Last week (back here), I posted about musician / worship leader Lenny Smith. Today, I’d like to let you hear from him yourself, with an interview he was kind enough to give over e-mail.
The Blah Blah: Who are you, in as many words and descriptives as you’d like to use?
Lenny Smith: I AM the object of my Father’s love. I AM the light of the world. I AM the salt of the earth. I AM fulfilling all my destiny. I AM the king’s delight. (I could go on and on!)
TBB: Describe your music, for those who’ve never heard it?
LS: I do folk, soft rock, and the like. I try to write melodies, those things they had back in the 50’s. I like lyrics about things, like swaying trees, singing birds, and running streams. I don’t like to write about “Christian” concepts like: salvation, judgement, punishment, redemption. Concepts should be in theology books, not songs. Poetry should be in songs.
TBB: So you’re the father of the Danielson Famile. Explain yourself. No, really, you must have some interesting stories about the kids growing up. Any memories in particular come to mind?
LS: I remember once Daniel, as a very young boy, getting off the bus in front of our house and coming in the front door with his eyes popping out of his head. He looked terrified and was pointing to his throat. He had swallowed a gob-stopper! We all thought it was stuck in his throat and we took him to the emergency room. It turned out that it had passed on down his throat during the ride there. We were much relieved.
Not too long ago, my three sons, Daniel, David, and Andrew, and I went kayaking down the Mullica River in the Pine Barrens in South Jersey. We had a blast! We had dinner at a restaurant right on the river (I had trout). We got back in the river and had to negotiate under a fallen tree. Andrew said he would go first, being courageous, as he is. The flow of the water was fast, so he had to be careful. His kayak shot under the tree, but a branch caught his jacket and pulled him right out of the kayak and dropped him in the stream, with the kayak flying down the river. Andrew’s face turned red, but it could have happened to anyone. I bought him a coffee later.
TBB: About your kids… which one is your favorite? Just kidding. What I meant was, what do you like about each of them?
LS: My wife and I feel we accomplished being even-handed with our kids. I’ve never felt that they think one or the other is our favorite. I like Daniel’s creativity, Rachel’s boldness of expressing herself, Megan’s gracefulness, David’s courage, and Andrew’s wisdom. I also like that they visit us and seem to enjoy us and don’t hate us.
TBB: As a father of 2 (and soon 3) myself, I’m always looking for wise advice from parents who’ve been through it all already. What piece of wisdom would you give to a young father?
LS: The job of husband and father is an impossible job but we have some hope of doing it right. My advice: EVERY morning, get up early and read your scriptures for 30 mins. and play your guitar and sing songs to the Lord. Do it even on Sunday, because it might not happen well at church. Your wife and kids will do well under the branches of that tree.
TBB: In an e-mail, when I asked if you wouldn’t mind doing an interview, you mentioned that you were getting a reputation for being “somewhere out there.” What’s that all about?
LS: Since I was about 14 I have studied the Bible and spiritual matters. God, over the years, has shown me some things. Some of these things people (leaders) do not want to hear. Rather than engage in discussion and debate, church leaders often become threatened and go on the attack. I have strong opinions about the “christian” music industry, about the “rapture,” about the “second coming,” about worshiping the Father, rather than worshiping Jesus, about many traditional interpretations of Scriptures, and about the fact the Jesus was not even a Christian, but a Jew. Often, discussions and considerations can advance our understanding of things. Jesus said the Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth. I think He will.
TBB: How did you start doing music?
LS: At about 10 years old, I had a period of depression. I had a stack of about 10 singles and I used to play them on the record player, over and over. That was the beginning of my love of music and songs. During high school in the late 50’s I went to dances twice a week. Bill Haley and the Comets, Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Dion And the Belmonts, Connie Francis and others fired us up and, really, I would have to say we were smitten by these records. In 1960, I entered the seminary to study for the priesthood. I left my girlfriend behind and went off. I was so lonely I picked up a guitar and a fellow seminarian taught me to play. We used to play through a 12″ stack of sheet music from the 50’s almost every night after dinner. Later, I wrote my first folk-mass song: “The New Jerusalem.” Then I wrote another 40 songs before God gave me “Our God Reigns.” I’ve written another 100 since then.
