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Writing Music with Your Spouse

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Hello there! My name is Rachel Parrish, and together with my husband Nate, we make up the husband-and-wife worship duo Parrish from Napa Valley in Northern California. We serve at Hillside Christian Church as worship leaders and college pastors. We have 5 years of marriage under out belt, and both come from musical backgrounds. Nate’s musical background includes playing Guitar for the bands Worth Dying For (Integrity) and Kingdom (Dream). I have a bachelor’s degree in music from William Jessup University, and I teach worship and Bible at a private Christian high school.

When people ask about Parrish, I have found that this one question comes up every single time:  “Rachel, What’s it like writing music with your husband?”

And then I laugh and laugh.

I laugh and laugh because it’s super frustrating. Thats my knee-jerk response. But really, when I take a step back I realize that writing with Nate teaches me what a terrible communicator I am, and how much I expect him to read my mind and know what I’m thinking.

While that is pretty vague, these are the more practical things that we’ve learned that have helped us in the marriage/writing process.

Be married to your spouse, not your song ideas

Creative people are all cut from a million different cloths. Thats what makes artsy people so weird, and awesome! Such is the case with Nate and I. I found that I was married to my ideas, so when Nate didn’t think that something I did was awesome, I would get defensive, and still do. I have to constantly remember that maybe not everything I write is great. In fact a lot of what I write tends to be really cute and needs Nate to toughen it up a little. You would think that after walking with Nate through his successful industry experience (he has had no.1 songs on Christian radio for heaven’s sake!), I might be open to his writing suggestions… like I said, you would think. Over time this gets easier, but give each other grace. This practical discovery is a process, and you have to constantly work at it.

Eliminate factors that increase conflict

For Nate, that means having snacks ready. Nate turns into the Incredible Hulk when he’s hungry, and all patience and tact goes out the window. For me, that means we don’t start writing if it’s already past my bedtime. This is a huge one. I am a high school teacher, so during the school year my bedtime is 11pm. Seriously, my eyes close like a robot and I turn off. My social skills take a huge dive after 9. That patience and tact thing? Gone. Think about the things that cause you to shut down. Do you need be comfy? Does your space need to nice and tidy? What about lighting? Just a few ideas.

If you’re bringing an idea to the table, have it be as complete as possible.

For people who create differently, like Nate and I, this really helps. When you bring something that is finished or almost there, you already have a product that just needs polishing from a different perspective. I find that this brings ideas to our songs we hadn’t thought of before, and increases our creativity ten-fold. Starting from scratch may be something that works for you, but since Nate and I have such a different writing styles, this helps us quite a bit.

Forgive…and most importantly, Forget.

Even after you mastered every other practical tip for writing as a married couple, you’ve eaten every yummy snack, and you write during prime writing hours, you’re gonna say stuff you might have wished you hadn’t. Something might be said to you that shouldn’t have. You’re married. It happens. It took Nate and I 4 years to even try writing together because we just couldn’t get along. So, when tension just gets too high, it’s okay to walk away for a second. Sometimes you just legitimately need space. However, don’t forget to ask the Lord and your spouse for forgiveness, and give it in return. You’ll find that in these not so fun moments, this is where you grow the most as people, as a couple, as Christians, and as musicians.

 

If you were wondering, we have learned every single one of these practical lessons the hard way. Writing music with your spouse can be very tough. But the truth is, I love writing with my husband. When I step back and look at what I’m doing, the black and white of it is, I am writing music to worship Jesus with the person I love more than any other person in the whole world. We are communicating the single most important thing we have in common; the knowledge of the Gospel, and a relationship with Jesus. It’s something I hope I never take for granted.

 

Editor’s Note: For a fantastic post about what it’s like to serve in a ministry with your spouse, check out this article from Laura Blankenship!

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