Welcome to Part Two of my interview with Ginny Owens on the intersection of faith and art. Did you miss Part One? Read it here.
What is your songwriting process like?
Usually, there’s some phrase of a lyric that will come with a melody. It helps to have a lyric with which to create your melody and you just put a lot of silly words in it, and then later you go back and spend hours, days, years reshaping the lyric to make it say what you want it to say, and sometimes that means there needs to be a little melody change. I usually start with a little bit of melody and a lyric, and when I write them down in my little idea book, they’re usually a concept, not an actual lyric.
Obviously, your faith informs your work. What are some of your daily habits with God?
In the morning I have about 45 minutes (it’s supposed to be 25 minutes, but once I get my coffee I start thinking about my day and get so unfocused; I have to kind of hang out with God until I can focus my brain). I try to do guided prayer time; I’ll write down things I want to thank God for, or things I want to praise Him for. I love Puritan prayers – I’ll pray through liturgical stuff just to get some new words.
Sometimes I’ll take a few verses of scripture and break it down. I like to fire through a passage and go, ‘ok that was good, I learned some good things there,’ and then I move on, so I try to take a few verses and really break them down and discover what God is saying to me in that passage. And then I try to read a Psalm every day. There’s a little book that Tim Keller wrote called The Songs of Jesus; really short devotionals through the Psalms.
It’s good to have a method to the chaos.
There are also several verses I read at the beginning of my prayer time every day, because I want to remember them. I like Galatians 6:9 a lot – the deepening of our faith means that we have to keep pursuing those things. In our culture, we live in the fast lane. We’re afraid of missing out, so we take advantage of every opportunity and we live for the highs of life.
As a musician, I learned early on to jump from one high to another. Things move so fast. It’s slower than it was, but even now it’s easy to just run from meeting to meeting and let the rest of your life fall apart. I have a really long to-do list, so I’m making space for the mundane. It’s gotten easier but it’s still torturous. And to just keep plugging away at things, like relationships that can be challenging and songs that can be challenging, and being patient with the songs.
What about the pressure for commercial success? How do you balance that with writing honestly?
I don’t think there is an answer to that; I think you just plow ahead and you pray. I really don’t know what else you can do. For me, if I feel like something’s wrong in a songwriting session, and I’m in a situation where I don’t feel good about it, I just have to go with my gut. You can’t think too much about it. I have to pray and trust that God will take care of me and provide for me. I also have to ask others questions about what they think about what I’m doing, and I keep accountable to people I can trust.
To be continued in Part Three.