Today we’re interviewing some of Velvet Ashes’ favorite musicians! Caleb and Erin Paxton are the husband and wife behind Eine Blume, the band that created our Velvet Ashes Retreat music and who so generously donated their other two albums to retreat participants.
Caleb and Erin, the music that you wrote for us for the Retreat was incredibly powerful. Many people have responded and shared how meaningful it was for them to have that music during their retreat. One woman serving in Mexico said that her heart is starved for nature, and she lives in a densely populated urban area where there is no green. She said when she listened to the retreat music, it was like lying down in a green pasture. She told us through tears how renewing and refreshing it was.
So first of all, thank you. Thank you for all beauty, talent and soul you poured into that music. We are truly grateful!
Can you tell us what the creative process was for you when you wrote this music?
Erin: Some of the music was already written and was just waiting for the perfect time to be birthed . . . We don’t do a lot of instrumental music, but about six months prior to the invitation to write, a couple of the songs came, usually in the midst of a noisy house and a messy life! Psalm 23 was inspired by our little girl who memorized it for a school presentation. When she was reciting it, the atmosphere was quiet, sweet, innocent, restful. I was mesmerized and inspired.
Caleb: I think we were just working to help capture some of the soul and ache and sweetness of Anna’s guided yoga. There is already so much richness there we wanted to make something simple and ambient that could sort of bubble underneath the video. We tried to just navigate the emotions we had. We had some key words; movement, calm, rest, transition, breath, healing.
So we just tried to imagine what that might sound like. We tried to think of the sounds using sight words or touch words like warm, soft, deep, dark, light, brittle, shiny. The instrumentation was really fun to plan. The drums are all sample recordings we made in our living room. Anything that sounds like a violin or a cello is actually electric guitar played with a cello bow through lots of spacey reverbs. The foundation is mostly piano. The nature sounds are all field recordings of real ocean, rain and birds.
We wanted to keep each song between 60 and 100 beats per minute, that’s the resting heart rate of humans. We limited ourselves to two musical keys: C and F to help with the flow and ease transitions.
We’d love to know more about you two personally. How does a creative, musical life happen when you are busy parents with jobs?
Caleb: It’s is a bit tough finding time to record music. The house needs to be very quiet and that means late nights. We unplug our refrigerator, turn off the ac or heat and sometimes re-record things when we can hear a loud truck or motorcycle drive down our busy road. Writing is easier and not so tedious. Our kids even seem to enjoy us writing. Music is most of what we do, either teaching or playing so that helps a musical life happen, I think. But, we still have to make space for it. Sit in the quiet late at night and wait and listen. Try to practice and be open to learning. We try to go see concerts and travel some. Those kinds of things help us remember to be in awe. If I am feeling ungrateful and stingy and poor my creativity reflects that.
Erin: Some of our own practicing happens in chaos and we just have to be ok with it for now. The more new instruments we have and the more projects we have, the more we practice and the more music we make! Kids playing and dancing and vying for attention . . . there are lots of interruptions. We are all learning how to navigate it. In writing, sometimes, we invite our kiddos into it by asking them what they think about things. We keep instruments out and around, so they are easy to pick up and play. Our kids have learned (for the most part) what is appropriate touch for certain instruments. Caleb is constantly buying guitar pedals and selling old ones. They get him excited and seem to help him creatively. He recently bought a bass guitar which he is teaching me. I LOVE IT. I never was inspired to play, but this bass is gorgeous and it is an easy instrument to learn.
I am pretty weak when it comes to late nights and working. I admit that I often will fall asleep on the couch while Caleb works! The next day, I will listen and edit/critique. We try to use as many electric instruments as possible so we can record anytime. We dream of having a house and private studio in a quiet, secluded place with some land and room for artists to come and retreat and record.
How does it work to create music together as husband and wife? How do you navigate your creative differences of opinion?
Erin: It can be a challenge, that’s for sure! Often, if we want to work together, we have to remind ourselves that we love each other! Sometimes, we will have gone down a particular creative path and there is no going back! We have to read each other really well and we are also learning to grow a “thicker skin” and to hold loosely to what we are creating. When I sense that he has worked too long and hard on something for a lot of criticism and I hear many things that need “tweaked,” I may just share one or two things that will help the sound and let the rest go. Or, if I can’t let it go, I will wait for another time to talk about it. Usually while we are talking or sharing a meal together. I think we have had to learn to encourage one another and how to listen and trust.
Is there music you appreciate, but are not able to create? What is it like to have a limit within an area of gifting and love?
Caleb: For me, I have heroes that I will never measure up to. If I start comparing myself I become paralyzed and depressed. It’s completely unhelpful. Picasso said, “All children are artists. The problem is how he can remain an artist when he grows up.” I feel like the words “no” and “I can’t” are the limits. Comparison and perfection are the enemies of creativity. Kids are brilliant at playing without making value judgments.
Erin: I think the biggest challenge is creating sounds in a live venue. You can create almost anything sound-wise if you know the right people to work with or have the right software; but creating that sound live on some of our albums, there are 14 different musicians playing! We need more really dedicated people and we are constantly praying for string players. The limit . . . sometimes it feels like an itch that is really deep that you can’t scratch. Sometimes, I like music that is more intense than Caleb does, and when I get the opportunity to play with others, I take it! It is fun, life giving in a different way.
When and how do you most intimately connect with God through music? When you are writing music? Practicing privately? Leading others?
Caleb: For me it is in writing. I feel like maybe we are actually working together. Sometimes I will just get wrecked while writing. I love and hate those times of vulnerability. I know the Father sees me and hears me and I suspect that I am catching glimpses and whispers of Him.
Erin: Some of my most favorite musical times with God is in corporate worship. There is something magical about being together as family, God speaking to each one, experiencing his presence. I think music communicates something that connects our minds, spirits, hearts and bodies to each other and to God, especially when those participating decide to engage in worship.
There is a new worship community in town, and we get together for 24 hrs of worship. Each leader takes an hour or two slot and leads. . . there are no rules except, “no talking, only worshiping through music.” It is a refreshment . . . we are not leading anybody, we are just ministering to God’s heart, prophesying over the community, letting spontaneous words and music come—it is so good. It is so freeing and powerful. I have connected personally with God through music during difficult seasons. There will be a song that feeds my soul and I will hang on to it and listen and cry and listen and cry until the season passes. It is usually a song that helps reveal God’s heart and character and helps me know who I am.
Thank you, Caleb and Erin! We love getting to know you more. Your creative lives and hearts are such a beautiful reflection of Christ.
You can purchase Eine Blumes album’s here:
Farewell to Shadowlands
Did you miss out on the Velvet Ashes Retreat? Stay tuned! Next week, we’ll have the opportunity for you to purchase access to the entire Retreat, including the amazing instrumental album by Caleb and Erin!