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SUMMER 15 / 16 I NFLUENCE


“The purpose of influence is to speak up for those who have no influence.”


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C O N T E N T S

5 / Editorial 6-7 /

What is Influence?

9-19 /

Artists of Influence

20-25 /

Future Artists of Influence

26-27 /

Feature: Influencing from the Inside

28-29 /

Feature: Go for Baroque

30-31 /

Feature: The New Patrons

32-33 /

Feature: Scripture and Verse

34-35 /

Q &A with The Chief

36-38 /

The Parachute Music Engine Room

C R E D I T S

Chris de Jong // SMP Solutions

EDITOR/CREATIVE: PRINTING:

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COVER IMAGE:

WORDS:

Luke Oram //

DESIGN:

@stephenjameshart

Stevie Tonks (Courtesy of Sony Music) // PHOTOGRAPHER: Hannah Rogers - disappearhere.co.nz Chris de Jong - bunnycreative.co.nz

CREATIVE DIRECTION:

Big thanks to the following for their support of Parachute Music: Longview Trust, Nelson Christian Trust, Wilberforce 21, The Lion Foundation, Arjay Trust, Matua Charitable Trust. Special thanks to all our Supporters. For more information or enquiries: mail@parachutemusic.com // parachutemusic.com PO Box 108223 Symonds Street, Auckland 1150, New Zealand Connect with us:

instagram.com/parachute_music //

facebook.com/parachutemusic

PA R AC H U T E M U S I C ’ S M I S S I O N I S T O H ELP C H R I S T I A N M U S I C I A N S S H I F T P O P C U LT U R E .

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I N F L U E N C E / ˈ ɪ n f l ʊ ə n s /

n o u n

the capacity to have an

e f f e c t o n t h e c h a r a c t e r,

development, or behaviour of someone or something


E D I T O R I A L

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Words: Chris de Jong

Everything in life is cyclic.

function? Remember the angst and expense that your parents had to endure as you pestered them for the latest outfit to be in with the cool kids? Influence – a subtle but powerful thing. Used the right way it can change the world.

Seasons. Birth and death. Paying it forward. Passing it on. Thoughts coming back full-circle to where you started in the first place before you got all tangled up in your head. Knowledge, passion, the pursuit of anything worthy. Legacy. One generation to the next.

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ound and round from one state to another...but it’s certainly not the case of the hamster on the wheel running around with no purpose. It’s about the hamster on a wheel running around inspiring those that run after him. Perhaps my most favourite cyclic word of the lot is ‘influencing.’ There are those people in life who simply do their thing and as a by–product, end up influencing those around them. Remember the cool kids who influenced the way an entire school used to

Artists have influence in bucket loads. That’s because pop culture shapes the modern day world and artists are at the forefront of this whole enchilada. They determine the fashion, sounds, art and design of their generation. Always will and always have. Perhaps it’s because they are constantly creating the soundtrack in a world that feeds off the new and the exciting, that their influence will always garner a following. The established artists influence the younger artists who then grow up and influence those after them. See? It’s all cyclic. So...who are these influencers and who are they influencing? Read on as we unpack this puppy a little bit more. Blessings, Chris de Jong.

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W H A T

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I N F L U E N C E ?

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Words: Luke Oram

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ver since it became a buzzword for the white collar world, influence has been hard to define. It’s an art form; the ability to sway and persuade others, to surreptitiously become the loudest voice in the room. It’s that indefatigable charm that drips from characters like Mad Men’s Don Draper; it’s the unshakeable allure of your teenage heartbreak record. Influence is the current that carves out the direction of pop culture. When we talk about

an artist’s ability to shift pop culture, we’re talking about their inherent influence. It’s the most powerful tool they have – because ultimately, beyond their platform, their reach, or their creativity, it’s their influence that gives them the weight to affect pop culture. It’s their influence that makes people listen to what they have to say. Ironically enough, people were looking at the stars when they coined the term. Finding its origins in 14th century astrology, the word


influence was used to describe ‘streaming ethereal power from the stars acting upon character or destiny of men’. Medieval Latin saw influence as a river, harnessing the word influentia to portray a ‘flowing into’.

that’s not influence as much as it is forceful, intrusive manipulation from the safety of the riverbank. Again, this picture is very gospel – culture is changed from a strong force within; Jesus shifted culture by being a force within it. Liquid. Within, but gently moving to a different current.

