Monthly Archives: June 2010

“She Loves You”, From the Gaslight Anthem

And If all was well
And your heart could find the words
Would we be for better baby
Would we be for worse
And if there was a way
To navigate your seas
If tonight my true love
Did belong to me

If you don’t think its awesome, go hear it in context.

In the Fall of 2001 I must have sat out on the porch for hours a night, sometimes with a buddy, sometimes with a few, but mostly with God, and the precarious rhythms of late night traffic.

I had nowhere to go. I’d weathered a break up that left me questioning my sanity and I’d quit my job at the Olive Garden after a woman cussed me out over the price of cranberry juice. With no work, no relationship, and my ‘89 Ford Tempo on its last legs, I found myself emotionally and, otherwise, shipwrecked. My whole world was a guitar and everything I wished I’d said.

I think it was during those months that I learned how to write a song, because that was the year I learned to be honest with God.

As a teenager, I played my first guitar chords on the loading docks behind my father’s storefront church in Pineville, NC. I guess I began playing for the same reason everyone does, to impress girls at school. Unfortunately, it was a little late in the game for an instrument to become much of a savior, but it became a friend, an outlet, a way of sorting things out.

Looking back, it made sense that I would go back to that place when I was against the ropes, and why I would end up out on that same porch almost a year later, with another set of issues and another batch of songs.

In November of 2002, I’d flown down to Jacksonville, to do some recording. While in the studio, we received a call about some friends who’d been in a car accident that left 2 of them in critical condition. Late that evening I got another call from my dad. One of my closest childhood friends was gone.

I had pages of dialog with God in the days that followed, some angry, mostly confused, but also I wrote a lot of songs. It was this time period that shaped verses like “Kiss Your Feet”, a modern vision of Mary Magdalene, and an emotional climactic folk tune called “Ashes and Flames”. The first song of that generation, much of it written the day after the accident, was the song “How He Loves”. “How He Loves” was every bit of a tribute to a friend, a cry for understanding, and the worship that resulted from it all.

The following years were characterized by an almost confusing contrast. While I lived with an ever-present stinging sensation from the loss, I was enamored with the immense joy of my engagement to a brilliant, angelic girl named Sarah Williams. We we’re married in 2004 and have been confidants, band mates, and business partners for over 6 years. In 2008 our son Jude was born to the growling vocals of Kevin Prosch singing, “Praise the Lord, Oh my soul” over a hospital radio. More than anything, it was this contrast that shaped the ideas that would eventually become “The Medicine”.

Up to that point, much of my music, though rarely void of hope, was still born out of loss. However, “The Medicine”, presents portraits of resurrection. From “Death In His Grave”, a southern, hymn-like narrative depicting the classic resurrection of Jesus, to “Skeleton Bones,” a worship song celebrating the power of resurrection life, a story of resurrection is present throughout the whole record. Songs like “Ten Thousand” illustrate the ultimate victory of life over the grave as do “Out of the Ground” and “Carbon Ribs” in more abstract ways.

More than anything, I think “The Medicine” explores the implications of resurrection in our every day lives even the dead places of our lives that need resurrecting. To his own hurt, Jesus, chose to be a part of our world. Why would we pretend that we don’t bring all our love, loss, and insecurity with us into the conversations we call “worship”? After all, we don’t serve a God who is unacquainted with grief. He is not surprised by or even unfamiliar with the darkness that can plague a human heart. In fact, he specializes at dealing with that sort of thing. That is what “The Medicine” is about and those are some of the conversations I want to help people have in worship. I want to write songs that give your heart language in the porch lights of your own reckoning; dangerous songs that give you permission to wear your heart on your sleeve before Jesus, unencumbered by the grave cloths of mindless tradition.

The Medicine Album drops on July 6, 2010! (If you come hear me at Creation East, you can get it a couple days earlier.)

The reason I decided to re-release this album on a record label, is because I thought The Medicine deserved a shot at a national audience. I’m proud of the work we did, and the songs I wrote. It took me 3 years to write it and I hated the idea of the world not getting a proper chance to hear these songs before I moved on with the label. Besides, I was a long way from having a new album’s worth of material ready. It would have been summer of 2011 before i had a new one. I’m a slow writer.

I realize this is a little confusing for many of you who don’t understand (or care) about how music business works, but the truth is, most people have never even heard these songs.

Aside from one minor tweak on one song, the album has not been remixed or remastered. The only real difference is that this new version has 4 more tracks than the original plus video. I have included these new recordings to give people who already have the medicine album something new.

The Medicine (2010 Deluxe Edition) :

Reckoning Day
The Medicine
Skeleton Bones
Carbon Ribs
Dress Us Up
Death In His Grave
Belly of the Lion
Out of the Ground
Ten Thousand
Carolina Tide
My Only
Between The Cracks
How He Loves (Single Version)

For those of you who can’t wait, you can pre-order the album (and vinyl records) here.

Death In His Grave (Performance Video) from john mark mcmillan on Vimeo.

Though the Earth cried out for blood

Satisfied her hunger was

Billows calmed on raging seas

for the souls of men she craved

Sun and moon from balcony

Turned their head in disbelief

Their precious Love would taste the sting

disfigured and disdained

On Friday a thief

On Sunday a King

Laid down in grief

But woke with the keys

Of Hell on that day

The first born of the slain

The Man Jesus Christ laid

Death in his grave

So 3 days in darkness slept

The Morning Sun of righteousness

But rose to shame the throws of death

And overturn his rule

Now daughters and the sons of men

Would pay not their dues again

The debt of blood they owed was rent

When the day rolled a new

On Friday a thief

On Sunday a King

Laid down in grief

But awoke holding keys

To Hell on that day

The first born of the slain

The Man Jesus Christ

Laid death in his grave

He has cheated Hell and seated us above the fall

In desperate places he paid our wages one time once and for all

I read an interview with Bob Dylan a while back where he was asked about songwriting. Dylan’s immediate response was “the world has enough songs”. He said the world doesn’t need any more songs “but a person who has something to say, that’s a different story”.

People often ask me how I write songs, but the question I would like to ask you first is: What do you really have to say?

Ultimately, I really don’t care about your technique or your usage of metaphor. I don’t care about your ability to communicate emotion with a melody. I, and the world, don’t really care about your songs unless we, at least, feel like you have something to say.

So, do you?