Don Poythress Interviewed on AllAboutWorship.com
We recently got a chance to interview Don Poythress. Don just received a CMA nomination for "Song of the Year" for one of his country songs... "A Little More Country Than That," which Easton Corbin recorded.
Your debut release, "Wash Away", has a distinct contemporary country flavor; however, much of today's modern worship music is dominated by a four-on-the-floor rock sound. Why buck the trend?
You know sometimes as a songwriter I do try to write toward a certain trend in the market to reach certain artists or listeners. But for my project, more than anything, I just wanted to write songs that moved me lyrically and melodically and hope that it connected with people. I love all kinds of music, especially modern worship and country, and I hoped that those influences would come together in a fresh way.
As a successful professional songwriter, you are frequently sought out as a co-writer for both country and Christian artists. What does a typical co-writing session look like for you? Does your approach differ based on the intended audience (country vs. worship)?
Co-writing is an interesting experience. I compare it to blind dating because it can feel so natural or SO awkward! I usually try to spend the first few minutes of a session just getting to know the person, trying to make them feel comfortable and learn their interests. Then we might begin sharing some ideas, lyrical or melodic, or maybe just something we've heard that interested us and wonder if it could be turned into a song idea. The birth of a song is a very mysterious thing. Often I look back after finishing a song and think, ‘How in the world did we get here from there!’ Of course, every session is a little different because every writer brings different strengths to the table. If I'm writing with someone that's an incredible lyric writer I may concentrate more on the melody and let him have the reigns lyrically and the reverse is also true. You learn over time how you write best with certain people.
I usually write for five or six hours and if we haven't finished we will book another session. And, I usually try to write five days a week unless I'm out of town.
Yes, I suppose I do approach writing country and Christian songs a little different. Of course it's the same basic premise: try to start with a great idea. But after that, there are different rules for different genres (all broken at times) that are kept in mind. For instance, every genre has its own language and there's things you can say in Christian music that you couldn't say in country music and the reverse is true. I remember when I first started writing Christian songs with my friend Brian White. I would throw out a line and he would say…I like the thought, but we would say it like this or like that. And, the same would be true when we wrote a country song. He might throw out a line that in Christian music would be fine, but in country music might come across preachy and I would say, “What if we said it like this?”
How do you evaluate a new song, whether one you've written yourself or one presented to you by another artist? What are some common songwriting pitfalls and how do you avoid them?
I consider a song to be good if something UNIQUE was communicated, or if a truth is communicated UNIQUELY. One of the main pitfalls is losing the focus of the idea. It's very easy to say so much that you don't say anything well. You have to settle on your main idea and keep the thread of that idea throughout the song. And, you have to be willing to throw lines away (sometimes good ones) that don't support that idea or that are redundant.
Your lyrics are straightforward and concise, yet avoid being cliché. How do you avoid "wordiness" and still deliver the message?
I suppose the main way is by keeping the main idea focused in your mind as you write. Also, don't feel like every line has to be profound. And I know this may sound very mechanical, but being careful a song is not too long will also teach you to write more concise, for obvious reasons. It's a good exercise to write a lot of songs that are under four minutes, to learn how to communicate an idea in less time.
As a worship leader at Abundant Life Church in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee, how frequently do you lead? Do you play primarily your own music? Which songs are currently "in season" in your congregation?
Yes, I usually lead every weekend I'm in town. I do mix in a few of my own songs, but the majority of songs I use are written by others. "Everlasting God" and "You Never Let Go" have really been ministering to our body lately.
"Wash Away" was released in 2009 and the songs were written from your experiences during the previous year - you've referred to "I Will Bless the Lord At All Times" as your life song for that period. What has life brought you since the release? What is your current life song and when will you be sharing that with us?
Wow, great question! Since the CD came out, I've gotten married and my father passed way, so there has been a lot of change. Jennie Riddle, Tony Wood and I recently wrote a song called "God Is In Control" and that is what I continually have to remind myself of.
A question we ask at the end of every interview...share with us your most embarrassing moment while leading worship?
Ha! I have had a million embarrassing moments! One that comes to mind for some reason was from a service at my church a couple of years back. Every once in a while during worship I will ask the congregation if there's a song they want to do. Well, during this worship time there was a really sweet presence of the Lord and I asked if there was a certain hymn someone might want to hear. An elderly lady named Mrs. Anne waved her hand and yelled out, "How about America the Beautiful!!" I was stunned. Not that I'm not patriotic, but I just wasn't expecting it at that moment. I'm sure I looked like a calf looking at a new gate. Finally, after we all had a good laugh, the piano player kicked it off and we had a beautiful patriotic moment. Gotta be careful what you ask for!!Comment on Facebook Comment on Twitter
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