There’s a lot to be found in that definition. Firstly, influence is powerful; an almost otherworldly force that can act upon our very character and destiny. It can change lives. It’s a big deal. That picture of invisible sway from above is potent. It conjures impressions of a superstar on a high stage. It’s also a great picture of how God speaks to us.

When we talk to our artists about influence, we’re talking to them about an almost conflicted, mysterious concept. It is a byproduct of their success, but it is the most important aspect of their career. It can only work from within pop culture, but it will be the thing that sets them apart from prevailing trends.

Secondly, influence is also this imperceptible, liquid thing. And that’s a great picture too. Because it implies that influence can only work from within. It’s very hard to dictate the flow of water unless you are within it. Sure, you could build an unwieldy dam, but

The enduring question for them is: how will they use this power to disrupt, to effect change, to make a mark on their generation? Like the wise man once said about our words: Influence carries with it the power to bring life or destruction. //

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A R T I S T S O F I N F L U E N C E ?

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s the old adage goes: music makes the world go ‘round. It’s the universal language that carries revolutions within its notes. We sing national anthems, mark moments and remember entire histories in the form of song. What then, can be said of musicians? Are they prophets or politicians? One thing is true: the songwriter has a powerful influence, both in their song and in their platform. Artists are global icons; everyone from fashion magazine editors to teenagers take their cues from them. So what does it look like to use this sway for good? How can you take the world’s attention and start a fire? Over the next few pages we’re going to highlight five artists who are using their influence to start vital conversations, reclaim the purity of their faith - and even save the world. //

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s u f j a n s t e v e n s

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New York, USA

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ircled by a relentless journalist in a 2006 interview, quirky indie wunderkind Sufjan Stevens found himself backed into a corner and confronted about his understated faith. “Do you think we’re seeing a new era of Christian music?”, the dogmatic journalist asked. “There’s no such thing as Christian music,” retorted a seemingly exasperated Stevens. “‘Christian music’ exists exclusively within the few insulated floors (cubicles and computers included) of some corporate construction in Nashville, Tennessee.” Stevens offered further clarification in March this year, in a piece published in the U.S. news magazine The Atlantic under the ambitious title ‘How Sufjan Stevens Subverts the Stigma of Christian Music’. When pressed on how his faith influences his art he offered, “It’s not so much that faith influences us as it lives in us. In every circumstance (giving a speech or tying my shoes), I am living and moving and being. This absolves me from ever making the embarrassing effort to gratify God (and the church) by imposing religious content on anything I do.”

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Stevens’ stance echoes bible scholar N.T Wright, whose prescription for a Christian influence in the modern age started with full immersion, a call to be “at the leading edge of the whole culture, articulating in story and music and art and philosophy and education and poetry and politics and theology.” Stevens may not be ushering a new era of Christian music, but he’s a great example of an artist who lives a holistic faith; one that informs not only every facet of his art, but his life. The Atlantic surmises: “[For Stevens], the gospel doesn’t just play some small, personal role in life and culture; it infiltrates and restores all of life and culture. It addresses the entire human experience, or “the totality of life” as Frances Schaeffer described it. Stevens’ music also doesn’t alienate listeners of different beliefs. His work may seem less spiritual than that of others, given its seeming focus on ‘secular’ rather than ‘sacred’ things, but it actually proves more accessible to the wider world than that of contemporary Christian music - an irony given the evangelical intentions of these artists.” //

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s t a n w a l k e r

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Sydney, Australia

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hen it comes to his faith, unassuming popstar and X Factor judge Stan Walker has never been afraid to tell it like it is. His 2009 run on Australian Idol began with a gospel choir, included a rendition of ‘Amazing Grace’, and ended with a simple prayer: “Thank you God.” The multi-platinum selling songwriter, whose faith provided an escape from an abusive childhood, isn’t interested in playing God down, or having his beliefs politicised. Walker’s relationship with The Big Guy is downright refreshing and open: “There’s nothing to be ashamed of,” he declared in a 2010 interview with Australian magazine Sign Of The Times. “He’s the One who saved me and got me to where I am. He’s given me the opportunity, so the least I could do is to give Him a mention. Why should I be silent about it?”

