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With a friendship and musical-relationship that dates back to the time they spent together with faith-based band Taking Jericho, Sarah Echegoyen and Greg Nason have always had a connection and ability to create inspiring music together. Click here for more...

God Rewards Risk Takers 

A few weeks ago I had the chance to sit down with a band that was coming through my hometown as part of their Western Canadian tour. We met for coffee one evening at a local coffee shop and talked about music and touring. 

Where these guys have been doing this for several years, Mere Messengers are still fairly new to this, and I wanted to get some advice and ideas from them about how to approach the things we plan to do in the next couple of years. In particular, I was interested in hearing about how they made the jump from being a local band to being a touring band. 

The band's guitar player said something during our conversation that I think was pretty insightful. What he said was something to the effect of "God rewards those who take risks for Him and His church." I immediately thought of several times that I've seen that happen to people around me.  Insightful, but also a bit of a challenge for me. 

You see, if you're like me and inclined to have what I think of as realistic outlook (I know, most other people call it pessimistic), that's a pretty challenging thing to take in. I can give you a half dozen reasons off the top of my head why it would be a bad idea for me to give up my job, buy a van, kiss my wife and kids good-bye, and head out across Canada for a couple of months to tour, even if the purpose is to spread the good news. Now, I don't mean to imply that no one should do this. If God has given you the talent and the drive and the desire and t resources to do that, by all means, do it! What are you waiting for? 

Me, though, I have to work through some other things I need to consider. Like one of my kids is going to start University next year, and the other wants to switch from her current public school to a private school. So, would it be prudent of me to give up my current day job paycheck to do something that would cost me money out of pocket in order to try and bring my songs to a wider audience? 

I can even quote you some scripture about how I have a responsibility to provide for my family and to be a good financial steward of the blessings I have received. Like 1 Timothy 5:8:  "But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." That seems pretty cut and dried. 

But then there is the parable of the talents. Go ahead and ask me which of the three servants am I living my life as. I ask myself the same thing. Often. 

Right now we are spending time making plans for next year, setting goals and trying to decide what we want to (and will be able to) accomplish. There's a lot to take in, a lot to discuss, and a lot to consider, both financially and time-wise. And, as always, there's a lot to pray about too. 

It will be interesting to see where this journey takes us.

Gotta Have Faith 

(The everlasting reminder of "Gotta Have Faith" by Sarah Espeonite)

The great journey. Living of, my continuous life. Your continuous life. The understanding of where our faith is in our soulful make up, to access it when we need it the most, so it can lead us where God wants us to be. When I began songwriting years ago about many of my personal experiences, I always had the spirit speak to me with the title of, "Gotta Have Faith". 

Musically, I could hear the melody that was to-be recorded later on and I even had back in high school these little melodic riffs that would collect in the rhythms of my hands on the piano telling me I had to have faith. Whether I sat down on the piano bench from a long and glorious day at school, or a family frustrated moment in my room that needed to relieve itself with inspiration, the message was always there. 

There was a time where I can pin point my heart sinking and the Holy Spirit first took over. It was at the beginning of my youthful creative and risk-taking career when I once was told by a talent agent back when I was 19, that I was too old to into the fine arts industry. Whether it was for acting, singing, dancing, you name it and I couldn't have felt the blows any worse. I was upset with how late I got exposed to my talents so late in life, that I was full of resentment and doubt that I could ever help others or myself, in this matter, with my music. Little did I know that God had already mapped me out for a more fulfilling life ahead. 

Many of the words I would tell myself, my "I" if you will, would be speaking about my own doubts, my fears, my weaknesses and then I could not release myself until I gave myself time. Time to shut out the negative. Time to ask for help from our Heavenly Father. Time to just surrender and pray. Sometimes those moments of giving up were just at the edge of my tongue and I'd feel like I wanted to give up. I forgot about my reason of why, forgetting my passionate energies and how letting go could be the only option left. If it's not everyday that I have experienced that feeling with my musical talents at those moments, "At times I feel I'm no where near enough, at times I feel so unprepared, at times I feel like I want to resign," and finally the final moment I would lead to being unsatisfied with where I am in life with my job, my dreams, and my musical goals. God just kept singing this song in my heart to tell me, faith is where my true being would know how to feel free and learn to accept myself and how he made me. 

I often picked myself up with the words, "Well, I gotta have faith in myself," and dust off the darkness. These blessed words which spoke volumes in times of my own silence, could not resist this constant spirit repeating, telling me, and reminding me the importance of staying consistent and committed to my path. 

Now to simply have faith is often never enough. God will truly not let us down and make things happen without our knowledge. Application is the final step. God arranged the opportunities for me and as I've heard and I'm paraphrasing, "God can only show you the door, it's up to you to walk through it." The important baby steps were going to be walked by me for years and I would tell myself that it would take hard work, discipline and teaching to understand God and my purpose. With faith I believed that the only way I could ever truly be a spirited vessel, was by allowing God to take control of my instrument for His message. 

