulled out all the stops. From meaningful original songs and stories, to well-known sing-a-long cover songs, we sang way past our scheduled time. Amanda even learned the glockenspiel for this gig! Even months later, some of the ladies continued to tell people about the time I tap-danced during my concert for them. (I loved getting to put that in there for them, since this is the generation that grew up appreciating the art of tapping!!) At the end of the event, ending in a quiet rendition of Amazing Grace was such a sacred moment shared among us.

This will remain one of my favorite concerts, because of the chance I got to express my love to some sweet elderly friends through my creative arts.

So grateful.

“Remember in December” series: Freedom Concert

Remember in December: finishing the year by looking back at some of my favorite concerts, through some never-before released videos.

Just released: Introvert – Freedom Concert — (a crowd favorite!)

If you know anything about me and my love for all things creative, worshipful, and justice-oriented, you can tell that this concert was definitely one of my babies.

I was so grateful to have friends skilled in Christ-centered music (Fiona Varner), art (Leah G.), and dance (Zabrina R. of Divine Dance) join with me for this event.  One of my best friends here Sandy was able to play cello with me that day too! So special!
Together with the fine folks at Ashley River Baptist, and my family, friends, and co-workers, we put on an awareness and fundraising event for Doors to Freedom, the local human trafficking aftercare program, which was a small start-up at the time, working hard to open a safe home.
Along with sharing information about Doors to Freedom, we had a blast with the music and dancing, dancing along to Fiona’s “Deuteronomy Dance,” and shopping in the rummage sale. Throughout the event, Leah G. prophetically drew in front of us; at the end we learning the message from God through the art was “connect” — which is a super important part of healing trauma!
Another favorite part was having my amazing friend and dance ministry director Zabrina minister in dance to two of my songs: Tears Fall and Wait in Hope.
This event was inspired by Karitos Worship Arts Conference, where we learned how to unite as artists to worship God and express what He’s saying.  If I could have every concert event and worship service as creatively rich and justice-oriented as this was, I’d be in heaven! (Yup… one day I will be! 😉
We were honored to have the event covered by WCBD News 2, which helped to spread awareness about trafficking and Doors to Freedom’s services.

(Highlights from Freedom Concert.)

“Remember in December” series: Concert Window

Remember in December: finishing the year by looking back at some of my favorite concerts, through some never-before released videos.

Just released: Home — Online Show

It’s no secret that I’m an introvert… but I also have hypothyroidism, which means I have to be intentional about my use of energy, or else I’ll straight run out and sleep for 12 hours. 😛 (Ask my family!)

So when I found out there was a way to do a concert online, I knew I had met my match! There was no major gear set up, no strangers to talk to, no crowd noise to sing over… as a bonus, my friends and family across the states could finally see a show again! (I loved getting to play Legacy of Love for my Grandma again!)

We LOVED interacting with loved ones online from the comfort of Amanda’s dining room.  (Many of whom were super generous in their tips toward my recording fund… thanks again! CD coming soon!)

Some of my favorite moments were getting requests from people who actually know my songs (totally my love-language). I loved getting to share more of my heart behind the songs than I normally get to at gigs, with people who genuinely cared to listen. (Like I talk about in Heartbeat.) There’s a reason why I write what I do, so some of my favorite gigs are when the songs and lyrics are fully taken in by listeners.

We also got to share some songs we don’t get to play out a lot (like Little Ones and Amanda’s adoption song for her son), since we do a lot of Farmers markets and casual venues that call for more upbeat/uplifting songs.

Of course we had some fun with Amanda’s cat Gabe (as you saw in Home), just doing whatever he wanted, since we were in his space. X-D

So grateful for the technology to be able to share my music across the world. And grateful that when I do, you tune in to listen. I don’t take that privilege lightly.

“Remember in December” series: Songwriters in the Round

Remember in December: finishing the year by looking back at some of my favorite concerts, through some never-before released videos.

