Tag Archives: Shaun Groves

Third World Symphony: Just One Song

A friend of mine*, Shaun Groves, released an album yesterday. It’s called Third World Symphony and it’s pretty good. I scored an early digital copy on Kickstarter and got my CD in the mail yesterday. I am 1 of 462 unique fans.

Gosh I love the new music industry.

Anyway, I think you should check out Shaun’s album. It’s good stuff. But rather than point you to the entire album, I think you should just check out one song. It’s called “Enough.” It features a whoop (the word ‘ruckus’ comes to mind), fine mandolin picking (do you pick a mandolin?) and some nice rises and falls that just make it shine. Take a listen:

Enough by shaungroves

The rest of the album isn’t quite like that (the ruckus part), but it’s still good (lots of mandolin pickin’). So check it out.

*While Shaun Groves is a (soft) rock star, I’ve also had dinner** with him and talked to him on the phone, so I think that qualifies as a friend.

**If “dinner” qualifies as a cherry Coke and some chips and queso at Chili’s. He offered to buy me dinner***, but I wasn’t that hungry.

***OK, now I’m just bragging. Sorry.


Mold-a-Rama Gorilla from Como ParkIt turns out that I’m crazy.

I dove into National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) for the fourth time this year and it’s not meant to be. I had this grand plan of linking the story to Como Park and publishing the story with lots of help and Como Park goodies for everyone. It’s not going to happen.

I stopped writing last Friday, just shy of 20,000 words.

It really came down to two things:

  1. My life is crazy right now.
  2. The story wasn’t working.

My life is crazy right now: Work is both slow and busy (if you’ve ever been self-employed you might understand that predicament). Lexi stopped napping. Milo screamed more (didn’t think that was possible). We have a pre-teen in the family. Evenings have all but disappeared. We launched a book last week.

I’m not sure crazy does it justice.

When my wife started commenting about how stressed I was, I realized NaNoWriMo wasn’t a good idea this year. It didn’t help when I had to break out my brace to fight wrist over-use syndrome (yes, that’s what a doctor diagnosed it as a few years ago—shut up).

The story wasn’t working: I could put up with all of the above if the story were working. But it’s not. My characters feel flat. There is no plot. It feels like I’m trying to force reluctant people on a tour of Como Park, and that’s not what it’s supposed to be. Getting up an hour early every day to work on this just isn’t worth it.

NaNoWriMo is supposed to be about slogging through all that, but this year if I’m going to be that stressed I should at least be paying the bills.

Lessons from Failure
So I failed. I’m both sorry and grateful to my backers and cheerleaders. But sometimes I think we need to try crazy, ridiculous ideas and fail. I have a lot of crazy ideas, and they wouldn’t be so crazy if they all worked. And it’s not really failure if the idea sits in your head and you never try it—it’s something worse. So as scary as it is and as much as my Midwest work ethic says “Never give up!”, I’m giving up.

And it’s not a total loss.

  • I loved writing about Como Park. I loved diving into the history and story of the place. I will come back to that. Some day.
  • A few scenes and moments and ideas in the story did work. There are places that I really like, even if the rest falls apart. And that’s really what NaNoWriMo is about—finding some treasure in the trash.
  • I also learned the ins and outs of Kickstarter. I love the idea behind this site, the way creatives can pitch ideas and people can step up to make them happen. Go find some ideas and support them. Make a record with Shaun Groves. Help a photographer create street galleries in New York. Find a project you like and help it become a reality.

And there it is. Thanks.

Share Your Leftovers

Musician, blogger and Compassion advocate Shaun Groves is in India right on another Compassion bloggers tour. These are pretty incredible trips (they did Uganda last year and the Dominican Republic last fall) and admittedly hard to read.