So give yourself, like I did with this song, a button on your digital, spiritual, and/or emotional soul to grant permission to have faith every moment you live under God's roof on Earth. He'll grant you the people to support and encourage you. Give you the tools to use in your life. Remember: it's going to be up to you to use them for His word to share with others. You just gotta have faith!

Huron Carol 

As we were approaching our first Christmas together as a band, we wanted to do something to celebrate the season. So when Creative Soul Records asked us if there was a Christmas song we'd like to record for their Timeless Christmas CD, we jumped at the opportunity.

The Huron Carol was written around 1642 by a missionary to the first nations people in what later became central Canada to tell the story of the nativity using language and imagery that would be familiar to them. Originally written in the Wendat language to a traditional French melody, it was translated and adapted into English in 1926. 

Our appreciation of this song comes from its place at the intersection of several different interests we have... history, world music, and of course our faith. 

Hearing this song describe a story we know, but with its imagery changed in a way that helps make it more accessible to people of a different culture reminds us of what the heavenly hosts spoke to the shepherds in the fields near Bethlehem centuries ago: that Christ came to save the whole world... as the savior for all people everywhere. 

"And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord." - Luke 2:10-11 

Everything Everywhere  

It can be tough to stay focused on spiritual things when we have to live in the world that focuses so much on... well.. on worldly things. 

All we have to do is turn on our phones or TVs and we're bombarded with things that seem to be designed to distract us from the things we should be concentrating on. 

That's why I spend many of my bible times seeking scriptures about ways to focus more on how I'm supposed to live as a Christian. 

There may be something I have yet to find that answers that question once and for all, but in some ways it seems to boil down to a matter of perspective. Really, when we examine it, Jesus spent much of his time seeing the good in people society said were beyond redemption. Tax collectors, prostitutes, lepers, widows, the lame, the blind and the deaf... people marginalized by their society because they seemed to have no value were sought out by Jesus because He sees the intrinsic value in everyone, regardless of what society says about them. 

This was the idea I was trying to keep in mind when we wrote Everything Everywhere: that we can see the good in people if only we care enough to look for it. 

I can see your beauty 
And I can see your grace 
In everything, in every face 
In all the world, in every place 
The world will praise your name 

After all, as Christians we're called to emulate Christ in our day-to-day lives, and one of the most loving things Christ did was to accept everyone regardless of how the world sees them.

True To You  

I could probably write a whole series of blogs about how therapeutic I find playing music. When I feel stressed, I find myself heading straight for the basement studio to grab a guitar. It isn't really something I think about, I just know at a subconscious level that I'll feel better with a guitar in my hands and the sound of chords jangling around the room. 

That is probably a part of the reason that when I'm writing a song, the music just happens without much effort on my part.  Pick a key to determine the "color" of the song and I know what 4 or 5 chords I'm going to play, so I play them. The tempo and the arrangement naturally happen based on my mood and I don't usually put much thought into what I'm playing. It just happens. 

Writing lyrics, though... That's a completely different story. Far more often than not I'll spend hours writing, re-writing, tweaking, changing, adding, removing, re-adding, re-removing and generally messing with the lyrics. And when I'm done I spend more hours second-guessing myself and doubting whether I'd made the right choices. As a matter of fact, if I didn't have deadlines to get songs finished by, I might never consider some songs "complete" enough to let anyone hear them. 

But once in a great while I'll come up with a song where the lyrics mostly write themselves the way the music does. The first song on our CD Everything Everywhere is one of those. 

One day I fired up my workstation and came up with a chord progression that I recorded. Next, where I might normally record some vocalizations or a piano line to define the melody, I found I actually had a line of lyrics in mind that fit into the chorus, and from that line, I knew what the chorus was about even before I'd thought about a name for the song: 

I'll be true to You 
No matter what I face 
In the challenges each day 
I'll stay true to You 
And when I meet you face to face 
On that final day of grace 
I'll know that I can say 
That I was true to You 

Where I often wrestle with a song to shape the lyrics into something that is poetic, lyrical, worshipful, relatable and real, this song arrived almost fully formed as a simple and straightforward message to the world and our Creator that we intend to persevere and never forget all that He's done for us. 

Hope you like it.
 

Finding Inspiration  

Since I started taking my songwriting more seriously a few years ago I've learned to always be on the lookout for any kind of a cue that might have the potential to grow into a song. 

As we were finalizing the list of songs that we would record for Everything Everywhere, we had settled on nine songs and were trying to decide on the tenth. I had committed to having the tenth one selected and its demo done by the end of a certain weekend so the musicians could record it early in the week. 

Problem was, I didn't have a good choice for the tenth song. I had a couple of options but I didn't feel like they were really at the same level as the others we had already done, and no one who had heard them was clamoring to hear them get recorded either. Driving home from church on Sunday afternoon I had resigned myself to a particular song that I really wasn't all that excited about. 

