Posted by Stu G on 19 January 2015

We asked Stu G - the man who brought Radiohead guitars to the church and raised the songwriting bar - to share the very best advice that he’s ever received. He couldn’t stick to one story though, so this is a two-parter. Tune up, tuck in and enjoy…

I really love gear… cables and pedals and LEDs and speakers and dials things that twist and flick, tweak and manipulate. But the first piece of advice that comes into my mind doesn’t involve electronics or strings, or directly making music…

It came during the cultural shift from being in a band to being a freelancer. It was a huge one. Moving across the seas and all that being in a foreign country involves, not just for me but for my family also, just made it all the more daunting.

As a typical artist I’m filled with ideals and ideas but lack self-belief at times. We don’t want to compromise our artistic integrity but we need to pay bills.

How do we do that?

I was finding a disconnect between what I was doing to make ends meet and what I thought I really wanted to create and be involved in.

I was spending a lot of energy second guessing myself and enforcing some of the dualities and polarization that I really don’t believe in. Things like:

Sacred v secular

Cool v not cool

On one of my regular visits to lead the music at a church in Grand Rapids (this would have been  in 2010) I was talking to the pastor over lunch and really laying this convo out there, being honest about how certain opportunities were making me feel pulled in two directions. I wanted to please the cool crowd and only make music that would inspire them, and at the same time be offered to play for some situations that would make me cringe a bit. Perhaps it was a political vibe or pushing some kind of theology that I wasn’t comfortable with or maybe even they just wanted me to play like Edge again for the 4th day straight.

The pastor’s advice was this:

“It’s awesome that you get called to play guitar and get paid for it. Thousands would love to be in your shoes. So be yourself truly, and while you’re doing that, help those you work for be fully who they are too. Serve them and their “thing”. Be happy for them, it takes all sorts. Don’t fight yourself… you’ll find some peace in that.”

This really helped me settle down and get on with my life and work.

I remember these words not only when the phone rings and an offer comes, but whenever I’m faced with a song or a session that I’m not entirely sure what to play.

What do I need to play to help the song be what it is?

In a worship team, what do I need to play (or leave out) to help get under the congregation and lift up their song?

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