Influences: Sandra McCracken & Jordan Brooke Hamlin

I appreciate when other artists give us glimpses into the influences that undergird the work they're making, so I've decided to periodically offer you those glimpses of the things that comprise my creative process. Hope it's interesting or helpful to you in some way!

I can't deny the immense influence Sandra McCracken has had on my music and my development as an artist––and as a person for that matter. For almost 10 years now, I've followed her career closely and have gleaned wisdom, solace, challenge, and courage at each turn. I'm indebted and surely grateful to Sandra for all she's shared with us. Now in her mid-late 30s, Sandra is only making better and better work, and that is such a sign of hope to me as I go forward into the next decade of art-making and sharing. In fact, I thought just the other day that I have no idea how she'll top her last record, "Desire Like Dynamite," but the momentum would suggest that she will, and I can't wait to hear whatever form the next record takes.

Sandra is a calm, gentle presence (I've had the slightly-intimidating privilege of meeting her) with a subtle strength and energy that seems to pulse under the surface and come forth so clearly in the depth and richness of her songs. I appreciate the honesty and innovation that she's been brave enough to bring to the table. It's a gift to all of us who get to receive it. If you haven't heard Sandra's work, or if you have and are ready for more, check out the video above! I found it recently on Vimeo, and it's a high-quality, 25-minute concert documentary complete with live song performances and brief interviews in between.

Jordan Brooke Hamlin backs Sandra in the video. Jordan has also been a huge influence of mine, as she not only produces records and plays auxiliary instruments/vocals with numerous artists, but also does visual art & graphic design for album covers and other projects. Charting her growth as a successful multimedia artist has been quite empowering to me. I'd love to meet her and pick her brain someday.

In addition to the music, Sandra does some writing for the Art House America blog. Check out her latest piece here. Sandra's artist bio on the blog reads as follows:

Sandra McCracken is a singer, songwriter, and producer from Nashville, TN. Over the course of eight critically acclaimed studio albums, Sandra has developed a body of work that encompasses hook-driven melodic pop, No Depression-style Americana, contemporary recastings of classic hymns, and even children’s music as part of the Nashville alt-folk super-group Rain For Roots. Her music has been featured on ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy; her 2013 solo record, Desire Like Dynamite, charted as one of Billboard’s Top 50 Heatseekers; and she is currently at work on a new album for 2014.
— Art House America Blog

Sandra is also a part of A Rocha international's work in Nashville––a community seeking to integrate faith, creation care and hospitality.

Thanks for reading! (And hopefully for listening/watching the video;)

sd.

PLAY!

Who knew that we learn empathy, trust, irony, and problem solving through play — something the dictionary defines as “pleasurable and apparently purposeless activity.” Dr. Stuart Brown suggests that the rough-and-tumble play of children actually prevents violent behavior, and that play can grow human talents and character across a lifetime. Play, as he studies it, is an indispensable part of being human.
— (On Being with Krista Tippet: June 19th, 2014)
Design by Sarah Duet, as a result of sitting down to the computer for some "play time"

Design by Sarah Duet, as a result of sitting down to the computer for some "play time"

I love play...all kinds: imaginative, competitive, group, and solitary. That said, as I've gotten older, I often find myself avoiding opportunities to play. Sometimes that's probably due to the influence of our highly utilitarian culture that glorifies work and achievement while compartmentalizing play as a thing for children only...for adults it's "wasting time." And sometimes that's honestly due to a fear of looking ridiculous in front of peers or getting too heated in a competitive moment and losing control of my emotions. Neither of these is a legitimate reason to sacrifice play and all it's benefits, and I thank Dr. Stuart Brown for reminding me of that. 

I listened to this interview last week and shortly thereafter found myself at a party where a game was introduced. I felt the normal tug to find an excuse to exit, but then remembered this and decided to stay and give it a shot. I'm grateful I did and can now strongly recommend the game Mafia to you and yours if you're looking for a good party game anytime soon...

Listen to the interview below or at OnBeing.org.