This month’s Industry Insider features 2018 Absolutely Gospel Music Award Songwriter of the Year (Professional) winner Lee Black.
Matthew Lawson: Lee, thank you for taking the time to talk with us today. Those of us who know you are amazed at your anointing, talent and creative mind. For those who may not be familiar with you, would you mind telling us what your position is in our industry?
Lee Black: I spend a great deal of my time writing songs. For the last almost four years, my publishing home has been Daywind Music Publishing. I can’t say enough good things about Rick Shelton and Joe Dan Cornett. Those guys work really hard for me. Before that I wrote for Brentwood-Benson Music Publishing and Word Music Publishing. I spent almost five years working as a publisher for Integrity Music. And before that I was actually a staff writer at Daywind. So this is my second go round there and I’m not planning on leaving! When I’m not writing songs, I do a lot of studio work, singing demos for other songwriters. This year I’ve also done some fill in work with Karen Peck and New River, The LeFevre Quartet, and the Kingsmen and had a great time doing that!
ML: Your first professional cut was with Brian Free and Assurance. The song is titled “Flood The Altar” and was co-written with Sue Smith and David Moffitt. Was that the moment that really launched your career, so to speak?
LB: That was my first cut – and an absolute thrill – but I wouldn’t say that it necessarily launched my writing career. My wife and I moved to Nashville in ’92 and that BFA cut happened soon after. My naive, new-to-town mind thought, “This is great! You write a song and you get it cut! Easy peasy lemon squeezy.” Then I went through a LONG drought with no cuts and a season of disappointment and discouragement when I gave up writing for several years. I finally remembered my love for writing and picked it back up again – coming to that place of “even if I don’t get a thing professionally recorded, I’m going to do this because I feel like God has called me to do it.” Some of those songs wound up in the hands of Marty Funderburk who was working in publishing at Daywind at the time. He signed me there in ’98.
ML: Day after day, you’re in a writing room with other writers drinking coffee, sharing testimonies and writing songs. I imagine there are days when it’s easier to write than others, but are there any moments when it has become stale to you?
LB: I can honestly say no. I’ve always wanted to be a writer. When other little kids were dreaming of being a doctor or fireman or pro football player, I was dreaming of being a writer. Initially I wanted to be a journalist. I’ve always loved stories – hearing other people’s and telling my own. Then as my love of music grew, that dream morphed into songwriting. And while I write some secular songs, the gospel is THE story of all stories. So the fact that I get to retell it and retell it day in and day out – and someone actually pays me to do that – it never gets stale or mundane or tedious. I’m grateful for the opportunity to do it.
ML: Out of all the songs you’ve written in your career, which one (or ones) have been written out of the most vulnerable, transparent place? (these can be songs cut already, or songs that haven’t yet been picked up.)
LB: It would be one that nobody knows titled That’s My Story, Too. When something moves me deeply, that emotion always finds its way into a song. Usually I try to tap into it and make it commercially appealing. But sometimes songs just need to be a catharsis to chronicle life. This one came out of, again, a season of disappointment and discouragement when I felt like giving up the whole writing thing. The song served to put my “why” down on paper – a way of talking myself off the ledge and saying, “Nope. You’re not quitting. You were put here to do this thing. Go try again.”
ML: Tell us a little bit about your family. Are any of them as musically inclined as yourself?
LB: Melissa and I have been married 26 years. She is my biggest cheerleader and supporter. I don’t know how someone pursues a creative career without a champion in his corner. My daughter Maggie is 20 and pursuing a degree in music education. A great singer, she is actively involved in leading worship with Cru on campus. Twin sons Reese and Elijah are 19. Reese is a talented guitar player and is also leading worship with Cru. Elijah is taking a break from school for a semester for an internship in worship ministry at a local church. He is a pretty amazing drummer and would like to tour. Anabel is 16, a junior in high school, and actively involved in show choir, concert choir, and musical theater. She also helps lead worship at church. I am so proud of them and love watching them grow in their gifts!
ML: What is God currently teaching you in this season of your life?
LB: He’s teaching me contentment and gratefulness. Maybe it’s true in every walk of life… but living and working in a creative environment, I see comparison and envy taking a toll on people. It’s so easy to give in to the whole – “Why didn’t I get the cuts he got?” “Why did she get the single and not me?” “If only I could get a big country cut.” thing. I’ve wasted too much time not being grateful for the good things in my life. I’m learning to rest in God’s providence and trust His timing.