2.13.2012

Interview Exclusive!: Musician Patrick Jenkins


Patrick Jenkins is a singer/songwriter from Central Illinois and is quickly becoming a good friend of mine. We initially met through the pastor of my church and have since bonded over our love of music and our experience with the world of Contemporary Christian Music. At one time Patrick was a songwriter, lead singer, and keyboardist for the band Two Cent Offering. Now he has taken on a role as a worship leader at St. Marks Lutheran Church in Washington, Illinois and is also a husband and a father. Back in December of last year Patrick helped my church out when we put on a carol sing at a local coffee shop. He had just released his EP back in November and graciously gave me a copy of it when I asked him for one (I still owe him 5 bucks by the way). Since then, I have really enjoyed listening to Appeal To Heaven
, a collection of folk music that contains heartfelt songs of faith and encouragement and some stellar cover art (see picture below). I recently sat down with Patrick (he sitting comfortably at his home computer, me waiting expectantly in front of my own computer) and asked about the recording experience, what motivates his songwriting, and about being a worship leader.
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PostConsumer Reports: I know you are an avid listener of folk, rock, and gospel music and that has obviously influenced your songwriting. When you sit down to write a song do you ever consciously incorporate those influences or do they just unconsciously seep in? I think more than a certain style that is coming out it


Patrick Jenkins: I think more often than not, they just creep in. I don’t spend a ton of time writing a song unless there is something that is connecting with me in the combination of lyrics, melody, and chords and at this point I’ve listened to certain bands or songs so much that they become, in maybe a subconscious way, the palate or vocabulary I draw upon. I think of it as honing my musical instincts and becoming fluent in lots of songwriting styles in order to tap into my own means of expression.


PCR: In that same vein, when it came time to actually record were there any sounds you wanted to try and capture in the studio? For example, I’ve been listening to a lot of Simon & Garfunkel lately and am absolutely fascinated with the drums on songs like “The Boxer” and “The Only Living Boy in New York.” Someday I’d like to capture a sound like that on one of my own recordings.

PJ--The Only Living Boy in New York is one of my all time favorite songs and I love the production on the Simon and Garfunkel version, too. When it came time to make my record I knew there were some songs I wanted to be just acoustic guitar and vocal and others I wanted to add more instruments on. For instance, I wrote the first track, Throw A Line, on a keyboard with a piano/pad setting, which I thought created a vast ‘ocean’ kind of sound which fit the lyric. When it came time to make the record I chose to put the organ and drums in there because I thought it fit with the vibe of the rest of the ep. and was a bit more of a hopeful way to start the record. I like both versions, but there’s something about the piano/pad/vocal.

My thought process going into this project was to present the songs in a simple way - guitar/piano/singing - and then add other textures as time and inspiration allowed. I also gave myself freedom to change things up. I wrote Love Will Do on the acoustic guitar but the studio had a Rhodes piano which I couldn’t resist playing so it’s the main instrument on that track.


PCR: The song “Appeal to Heaven” seems very personal, like it’s your own personal plea to God, and yet the lyrics are universal enough that they could become anyone’s plea. Was this intentional on your part, that is, making it Psalm-like by being simultaneously intensely personal and still applicable to everyone?

PJ: That song was written shortly after we were finding out the extent of the earthquake in Haiti and I did write it as a kind of psalm. It is personal in that I connect very deeply with the sentiment of looking to God for answers, restoration, healing, and rest. However, when I wrote the song I was trying to put myself in the setting of a desperate and seemingly hopeless situation where my only option seemed to be getting on my knees and crying out to God. In the first verse, the person is crying to God, in the second the voice is turning to others in a plea for help - I’m thinking of that as a call to action for the church, and the third verse is offering true rest, peace, and hope at the source - God.
The phrase, Appeal to Heaven, comes from a flag used by the continental Navy in the American Revolution.


PCR: What are the stories behind the songs “The River (once again)” and “Be Still”?

I stumbled onto a version of the chorus to The River (Once Again) while I was singing/driving into work on a Monday morning and I sang it into my cell phone . As I was heading into my office I heard a coworker of mine comforting another coworker who was sobbing and devastated by an unexpected turn of events for her family. I went to the piano in the church sanctuary and wrote the first two verses and refined the chorus I was singing in the car to fit in with the new song. I wrote the lyrics in sympathy with my friend’s experience and wanted it to deal honestly with her pain and recognize that horrible things happen to good people. Instead of asking why this happened I wanted to write about what we do when things do happen. Going to the river, for me, is going to a place where we can rest in the midst of chaos and trust that there is hope coming with the morning light.
I wrote Be Still at my kitchen table after reading an email from the wife of a friend who had just died after dealing with ALS for some years. The email was an account of his last day and his death and I cried while I read it. At the same time I was starting to write this song my 5 month old daughter was sleeping in the next room. I wrote it as a letter to her, but also for my wife and I, or anyone who wants to ‘get it right‘ when it comes to telling the truth to our kids about hard things and faith, hope, and love. The idea for the last verse came from a magnet on our fridge.

