The Evolution of Derek Webb
Beliefnet gets personal with the singer/songwriter about what he learned from making 'Feedback'.
Q. Your album Feedback -- which is an instrumental interpretation of the Lord's Prayer -- is something that I’m not sure people were expecting. Speaking of the word feedback, were you concerned about the response? When people think of worship, they might not be thinking about what you have here.
A. Not at all did I consider anyone’s reaction. The reason is that I, in the last four or five years, have had a real shift in my creative framework. It puts me in a place where that’s not even a consideration for me. It used to be about the product. Now, the entire thing to me now is the process. I’m going to spend the next six months of my life making this. Who do I want to make it with? What do I want to learn in order to be able to make it? What new tools do I want to learn to enable me to make it? When it came to Feedback, this ethic was fully in place when it came time to make this album. I thought, I don’t know anything about instrumental music; that will be a real challenge and that sounds fun. I don’t know a lot about the Lord’s Prayer, so I’d love to dive into that. By the time it was done, the decisions were made that led to the album. So, ‘What is the product going to look like?’ Well, who cares? Who knows? ‘Do you think anyone’s going to buy it or want to listen to it?’ I don’t know. I don’t want to spend my life thinking about things like that. I want to spend my life really loving and enjoying the process.
Q. What did you learn from the process?
A. There are only nine lines in the prayer. We thought we’ll compose a song for each line. That’s nine songs that seem like a pretty consumable piece of music. I don’t want to overwhelm people with some epic. The Lord’s Prayer has three major sections, so the way we wanted to write it, it really worked to compose it in the three movements. I really don’t know that much about the Lord’s Prayer, so I literally spent six months researching and studying before I recorded a note of music. Honestly, the best part about it was how the prayer itself really enabled the creative process.
I remember the first week I spent working on the record. I had it up on my whiteboard. Here are the nine songs, and here’s how I’m going to divide it up: 'Hallowed be Thy name' or 'Our Father in Heaven'. There is so much communicated in that line. Every word of it is significant. 'Our Father' means it’s not an individual, private personal thing. It’s corporate. He’s not my father. He’s not your father. He’s our father. Father is an intimate term. He’s not like a deity. He is a deity, but He’s being addressed intimately here. He’s my father. He’s close, but He’s in Heaven. He’s different. He’s other. He’s intimate, yet He’s transcendent. You put all the words together and there’s even more. How in the world do you communicate that in nothing but rhythm and melodic elements and no words?
I would meditate, stare at my speakers and try to figure out what should be coming out. The thing that eventually pulled me through was the prayer itself. It was coming into the studio and saying, "I don’t know what I should be doing. I need God to provide for me the tools just to be able to get through this day." The process of getting in over my head, which I consider real spiritual discipline, really threw me onto the prayer itself. "I need only what I need for right now. If it shows up, I’ll be grateful, and if not then, Your will be done." It’s incredible how the whole thing was a worship experience for me personally, because of the fact that the record got made at all. Going to God with a daily, hourly dependence, altering the context of His will being done and not mine and receiving whatever He gives. This record is what He gave me.
Feedback by Derek Webb