My 5 Favorite Apps of 2012

I am obviously an Apple addict, currently owning 2 Macs, an iPhone, and iPad. So discussing my favorite software to run on all of them is always a treat. I usually do a Favorite Albums of the Year about this time, but I wanted to add another list this year.

So without further adieu, I introduce:

My Favorite Apps of 2012*

(more…)

Advertisements

Teaching on December 17, 2012

For anyone who doesn’t know, when I’m not making music, I substitute teach in Nashville elementary schools. I genuinely love it, and have thought several times of going into teaching full time. I’m not sure that will ever happen, but I still love subbing.

Friday I was not teaching, and got the news while I was eating lunch. As someone who spends a lot of time at elementary schools (and just as a human being), I was of course saddened and horrified. I had planned on keeping my thoughts to myself regarding the whole event. I don’t want to just be another voice in the crowd.

Yesterday, I was happy to be subbing at my favorite school. When I walked in the door, a parent informed me a prayer vigil was about to start for the Sandy Hook victims. As it began, a 4th grade student prayed for the everyone who was killed Friday by name, including the attacker. I was blown away by the grace a 9 year old girl could show, and just how well she understood what happened. I hurt to see a girl I’ve watched grow from a 2nd grader coming to terms with the world she was growing up in.

When I made my way to my classroom, I found out the teacher I was subbing for had been instructed to come in for a few minutes in the morning talk to her students (at their appropriate level) about what took place at Sandy Hook. Grateful it wasn’t me having to lead this discussion, I sat and listened.

What followed was one of the most difficult scenes I have ever witnessed.

With calm and warmth, the teacher explained a man had broken into a school far away from Nashville, and he harmed some people. Then, after some explaining of things we could do at the school to stay safe, she took questions.

“What exactly did the man do?” a little girl asked.

How this teacher managed to answer the question, I’ll never know. She was able to tell the truth without terrifying children.

She then had to ask them if they were afraid of anything she had just talked about. This was the part that really got me. Every kid raised their hand and shared. Answers ranged from “thunderstorms” from a kid who obviously wasn’t paying attention, to the profoundly sad and yet funny “I’m afraid someone would come do that here and I would die young.”

When I look at the faces of those kids from Connecticut, I see my own sweet, funny students who I’ve grown to love over the last few years. I think about the funny comments their parents won’t get to hear anymore. No more artwork for the refrigerator. No more hugs or excited giggles. It breaks my heart.

It’s so tragic to me the Christmas season will forever be marred for these families. However, I am thankful for the reminders right now of God coming down into this broken world to redeem it. I’m thankful to be surrounded by the hope that this season brings.

Come soon Lord Jesus.

Introducing Embracing the Mess

For a few weeks now, I’ve been posting on this blog in secret. It’s been an experiment to see if this is something that I really want to do, or I feel it is a good fit for me before I started sharing with the world.

But the time has come to release the blog into the wild. If I’m not going to share it, I may as well just write in a journal. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s ok if I don’t keep a perfect schedule. This is about sharing my story, and hopefully having fun.

You may have a few questions about the blog, and I hope to answer them now:

What is Embracing the Mess?
My opening post here gives some details on what the blog is all about and why I’m doing it.

Don’t You Already Have a Blog at craigmcclellan.com?
I do, but to me, it didn’t really work. That website is for my business as a musician. I was blogging there twice a week, but it was difficult consistently creating content that worked for a business site. I am no expert in music. I’m just a guy following his dream, and working hard. It didn’t seem like I had anything useful to contribute to the conversation as a musician. Yet I didn’t want to post personal things there either. Eventually, that blog just became occasional updates on what I’m doing musically. This will be a place where I can tell my story.

How often will you post?
The goal is currently to do 2 posts a week. However, I’m not going to stress myself out over it. This is a hobby for me, not something I am pursuing to advance my career or make a lot of money.

Hopefully each week I’ll write one more serious post, and one more fun post.

I’ve already got 3 posts up on this new blog. Please go check them out, and come back soon.

The Album that Wrecked Me

One of the things I hope to do on this blog is to, on occasion, share music I love.

Today I want introduce you to a record that is easily in the top 5 most influential albums in my life –not necessarily my all-time favorite records, but records that have had a large impact on me either as a musician or as a person.

Andrew Peterson’s “Light for the Lost Boy” is the latter.

This record is about the loss of innocence and coming to terms with the fall of man. While this may seem sad, it takes a beautiful and biblical perspective.

I’ve had a relatively comfortable/easy life. I grew up in the middle class suburbs. Went to church. Never really got into trouble. Never had any real bad things happen to me. I think along the way, it built up a lot of pride in me, as well an inaccurate view of the world.

This year has been an incredibly difficult year. So when it came around, my world was turned upside down. I came face to face with the fall, and the limits of my ability to do anything about it. It was devastating.

In September, I purchased “Light for the Lost Boy” on its release day. I listened to it as I ran errands all day, and by the time it was finished, I was sobbing in my driveway.