TBB: Are you still leading worship at churches?
LS: No. I sing in coffee houses and clubs. Churches don’t call on me to sing.
TBB: To be honest, I’m pretty bored with most modern worship music. As a guy who’s written a zillion worship songs, what’s your opinion? What’s good? What needs to be changed?
LS: See the attached for this one. (Editor’s Note: we’ll post this later this week. It was too good to chop out a few phrases.)
TBB: Describe your process of writing songs. Where do most of your lyrics come from?
LS: For most of my songs I was inspired by some phrase in Scripture and I would then expand from there. But, lately, I AM starting from nuggets of ideas and phrases I just hear.
TBB: Which one of your songs is your favorite? Why?
LS: Whichever song I AM writing is my favorite, for some reason. My current favorite is “Welcome To The End Of The World.”
TBB: I assume you consider yourself to be a Christian. Can you describe the process God used to bring you to Himself?
LS: I had a real spiritual experience of some kind at about 10, sitting in a Sunday school class with about 20 kids. The teacher was talking about Jesus and the Father’s love for us and I just had this thing where my heart got all full and I was crying and was just so happy. Later, in 1969, I was baptized in the Holy Spirit. I couldn’t walk for about an hour. I saw a bright light for about 15 minutes and later that night I got woken-up by the sound of a choir of millions, which I heard for about 5 minutes, until I asked it to go away. (Ed: OK, I want that. My own experience wasn’t quite as dynamic.)
TBB: If you could have any one of your songs heard throughout the world, which would you pick?
LS: Right now I would say: “Welcome To The End Of The World.”
TBB: I’m not sure exactly what to think of the whole “Christian music” thing. As a man who’s been around the scene in one form or another for years, what do you make of the whole thing?
LS: I don’t believe there is such a thing as a Christian music scene. There probably are musicians who are Christians, but, for sure, they are earthlings first. I think they should stop huddling together for support and get out into the marketplace, the coffee houses and the clubs. They should stop being so afraid of the sinners. They are sinners too. Stop being so afraid of hearing cursing and seeing people drink beer. They should stop singing about Jesus and just try to become more like him. Even Jesus was not about Jesus.
TBB: You probably run into a lot of new Christian artists, between New Jerusalem Music and your kids – who are some we should check out?
LS: I would say to check out : I Was A King, Cryptacize, Dan Zimmerman, Serena-Manish, Wovenhand, Espers, Canadian Invasion, John Francis, My Brightest Diamond, to name a few.
TBB: Any final thoughts?
LS: I would love to see the young musicians study literature and poetry to help them learn how to write inspired lyrics. I would love to see them learn how to write melodies with one finger on the piano and THEN go after the chords, rather than press melodies into chord patterns. I would love to see the young artists go forth… into the coffee houses and bookstores and clubs and get into the action. Sure they are going to get hurt and disappointed and have some rejection and some fans and some bad experiences and some good ones. Join the club! We are not here to huddle together and wait for someone to come and save us. We are here to get in the game, the real game, not make our own game that just imitates the real game. The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it! The people who told us that Adam gave Satan the world are dead wrong. We are supposed to go and take back what is God’s… and it’s all His: the fashion world, the dance world, the music world, the financial world, the world of creative writing, politics, energy, you name it. How did we become such cowards? We should be afraid of nothing! With what we have in us we can do anything at all! Well, I have tired of my own voice.
… All I have to say is: Preach it, Lenny Smith! Thank you for the awesome interview. I love hearing people with some fire in their bones, and I couldn’t agree more with what he said. Enough playing for Christian audiences who already know God – we’ve gotta get out there and bring light to the darkness!