The most powerful influence of Walker’s faith however is not in the name-dropping; it’s in the everyday application of what he believes. “I want to be an ambassador for broken people who come from the dark into the light.” He explains: “I want to live by actions and not by words...live everyday life as God intends for you to live, and having a stand in everything you do.” It’s a stand that’s been evident in every aspect of his career; from his passion for social justice, to his holistic treatment of his X Factor mentorees, and his cool-headed peacekeeping efforts during the show’s infamous mid-season bullying scandal earlier this year. //


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h i l l s o n g u n i t e d

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Sydney, Australia & New York, USA

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t’s recently been estimated that over 50 million churchgoers around the world sing Hillsong worship songs on any given Sunday; a testament to the church’s three decades of songs provided across their three imprints: Worship, United and Young and Free. And now, Hollywood’s come calling. Last year, Warner Brothers began shooting a documentary following Hillsong United as they played sold-out stadium shows across five different continents. Directed by Michael John Warren (who helmed Jay-Z’s ‘Fade to Black’) the doco ‘Let Hope Rise’ was touted as the chronicle of “the most famous Christian band in the world.”

with and becoming friends with the members of Hillsong United. They are lovely people. They are sincerely giving. They are sincerely supportive. I don’t believe the same things they believe, but I’m learning from them and I’m taking lessons from them and I believe I’ve become a better person having spent a year studying them.”   “Their mission — without exaggeration – is to make music to save souls. They are trying to get people to discover Jesus. That’s probably the most righteous reason to make music. Whether you’re religious or not, it’s hard to look at that and not feel good about it.” //

Talking about working with the United crew, Warren had this to say: “I’m not a religious person, but I learned things from working

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j a k e l u h r s

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Pennsylvania, USA

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s frontman of metal band August Burns Red, Jake Luhrs was no stranger to getting amongst his fans. But when they started opening their lives to him at merch tables after shows, everything changed. After years of hearing them share their stories of addiction, hurt, abuse, depression and selfharm, Luhrs realised there was only so much a transient rock star could do beyond a quick prayer or a fleeting word of encouragement. As a musician, he knew full well the power of music to carry people through the dark times of their lives, but he couldn’t shake the feeling that there was even more he could do with his influence. That’s when Heartsupport was born; a community of artists dedicated to creating what he called, “a home away from the venue, so no music fan has to struggle alone.” “We’ve been through hell and back, and we share our scars, setbacks, and successes”, Luhrs tells fans on Heartsupport’s website. “Sometimes the hardest part about life is feeling you have to go through it alone. But here, you don’t have to because we’re all going through something similar.” Luhrs works triple-time when he’s playing at festivals, fronting shows, praying with fans and

rallying the musical counterparts he shares a bill with, encouraging them to tell their stories on film for the website. Heartsupport is a collective of musicians who offer stories of hope to fans, gleaned from their own lives. Bands from the metal community like Emery, Black Veil Brides, The Chariot and For Today share their struggles. As the website asserts, in these moments, they’re “not celebrities, just real people, with real stories just like yours.” Luhrs and his friends also offer links to professional avenues for help, offering a credo for all the heartbreak they’ve seen behind their respective merch tables: No matter how guilty you are No matter how many felonies you have No matter how long you’ve struggled No matter how many times you’ve tried No matter how weak you feel No matter how dirty your past No matter how you see yourself We believe in you. heartsupport.com


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j o n f o r e m a n

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California, USA

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long with his compatriots in Grammy Award-winning band Switchfoot, Jon Foreman has been trading in heart-rending anthems for over a couple of decades now, with considerable mainstream influence. But this is not an ode to the music of Jon Foreman. It’s a tribute to a man whose pen is just as mighty as his guitar; an old-fashioned poet, whose philosophy is influencing crowds the world over. Foreman’s first guest blog on online news outlet The Huffington Post appeared in 2010; a musing from Seat 23 on a flight from San Diego to Dallas exploring the idea of being “possessed by truth”, quoting the Torah, Sarah Palin and Buddha. For the last five years, Foreman has tuned in with regular blogs, eloquently articulating a real-life faith in modern-day parables. When conservative protestors in Oklahoma picketed his band last year, Foreman responded with a blog urging love and tolerance: “I refuse to protest protestors. I will not be opposed to the opposition. I will not antagonize the

