make music • lead change



You probably just haven't stopped to consider what you actually accomplished. If you want to GET MORE DONE this year, try out these 3 simple steps: 


Taking cues from a few recent reads, "Getting Things Done" and "Accidental Creative" make a short list of things to invest in weekly. Here's mine:

  1. physical health (running, cycling, swimming, sleeping, eating right)
  2. spiritual growth (prayer, bible reading, journaling, small group, service, mentorship)
  3. professional growth (creative projects, reading, conferences, bills and accounting)
  4. relationships (dedicated time for family, friends, neighbors)


Edison is famously credited for saying, “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” Once you have some inspiration try calendaring the perspiration it takes to see your goals through. Schedule your goals as re-occuring events. As you see your calendar fill ALL the way up - every minute of every day accounted for - it may feel overwhelming and or suffocating. But the truth is you already spend every minute of every day. My buddy Jay Kim did a whole talk on being intentional with the 28,500 days each human - on average - lives. Calendaring your minutes is a sure-fire way to ensure you perspire in the areas that matter most to your values.

Put everything - and I mean everything - on there. Schedule time to run, to read, to be with your family, to Facebook, to eat, to sleep, to pray, to watch TV, to invest in creative projects, to meet with clients or staff, to shop, to rest. Put it all on there.

At first pass all your desired activities won't fit in a single week. Don't give up! Work the different events until you have something you sense is gonna get you closer to your goals. One of the worst disintegrations of our culture is separating our private life from our professional life and our social life from our spiritual life. Stick 'em all on there together and duke it out. When you re-integrate your various goals into a single calendar you'll start to feel the energy (and momentum) an integrated approach to living can bring.

Once you have your template you can populate it with a week or two of actual commitments.  Fill in names and projects with specific things you're working on. If you get an invitation for a meeting or for a lunch appointment go look at how you've mapped out your time and pick a spot that corresponds.

Are you stuck on which events to priortize? One of the ways you can help prioritize one event over the other is to define your "BIG 3." 

Here's mine from last year: 

Big 3

  1. Land a location for a new WestGate church campus
  2. Launch a weekly studio to write/record
  3. Increase physical health through exercise and healthy food choices

Because your life is way more complex than 3 goals these BIG 3 won't dictate all your time. But they'll help you give weight to certain items over others. Your BIG 3 will help define how to prioritize your allocated time.


People get you farther... not technology. 

No one takes steps forward without the help of friends, coaches, and mentors. You are not an island. Make sure you have people around you who can help you move forward. As one mentor of mine used to say, "Vision eats culture for lunch." Your context - the people who surround you - play the biggest part in you realizing your goals and values. So who's surrounding you? 

GET MORE DONE - This Year. 

  • Define your values.
  • Calendar your perspiration.
  • People not Technology. 


It's that time of year again! For the second year in a row, I've had the privilege to record and produce a Christmas CD within WestGate's Worship Arts community. Some great friends and musicians lent a hand to help track this little EP. The CD proceeds are donated towards clean water.

Last year we happily ran out of CDs and raised enough money to repair 2 clean water wells in Western Kenya. These wells service 2 separate schools within 2 villages in Western Kenya. Our formal partnership is with Living Water. And our friend John Nadolski who works with Living Water shared the following comments from these two villages (which combined represent about 1,000 students impacted):

“The students got sick frequently due to sickness and diseases such as typhoid, dysentery, cholera due to dirty water from the untreated river. The students also wasted a lot of time going to fetch water from the river, which is very far from the school. There was drop in performance in the school due to wastage of time and resources.” - Mr. Mesus, Head teacher at the Vohovole Primary School

“The old water source had little water that was very dirty and not treated as compared to the new water source! This source has enough water for us and is safe to use. Students wasted a lot of time fetching water from very far and were often sick because of the dirty water. We suffered much from dysentery, typhoid, cholera and runny stomach (commonly used term to describe diarrhea). Now we have clean, clear water. Thank you.” - Mr. Zebedee, Head teacher at the Kiragilu Primary School

This year's CD is available for donation at all WestGate services beginning this weekend.

The perks of planting a new church campus. Parking.


This past year I joined WestGate Church in order to help launch a second campus. We meet at Branham High and so far I notice all our volunteers park in designated spots. I'm trying to decide if there's some deep subconscious correlation to the spots key volunteers pick. Here's a couple examples I was able to snap this morning on my way in. 


