Finding My Voice By inSpire with Kendall Chaffee

Photo: Kendall Chaffee
inSpire - Kendall, you have a passion for music. Tell us about your background and how you came to love music so much.

Chaffee - I was raised in a very musical family. My father Dale was a preacher and an accomplished Chet Atkins style guitar player. He was a very good steel guitar player as well and we would have a house full of musicians on a regular basis. I remember many Saturday nights when they'd be playing well into the early morning hours. Because of this I had an interest in music at an early age. I started singing at the age of 4 and learned to play the guitar at age 9. My older brother Kevin is also a very talented musician and we all took an interest in Bluegrass in the mid 70's. I learned to play the mandolin at the age of 15 and later took up the fiddle. My brother played the banjo and dobro and the three of us toured the North East playing festivals and venues.

After school, marriage and children we went our separate ways. I eventually found my own voice and style of music--which is deeply influenced by my background. I started writing songs about five years after realizing I had something to say musically.

I now perform acoustically in churches and Christian venues, and on the radio for a Haitian station that reaches many parts of the world. I am active in my local church in music ministry. I believe there is no such thing as true worship without music.

inSpire - When you write a new song, how do you go about it? Do you write the lyrics first, then the music, or is it the other way around? If you are willing, please share some of your songwriting secrets.

Chaffee - My style of writing is a combination. I usually start with a hook and build both the main lyrical idea from there including the melody. Sometimes I have a musical idea chord progression I like and build the lyrics from there but that's the exception.

I sometimes have ideas that come to me nearly complete and take much less work to create a piece. Usually I have to mull the song over in my mind, work it up on my guitar, keyboard, etc. in order to get something worth listening to. This process will sometimes take weeks and even months. I find that if I am struggling with a piece I need to leave it alone for awhile. Coming back to it on another day is very helpful and I see it with fresh eyes. This technique often times completely changes the piece into something way different than the original idea.

I am also constantly taking notes, writing phrases, recording ideas. I carry a small note book with me and jot down ideas or phrases when they hit me. Some are just a single line that might sit for a long time before I revisit them again. I will often go back through my list of phrases and ideas to get inspired for a new project.

I usually have several songs in different stages of completion at any given time.
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inSpire - That’s helpful to know. There are so many ways to create new songs. In closing is there anything you would like to say about your music, or music in general?

Chaffee - I believe there is no better way to worship than through music. It is amazing that music is an inspiration beyond words that can lift the soul higher and farther than any other form of worship. I feel the Holy Spirit close when I am into a beautiful piece. I know the Holy Spirit speaks to me through the songs I write. Lord knows I am not smart enough to come up with some of the things I do on my own. This is a God-thing and I am blessed to be a part of it. I believe God imprints his special mark on our souls through music and to any readers out there who are musicians, especially Christian musicians, know what I am talking about.

inSpire - Thank you for sharing your music and thoughts.

Visit Kendall Chaffee online

This interview was conducted by Rich DuBose, Director of Pacific Union Conference Church Support Services and the inSpire project. All rights reserved © 2012 Click here for content usage information.