Kevin was recently interviewed for the Oakland Examiner:
Tyde Moore: "Hi Kevin, thank you for taking the time to do this interview and enlighten us about yourself and your music. I recently reviewed your newest album, "Ways of Praise."
How old were you when you started doing music? Do you write your own songs or do you have co-writers? Are you open to performing music from other songwriters? Where do you come from, and what got you into music? Also, who are some of your musical influences that might have helped mold your style?"
Kevin Bueltmann: "Not counting a simple song I wrote when I was 5, the first song I wrote was when I was a homesick freshman in college. I opened my Bible and there was Psalm 86...showing me just the words I needed to hear from God. The music and words came together quickly and easily and I've been writing songs ever since.
I see myself more of a songwriter than a performer. One of the outlets for my songwriting has been writing Vacation Bible School songs for over 10 years for a Christian publishing company. You have to develop tough skin when you write for a publisher and learn not get too attached to your songs the way they are when you submit them as they will ask you to make changes to your songs and sometimes even change them without you. But God can work through this process any way He wants. These are not my songs. They are His songs, and if He wants work through more than one person to create them, that's up to Him. Today, I constantly seek input from others in the song writing process, both with the lyrics and the music, and have learned to be more objective when I hear suggestions for improvements.
Over the years I have been influenced by both Christian and secular music, but writing Christian lyrics can be much different than writing secular lyrics at times. I recently heard an interview with the guy who helped write a popular song for the singer Ke$ha. They wrote the song and recorded it all in the same day! For Christian music, it's so important to carefully communicate the truth about God. It's a different process than just writing a goofy song about partying. Some of the songs on my new CD were written recently while I was taking seminary classes and I got some great advice for improving those songs from some very wise professors.
Having been a song leader for so many years, one of the things I keep in mind when I write songs is to make them enjoyable to sing. In fact, my goal is to make them more fun to sing than to listen to. I still want people to enjoy listening to my songs, but my goal is that they are even more fun when you add your own voice in praise to our great God. Personally, I think that the best way for people to use my new CD, is in private worship singing along with it cranked up in their car.
Even if you can't sing, you can still enjoy this CD in private worship while exercising. I was training for my first triathlon shortly before the CD release and it was amazing how even my running and biking became a form of worship while listening to these tunes.
Getting back to some of your other questions... I grew up and have lived most of my life in central Illinois, but I have also spent some significant parts of my life in Montana and Nebraska. I have worked at different places as a camp director, youth pastor and worship leader.
I learned to play guitar in high school after getting a guitar for Christmas and by June I was playing guitar along with the camp counselors at the Christian camp my whole family worked at. I played guitar all through high school and college in music groups and bands. Besides my solo project, I also currently play with a band called "Sibling Harmony" that has 3 CDs (including a children's CD) and have played for groups as large as 5,000.
My new solo CD is basically a worship CD, but not your typical type of praise and worship music. I come from a traditional church body that has great theology and principles of worship, but as a whole doesn't fully embrace church music that is not sung to an organ. What I have done in this CD is merge very conservative lyrics with upbeat guitar-driven music. Not everyone will like this combination, but the people at my church really seem to appreciate it. My prayer is that it can be a blessing to even more people as God sees fit."
Tyde Moore: "Wow, a lot of great information there, right off the cuff. Does anyone still say that? Right off the cuff? Did they ever say that? Never mind, don't answer that. It sounds like we have a lot in common actually, when I first started I had my music changed so much that it wasn't even recognizable and I realized the same thing you did. It's not our music, it's God's music. It's about the ministry first and foremost. Of course with my music, it probably needed changing because I was really wet behind the ears... but you, you sound like you have a lot of experience. So, thanks for sharing that, that's encouraging to any songwriter who's been through that process.
I have always wanted to get into writing Christian songs for children, but you actually did it! I can't wrap my mind around how to do it, what's so different about writing for children, opposed to writing for everyone, since you've done both? Any tips for people like me who want to do that? Aren't you afraid that you'll do something wrong when you write for the children? Scar them for life? LOL!"