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antagonist, nor hate on the haters. I am not at all against them - in fact, I am for them.” In a 2014 post titled ‘When We Come Alive’, the singer braved the very meaning of life, concluding, “Maybe it varies for all of us. But if the meaning of life cannot be answered by the scientists or the philosophers, then it’s up to the rest of us to define what it means to be alive. We, the living, answer that question every day - not with our words, but with our lives.” Last year, The Huffington Post reported over 100 million unique views, making them the number-one news site in America. While he plays to packed clubs around the world, Foreman’s pen travels even further, with tales of everyday faith that never proselytize, but instead paint pictures of universal concepts: hope, love, meaning and a deep, grounded spirituality. // huffingtonpost.com/jon-foreman

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F U T U R E A R T I S T S O F I N F L U E N C E

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Each year, our Artist Development initiative sees us working closely with a group of New Zealand’s most promising artists, helping them with every aspect of their burgeoning careers. From practical help like songwriting sessions and styling, to mentoring and spiritual direction, we support them in getting a holistic start to their journey in the industry. It’s our third year of developing artists and the family continues to grow. This year we welcomed to the fold:

Charismatic showstopper Stevie Tonks, brother and sister duo Elijah and Leilani, Napierbased songbird Amanda Maara, Tauranga troubadour Ben Mollison, and charismatic hip-hop prodigy Trigarow. Over the next few pages, we’ll tell you why we think these development artists are destined to be the voices of the future.


Photography / disappearhere.co.nz Styling / bunnycreative.co.nz

Name: Ben Mollison Age: 16 Hometown: Tauranga Why he’s a future influencer: Ben Mollison’s had a stellar year, winning the 2015 Solo/Duo award at the Smokefree Rockquest nationals, as well as taking out the competition’s prestigious Apra Lyric award. And if that wasn’t enough, Ben also won the 2015 Play it Strange Folk award.  This unassuming 16 year old has come a long way since his debut at Rockquest last year. He grew up listenning to his parents’ record collection and perhaps that’s why he has the maturity of songwriters twice his age. It’s no wonder the NZ Herald’s naming him one of the country’s hottest music prospects.

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Photography / disappearhere.co.nz Styling / bunnycreative.co.nz

Name: Trigarow Age: 21 Hometown: Auckland Why he’s a future influencer: Mt Albert producer, MC and visual artist Trigarow relocated from his home in Papua New Guinea at age six and hasn’t stood still since. From rallying his schoolmates to write a new high school anthem at age 16, to his prolific music video output, the 21-year old works in constant double-time. Trig’s U.S-inspired brand of hip-hop sees him join a new generation of rappers willing to promote values over violence and ambition over aggression. In an industry that often suffers from a strange sense of entitlement, Trig is determined to be the hardest-working MC in the business, ambitiously pushing hip-hop with substance.


Photography / disappearhere.co.nz Styling / bunnycreative.co.nz

Name: Stevie Tonks Age: 23 Hometown: Christchurch Why he’s a future influencer: A household name since journeying to fourth place in X Factor NZ’s sophomore season, Stevie Tonks is an enigmatic artist determined to carve his name onto the stage. Whether your introduction to Stevie was through his spine-chilling rendition of Gnarls Barkley’s ‘Crazy’ on X Factor, or his soaring vocals in Majestic’s ‘Sounds Like’ project, it’s clear he possesses a rare charisma. He embodies every song he performs, infusing them with full-forced soul and a captivating sense of drama.

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Photography / disappearhere.co.nz Styling / bunnycreative.co.nz

Name: Amanda Maara Age: 24 Hometown: Napier Why she’s a future influencer: A heavenly voice from Napier’s pastoral plains caught our attention this year and it belonged to a girl called Amanda Maara. A milk-truck driver by morning and songstress by night, Maara combines ethereal storytelling with atmospheric instrumentation to create songs that are both beautiful and nostalgic. Her tune ‘Heaven’ took out Life FM’s Homegrown Unsigned competition this year.


Photography / disappearhere.co.nz Styling / bunnycreative.co.nz

Name: Elijah and Leilani Taula Age: 16, 18 Hometown: Tauranga, Wellington Why they’re future influencers: Brimming with cheeky familial chemistry, sibling singersongwriters Elijah and Leilani first won our hearts at Parachute Festival 2014, where they were crowned winners of Parachute’s Gotta Lotta Talent, performing to 20,000 punters. Barely 12 months later, they were making moves on the whole country, with their sweet cover of ‘Lonely Boy’ on the X Factor stage. Both siblings have also been crowned top vocalists at the National Youth Jazz Competitions, all while juggling a law degree and promising sporting prospects between them.

