On A Very Happy Note

So when I’m knee-deep in a writing project I listen to music all the time. ALL. THE. TIME. I’m one of those weird people who can’t write in silence, so that means I need music and more music and lo, even more music. HOWEVER. I am very particular about what music qualifies as “writing music,” because there’s a fine line between energetic and manic. There’s also a fine line between soothing and sleep-inducing. I’ll be the first to admit that it’s a tricky balance, but I know it when I hear it.

When I wrote A Little Salty… I was in an All John Mayer, All The Time phase, so I will forever associate that book with his Queen of California album. For some reason I also listened to Buddy Jewell’s “Sweet Southern Comfort” OVER AND OVER AND OVER when I was writing, and I mixed in a little Mumford and Avett Bros. for good measure. I had a harder time finding my ideal writing music when I wrote Home is Where My People Are, but I finally settled on a mixture of Crowder’s Neon Steeple, John Mayer’s Paradise Valley (“Dear Marie” LAYS ME OUT), Chris Rice’s Peace Like A River (which is about 8-ish years old but stayed on infinite repeat last spring and summer), the waaaaay back A Grateful People album by Watermark, anything The Oh Hellos have ever recorded, and a whole lot of James Taylor.

With this new book I’ve run a couple of different musical courses. Back in the summer I was listening to super upbeat stuff when I wrote: NEEDTOBREATHE’s Live from The Woods, some classic Justin Timberlake, maybe even a little Ben Folds Five thrown in when there was an energy ebb. But as I’ve gotten further along in the book, I’ve gravitated much more to praise and worship / hymns / anything where someone sings about all their deep thoughts.

Listen. The last couple of months have been really good for music related to deep thoughts.

So. In the interest of spreading a little musical love, here are my current favorites. I happen to think that the musical landscape is pretty phenomenal right now – maybe the best it’s been in my lifetime – and I am very grateful that there are so many options for listening while I write.

1) One Wild Life: Soul by Gungor

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I didn’t think I would like this album. I was so very wrong. The lyrics make me cry actual tears, and the melodies are haunting in the best possible way. My favorite song is probably “Land of the Living,” but “Light” could take over the #1 spot at any second.

2) Dear Wormwood by The Oh Hellos

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They are genius people. The end.

3) What Do You Mean? – Justin Bieber

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I can’t explain why I like it. But I have listened to it over and over and over. AND HAVE YOU SEEN THIS ACOUSTIC VERSION?

The Biebs makes me smile.

4) Psalms, Vol. 2 by Shane & Shane

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For the last six weeks or so I’ve been a little in love with the Psalms. It started with Psalm 77, and my obsession / affection seems to grow every day. Given that, it’s really no surprise that I think this collection of Psalms set to music is one of the most beautiful albums of the year. And as a bonus, you’re memorizing scripture as you sing along.

5) The Burning Edge of Dawn – Andrew Peterson

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Melanie mentioned this album on her blog last week, and I agree with everything she said. This music is poetic, tender, and lovely. Andrew Peterson is a master at showing, not telling, and that makes for some fine, deep lyrics. So beautiful.

6) This Glorious Grace – Austin Stone Worship

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This is a worship album that’s truly worshipful – and there’s a tone of infectious joy that runs through each song (the fact that the songs were recorded live adds a little extra measure of happy, I think). There’s a consistency in the sound and the production that makes me super happy, because everything sounds unified and like it belongs together. A mixture of original songs and traditional hymns, this album is going to stay in my personal rotation for a while.

7) Continuum (Special Edition) – John Mayer

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I can’t write a book without him, y’all.

Hope you had a great weekend – and happy listening, everybody!

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  1. Check out Josh Garrels. Excellent songwriter/performer. Unique but not weird. My favorites are anything off of his Home album, Zion & Babylon, and Don’t Wait for Me.

    • Jennifer P. says:

      Oh, I LOVE him. His song Farther Along on Love & War & The Sea In Between kills me every time!!