While driving home that Sunday, I heard the song "Walking Her Home" by Mark Schultz on the radio. Now, I love that song, and I think Mark Schultz is a phenomenal songwriter and storyteller, and for some reason this particular day a certain line near the end of the song stuck in my subconscious.   

Later that afternoon I made one last try at finding a better song to record.  I asked my son who writes his own music too whether he had any songs that might fit my CD, so he played me a song that he had written for a friend who moved away, and in an odd case of coincidence, this song also had the exact same line in it. 

Now, I'm the first to admit that I'm not the sharpest tool in the shed, as they say, but hearing that same line in two different songs only a couple of hours apart connected some synapses somewhere, and I started thinking about what a song with that one line as the theme would sound like. Pretty soon my son and I were throwing ideas back and forth... A song about people at the end of their lives... full of regrets about the choices they had made and leaving their loved ones behind... with a chorus that focuses on God's mercy and grace...and it would resolve with the idea that the end of our time on earth is not really the end, but that there's a whole new existence awaiting us. 

I wasn't sure how a song written at the eleventh hour would turn out, but by the time we were finished recording we had a song that I think is touching, sad and poignant, but that doesn't lose sight of the fact that even when we're at the point where there seems to be nothing left before us, thanks to God's mercy and grace, This Is Not The End.
 

So... Why "Mere Messengers", anyway?  

We're glad you asked! 

En route to Nashville to wrap up the recording of our CD "Everything Everywhere" we were waiting at the gate to board our Nashville flight when Greg saw a live music producer he had met on a previous Nashville trip was waiting to board the same flight. 

Greg walked over to re-introduce himself and we started chatting about music, performing and recording. During the conversation, we mentioned that we were going to be recording with Eric Copeland at Creative Soul Records, and at that point the producer said that he had been meaning to get in touch with Eric about a project they were both involved in, and asked us to pass along a message when we met him the following day. 

The rest of the travel day went by uneventfully and when we met up with Eric the next day, we passed along our message. 

"We are what we believe we are." - C. S. Lewis

The conversation moved on to the project at hand and when Eric asked if we had decided on a name for the band, Sarah answered "Apparently, we're The Messengers". It seemed rather apropos of both what we'd just done, and what we wanted to accomplish with our music. 

It turned out that there are several other bands called "The Messengers" or something very similar, so to show that the message we feel called to deliver is more important than we who are delivering it, and as an homage to one of Greg's favorite authors, C.S. Lewis, we added the "Mere" and became Mere Messengers. 

After all, although we are honored to be able to help spread the good news to the world through our music, it's the message that really matters, and we are merely the messengers. 

How it All Started 

Sometimes I'll have an idea for a song that I think has a lot of potential, only to find when I sit down to write it that the song simply refuses to be written the way I planned it. Some of those songs never see the light of day, but sometimes something happens to push them into existence. "Well Done" is one of those songs. 

About five years ago I was co-writing songs for a band I was in at the time, and we were looking to write a ballad to put on our CD. I came up with the idea of a song with 3 verses that would each be a prayer to God, asking him to grant me peace, hope and strength, with a chorus of praise thanking Him for those things. I really liked the concept and I imagined that this would come together pretty easily. 

But when I tried to write "Peace, Hope And Strength", it never quite came together the way I wanted. The verses sounded plaintive instead of prayerful, and the chorus never had the punch I wanted it to have. We ended up using another ballad on that CD. 

I kept the idea in the back of my mind though, and when I was working on my first solo EP a couple of years later I wanted to try tackling this song again. I had a new co-writer and mentioned this idea to him, but once again, we didn't really come up with any new ideas to improve it and so we shelved it a second time. 

When we were planning the CD that became "Everything Everywhere" I decided that I wanted to try this song once again. For this CD, the process was a bit different and involved stripping down the songs I wanted to do so that I had just the vocals and guitar and sending that down to Nashville where the arrangement would take place and the music recorded. So I took "Peace, Hope And Strength" and threw together a drum and a guitar track. Then I started recording the vocals I had and realized I'd made a mistake. 

On my new demo, the choruses were twice as long as they were supposed to be. I sang the chorus lyrics, and then there were 12 more bars of chorus with no vocals before the next verse started! 

That obviously needed to be fixed, but I didn't want to go back and start over when I was nearly done my demo, so first I decided to see if I could come up with some more lyrics that would fit the end of the chorus. 

With the recording running, I started just reciting scripture and trying to make it fit the melody that was already there. That's when the lines in the chorus about being: 

"a faithful servant who will hear you say 
'Well done, well done, well done, 
Oh my good and faithful servant, 
well done" 

suddenly came into being. 

Now the chorus had the punch it had always been missing, and a pretty good hook as well. I packaged that up and shipped it off to Nashville. 

A few tweaks to the verses later along with some awesome tracks by the great musicians at Creative Soul Records, and suddenly "Peace, Hope And Strength" was living up to its potential the way I always thought it could. 

Now I just had to keep explaining to everyone why a song that should obviously be called "Well Done" was called "Peace, Hope And Strength". 

Either that, or change the name.

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