An empty parking space is a pretty cool metaphor for what we hope you experience here; I hope you experience a spot here for you - a spot in God's story. In fact that's why we launched this campus. We are pumped to meet more men and women, more families, more students who are open to exploring how God's story intersects their own.


Testing out HD 500 as a midi controller Abelton Live


Well for the last 4 weeks I've been trying out different approaches for triggering tracks  in live musical settings. I've tried 3 midi foot controllers including Native Instrument's Guitar Rig Kontrol 3, Apogee Gio, and Line6's HD 500 (mostly because I already owned them). The first 2 pedals transmit midi via USB while the HD500 requires a traditional midi cable. 


Regarding software, I've tried Logic Pro X, MainStage 3 and Ableton Live 9. Each have some unique reasons someone might want to use one over the other. I really like the customizability MainStage 3 offers. For now, based on a few different data points, I've jumped on the band wagon and landed on Abelton.  


Tomorrow I'm looking forward to trying out some midi mapping on my HD500. Within the POD editor I set foot switches  Fs1-Fs4 to send signals to Abelton Live. They control basic functions like start/stop, click on/off, and patch select. I decided to keep the bottom foot switches for turning on/off FX pedals within the POD. 


 If this set up works, the real win is that I can lug around just one foot pedal for all my guitar sounds as well as triggering tracks.


Exploring Relic'd Variax from Line6

Line 6 Variax JTV-69 (Relic'd)

Line 6 Variax JTV-69 (Relic'd)

One of the things I started exploring in late 2013 ( and continue here in 2014) is an electric guitar by Line6 called "Variax JTV." I've been playing it on and off in the studio (as well as live) for a few months. Below are some of my thoughts after playing the guitar.

First off, this guitar is targeted at certain guitarists who may want to have "one guitar to rule them all." Its more or less the swiss army knife of guitars.

In the Studio:

There are times in the studio where your go-to-guitar isn't sounding quite right. Pulling out a second or maybe even third guitar requires time tuning up and dialing in gain structures. If you had one guitar that - with the twist of a knob - would offer you different "in-tune" guitar models - you could bang through studio sessions more quickly. Maybe even more creatively. 

Live Gigs:

Similarly when it comes to gigging live there are times you want to travel light. Less gear is better. However as much as you want to travel light your set list requires 2 or more guitars. Well, the Variax wants to position itself as the solution to your live gigging conundrums. At least that's what I got from the marketing.

Digital Modeling

This guitar promises through on-board digital modeling to be several guitars in one form factor. Additionally it lets you digitally capo with the flick of a switch near the neck. For instance you can literally "drop D" without ever touching a tuning knob. It does all this digital wizardry through one of the magnetic pickups. If you want you can turn off it's brain and just play it as a standard electric with magnetic pickups as well.

3 Models:

The new variax models from Line6 all look pretty good. There are actually three models: 59 (think Les Paul) 69 (think Strat/Jaguar) and 89 (think shredder-like). You can choose between foreign or American made models. I went cheap for this experiment.

Les Paul vs Strat

I tried both the 59 (Les Paul) and the 69 (Strat/Jaguar) for a few different gigs. I found I liked the look of the 59 (Les Paul) more. The knobs on the 59 (Les Paul) look and feel way higher end. However the feel of playing the 69 (Strat/Jaguar) as well as the sounds I was getting were better and more versatile. The body of the 69 was also lighter.

From Toy to Relic

I remember seeing a first gen Variax over 15 years ago. I think it may have subconsciously inspired the toy guitars in the ever popular video game, "Rock Band." That is to say the first gen Variax didn't look all that real... more like a toy. 

The new Variax are much more believable. I ended up with a black Variax JTV-69. I found that the guitar was too plastic and shiny brand new. It screamed toy with a mass market vibe that most guys aren't into. I also hated the head-stock which had the ugliest graphic I've ever seen on a guitar. It reminded me of Microsoft Word clip art from the 90's. Yuck.

In order to transform it from toy to relic I ended up taking the guitar to Keith Holland Guitars where Keith was able to relic it into some of the pictures you see here.

Quick Thoughts - Live

After being "set up" and relic'd this guitar now feels and plays like the real thing. From stage it is indistinguishable - guys wouldn't necessarily know you're playing some sort of weird hybrid electric guitar. The actual neck feels great. It's fun to play and has good resonance. The pickups are great and - after relic'ing - the knobs feel less cheesy and more vintage. 

