We recently sat down with three members of the Planetshakers band to talk about songwriting, the creative process and writing tips. Joth Hunt, BJ Pridham, and Andy Harrison walk us through specific direction from each of their own experiences. We hope this encourages emerging songwriters in this community!
1. When writing a song, can you deconstruct your process?
Joth Hunt: The process of writing a song happens in many ways for me. But one thing that is so important for me is that I am feeling it. Music has a great ability to move people. If the song I am writing is not in a place that it moves me, then I keep searching for another lyric or melody or chord till it gets to that place.
BJ Pridham: If you've boiled songwriting down to a process I'd say it's time to get back in the prayer closet. I don't think I can boil it down to specifics. I play a piano and tell God I love Him. It's simply me and Jesus and I don't want to complicate it more than that.
Andy Harrison: For me, there isn’t really much of a process. Songs have come in a variety of ways and times. Some of them have come driving in the car - a melody “falls” into my mind and some words seem to come with them. Once I allow my mind to flow with it - I may pick up on a particular theme or flavour and begin to think of further lyrics that fit that. On these occasions songs seem to flow pretty easily. Other times I will just get one particular phrase or section and when I try and pursue the rest of the song nothing seems to flow. Sometimes those sections just need time to develop and I will get the other parts of the song later on. Whatever the case - once I feel like I have the song nearly complete I will show it to our team and we will see if it translates to them immediately without much explanation. If they are feeling too, then we pursue it as a team, do a demo and put some flesh on the skeleton.
2. How do you define a successful song?
Joth Hunt: When the song achieves the purpose for which it was written. All of our songs are written to bring God glory. So that is success. It doesn't matter how many people sing them or how many albums we sell. If God is getting the glory then that = success.
BJ Pridham: I don't really know to be honest. All I do is make myself available to Holy Spirit, put the songs together and submit them to my senior pastors. They are the best gauge on anointing and relevance for the season the church is in.
Andy Harrison: How we judge the success of a song depends on the context for which we are writing. My context within Planetshakers is to lead people corporately into an encounter with God and release what God is saying to our church and the church globally. A successful song for me is one that communicates those things simply and carries the touch of God on it when it is sung/played.
3. Give emerging songwriters your best 3 tips?
Joth: We end up saying the same things a lot in our songs, but try and find a NEW way of saying the same thing. try using, Dictionary, Thesaurus, and Rhyme-zone in your writing process.
Write unto the Lord for no other reason than you want to love on Him and praise Him.
BJ: Do the best with what you have. Chase the anointing by staying dependent God for everything. Submit everything you do to your pastors.
Andy: 1. Get planted in a local church and begin writing out of what God is doing there and doing in your life. 2. Encounter God regularly. We express out of our inspiration - so let our inspiration be our real-life experiences with God. 3. Write “for someone” - don’t just let your song be a personal expression - but let them be an expression on behalf of people. These are the songs people relate to and connect with - when they feel like they have put into words and song what they didn’t know how to express themselves.
4. For independent writers, how can they get their songs noticed/ published?
Joth: Doing a good demo / recording is very important. It's about how your song is packaged. Spend the time and money and getting it sounding the best it can!
BJ: I've never really chased that so I don't really know? I'm born to serve Gods people (the church) with song whether the songs get noticed by a label or not. It's not the motivating factor. Peoples transformation in the presence of God is. I guess if you were looking for a creative outlet there's so many avenues these days with social media and youtube etc.
5. Do you have any personal stories about a song that you didn’t think would work but went on to have significant impact?
Joth: For me I would have to say Nothing Is Impossible. Ps Russell (founder of Planetshakers) was speaking one weekend about faith and he wanted a song for the weekend. So I sat down and came up with the song in about 20 min, literally! I had no idea this song would be sung all around the world touching many people and helping them lift their faith to believe for the "impossible".
BJ: Haha all of them. Quite literally... all of them.
Andy: To be honest, most songs I thought wouldn’t work didn’t for a reason - the melody, the lyrics, the phrasing etc… it’s important to identify what didn’t work so you can learn from it. I have more stories about songs or parts of songs that I thought were more just personal things until someone else heard it and recognized the touch of God on it.
BJ and I wrote a song called Made To Worship and it all came about because I was showing him some song ideas one morning that I wanted to pursue. He gave me some feedback and I was going to keep working on them but nothing particularly caught either of our attention. As I was about to leave, I jumped back on the keys and sung him the first few lines of what became the first verse and pre-chorus of the song. It was a last minute thought because it was an underdeveloped idea that just came from a moment of worship the night before. Immediately when I played it - he got excited and realized there was something on it. He changed a few chords on the spot and then said something along the lines of, “let me work on this… there’s something here…” and a few hours later we had the song. One idea sparked something in him/resonated with him and led to the full expression.
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Joth Hunt | Lead Vocalist and Lead Guitarist
I grew up in a very musical family. It was what I wanted to do with my life. Music. I started playing Piano, drums and guitar at the age of 7. I understood from a very early age that God had given the gift of music and I wanted to use that gift for him. As a young boy going to Planetshakers conferences I started to dream how God could use my gift to touch the earth. Starting to learn how to record music at the age of 14, i fell in love with producing music. Now here I am producing the Planetshakers albums. The dreams God put in my heart are coming to pass.
BJ Pridham | Lead Vocalist
I’m honored to be the Worship Pastor of Planetshakers Church, based in Melbourne, Australia. Blessed with a music team of a few hundred strong across four local campuses, I’m passionate about seeing people step into their God-given calling by stewarding their gifts and serving the house of God. Having the privilege to write a number of Planetshakers songs, it’s my greatest desire that people would have their own personal encounter with God and experience His presence and goodness on a deeper level.
Andy Harrison | Drummer
Born in Hobart Tasmania, I grew up with a passion for drumming, starting lessons at 6 years of age and drumming in my local church band soon after. As a teenager I attended Planetshakers Conferences and it was here that I significantly encountered God – receiving a call for ministry. In 2006 I moved to Planetshakers Church, Melbourne to study at Bible College and serve in the youth and music teams. I am now the Planetshakers Drummer and Youth Pastor and have a passion and heart for worship and to see the next generation encounter Jesus.
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