There are countless “lessons” I can take away from the process of creating Cataracts with Levi.
It was the most difficult project I have ever worked on. I would venture to say it was for Levi, as well.
As I sit back and listen to the finished product now, I can’t help but wonder, “Why was it so difficult? What was going on that made this so challenging to create?”
Levi and I were in a different creative space when we wrote our last record, Correspondence (a fiction).
It seemed as if the words poured out of Levi, and the music I was creating would come right on time — every single time.
Perfect, clean, neat and tidy.
Cataracts was not as easy.
The themes we were wanting to address weren’t as clean-cut or neat.
Levi struggled to write for a long time. I struggled to write the music for even longer. I wish those happened at same time, but alas: writer’s block is no friend of efficiency.
Anyway, as a writer and a creative, I kept wanting all these neat and tidy lines to guide us to our end. When we wrote Correspondence, the record came together in a way that felt “contained” or “ready.” I wanted that kind of clarity — that roadmap. Something that was going to say, “You’re going the right way! Great job! This album is so good! Keep doing that!”
It never came.
In a way, it still hasn’t come.
Making this album was… ugly.
I can’t think of a more accurate word for it.
The hard conversations.
The weird ideas.
The countless blown deadlines.
The creative droughts.
The uncertainty of it all.
How people might take it.
It was messy, uncomfortable and flat out awkward at times.
One day, Levi and I met up to work on Cataracts. I forgot what he said exactly, but it was something like, “I’ve been thinking… This can be anything we want it to be. It doesn’t have to hit twelve tracks to be a full album. And it doesn’t have to ‘live up’ to the experiences we had with Correspondence. It needs to be it’s own thing.”
It feels dumb even writing that. Like, “Okay…? So you guys decided that this album should be it’s own thing…”
I get that it might seem simple on the surface — like a “duh!” moment. But we had psyched ourselves out so bad before then, playing a game of comparisons…
It was like the freedom we needed to keep laboring on these songs.
We actually laughed out loud that day about it. For some reason, we finally felt it permissible to let this album be wild. To let it be what it was always meant to be.
To let it be ugly.
We finished the record.
We wrote The Fort Lauderdale Five from scratch, and that might be our best song to date. The creative drought went away and we got the damn thing done.
When it comes to making honest work, you have to be honest about where you are at with it, too.
We kept wanting Cataracts to be something it wasn’t, and the moment we accepted it for what it was — it soared.
I also learned a valuable lesson about God.
It’s one of those “I’ve always known but never actually known” kind of things.
He doesn’t only love things that are neat or tidy or well-kept.
God loves ugly, too.