Just released: Introvert — Morgan Creek Grill  — (Listen closely around the 1 minute mark for a good chuckle from audience response. X-D)

Every January, Morgan Creek Grill hosts the Wintertide Acoustic Series – Songwriter’s in the Round Showcase. This is the only time they have all-original music in a listening room environment. It’s fashioned after Nashville songwriters events, where three songwriters take turns sharing songs and how they came about.  We could also play/sing along with the other songwriters if we came up with something on the spot that would fit their song; that part was fun!  Amanda and I shared the stage with Jeff Liberty and Bobby Sutton.  I occasionally came up with some fun harmonies and a bit of background guitar parts to play with their songs.  A couple times the guys played guitar parts over my songs.  It was neat to hear another’s interpretation of the song and how that came out through their playing. The place was pretty full that night, and people seemed to enjoy listening.

Most gigs I play involve setting an enjoyable atmosphere, with cover songs abounding.

Not many gigs truly celebrate the songwriter.

On a radio interview when I was first getting started in Charleston, the DJ asked what my favorite part of being a musician is. I think a lot of people would expect a chick to say “I love singing for people,” with the songwriting and guitar playing developing into the basics because they want to sing. But I’ve learned that I love songwriting. It’s a way to express the deepest parts of me and the things I think are important to say (because if I have a mic, I better say something good), and it’s a craft I’ve enjoyed developing over my lifetime. There is an art and a science to it.  I can tell the difference between a beginner songwriter and an advanced songwriter… and there is a huge difference between my first songs and my current songs!   I love playing guitar and singing, but for me, this whole thing is actually about sharing these songs that I believe in. Because I think God gave me a gift to use for spreading hope and compassion, so who am I to let these songs just sit on the shelf?

With all that said, it felt great to be in a place where they really wanted to hear my songs, and my journey in writing them.  So on this one night by the creek, two other songwriters and I got to take turns sharing our songs with some folks, and for once we got to share the stories behind them. And we had a blast! Hopefully I inspired some good stuff while we were at it. 😉

I was also glad that my songwriting and my guitar skills were comparable to the two guys sharing the stage with me.  As a female in a very male-dominated field, I put high expectations on myself.  Many people expect females to be all about the singing, and not skilled at guitar.  I refuse to be a “one trick pony;” I strive to be well-rounded and excellent in each area.  I work hard to develop my songwriting, my singing, and my guitar skills… along with all the other stuff that comes with being an independent artist.  I was thrilled to feel “up to par” at this gig.

I was also proud to be able to say at this event that there were actually four songwriters on stage.  We surprised everyone by having my sister put down the supporting/percussionist role and share the song she wrote for her [soon-to-be-adopted] son.  She wrote a few songs for the band back in the day, but this was the first one she wrote in a long time. She doesn’t pursue it like I do, but when a song starts coming to her, you can tell it’s from deep within her soul, and it’s beautiful.

One of my favorite moments (besides when a couple of old friends surprised me by showing up) was when I played “Wait in Hope.”  Up until that song, people were generally paying attention, but there was some chatting.  When I played that song, the entire room went silent.  They all tuned in, watching and listening carefully. They seemed to be soaking it in.  I think hope was raised in the room that night.

Year in Review

Personally, I’ve gone through a lot of loss, suffering, and grief this year.  However, through all this, God has brought me to a higher level of peace, hope, and joy in Him. As I submit to God’s leading and growing pains, I’m seeing more fruit from my life than ever before. I’m living out multiple callings (including some new, unexpected ones) and being a light in the darkness. For this I’m grateful!

God has been faithful in my music journey this year… like wayyyy above and beyond what I could’ve imagined!  Because of Him opening new doors for this “artist of the heart” to:

  • Shine light all over Charleston (aka new gig/concert opportunities in new towns …I played 14 official gigs — 1 more than last year!)
  • Equip people with creative skills to bring joy (aka teaching on Skillshare)
  • Empower future worship leaders and musicians (aka teaching guitar lessons)
  • Inspire hope and compassion through tangible, ongoing means (aka selling more books, CDs, etc.)

