There’s no way to plan which songs will break out and which ones won’t. Any songwriter will tell you that if they could write a hit every time then they would.
I remember one time when I was a signed staff writer in Nashville I went to my publisher’s office to turn in a song I had just completed co-writing with a friend who was signed to another company.
I didn’t even like the song myself. But in those days I was in a quota system where I had to turn in a certain number of songs every year to honor my contract. This meant turning in even the songs about which I wasn’t that excited.
Completed songs would usually be turned in with a rough “work” version and then later, once the publisher had approved the song, a demonstration version (called a demo) would be created in order to pitch the song for consideration to recording artists.
When I turned in the song in question I actually said to my publisher, “Don’t bother with a demo on this one. Nobody is going to want this.” He agreed and we let it drop.
A few weeks later I heard from m y co-writer that the song was going to be recorded. Several months later I learned that the song was going to be a radio single. Still later, it wound up being a top ten hit on CCM radio.
My point is that even as the writer we don’t always know what song is going to hit the mark.
GOING ON INSTINCT
When John Mandeville and I were creating the collection of 165 children’s songs that would ultimately become Music for the Little Soul we often moved at a break neck speed out of necessity.
At the time we were creating the songs for an outside company. They had a release schedule in mind that required us to deliver ten full albums quickly.
As a result we might write as many as five songs per day. Once we had a batch of two or three albums worth we would cut the tracks, bring in our amazing child vocalists and then record five songs a day as well.
Each album had a theme – Songs from the Old Testament, Songs from the New Testament, Lullabies, New Worship Songs, etc. Of course there were to be Christmas songs. Thirty of them in fact. And fifteen were to be brand new songs.
When you’re writing at that pace you get an idea and you go. There isn’t a lot of time to sit around and wonder about the approach. You go on instinct.
Naturally we wanted the songs to be fun. A fun kid’s song is naturally going to be up-tempo. That’s how I arrived at a rocker called No Room in the Inn.
BOM SHOOBY DOO OP
There isn’t as much to work with as you might think when you try to start writing Biblically themed Christmas songs. Luke is the only gospel in which the Christmas story is told and the entirety of the story is contained in nineteen verses. (Luke 2:1-19)
Clearly one of the most often told parts of the story is from verse 7 where it says “She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn.”
I thought of the refrain, “There was no room in the inn but you can make room in your heart.” Growing up a Beatles fan I immediately heard it in my mind as a rocker along the lines of “I Saw Her Standing There.”
Then I thought wouldn’t it be fun if we threw the old “Bom shooby doo op” thing in the middle section like songs had in the fifties. And just like that the song came together. I thought it was fun and when we brought the kids into sing it they did too.
But there was certainly nothing about it at the time that made me think that No Room in the Inn was the song out of this ten-album collection that was going to get the most attention.
JOY RISES UP
And then Grace Outreach Center in Plano, TX had their GraceKids Choir sing No Room in the Inn as part of their Christmas program. They had 122 kids sing the song along with some hand movements. It blessed us so much to see the kids performing the song and the parent’s response was amazing!
Later they posted a You Tube video of No Room in the Inn. The song begins at 1:40 of the video.
Since then for the last five Christmas seasons the e-mails and phone calls start, usually in early November with children’s choir directors asking me if our No Room in the Inn song on Music for the Little Soul Volume One is the same one as in that video.
This year I had such a call from a church in California on October 8th, the earliest we’ve ever heard from anyone. It’s so exciting to think of all the new children who will experience the song this year.
I think No Room in the Inn has caught on is because it’s so joyful. It’s a song about the most joyous of all occasions – the birth of Jesus! Since our ministry is based on songs and their staying power I like to think about these children carrying that joy into their lives.
Sometimes the best things come together quickly!