CCM: What’s the primary difference when writing a song with vocals and then dropping them versus knowing it will be instrumental?
OW: I’m a songwriter and artist but I’m also a mixer. I mix people’s music and the essence of that is you’re setting levels and basically grabbing the listener so they can be pulled into something. What’s funny about mixing is that you’re constantly trying to find the center. Typically with a vocal piece, the vocal is the center of the music. When I say center, I don’t just mean metaphorically but the actual center between the left and right speakers. So when you pull out a vocal, it’s pulling out the center. A song that was intended to have vocals that doesn’t anymore lacks that center. So these instrumental pieces have a center that’s there from the beginning. So there’s the biggest difference I think.
CCM: When you’re dealing with instrumentals, is it hard to pin down a name?
OW: It’s a very different process. When I write songs with lyrics, I’m basically just trying to figure out what someone would call the song if they didn’t know the name of it. That’s usually the best title even though people love to come up with tricky names. Just from a marketing standpoint, it’s best to go with what the song points to most, lyrically. With other abstract, non-lyrical songs, often I will randomly pull the first word that comes to my mind when I think of the idea for the song. If the song feels green to me, I’ll title it “Green.” Maybe that actual word impacts how I create the song. It’s all an organic process.
CCM: Where did Union come from?
OW: It came halfway through the album from a song I named “Union.” It happens for me a lot subconsciously where I realize later there’s a deeper meaning to something. Union represents a theme that can be found in many religions, especially Eastern religions, that is becoming one with nature or one with the abyss of life—however they would describe it. For me, being a person who believes in God and in being His beloved son, being His child, I began to explore what “union” meant with him. It’s not being able to distinguish between different parts, but having one and the same heart.
CCM: Were you surprised by what comes out when you write in this new way?
OW: I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I think there are a couple reasons why that is. I typically record my albums and then move on to the next album. I don’t sit and listen. Once I’m done, I don’t want to hear it again. This time around, however, I actually enjoyed listening to my own music. That sounds really strange, but the reason why I think I can enjoy it is that my vocals weren’t there. I didn’t have to think about those or some lyrics I wrote.
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