Apologies for not posting anything yesterday. First I thought it was April 1st, then I thought it was March 30th, then I remembered that March has 31 days in it. So, needless to say, WordPress didn’t do what I thought it was going to do. :-) BUT, to make up for my absent-mindedness, and instead of coming up with anything clever for April Fool’s Day, I have a special treat for all you readers—an interview with one of my favorite songwriters, Rebecca Peck! Rebecca has a huge catalogue of songs with cuts from nearly all of your favorite artists, including, but not limited to, the Booth Brothers, the Collingsworth Family, Brian Free & Assurance, Legacy Five, Triumphant Quartet, the Hoppers, Signature Sound, etc., etc., etc. In my opinion, she is gospel music’s answer to Twila Paris. My personal favorite song of hers is the Collingsworth Family’s “Blessed Be the Lamb.” I got the chance to ask her some questions about her background and her career, including her recent song “Christ Is Still the King” on Legacy Five’s latest. My thanks to Rebecca for being so insightful, down-to-earth and gracious. You can read more about her and browse her work at her website. Without further ado, here are my questions and her answers to them!
Rebecca Peck: I grew up playing piano and singing in church and other events. My music tastes have always been extensively eclectic. The pendulum could swing from straight gospel singing to Gershwin, from bluegrass to pop, from church choir music to folk. If it’s good music, I’m in! Because of that, it’s hard to narrow down influences, but some would include (not in any order) The Hayes Family (and other family members who sing convention music), Ricky Skaggs, The Sheltons (from Pickens, South Carolina), Dallas Holm, The Nelons, my home church choir and choral recordings, Marty Raybon, Barry Manilow, etc. Yes, writing was something I played around with as a child, but as far as writing “real” songs, that came when I was a teenager. The church I attended had a big variety of music in my impressionable years, but in my teenage years, it became fairly rigid about what was accepted. I had a hard time finding anything I really wanted to sing, so I just made up my own stuff. After high school, I started writing what I wanted to write stylistically, and it just morphed from there.
SGY: How long did it take before you got your first professional cut? Did the cuts come pouring in after that, or was it a gradual process?
RP: My first cuts came from The Hayes Family in 1991. I got 5 on one record. That was a great feeling! It was definitely a gradual process, though, from that point on. Writer/artists have the advantage of having an immediate outlet for their songs. When you are a writer who is not an artist, it is hard to break in and get artists to listen. It takes time and patience.
SGY: Talk about your new song “Christ is Still the King,” which I know you wrote with Dianne Wilkinson. That’s a powerful lyric! What was on your mind as you were writing it?
OK, a little backtracking here to set it up. Dianne and I have a unique way of writing. We have written over 80 songs together but have never done it in person. It has all been through email. That in itself is amazing, because I have always disliked writing long distance! Somehow with her, it just clicked. I think it’s because we think alike in many ways and can almost read each other’s minds. Sometimes, I write lyrics, and she writes music. Sometimes it’s the other way around. Sometimes we do an equal share of both; it just depends on the song. This was one where I wrote the lyric, and she wrote the music. The morning after the last presidential election when tensions were high and people were focused on the turmoil surrounding the election, I started thinking about the sovereignty of God and how He is in control of everything. No matter who is the president and how the political winds change, some things will not change. I wanted to capture that in a song. I had also just prior to that heard my cousin preach a sermon in which he said that centuries may pass, but the wages of sin is still death, and we still need a Savior. I sent the lyrics to Dianne, and she made them come alive by perfectly capturing the power and essence of the truth. It is amazing how she does that. That’s why she is who she is!
SGY: One of the things that amazes me about professional songwriters is their ability to crank out SO many songs in such a short time. What does a typical writing week look like for you?
Because of everything going on in my life, I don’t have a set pattern on when I will write. I write a lot by myself these days because I can do that whenever I feel like it and don’t have to schedule out a block of time. Co-writing in person (which I LOVE and used to do oodles of!!) has been cut way back in the last couple years because it’s hard to set aside entire days to be away from my little children. My output of songs has stayed the same, but I’m a little more focused to take my time to meditate and pray over things by writing in selective windows of time. Plus, I can do it in my pajamas! It’s just a season I’m in right now.
SGY: Name a personal favorite song that you did NOT write.
RP: Oh boy!!! How in the world do I do that? :o) My favorite hymn is “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” but beyond that, I don’t think I could ever pick a favorite.
SGY: The list of artists who have recorded your work is very impressive! Is there a particular artist not yet on that list whom you would especially like to add?
RP: Ricky Skaggs. Or any artist I have pitched to for years who comes “really close” to cutting one, but it doesn’t make it on the final record. :o)
SGY: You’re prolific in the world of choral music. How does the process of getting choral cuts differ from the artist cut process?
The choral world is completely different. There are different companies, arrangers, music executives, etc., from the artist arena. Sometimes they overlap (Lari Goss, Cliff Duren, Mike Speck), but it really is a different atmosphere. I feel that print is more focused on the song itself, and you have to check the stage mindset at the door.
SGY: Do you think songwriters get more or less appreciation in southern gospel than in other genres like country or pop?
RP: I don’t really know from personal experience, since I’ve never gotten any appreciation in those fields. :o) However, awards shows in those genres give the Song of the Year Award to the writer of the song, and that is sometimes not done in SG. So, maybe in that regard. It seems to me that the greatest appreciation we could hear is, “Well, done good and faithful servant.” So, that should be what’s important.
SGY: What is your most memorable co-writing experience?
RP: Writing with my grown son, Logan, is precious to me. He is an AWESOME writer (not just my son) and is establishing a name for himself in print and the artist world.
SGY: Any final words of wisdom for aspiring writers?
RP: Write all the time. Don’t give up. Focus on the craft. Study other writers. Understand when you’re listening to music that, in some cases, a popular song might not be good and a good song might not be popular. Be willing to take constructive criticism. Give your dreams to God and focus on Him and His will for you. Dig into His word, and hide it in your heart.