This morning I checked in on his blog and came across this post about leftovers. It turns out to be the same pitch he gave at a concert in Minnesota a couple weeks back that I happened to attend (which is great, because now it’s in writing, not just in my head). It’s a powerful statement on how God provides for us, but he only wants us to take what we need for each day. It’s an Old Testament rule that Paul repeats in the New Testament: Share your leftovers so everybody can have enough.

In America, it seems, we’re gorging ourselves on leftovers while the rest of the world starves. Using this idea of leftovers, Shaun challenges people to sponsor children through Compassion using their leftovers. And there are tons of other ways to do it. That’s part of why I keep doing these ‘you can change your world’ posts.

It’s easier than you think to change the world.

You Can Change the World: Saving Kids from Poverty

Shaun Groves spray-painting a rock at Northwestern: 163 kids sponsored!Last week indie rock star (wait, is that an oxymoron?) Shaun Groves came to town.

I’ve tried to keep up with Shaun since his debut album came out back when I was just getting started at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. We interviewed him at GMA and he played at the our offices and I think we talked him into writing for us. I was always struck by how genuine he seemed. A few years ago he launched a blog, but it wasn’t a typical rock star blog. For starters he called it a “Shlog” (which is where that ‘shlog envy’ comment came from), but more importantly he blogged about the real stuff of life and not just ‘hey look, I’ve got an album coming out’ or ‘we’re rocking in Georgia!’ and then no posts until the next album. Plus, he tried to kick Amy Grant’s ass (OK, not really).

Lately Shaun’s been doing this whole Compassion blogger thing and actually comments on people’s blogs. He still does some music in there somewhere, but he gives it all away for free.

Continue reading You Can Change the World: Saving Kids from Poverty

You Can Change the World: Compassion Bloggers

Nick Challies playing with a child in the Dominican RepublicIn February the child sponsorship organization Compassion International sent a team of bloggers to Uganda. They’re doing it again this week, sending a team to the Dominican Republic. This trip doesn’t seem to be getting as much attention, but the stories are just as powerful. My favorite is reading 8-year-old Nick Challies’ blog and reading about two sisters meeting the kids they sponsor:

“My sponsored child, Rosemary, is so nice. We had so much fun and we swung on the swings together. I asked her lots of questions: Her favorite color is pink, and she is nine years old … just like me!”

Continue reading You Can Change the World: Compassion Bloggers

Questioning Child Sponsorship

I love that Compassion International is doing this blogger’s trip to Uganda. I applaud them. But it also raises a lot of important questions for me. As I read through the entries and the comments, almost everyone responds with tears and a broken heart and an eager need to sponsor a child. That’s great. But I hope it’s not all. I hope there’s more to it than emotionalism.

I hope we still ask the tough questions. I’ve been doing that—though I sound like a heartless bastard—and Anne Jackson has been gracious enough to respond.

My first question was if the disparity between sponsored children and unsponsored children causes problems. Anne explained that the benefits a sponsored child receives extend to their entire family. She also said that culturally it’s understood differently:

“the way the sponsorship impacts the child, the child’s family, and the community is something to celebrate. when all you have is god and your fellow man, it comes a lot easier when someone you love is blessed.”

Update: Shaun Groves also weighed in on my comments, offering further insight. The most encouraging bit he offered is the fact that local Compassion projects are run by local people: “Let’s, first of all, trust that they know what works best in their own communities.” That makes sense.

Stupid Music Industry; Smart Musicians

I never really get why we’re supposed to care so much that CD sales are declining. Is it my problem technology has left you behind and only a fraction of the songs on most albums are worth owning? Every other business has ups and downs. Get used to it.

And some people are getting used to it. Like Shaun Groves. I talked about him a few weeks back when he tried to take on Amy Grant (for those curious, he failed–but that’s OK, he’s still cool). The simple fact is that Shaun Groves gets it. It might help that he’s no longer on a label and is forced to figure these things out on his own. Then again, Shaun was always a nice guy, even when he was on a label.

