The power of story. The beauty of community. Those, I would say, encapsulate the dominant themes and conversations from the initial Hutchmoot gathering. Both are sexy. Both require work.
The common bond between so many convening around the Rabbit Room these days is a love for story and a feeling that God has given them a story to tell in the process. I met several burgeoning songwriters and authors over the weekend who mentioned they felt empowered to create what was within them. The community at Hutchmoot provided the impetus needed for these works waiting to be brought to life. And that’s a wonderful thing to be celebrated.
But Hutchmoot is temporary. And the Rabbit Room is digital. We have certainly found inspiration and encouragement to this point (or else we wouldn’t be here), but a longing emerged from those present at Church of the Redeemer for a deeper level of artistic community. The friendships between various songwriters and authors were highlighted and then prodded, “How do I form what you have formed?”
The underlying tension is that everyone in the room recognized that the songwriters pushed one another to be better. Pete and Andrew Peterson both said they shared their books with one another throughout their drafts. Like-minded artists pushing one another deeper into the excellence of their craft, of their own story, is what so many longed for.
I spent the Sunday night after Hutchmoot in the Nashville area before heading home catching a Griffin House concert. He’s a Nashville songwriter who’s been able to ply his trade for a decade or so and he shared a new song he said was birthed in a community group. It was my favorite of the songs he revealed that night. Just a few weeks prior, Griffin gave us an interview for a music website I founded a few years ago. In it, he speaks of this community and the power of it in his own life:
“I just joined this songwriting group with Bob Schneider and some other writers – right now Sarah and Sean from Nickel Creek are in it – and we all get together and write, sending in a song every week based on a prompt we’re given … we have to turn one in every week, it keeps us going. I’ve written my entire new record from that process. I’ve been amazed just how much having a prompt, an assignment, can help keep you focused.”
I was amazed this last weekend at the need for homework and a community that will push me to complete it. It’s one thing to have a story in your head. That’s the romantic part. The grist mill of deadlines is the covenant relationship you make with that story. We’re not typically given to relationships so intense and demanding. But it’s the beauty of community that draws us to marry our story and, ultimately, introduce it to the world.
Matt Conner is a freelance writer and music journalist. As the founding pastor of The Mercy House, he led a church community for more than six years in intense community development across racial and socio-economic lines. As a writer, he’s interviewed thousands of musicians for multiple print and web-based publications.