 

PCR--A lot of your songs on Appeal to Heaven seem focused on taking people to another place (e.g., from a place of weariness to a place of rest, from safety to shelter, from death to resurrection, from this earth to the new heavens and the new earth, and from a place without God into God’s loving arms). Is this a real passion of yours with your music--to on one hand take people to another place through music but also to point the way to Another Place altogether using music?

PJ: I think that dichotomy is powerful and deep down something people long for. The great thing about writing this batch of songs is that after a while I started to recognize that they had this similar thread in them. I wrote them with the thought of ‘things are not as they should and not as they will be’ and also how do we live with that truth right here and now. I think I wrote these songs because I needed to. In this period of my experience, I needed to connect to the hope that comes from faith in a way that lodged deep in my own heart. By dealing with this concept through the songs I think it allows me as an artist to offer something to somebody that might be helpful and also point them toward the Gospel of Jesus.


PCR: As a music and worship leader one of my biggest interests is congregational singing or just getting people to sing in general. Do you ever write songs for your own congregation to sing and if so how have you approached that process, from a musical and lyrical perspective all the way through to teaching your song to the congregation?

I am starting to write songs for my congregation. I serve a Lutheran church in a ‘contemporary’ (if you will) setting and I think liturgically about themes or where a song might fit in worship. The one song I’ve written and used in worship is called Gathering (It’s You We Meet). I wrote it, as the title suggest, as a song to be sung before a Call to Worship, like an invitation to worship and prayer where we allow God to ‘tune our wandering hearts’ to his presence in the word and sacrament.
Musically it’s in 6/8, midtempo, and nestled into the key of Eb major. I tried to keep the melody simple and prayer like and I think the harmony is an important part of the picture here. I like the feeling of a well place minor ii7 chord.

PCR--What is it like being a musician in Central Illinois? What’s the “scene” like and how easy or hard is it to get your music out there and to find places to play?

I grew up in Central Illinois and really starting playing around for the first time as a drummer with country, rock, and jazz groups. There are many excellent players and bands in our region who are working almost every Friday and Saturday night.
Over the last year or so I’ve taken the time to get out to the local open mics and it’s been so good to meet people who love songs and writing. The kind of community that can build around a good open mic is such a vital thing for songwriters. It not only gives us a place to share it helps us realize that there is a scene here in Peoria that is important and worth supporting. Not because we’re becoming nationally renowned, but because it’s an outlet for human expression through art - sharing life in a way that is unique to music. That’s one of the reasons I love folk art and music - it’s made for the people who are making it and the local setting. It’s functional and it’s vital to our culture. I would love to see people supporting great local music in my hometown and celebrate new voices emerging locally.
I think Peoria does have a possibility of developing an even better music scene with places like 3030 coffee hosting live music and promoting it so well. I also see a place for the house concert series to take root and give good local writers an intimate venue and also attract touring groups.

PCR--You have a new page up on your website called the “Song Journal.” When can we expect you to put something up there and what kind of songs do you have waiting in the wings?

Yeah, the song journal is something I’ve wanted to do for a while. It’s just a place to post songs, like a blog, and invite people to listen. It’s very fulfilling to me for the songs to come full circle - from creator to listener. It also, for me, keeps things a little more pure in that I don’t feel like I have to be a salesmen for the art, just a person who is sharing something I made with the hope that a listener might connect with it.
Currently, I have three songs that I've written over the last month up on the page. I am allowing myself to be very open with the music I share so it will include music that I've written for my church as well as the folk/songwriter songs. There is one song that I'm excited to get out there called Sound of the Whistle, which is about soldiers in WWI getting ready to go over the top of the bunker to take out a machine gun nest.

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You can find out more about Patrick and his music at his website: 

http://patrickjenkins.virb.com/  
You can purchase his EP Appeal to Heaven at itunes or CDbaby.

You can also stream new songs at his soundcloud page:

5 comments:

Moriah Bade said...

Great reading. Thanks for the interview, Chris, and for the insight into your music, Patrick! I appreciate both of your thoughts, leadership, and contributions in music and our faith in Christ!

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