Kevin Bueltmann: "Well I sure hope I haven't scarred anyone for life, but I sure love writing songs to help kids learn about their Savior! When I write for 5-day VBS programs, the songs have to be easy to learn, which might mean short and few verses with great memorable choruses and sometimes using repeating musical phrases or echos. Years ago kids songs were simple like "Jesus Loves Me" which is a great song, but since kids have so much more access to music these days, they can more easily learn to imitate more complex rhythm patterns and melodies. The trick is to make a song fun and challenging enough for them to enjoy, but not too challenging that they can't sing along.
When writing lyrics, it's also helpful to think about the actions. It's also good to think about incorporating fun themes, silly animals or creative stories, but you want to make sure your creativity doesn't overshadow the message. Younger kids are concrete (not abstract) thinkers. If you search online for "The Baa Baa Song" & my name, you'll find a fun kid's songs that I recently animated.
One of my favorite challenges is when my publisher asks me to write a song based on the exact version of a Bible verse. It's fun to create a song based on Scripture because music is a great way to memorize God's Word!
One important question to ask yourself is: Who is the subject of the song? Is it us? Is it God? Someone else? In other words, "Is the song about how great GOD is or is it about how great WE are because we're singing about God?" We want to make sure we give God the glory."
Tyde Moore: "That's a cute little song, and a great example of what you were just telling us. You said you animated this? So, you do animation too? Did you have any training in that field or is that something you just sort of picked up along the way? Tell us a little about how you come up with ideas for your material (songs and animations). Do they just come to you or do you have to brainstorm, do you sit and practice for hours or do you wait for something to come to you? I'm asking this because some creative people don't know if they should wait for it to come to them, or if they should make it happen. Which methods work best for you to get the creative juices flowing? Because it looks like you've got a lot of flowing juices, with all these different projects."
Kevin Bueltmann: "Thanks! This is my first attempt at animation. I saw my son do some animations on a website called Scratch, so I decided this could be something I could try. It's very time consuming and tedious work, so I just sat down and cranked it out one night while watching a couple of movies. I did it all with PowerPoint and iMovie. I did a second animation a few months later, but I wasn't as patient so that one wasn't as good as the first.
Many of my kid songs and adult songs have been written in a day from a burst of inspiration. Sometimes that burst of inspiration comes after days of mulling over the potential song. In any case, after the song is formed, then I spend days and weeks tweaking the lyrics and the melodies after bouncing them off of my harshest critics. Sometimes these burst of inspiration come from a specific emotional or spiritual experience that just needs to be expressed. Last year my family went on a mission trip to Guatemala and one night I couldn't sleep and so I wrote a song that expressed my emotions after seeing the faith of people who live in rustic shelters that most people would tear down. If you search for "No One Greater" & my name you'll find a music video of that song with scenes from the trip.
One of the tools that really helps me is using some kind of multi-track recording software like Garage Band. After I start writing lyrics, I will hear rhythmic melodies in my head. I record me singing parts of the song and then play it back and make changes as I go and the song goes through an evolution of melodies until the best one finds it way onto the last track. If I'm restricted to specific words such as when I'm writing a Bible verse song, I will try out various drum loops to see which groove fits the words then I go through the same melody evolution process.
When I have trouble with inspiration, which is actually a lot, especially if I'm under a writing deadline, I will just start typing out lots of phrases of what I want to say. Then I sort out the phrases into ones that would work best for a chorus or for a verse or for a bridge. Then if I can't come up with a melody, I can at least get a non-melodic rhythmic flow of the words. Then I turn to rhyming & synonym websites to improve the words I use. After I get the words organized and if I still don't have a melody, I will pull out my guitar and try different strums and chord patterns to see what God does from there."
Tyde Moore: "Some of your process sounds familiar to me, I used to just write my lyrics and say, 'Well, it's better when it just flows out in 5 minutes,' then I would be done with it. But more recently on the last song I did with my wife, "Because You First Loved Me" we sat on that for a long time, we kept going back together and editing it. So, the lyrics do get much more evolved that way, I don't write melodies, so I wouldn't know about that. I would like to start writing melodies, but I don't play any instruments. Any tips for me in that department? How can someone like me write an entire song, melody and all? I can see that this interview is going to be a great resource for people looking to learn about songwriting, so I'm going to tap into that creative brain of yours. Maybe when we're done you can break a piece off and then I can have it surgically put into my head. Break me off a piece of that Bueltmann brain!