I’ve earned enough to record my next CD!

I was hoping to have started it this year, but God had other plans. However, I believe God has bigger plans for these songs, so I refuse to let them sit on the shelves of my brain between gigs… let’s get them out there inspiring people like Shifting Winds!  Please join me in praying that my time would open up to be able to record by Spring!

Thank you for your support in all this!!! I could not do this without YOU!

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21).

Playing with New Sounds: Tap & Glock!

Ya’ll, I’ve had more gigs in the past month or so than I typically do in half a year… that’s awesome!  And I have to say… I’ve been getting pretty creative over here, now that I have a bit more time to do so!

Glockenspiel

glockBack at the Bridge Run, there was a music store around the corner from me going out of business.  That is where I got an incredible deal on my new toy!  I’d seen some of my favorite folk artists like Jenny & Tyler and Gungor use things like this in their music… and I loved the simplicity that it took to add new creative texture to tunes.  I’d been thinking about using different instruments like this in my upcoming CD, but with Amanda’s (the one who plays 4 instruments at once) schedule not as available anymore for gigging, I decided it could be fun to add new sounds to my own playing.  I would love to have more people play with me to add different music textures to gigs, but with 40 songs in my potential set for gigs that often go 2-3 hours, it gets tricky!  So the glockenspiel is a good way to make due with what I have; it’s also good to help me take a little break from singing and strumming during my longer sets.

Since getting my Glockenspiel, I’ve been learning my scales (which would be super easy if I played piano), and working on integrating it into my set.  (It’s kinda fun to say I’ve been practicing with my “glock.” 😉 ) So far, I have 3 songs where I play a melody over my looper pedal, another 3 songs where I solo/improvise on the Glockenspiel (over the looper), and another 3 songs where I play it between strums! (That’s a sight to see! :-P)

Tapping

I’ve always LOVED tap dancing… It’s super fun to do and watch, but it also might be because it combines dance and music into one fabulous creative art.  Back in high school, my teacher (who is awesome at tap!) said tap dancing was dying as an art form.  I started to believe it more as I struggled for a while to find adult tap classes/groups that challenge

tapshoes

Happy National Tap Dance Day on May 25th!

me.  (THANK YOU Erika & the ladies at Dance Lab Charleston!) But I think it’s been on the rise again, as I’ve seen it in multiple musicals, and the amazing Postmodern Jukebox has been using it in their classic remakes of contemporary songs, like this fabulous video, featuring Sarah Reich and Melinda Sullivan. I also heard of a local band who uses simple tap steps as the percussion instrument…. which appealed to me since I don’t always have a percussionist with me!

tap-board.jpgAnyway, that all inspired me to explore the fact that I’m not just a singer-songwriter… I actually make music from my head to my toes.  So at the Bridge Run Expo, since I had no percussionist I decided to test it out.  I mostly used it to accent the beat as I was playing (as if my shoes were the percussion), but on a couple songs I did some tap solos!  I have to say, it worked out pretty good!  But many of the gigs I play don’t have appropriate flooring to use my tap shoes.  That’s where hubby and his woodworking hobby came in!  He made this sweet portable tapping floor that is so much better (and less expensive) than anything I could’ve bought!

So next time you’re at a Stefanie Potter concert, enjoy the sights and sounds of me playing 3 instruments at once! 😉

 

Inspiring, Equipping, now Teaching!

guitar lessonsI’ve been doing all I can to earn enough through my music business to record again (hopefully later this year)… from gigs, to merchandise, to teaching on Skillshare.  Recently I added a new adventure.

I had thought back to my time in Texas when I kept getting asked to teach guitar lessons to different ladies at church, but I didn’t have the time to commit to that.  So earlier this year, I had mentioned to my friend Julie that I applied to a place to teach guitar lessons (to help fund the CD) but hadn’t heard back. She told me she had been wanting to learn guitar, so we decided to get together on that. 🙂

Then Julie mentioned she knew some other ladies from church that want to learn to play guitar, but would love to learn from a female. Perfect!  We started up a group.  Buuuut I didn’t think I’d have enough room in my apartment to host the group, so I started looking around for spaces.