I find myself mostly toggling between Tele and Les Paul models. Occasionally I move towards a Gretsch semi-hollow model. I've also played it with the digital modeling off.  With the modeling off it mostly resembles a Strat.

The sounds of each guitar model are good. They are very close. However it can feel more like an effect. Your body somehow stores what it feels like to play a Les Paul or Strat and to toggle through these sounds on a Strat body... well, it can feel sort of surreal (I'm not sure in a good way). It's not necessarily bad either. It's just feels more like an effect.

So far I would say respectfully it's not my favorite guitar to play live. It just doesn't cut it. The main reason has to do with powering the guitar in order to use the onboard digital electronics. I think this part of the user experience may work towards the reason you'd buy it - to travel lighter.

In order to use the onboard modeling you have to charge a camcorder-sized battery housed inside the back of the guitar. I've also powered the guitar via my HD500x through an ethernet cable that connects the two.

Overall powering the guitar for live through either the battery or the ethernet cable feels cumbersome. Though I could see how someone might get used to charging the battery before/after shows for me it's not worked out well. In one case I accidentally left the guitar "on" between gigs and showed up only to discover I was all out of juice.  I've tried gigging smaller stages with the ethernet cable plugged in but it feels like a toy when I do so. The cable doesn't lay flat so it ends up somewhere between a tripping hazard and a visual clue that I'm not playing a "real guitar." If there was a cable that looked more "real" or it might cut it.

I'll keep trying it in live applications over the next few months. It's possible that over time I'll enjoy it more. That being said where I've enjoyed the guitar the most is in the studio.

Quick Thoughts - Studio 


In the studio environment I've found I can dial the Variax in quickly and toggle through sounds to find the right textures for recorded guitar parts. The ethernet cable isn't a problem in the studio for me. It feels more like a production tool in that case. Its been a great help to quickly go from a chimey Strat or Telecaster to a beefy Les Paul.

There are some great additional features with the Variax that I haven't had the time to really get into. You can read more over at Line6 to understand the full scope of features. One producer friend was mocking it's feature list, asking me if it includes "a wifi hotspot." Overall I would say that it's a great guitar but can take some work to really dial in. It reminds me of certain amp manufactures who offer a slew of options vs some standard amps with a few simple knobs. Sometimes more is more. However often less is more. 

I'll update more over the next couple of months.

SOLD OUT - Glow Christmas CD


Recently I had the opportunity to work with a handful of musicians who attend WestGate Church. We were able to put together a Christmas CD in-house with the proceeds going towards clean water. I am new on staff so I had us only order 1000 units as a test. Turns out we sold out within 3 weekends. The total raised was about $8,000. 

I say, "about" because we had some troubles with our credit card swiper (some of us make better musicians than cashiers). One of the cool byproducts of this project is that we ended up performing a lot of these arrangements live during our 5 Christmas Eve services. I noted several comments from people who really appreciated getting to know the songs/arrangements in advance. It seemed to strengthen their participation during services.

The project was actually pretty straight forward. We found arrangements we liked and we put our own spin on them. I had a lot of the arrangements done in Logic and then invited musicians to lay down complimentary tracks. Kevan Long mixed the tracks "in the box" using Logic and several Universal Audio plugins powered via a Satellite Duo. For the songs that were not "public domain" I used LimeLight to pay for the rights to re-record for our intended use.

Here's to Christmas music (and a great collaboration)! Because of this project another village has clean water.


$26K Raised - World Vision


Recently we had the privilege of seeing friends and family come out for the annual World Vision Christmas Party. World Vision offers a christmas catalogue featuring high-impact gifts to some of the world's poorest. Guests enjoy an evening of top-notch food, music and wine with the opportunity to contribute towards a gift list created in-the-moment by attendees.

Each year we've seen this little party grow and evolve. Lynsie Gridley teamed up with Cathy Smith, Nanette Kinkade, and Chelsea Opheim this past December. This year's party was hosted at Cathy's home with special guest Shamina Khangaldy performing acoustic christmas covers. Mr. Shin from Michi Sushi provided high quality sushi for the night.

We're thankful for a great evening with amazing friends. Alongside some great conversation and good food, the numbers increased again this year to total of $26,862. Men and women now have resources that otherwise would have been difficult for them to realize simply because of their global zip code.