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How can you influence something from a distance? Parachute CEO Mark de Jong wonders if we only got half of Jesus’ Salt & Light memo.

Some mornings when I walk to the office, I pass a group of people gathered outside the Countdown car park on Dominion Road. They have a couple of hand written signs with slogans that talk about the value of life and the evils of abortion. I’m certainly sympathetic to their cause, but I can feel my hackles rise when I see them. Sometimes I want to engage one of them in conversation, but when I try to catch their eye, they seem to be praying or reading from the Bible while the others nod in agreement. It seems clear that this is not an opportunity for discussion, but a chance for these people to take their message to the wider world. It feels like this is a one-way conversation from

them to the rest of us. It’s just that no one outside of their group seems to be listening. I assume they are well-intentioned Christians wanting to make a difference, but this group looks slightly out of step with contemporary New Zealand. I’ve wondered a few times why I wince when I see them. I think that reaction is linked to my childhood and our view back then of how we would win the world to Jesus. I went to a pentecostal church in Lower Hutt, near the town centre. On Thursday nights we would often put on an outreach at a little park on High Street, catching the late night shoppers at the end of the main strip. We were a small


church, but our Pastor was a huge personality and revved us up weekly about the sinful state of the world and the imminent arrival of Jesus. He was coming to take the chosen few away from here and our challenge was to take as many of the sinners with us. We needed to convince them to repent of their sins, accept Jesus in their heart, and join our church before He returned. The Thursday night outreach was our chance to do that. I think we had a few successes along the way, but mostly our church stayed the same size, Lower Hutt continued on its path and most people avoided the group of eager Christians on High Street. I suspect we seemed kind of nutty and out of touch. Matthew 5:13-16 sees Jesus talking about salt and light, a metaphor that has been the cornerstone of modern evangelism for generations. When I think about my childhood, it seems to me that we had mainly embraced the light part of that passage. We felt that if we shone our lights bright enough, or turned up the volume of our preaching loud enough, or made our billboards big enough, then the unchurched would come flocking to our city on a hill. But it didn’t seem to happen like that, in fact in some ways, the more noise we made, the more people tried to avoid us. It seems to me that many Christians still approach things much the same as we did back in Lower Hutt. Unfortunately statistics tell us it’s not working. The number of Christian believers in our country continues to decline. I think that is a pretty big issue. After a lifetime of trying to make our light brighter and personally feeling the disappointment at the lack of tangible results, I have been thinking a lot about the other part of Jesus’ metaphor. The part about us being salt in the world. Maybe Jesus was saying that just being light in the world was only half of the equation. Maybe he was saying that a balanced combination of light and salt was what was needed, that if one got out of balance with the other we would become impotent. Maybe we’ve focused on the light part and tended to ignore the salt part. Maybe that’s the issue. Salt

changes the flavour of a dish; spreading just the right amount is essential. When talking about culture, the salt metaphor is about us fully immersing ourselves to the point where we add flavour and gain influence. When we gain influence, we can make a difference. I now wonder if very little real change has ever been made by people standing on the edge of culture and yelling into it – that’s all light, but no salt. Not of the world, but not in it either. We’re only getting half the equation. Christ modelled salt and light from the outset. The moment He came to earth, He walked into the church, which was at the time a strange subculture of Pharisees arguing over the outside world while safely hidden from it He told them they were missing the point, and headed straight out into the world to be among the people who needed Him most - ironically, prostitutes, tax collectors, etc. He could never have related to them if He hadn’t eaten with them, lived with them, or served them. Bringing all of this a little closer to home, how do Christian musicians fit in this? Many are finding a career outside the church in the mainstream music industry. They hold the potential of changing New Zealand for the better through being a balanced mix of salt and light. It’s a huge challenge, and it’s one we’ve thrown ourselves into. Every day we’re in contact with musicians who aren’t interested in standing on the outskirts of the industry, yelling. They want to make great art. They want to be real about their faith, to be salt and light within pop culture. But in order to get that balance right, they’ll need a community around them, holding them accountable to the purity of their light and the amount of their salt. When we manage to get that equation right, the transformational power of the gospel will be unleashed in a new and powerful way. *Head over to Page 34 for a follow-up interview with Mark.