  2. I’ve been loving The Brilliance. I bought 3 of their albums. Wonderful music.

  3. Adding them to my list. I start grad school in January and will need lots O good writing tunes. Here I come MFA in writing!

  4. Music is very much a part of our lives. Like the score to a movie, what we listen to affects how we perceive what we are doing and what is going on around us. Just the other day I was driving and realized that listening to Big Daddy Weave’s “The Only Name (Yours Will Be)” can sometimes be as dangerous to drive to as “Sweet Child o’ Mine” by Guns N Roses in causing me to have a lead foot. Thankfully no tickets were involved.

    Personally I love your selections, though the Bieber one concerns me a bit just out of principle. I will add that Watermark, no matter how old, is always a winner!

  5. “LIGHT” most definitely takes first place. Every.single.time. The video? OH MY WORD. I’ve got a not-so-little one who has that same “extra” deliciousness goin’ on (he’s 29). “I can’t take my eyes off of you…all my life.” DYING.

  6. Are you a fan of Shane and Shane, in general? Everything they’ve ever done is amazing.

  7. Oh my goodness, I just spent a ton on iTunes, those are SOOOO good. Now I will have a new “on-repeat” playlist. You need to get royalties :)
    Thanks for the recommendations….shane and shane, I have grown up on them!

  8. I think this is where I am supposed to leave a comment for the CD. :)
    Thank you for the opportunity Sophie!


  9. Lisa Bingham says:

    Thank you for the great new music ideas! I am really enjoying the Andrew Peterson album.
    It is so good to hear from you on the blog again! I’ve missed reading your posts! I would love to hear how your son and Hazel are doing. Also, more on being gluten free now… I’m curious on how that is going and the changes you’ve noticed.
    If you could work in time for a podcast with Melanie that would be so delightful! You two are so fun!
    Thanks for your writing Sophie, you brighten up my little world!

  10. Elizabeth J. says:

    Sophie, do you have artist/song recommendations for acoustic Christian/worship? I love Christian music, but I’m not a huge fan of the overly produced/studio sound, I like it a little more ‘raw.’ Chris Tomlin is a favorite artist of mine, but he doesn’t do enough acoustic/unplugged music, in my opinion!


  11. Jeannette says:

    “finally settled on a mixture of Crowder’s Neon Steeple”—-when I land on him and this album, I have trouble leaving him. Sometimes I feel like I am just below the clouds when I sing this album.

    Last Saturday night I went and saw Chris Tomlin. What a great time of singing at the top of my lungs and fellowshipping with God. We were getting the rain effect from hurricane Patricia and all 2500 of us were soaking in some praise/worship time.

  12. Thanks for the recommendations, Sophie! I love when you include these lists in your posts and newsletters. I’m the mom of a toddler, so I feel completely out of it when it comes to what’s out there in the music world. You are keeping me connected! Pulling these up on Spotify TODAY.

  13. I need music when I write, too! For the past several months I have been all about a good duo: Johnnyswim, Us the Duo, Alex & Sierra, etc. Recently, I heard the duo, Oh, Honey come up on an existing Pandora station and loved them so much I decided to give them their very own station. They’re fabulous, and I think they would be a great addition to your writing playlist!

  14. Wow you still blog. I ran into one of your old blogs when I start blogging. Back in day of when the wheel was first came out…I believe I took part in some thing you was hosting…You share your home at Christmas.

    Coffee is on

  15. Friend, you have phenominal taste in music! And I am literally opening Spotify right now to add to my “writing” playlist. I usually need instrumental music when I write and gravitate to anything by the Piano Guys or Bethel’s Without Words, but I LOVE your suggestions and am anxious to add them. Thanks!

  16. I’ve recently discovered Lauren Daigle (my pastor recommended her music) and I LOVE IT! Very inspirational – I especially like “First” and “How Can It Be”. Her voice is a gift from Lafayette, Louisiana!