As proof that Shaun gets it, check out a couple recent blog entries, including one where he argues that rock stars need to get human and another where he talks about the story of Jackie, a former Compassion International sponsored child (right now Shaun is more interested in helping children through Compassion than selling his music–that’s refreshing).

The Consolidation of Christian Music

It really frustrates me that all the best things seem to die. Just when you think you’ve got something good going, you lose it. For those of us into Christian music, such a time is upon us. Let me clarify that, those of us who like good music that also happens to have decent, God-honoring lyrics. I’m not referring to the cheese that is much of contemporary Christian music.

And when I say cheese, I’m talking about much of the stuff that flows out of Nashville, the well-known capital of country music, and the little-known capital of Christian music. Most of this cheese is drivel, void of originality, free of any hint of freshness, and lacking in basic musicianship and decent song writing. As an example, adult contemporary group 4Him. For ordinary people that example would be enough. 4Him? What kind of a name is that? But it gets better. Their new album? Walk On. It just so happens to be the title of a hit U2 song from their newest record, which came out one year ago. Coincidence? Or cheese? You decide.

Squint Entertainment, former home to such respectable–no admirable artists as Sixpence None the Richer, Burlap to Cashmere, and Chevelle. All three bands earned major mainstream accolades, and I won’t even get into Squint’s non-mainstream successes, Waterdeep and PFR. Not to mention the band Squint was toting but had not yet released an album, L.A. Symphony, a highly acclaimed rap group from the West Coast. Well, say goodbye. Squint records unfortunately closed their doors, sending their bands packing. Last word was, Nashville cheese-inspired record company Word was picking up the assets and would continue the tradition of Squint, adding many of their alternative artists to the Squint label. Word’s record for alternative acts is a little weak. Most of them release one album and disappear, perhaps a second and then fade into oblivion.

Although there is hope. I recently heard that PFR had signed with Rocketown Records, the slightly more respectable Nashville label owned by dyed in the wool-CCMer with one time mainstream power, Michael W. Smith. Rocketown is also home to the CCM-adored Chris Rice, the extremely promising Ginny Owens, who played Lilith Fair dates after releasing her debut album, and newcomer Shaun Groves, who has the intelligence and song writing chops to make a real dent in the Nashville cheese.

The other Squint bands are up in the air or on their own. Burlap to Cashmere appears to be with Brooklyn Beat/Squint Entertainment, according to their latest newsletter. Sixpence is shopping around, and I smell major label deal. Chevelle has been awfully quiet lately in the CCM circles, probably because they just signed with Epic Records for an early 2002 release, while Waterdeep will probably languish on a Nashville label that doesn’t understand their indie appeal.

Add to the list of cool labels in question 5 Minute Walk Records, home to the status-quo-crushing Five Iron Frenzy, folk-rocker Justin McRoberts, and former home of the meteoric W’s who are no more. 5 Minute Walk has been the California label, bringing a wave of fresh air to the Nashville crowd. Apparently 5 Minute Walk’s future is uncertain, which is a major blow to those of us who hoped Christian music could actually be cool. Apparently it’s not a financial decision either, which makes the whole thing even stranger.

Unfortunately that doesn’t leave us with much. There’s Essential Records, the young upstart that somehow snagged all the cool bands, Caedmon’s Call, Third Day, Jars of Clay, and then keeps throwing out these so-so money bands that are only following the crowd (read: FFH and True Vibe). There’s Forefront Records, the decidedly younger version of every Nashville CCM-label. Everything they release seems to have a CCM-friendliness, with the exception of those who’ve been around to earn the right to say what they want — dc Talk. Of course there’s always the Tooth and Nail conglomerate, which includes the mainstream friendly BEC, the rap/hip-hop Uprok, and the loud SolidState. Of course Tooth and Nail bands are consistently underground favorites that seem to languish around with a few hits here, a few flops there. The BEC bands usually have the most potential lately they haven’t seemed to garner much mainstream attention.

Alas. Sometimes you need to vent and long for days gone by.