Ever ask yourself why we make music? What's the point? What's the purpose of music? I think I'm more prepared to tackle this question than I've ever been in my life, and it's because I haven't been making music lately.
It's been a weird year, 2017. Not a bad one by any stretch, just weird. 2009, I left school and went full-time touring with a band. 2011, I officially dropped out. 2012, I left the road and went part-time with Apple, part-time in a recording studio, and played with a local band on the weekends.
In 2013, I went full-time with the recording studio and quit Apple. 2014, I left the studio and went full-time with Apple, working from home, on a dev team. I guess I couldn't make up my mind.
But from 2014 to today, I've only been playing the guitar when I can—every other weekend or so—and I've spent the majority of my time climbing that corporate ladder. In order to get to the top, you've got to work weekends. Or so they told me.
In the last few years I've played with a gospel/R&B group, a country band, a pair of singer-songwriters, and I've played in three churches as a guitarist for-hire. I've continued to play DNOWs and youth conferences and marriage retreats and weekly worship services.
But since leaving full-time music in 2012, I've always wanted to go back. All these years of networking, applying and interviewing, seizing every opportunity that comes my way in the corporate world—sure, I've been able to play the guitar and play out, but I'm always wrestling with the full-time job that takes priority.
Let's call this time my wandering in the desert. It's no 40 years and I'm no Moses, but what I see in the story of the Israelites wandering in the desert is that God often uses dry spells, wandering, and confusion to teach us valuable lessons.
Have you ever seen that map of all of the places the Israelites roamed? How they were walking in circles around their promised land the whole time? It's a bit silly but it shows that the journey, not the destination, matters most.
Here's a lesson I've learned in this dry spell, about the purpose of music.
I'm learning that I got into music for the people, not the music. I can just about listen to anything. I love music. I love all forms of it, with very few exceptions. But I don't love music for the individual characteristics of a particular genre.
I don't love music for interesting sounds, I didn't get into music for the joy of a good song—I can just as easily be entertained by a podcast or a book. I got into music for the people. I got into it because music is human expression.
And I love music because I love people. That's what I am just realizing now. For the longest time, I tried so hard to be a hotshot guitar slinger. And it's isolating. The competition is fierce, your friends can so quickly become rivals (or at least, I was always jealous of my friends—Dillan, Gid, James, Lance, Matt, Andrew).
In modern music, the guitarist alone can carry so much responsibility. Becoming a guitarist requires networking, and I maybe over-networked, because the presence I built online makes me feel like I am on a pedestal I don't deserve. I don't know how to describe it. Having 6,000 followers on Instagram is a lonely feeling.
I'm finding more and more that I'm in it for the people, the expression of our humanity, and for the shared experiences music offers. Therein lies the purpose of music, to exercise the creative spirit inside us, as we're made in God's image and God is a creator.
It's to express the human experience and to convey human emotion in song. To build community around rhythms we all feel, to carry a message on melodies that resonate with human hearts, to craft a culture one chord at a time. To harmonize and collaborate as co-creators and heirs to this creative spark inside each of us. I think that's the purpose of music.
So I don't want to be this hotshot guitar slinger or guitarist for-hire. I don't wanna fly solo. I want a band. I miss my band. I wish I could time-warp back to 2010 and go back on tour again.