Songwriting: From Inspiration to Perspiration

Featuring Paul Baloche Posted on January 15, 2010

It shouldn’t take too much reflection to realize that if God did indeed just “give” us complete songs there would be no need for further practice or development on our part.  All believers would write perfect songs every time. But obviously this isn’t the case. Songwriting is an art, but it’s also a craft, with its own set of skills to be learned and sharpened until they are the best we can make them. The message may be God’s but the expression of the message is ours. The song is expressed in our vocabulary and written at the level of our ability, not His. He can certainly give us a fountain of inspiration, understanding and even revelation—but craft is our responsibility. And Craft means knowing what to do when the great inspiration strikes. Of course, the more of your craft you have built into your mind, the more you will create instinctively and the less rewriting you’ll need to do. 

Paul had had a phrase in his journal for about two years: “Above All.” One day he was alone in the sanctuary, ministering to the Lord, and a song began to take shape. It came quickly, from the heart. Much more inspiration than perspiration. Over time he took it out, visited it and worshipped with it. The verse fell into place, then the chorus built up into a great, swelling, dynamic strain, like a shout to the Lord, “All the earth will worship you, Every heart can see your majesty...” He introduced the song to his congregation, and they sang it that way for about a year. But Paul was never quite happy with it. 

One day he visited Lenny LeBlanc, to do some co-writing, and showed him the song. Paul told him, “I believe in the verse, but I feel like there’s a better chorus out there.” Lenny took it away overnight, and came back with a new idea. Instead of the high, celebratory lines, he came up with “Crucified, laid behind a stone...” Whoa! A total, unexpected contrast. A Paradox. It pulled the rug out from under you, and with a poignant melodic turn that nailed you in the heart. “You lived to die, rejected and alone ...” Together they worked out the ending of the song, and finished with the title line. By the time they got to “You took the fall and thought of me … above all,” they were both in tears. The revelation hit them and broke their hearts. The lesson Paul learned from that experience.  Don’t take a song out of the greenhouse too soon. 

Above all powers, above all kings 

Above all nature and all created things 

Above all wisdom and all the ways of man 

You were here before the world began 

 Above all kingdoms, above all thrones 

Above all wonders the world has ever known 

Above all wealth and treasures of the earth 

There’s no way to measure what You’re worth 


Crucified, laid behind a stone 

You lived to die, rejected and alone 

Like a rose trampled on the ground 

You took the fall, and thought of me 

Above all.



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