Co-writing with kids

Apropos our discussion of finding the right octane betweeen youth and experience for established talent, Commenter Jim2 highlights the money quote from the oracle Russ Breimeier about the new Michael W. Smith album:

What happened? It probably stems from Smith’s longtime passion for investing in fresh, young talent. In addition to a couple tracks co-written with his kids, he relies on Leeland Mooring (Leeland) for writing/co-writing more than 60 percent of the album. The teenage talent showed much promise on his debut, but he’s still an unproven 18-year-old, and Smith has essentially handed him the keys to his career’s Corvette. No one at that age is capable of carrying a high-profile veteran to the satisfaction of fans.

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  1. CVH wrote:

    Funny how several threads will run by that I enjoy reading but have no input on, then a couple in a row will prompt a response.

    I happen to know Russ; he’s a regular contributor to our network programming. We discussed MWS’s new album at length when it was released last fall and I’d have to say I completely agreed with his analysis. Leeland Mooring is a talented young guy but that’s just it, he’s a young guy. I’m not sure what kind of career crisis Smith felt he was in; he’s gone from being a legitimate Christian pop musician to riding the wave of praise and worship music for his last few albums. ‘Stand’ was supposed to be a major release but I’m not sure pairing with Leeland was a smart creative move. On the positive side, the vocals were recorded dry and left unprocessed for the most part which was refreshing; on the negative side, co-writing with an 18 year-old did not result in lyrical content that (IMHO) reflects where Smitty is at in his life or career. The fact that the project was cut in like 45 days may have also contributed. (I realize that’s a long time compared to some projects but not for MWS).

    I think Smith is in a similar position with another CCM artist, Steven Curtis Chapman, who’s also working on a new project with the same producer, Matt Bronleewe. They’re both at just-past midpoint in their careers and need to try and remain true to their artistic character and create a saleable product, all in the context of determining which musical and lyrical direction to go in. Despite his enthusiasm for his friend Mooring, I think Smitty chose poorly. I hope SCS does better with his project.

    I’m not familiar with any SG artists who are in a similar situation but I’m sure it’s a dilemma many face. There are positive elements that youthfulness can bring to an artist or group. But at the same time, the benefits that come from learning hard lessons only experience can teach, benefits like wisdom and perspective and the unhurriedness that maturity brings, are almost always the domain of those who are older. In the important areas of the biz, I would tend to defer to the latter.

  2. Practical Fellow wrote:

    I’m 32 years old for a few more months this year and I must be turning into an old fogie. Because it’s hard to imagine that many 18 year old artists are going to create music that connects with my stage of life: working, parenting, marriage, aging parents, etc.

    Maybe Smitty’s just mentoring (and good for him if he is), but I suspect he’s really feeling the pressure to be relevant to the high school and college crowd. His instrumental record and the two worship albums were my favorite MWS recordings to date. Why does the artistic world have to revolve around insecure, superficial youth culture?

    It wouldn’t be so horrible if an artist’s music matured with their age and their core audience. I’m still buying music - give me something to purchase that says something deeper and grown up.

  3. Daniel J. Mount wrote:

    Practical Fellow,

    If you’re looking for something deeper and more grown up than the CCM youth culture, check out Southern Gospel. ;)

  4. Practical Fellow wrote:

    Well played, Daniel J. Mount. A little hateful… but well played. :)

  5. CG wrote:

    Daniel J. Mount wrote:

    “Practical Fellow,

    If you’re looking for something deeper and more grown up than the CCM youth culture, check out Southern Gospel.”

    He shoots! He scores!

  6. Payton wrote:

    What I find so funny about this, is that these so-called “kids” that everyone thinks don’t have the quality or talent to be collaborating with some of the older artists, are the very “kids” that are driving the entire CCM industry right now…. They must have some talent, and must be doing something right, or else they wouldn’t have careers themselves. The young bands make up a larger percentage of CCM than your Adult Comtemporary 45-year old soloists. My take is that these older artists (ex.Michael W. Smith) know they are on the downhill slope of their career, and they better get some young blood in there to keep things fresh. I find it a very smart move.

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