Award-winning Christian songwriter Michael Farren arrived in Kalispell Wednesday to share his wisdom in the industry with “song chasers” from around the Flathead at a retreat at Trinity Lutheran Camp.
With hits sung by artists like Big Daddy Weave, Natalie Grant and Phillips Craig and Dean, Farren said his goal with the workshop is to teach other songwriters the importance of working at their trade no matter how far it takes them.
“This has never been about how many people hear it or how much money is made from it,” Farren said. “Truth is truth is truth and music is music is music, and when you marry them together, it’s going to do something in somebody’s life.”
The Nashville resident began his career in songwriting around 25 years ago, when, as he put it, he was tricked into writing his first songs.
Farren was a worship pastor when he began to encounter a new wave in worship in which people, primarily college students, would worship with long periods of prayer in between songs. During those 20-minute intervals of prayer, Farren said he realized he did not have enough songs to play. So he started singing the prayers around him, putting words to the movement in the room and playing whatever came to him.
Through that process came some of his first big hits, including “Let It Rain,” which was later sung by singer Michael W. Smith.
“What makes a song great?” Farren asked. “Did people respond to it? Did it give them hope? Did it give them a breath? Did it give them new perspective? Did it make them keep going? Did it make a soccer mom not throw her kid out the window? Those are good songs.”
Throughout his success across different musical genres, including country and pop, Farren said his faith is what has brought him back to Christian music time and again.
Though he said other types of music have the ability to move and influence people, only music with a higher purpose can affect people so deeply that it can save lives.
Farren said he has enjoyed hearing his songs on the radio and the opportunities to work with big artists, but his biggest love has always been his church in Nashville, where he has acted as the worship pastor for the past 10 years.
It is a pastoral duty, he said, to write songs for the church that lets people sing truth, a feat which he said is rarely accomplished by waiting around for inspiration to fall from the sky.
“You write until there’s a ‘wow,’ and I love watching that happen with people,” Farren said. “When you look up at the end of it and realize this didn’t exist an hour ago, you created something out of nothing. It never got old to me, that’s why I’m still more in it than I’ve ever been.”
Over the last five years, Farren said he began to feel a pull toward the educational aspect of songwriting and has since begun teaching classes and hosting workshops all over the country.
In collaboration with Trinity Lutheran Camp’s executive director, Kevin Buetmann, Farren will lead a songwriting retreat at the camp near Bigfork, where around a dozen participants from Canada, various states and around the Flathead will get the chance to co-write songs and learn from Farren about the processes, formulas and techniques of writing original music.
“I don’t feel like I’m giving stuff away. I feel like I’m multiplying things,” Farren said. “If I can come in and help these guys over the next few days write more efficiently, more passionately, more authentically and for the right reasons, then we just multiplied something good.”
Farren and Bueltmann will spend the next three days giving one-on-one advice and walking participants through the process of songwriting in hopes of equipping them with both the skills and a community that will benefit them in their writing going forward.
“If they leave knowing that it’s way more important than they ever have dreamed and that it’s a whole lot more work than they ever dreamed and that it’s worth doing, then we won in the next few days,” Farren said.
Registration for this workshop has closed, but Farren will lead worship at Trinity Lutheran Church at both the 8 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. Sunday services on June 17.
Bueltmann said the camp will host another songwriting retreat with Stephan and Mary Elise Duncan Aug. 29 to Sept. 1 for those who were unable to attend the workshop with Farren. He hopes the camp will be able to continue to host one or two similar workshops each year.
To register for the next retreat or for more information about Trinity Lutheran Camp, contact Bueltman at 309-613-4884 or TrinityCampExec@gmail.com.
Reporter Mary Cloud Taylor can be reached at 758-4459 or firstname.lastname@example.org.