The opening track “Come Back Soon,” is a plea for Jesus to return and deliver us from the pain of this world. Its delicate acoustic guitar and piano parts starkly contrast with intense drums and distorted electric guitars to create a sound that matches the tension of the lyric.

The final song, “Don’t You Want to Thank Someone,” is a 10-minute epic that feels like a throwback to Toto. Yet the lyrics speak of thanking God for who he is, in spite of the fall. The line that gets me the most says:

“Cause every little boy grows up
And he’s haunted by the heart that died
Longing for the world that was
Before the fall
Oh but then forgiveness comes
It’s a grace that I cannot resist
And I just want to thank someone
Don’t you want to thank someone for this”

This is the kind of perspective I long to have. I long to be so drawn to grace that I don’t try to hold onto and fix everything. To acknowledge how limited I am, and that a limitless God will come and redeem everything one day. To long for that day instead of being overwhelmed by the day I’m facing now.

This is a beautiful record, both musically and lyrically. If you are wired like I am, then I pray you would find some comfort and truth in this record the way I have.

You can listen to “Come Back Soon” here:

You can purchase Light for the Lost Boy on iTunes as well as from rabbitroom.com.

My Whirlwind Relationships with iPhone Games

When people meet me, it doesn’t take long to realize I am a technology fanatic (especially with things that have an “i” in front of their name). I love reading tech blogs, researching the latest apps that will help boost (or destroy) my productivity, and my poor wife and friends have to put up with endless lectures on why their lives will be forever changed by downloading this one free app.

So it should come as no surprise that if there is a new popular game sweeping the App store (especially a free one), I have to try it. Through the years, many games have come and gone from my iDevices, but the ones I have a particular love/hate relationship with are turn-based games.

You probably just stopped reading right there. That sounds like way too nerdy of a term to be of any interest to you. However, I bet you actually know and love some of these games. Words with Friends, Draw Something, and most recently Letterpress are all popular TBGs (I don’t know if people actually use the term TBG, but if not, I say we start).

I’ve found my relationship with TBGs is a lot a like teenage romance, and has the same 3 basic steps.

(more…)

Beginnings

On a fall night in 2008, I drove home from my then girlfriend’s (now wife’s) house through the cool autumn air. Instead of listening to the same, familiar songs on my iPod, I took a chance and turned on the radio. As I flipped through the stations, I heard a DJ saying “Here are the top 10 signs you’re a perfectionist.”

Normally I would change the station from something like that, but my exhaustion/laziness got the better of me. I knew I wasn’t a perfectionist, but thought it could be fun to hear about them.

But as the DJ read the list, I was shocked to hear how many of the things he read actually described me. I was suddenly seeing a much clearer picture of myself than I had in my life.

Fast forward to five years later, and I’m still only just starting to realize what a huge role perfectionism has played in my life. From how I view God, to how I relate to my wife, to how I work, it has shaped me tremendously.

Recently, someone suggested I find a hobby. As a professional musician, it’s easy to consider work your hobby, but it’s not. In order to know myself better and give myself more grace, I need to spend time doing something fun that isn’t work. As someone who isn’t athletic or super outdoorsy, creative endeavors seem to speak to me more. I want to actually have something to show for the time I spent.

Thus, I’ve started this blog. I’m not entirely sure what it will become, but I’m excited to try. I know not every post will be about perfectionism explicitly (though just putting a piece out into the world is practice in overcoming it). These are just notes from my life. It’s an outlet for me to be creative and have fun. I hope others enjoy it too.

My Favorite Albums of 2010

When 2009 ended, I did a blog post on my favorite albums of the year.  Though it is hard to believe, 2010 is coming to a close now, so it is time to present my favorite albums of the year (presented in order of release).

The Co – The Co

You may not be familiar with The Co, but you should be.  Laura and I have been very fortunate to be in a community group with The Co’s lead singer, Collin Brace, and his wife Katie.  They are amazing people, and both great musicians.  The Co had a show in Nashville a few weeks before Laura and I got married, so we decided to go support Collin.  As soon as the show was over, I went home and bought this CD on iTunes.  It is great songwriting, and just great pop-rock music.  The standout track is “Keep It Together,” though they are all great.  Be on the lookout for more new music from The Co as well.  They’re currently in the studio recording some of my favorite songs from their live show.

Mumford and Sons – Sigh No More

I admit, I was not a Mumford and Sons fan at first.  I heard the hype about them, so I went and listened to the song previews on iTunes.  Almost all of the songs on this album start out small and then pick up.  Unfortunately, all of the iTunes previews played only the small parts.  It seemed boring so I passed.  Then one day, our friend Nicole posted the music video for their song “Little Lion Man” on twitter.  I was sold immediately.  This album is one of the most beautiful albums I have ever heard.  The way it’s mixed, combined with the songs, the instrumentation, and the voices themselves are just hauntingly beautiful.  And to top it all off, several of the songs remind me of pirates.  What could be better?