I noticed a recreation center about halfway between me and some of the ladies hosts guitar group lessons.  I contacted them but they didn’t have interest in hosting me.  Soooo I tried Hanahan Recreation Department.  They were ecstatic to have a new creative program to offer!  It turned out that there weren’t too many ladies to host them in my own home, but by the time we realized that, I was already plugged in and advertising the group!

My first 6-week group had a few kids and a senior.  It was a sweet challenge to help them go from no knowledge to playing their first song within our time together.  Meanwhile the friends I’ve been teaching in my home have been advancing at a rapid pace!  I’m so happy to empower these ladies to use their new gifts for God’s glory. (So proud of them!)

If you know someone who’d like to take lessons, send me an email at stefaniepottermusic@gmail.com.  I do Skype Lessons too!

Sexual Assault Awareness Month

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.  I personally know many people who have suffered such abuse and I have done a lot of work with survivors of sexual violence as a social worker.  I wrote the song “Tears Fall” (available here) to encourage those who have suffered any abuse at the hands of another.

To help with awareness this month, I thought I’d share an excerpt from my book, Surviving Service: Effective Response to God’s Call for Justice. (Physical copy or pdf available here, and online in all your favorite book/e-book stores.)

Along with researching what works in improving situations, it’s imperative that you keep learning all you can about the population you want to help. I have heard stories of well-intentioned people messing things up when they were just trying to help.

Sexual Violence: I’ve heard countless stories from sexual assault survivors who had people suggest what they think the survivor could have done to avoid the assault, or to avoid a future assault. Rather than being helpful to the survivor, the survivor starts to think she was to blame, instead of the actual perpetrator of the assault. In reality, most sexual assaults are pre-planned (often by people they know and even trust), and the perpetrator gets the survivor in the most vulnerable circumstance. By then, it’s too late to do anything other than what’s necessary to survive the encounter (fighting back, trying to escape, submitting, etc.).

Domestic Violence: In my educational workshops on dating and domestic violence, I noticed many people think it is best to encourage a victim to leave the situation and relationship right away. In reality, domestic violence victims are most at risk of being seriously injured or murdered by the perpetrator (violent person) right when, or soon after, they leave. It is usually better to remain calm and plan the escape. Help the victim make a safety plan for leaving: When is the best time to leave? Where will she (and the kids) go? How will she safely move her belongings? How will she avoid the perpetrator? What should she do if the perpetrator shows up somewhere? Does she need legal assistance or financial resources to get through this? Who can help support her? Be sure to employ community support and resources. She will then be prepared to leave as soon as it appears safest to do so.

Get involved here: www.nsvrc.org/saam/

#SAAM

Vote me to the Top!

It’s that time of year again!
Lets do this, together.

The bands performing at the top of the Cooper River Bridge for over 100,000 runners (where all the excitement and media is) will be: (1) the one who raises the most funds, and (2) the one who has the most votes.

gybtttotb_2017_stefaniepotterI need YOU to donate $1 here to vote for me. (Type my name in the “add message to campaign wall” section.)  You can certainly give more if you want as every dollar helps, but really every vote helps too!

Here’s the scoop…

  • Everyone who gives counts as a vote for me.
  • 50 cents of your dollar will be donated to my music endeavors. (YAY! Help me record again soon!)
  • The other 50 cents will be donated to CHARM (subsidizes musicians health insurance payments… awesome!). Their goal is $5000. Let’s help them exceed that!

So really, it’s a win-win all around.

If every person in our online community here votes for me, I’ll likely be at the top this year!  🙂

Voting ends Friday at midnight.

Thank you in advance!

❤ Stefanie
artist of the heart
~ inspiring hope and compassion