We put a few questions to the writers of "Nowhere Town", the title track of Nowhere Town, a night of original story and songs that follow the life of a young skeptic who finds it hard to believe that Jesus is actually the hope of the world. (Buy tickets now!) Carl Cartee is the Pastor of Worship & Arts, Brian Yakaboski is the Associate Pastor of Worship & Arts, and Nate Sousa is the Director of Music, Worship & Arts at Fellowship.
We recommend giving this song a listen and then diving into the interview below!
Approximately how many cups of coffee went into this song?
Nate: I’d say at least 3 cups of coffee! Maybe per person, can’t be quite sure.
Carl: Not much coffee, but Diet Coke fills the ocean upon which this boat floats.
Brian: I think I drank two cups in the three hour period we were writing it. What can I say? I have a problem. The upside is I stayed up all night staring at the ceiling dreaming of Bethlehem.
Tell us how the song "Nowhere Town" came together?
Nate: Nowhere Town was one of the first songs written for what would eventually become the concert under the same name. Carl had come up with a concept for the story and brought in Brian and a few others to craft the narrative outline. We knew the target we wanted to hit for this song pretty clearly on day one: it would setup the storyline for our concert; namely that prophecy foretold Jesus would be born inBethlehem, our nowhere town. The rest sort of filled in that day and was completed later that week.
Carl: The song got started in my shower and I brought the idea (after it dried off) to Nate and Boski for their input. We worked on setting a scene in a place and time where hope was hard to come by... hoping that people would see themselves in the story.
Brian: Carl came in with the first line to the song and it was a really good way to open the conversation. From there it was fun to unpack how Bethlehem would’ve felt like a nowhere town between the time of David to when Christ was born. I imagine there being a lot of pride in those streets when David was chosen King and when he defeated Goliath and over the years between then and when the star burned bright over the city I bet it felt like a town that would never live up to it’s former glory.
What's it like writing Christmas songs for the Church? I imagine it could feel quite daunting, like it's all been done before.
Nate: With Nowhere Town, having the guardrails of a storyline and narrative plot was so helpful. It wasn’t sitting down with a blank page and writing any Christmas lyrics. It had to fit the story of a grandfather telling his granddaughter about Jesus being born in their town in his lifetime. So that was actually very freeing-and empowering. We knew the target to hit, and what not to hit, and went to work crafting something compelling and hopefully interesting for our listeners
Carl: Writing Christmas songs to me is like saying “I love you”. That's been said before and it can be worn out, but if you find a fresh way to say it or unlock the next layer of meaning, it can feel like the first time. We can never say I love you enough, but we should always keep trying. With billions of songs in the world it would seem like we have enough, but the well is deeper than we think and the story is worth telling again.
Brian: Writing Christmas songs for the church is always powerful because there are so many relationships and perspectives wrapped up in the story. Mary, Joseph, their relationship together, the Father sending the Son, the wisemen from the East coming to worship, the shepherds being told the Good News by the angels, the list goes on and on of so many people being a part of the first Christmas. Some years I’m drawn in by imagining what Joseph felt leading Mary to Bethlehem, some years I’m drawn in by the shepherds being met by angels. Either way I feel like I can sing something that pulls me closer to Jesus in this season.
Which came first for this song: words or melody? Is that how you usually write?
Nate: Carl came in with a chorus already, if memory serves! Chords and lyrics. The rest got filled in around that, with Carl, Brian, and myself collaborating pretty equally to make something that fit what Carl brought.
Carl: For me the first thing to come for this song was the emotion I wanted to convey...I knew the setting and the place and the person I had in mind who would say this, so the lonesome and sparse feeling of the music and lyric were reactions to that emotion.
Brian: Carl had a good mix of both for us to start from and he had a good vibe going for the song. I really like writing lyrics and I remember just trying to help Carl find the words he wanted to sing over his melody.
What's your greatest hope for this song?
Nate: Nowhere Town, at its heart, is evangelistic! We’d love for this song and for the whole concert to help an unbeliever take a step toward trusting Christ. There’s a lot of doubt and honest struggle in the show, and that’s meant to be relatable for anyone investigating who Jesus is.
Carl: That it would speak to the heart of someone who is longing for hope but can't see a way forward. I hope it helps people process their longing and desperation in a way that leads them to Jesus.
Brian: The whole song really sets up the question in the bridge: “could it be the promises are true?” My hope would be that anyone who listens to this song hears THAT line and grabs hold of it to lean in and wonder about who Jesus is, how He met us here and why He came.
We hope you enjoyed our interview with Carl, Nate, and Boski. We'll be posting more great content in the coming weeks ahead of Nowhere Town, so be on the lookout. Seats are limited, so don't forget to go ahead and reserve yours today!