Kevin Bueltmann: "Tell you what, you fly my wife and I out to your place in California and we'll spend time co-writing some songs together! To address your question, playing an instrument is not necessary for writing melodies. Since I play guitar sometimes I will just play a chord progression into a multi-track recording and use that as my base for the song and just make up melodies to fit the chords. Anyone could do the same thing with music loops. These are snippets of instrumental parts that can be pieced together to make a soundtrack for a song. So for example, you could pick a guitar loop or a piano loop of 4 measures of a C chord. Then just keep adding different chords and pretty soon you'll have you're own back-up band playing your song and then you just make up melodies that fit the chords and the words you choose."
Tyde Moore: "You mentioned your wife and your son. How many kids do you have?"
Kevin Bueltmann: "My wife and I have four kids. Two boys and two girls. They are a wonderful blessing to us. Our daughter, Carly, actually sings some of the female background vocals on several songs on my new CD. She and my sister, Kim, are the two female vocalists you hear starting about half-way into this song: www.youtube.com/watch?v=owN5b5ORPTY This video shows some awesome footage from Glacier National Park and other places on a recent trip we took to Montana. The mountain scenes go so well with the song based on Psalm 95 as it describes the greatness of our God!"
Tyde Moore: "Four kids? I'm surprised you even have time to do any of your projects. It must be hard at times, to manage family and music career right? Are you able to help support them with your music career alone or do you have to take on another job? Just let me say, you must have an amazing and supportive family... Any tips for people out there who have a large family and are thinking about pursuing their dreams in music? Because there are a lot of people who want to do this, but don't think it's possible to do this and support a family."
Kevin Bueltmann: "Four kids keeps you busy, that's for sure, but they are also my inspiration, too. When they were younger, I wrote kid songs that I thought they would enjoy, and even now as they get older, I keep them in mind as I write songs. Music and songwriting is my full-time, (usually) self-sustaining hobby. I would love to be able to support my family through my songwriting, but my full-time job is being a pastor and worship leader. My goal is to someday write for better singers who would have a greater chance at getting those songs heard by more people and being a blessing to God's kingdom and a greater number of people."
Tyde Moore: "That's awesome, even though you can't fully support them with your music... You do get to support them doing something you love, ministry work. Tell us a little about your work as a Pastor, what goes into that? Some people probably think Pastors just come in once a week, do a sermon and that's it. But there's a lot more to it than that, and even that one sermon takes a lot of preparation. So, if you will, please enlighten us about how much and what kind of work is behind being a Pastor. Also, tell us how you became a Pastor, why you chose to do that, etc."
Kevin Bueltmann: "Being a pastor is an enormous responsibility, but an incredible joy. It's surprising how the encouragement of the people in my congregation can help revitalize me in order to be a support for others. One of the experiences of being a former camp director that has really helped me as a pastor is my training in being a challenge course facilitator. In many ways, serving a church and helping them see their role in the body of Christ is similar to working with a group of kids or adults work through the physical challenges of a ropes course only on a much larger scale."
Tyde Moore: "Well, I think we're almost done, we have a lot of great information. Thanks for doing this, but before we wrap it up... Where can your fans connect with you? Give us all your social networking links, your personal website and tell us again where we can buy your music. Happy New Year, I hope 2013 brings you great success in your Ministry, your music and at home!"
Kevin Bueltmann: "Thanks for a great visit. The best place to start is to go to my website: http://www.WaysofPraise.com since that will connect you with everything else including how to buy and download my music, but also be sure to subscribe to my YouTube account: www.YouTube.com/user/KevinBueltmannMusic and don't forget to "like" & "get notifications" from my Facebook page: https://www.Facebook.com/KevinBueltmannMusic
Thanks for giving me the opportunity to share the ministry and music that God does through me. Blessings in what God is doing through you as well!"
Tyde Moore: “Thanks again Kevin, it was a privilege doing this with you and I’m sure this will be an interesting read for our readers.”