Sandra McCracken – In Feast or Fallow

This is Sandra’s second year on my list.  Last year’s Live Under Lights and Wires was a live acoustic album of some of her greatest hits.  In Feast or Fallow is an album of new hymns written by McCracken and friends, or unknown treasures from hundreds of years ago.  The beautiful, Biblical truths, McCracken’s melodies, and Derek Webb’s production make an amazing combination.  This album is also very important to me because Laura and I used the title track as special music in our wedding.  We wanted to declare the words of the chorus “In the harvest feast or the fallow ground, my certain hope is in Jesus found” over our new marriage.  Now whenever I hear that song, I am reminded of that day.

Brooke Fraser – Flags

I purchased this album on the recommendation of many friends.  I needed some new music to listen to while traveling to and from the wedding, and on the honeymoon.  I made the right selection.  This album is full of catchy melodies, soul stirring stories, and other challenging lyrics.  The production is much more stripped down than what I know of her previous work, but it perfectly accents the songs.  The standout track (though it really is hard to pick just one) is a duet with Aqualung called “Who are we Fooling?”  It speaks from both sides of a marriage in peril, but with a biblical perspective on it, acknowledging that they are committed to each other for better or worse.  It may tear your heart out, but you have to hear this song and record.

Taylor Swift – Speak Now

If you had told me last year that a Taylor Swift album would be on my list this year, I would have slapped you in the face.  Ok, maybe not that extreme, but I would have been shocked.  Yet here we are.  When Swift first came on the scene, she drove me crazy, and I would change the radio station as soon as the first note of one of her songs played.  Yet slowly she has come around for me.  When the first single for this album, “Mine,” was released, I knew I was hooked.  Swift has truly become a brilliant songwriter.  So when this album was one of Amazon’s $3.99 deals of the day, I knew I had to buy it.  I have not been disappointed.  This really is just a great album.  Once again, it is hard to choose my favorite songs, but if I had to, they would be “Sparks Fly” and “Mean.”  If you have been anti-Taylor, it’s time to let go and go pick up this album.

So that’s my list.  Let me know what you think of my list, or what your list is.  I’d love to hear.

My Favorite Albums of 2009

As 2009 draws to a close, I wanted to do a post discussing my favorite albums of the year.  They are (in no particular order):

Derek Webb-Stockholm SyndromeDerek Webb- Stockholm Syndrome

With Derek Webb’s newest release, he successfully shed his image as an acoustic singer/songwriter.  Stockholm Syndrome is Derek’s venture into electronic pop music and the results are phenomenal.  Co produced by fellow Caedmon’s Call Alum Josh Moore, the sound of Stockholm Syndrome combines retro hip hop samples with modern beats.  Yet lyrically the album brings the same hard hitting lyrics that have caused him to refer to himself as a “modern day protest singer.”  As someone who aspires to produce, this album floored me from the first song to the last.

Live under Lights and Wires Sandra McCracken – Live Under Lights and Wires

Ok, there is a particular order to this one.  I wanted to put Derek’s wife, Sandra, next to him.  Sandra is a fantastic singer/songwriter (and a Belmont Alum by the way).  This album is a great way to introduce yourself Sandra if you are not familiar with her work.  Recorded in December of last year, Sandra and Derek had Belmont’s Reformed University Fellowship over to their house for an intimate evening of music.  The album is 14 songs of Sandra and Derek performing acoustically, and their off stage relationship leads to a fantastic musical performance.  If I ever need to feel better about life, I put on this record and any problem is soothed.

Parachute-Losing Sleep Parachute – Losing Sleep

You know how you can associate a song with a particular season of life?  John Mayer’s “Heavier Things” will always make me think of my junior year of high school.  Every song from that album is associated with the new high school I was attending, the girl I was dating, and even the fall weather.  Parachute’s “Losing Sleep” will forever take me to my first summer of camps with Carl Cartee. I did a previous post about this album already, so I don’t have too much else to say about it.  The songs are absolutely awesome, so if you haven’t checked this band out yet, you should.


Lorien - Esque

Lorien – Esque

I admit that it’s difficult for me to remember what albums came out in the first half of 2009.  Most of the albums on this list came out this summer or later.  Maybe the fact that this album is the only one from the first half of the year on the list attests to its greatness.  Lorien is a Belmont band, and a great one at that.  This album is incredibly well written and well produced.  Not only that, but they put on a killer live show.  Their drummer Thomas Doeve is incredibly talented as a drummer and producer and will be making a living in Nashville for quite some time.  Check out my favorite track “Make the Deadeye Miss.”


needtobreathe-The Outsiders NEEDTOBREATHE – The Outsiders

This album was actually purchased on a whim.  I had no real knowledge of the band, but heard good things and downloaded it.  I am so glad I did because this album is fantastic.  Apparently it was a great departure from their older albums so many fans didn’t like it.  I however am a huge fan.  The album is full of great melodies, a great voice, great lyrics, and great group vocals.  Every time I think I’ve picked a favorite song from this album the next song comes on and it’s my favorite.