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The power of music to change us isn’t a vague concept; science has gone as far as to call the song a mood-altering substance. Luke Oram explains.

Kids, I’m gonna fill you in on a secret: Handel can help you ace that homework. If you don’t believe me, I’d suggest you look into Suggestopedia. Suggestopedia, (not to be mistaken for a lessthan-dependable version of the popular online knowledgebase) is a pseudoscience created in the 1970’s by Bulgarian psychologist, Dr. George Lozanov. He believed music was a potent tool that could shape the very architecture of our memories, and he set out to

prove it by using Baroque composers to teach his students foreign languages. His language lessons were delivered to the tune of certain classical pieces, all averaging the speed of 60 beats per minute. Using his system, students learned around 1000 words and phrases in the space of a day – half a school term’s worth of learning - with a 92% retention rate. His students had a recall accuracy rate of almost 100% even after not reviewing the material for four years.


This probably doesn’t surprise you. After all, it’s simply empirical evidence of what we’ve known all along; music’s influence reaches right into our cerebral core. Scientists have proven that music affects our very brain chemistry, stimulating the neural pathways responsible for our memory and tugging at our reward centres. But you already know this. Remember that song that was playing when your primary school sweetheart broke your heart? Of course you do; every time it crawls on the radio you’re right back there on the back bleachers, holding back the pre-pubescent tears. Your

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We’re certain of the power of music. It’s evident around us. It’s the sound of the creation’s cycle repeating and repeating again. For a musician, it’s much more than just a delivery mechanism; it’s an attempt to make beauty tangible.

The generational catch cry. Give peace a chance. We shall not be moved. I ain’t no fortunate son. God Defend New Zealand.

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The scriptures present another swag of allegories altogether. Miriam chronicled the oral traditions of the Israelites through song, ensuring they would never forget them. David set his autobiography to music and used his harp as Prozac on an unstable king. Even in today’s church, we deliver new theology in soaring anthems.

And we should never forget what Lozanov discovered; music is memory glue, it makes things stick. The melody that you can’t get out of your head. The soundtrack that renders a fleeting moment immemorial.

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avid player, widely credited his genius to his instrument, often improvising on the violin to jumpstart his equations.

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brain registers the emotional impact of music; it’s able to attach a moment in time to a set of notes, sending you rushing back 20 years with three chords.

Musicians, you carry the weapon with which to change the world. Wield it well, say something worthwhile, and your song will stay with us forever.

As the story goes, music helped Thomas Jefferson write the Declaration of Independence. When he couldn’t find the right wording for a section of the document, he’d grab his violin and play it. Same goes for Albert Einstein, the genius diagnosed “too stupid to learn” by his teachers. Einstein, an

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The church and the arts were once a correlative force, harnessing the beauty of creation to chronicle everything from history to politics. Leo Hanssen, pastor of Christchurch’s Majestic, explains how his congregation found salt and light in the cracks of his city, and why it’s time for the church to lead a new renaissance. Influence, by definition means to have an effect on; to form and to shape, among many other meanings. Creative artists are having a huge influence in shaping and affecting pop culture in ever-increasing ways. The arts, as one of the pillars of society, has largely been left alone by the church because it is seen as something the ‘world’ does. We are, in fact a part of this ‘world’ and, as the church, are called to be salt and light in it. I believe that includes supporting the artists in our churches, helping them to influence the arts in our society.

Since Christchurch’s 2011 earthquakes we’ve seen an increase in artistic endeavours by artists in our city. Our response has been to collaborate with the likes of urban regeneration artistic collective Gap Filler, and Bodyfest (cheerleaders for the Rams National League basketball team). Why do we do this? To influence our world in a manner which shows and shares love, hope and faith. Out of these collaborations, community is further developed. I believe this is the primary call of the church.


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You cannot be salt and light just by preaching it from a church platform or willing it into being at a prayer gathering. Salt and light means engaging in the arts, being a part of forming and shaping them. At Majestic we have grappled with this and we’ve come to the conclusion that our artists not only need recognition for what they are called to, but validation in their creative vocation. We support them officially as ‘missionaries’ to the arts community. This support has also included at times, finance from our mission budget. We have many stories about the influence that our dance and vocal schools have made in the community. Students come from every socio-economic background to learn from our tutors, and the majority of these students come to faith in Jesus as a result. Most of them or their families have never been in a Sunday church environment, but by rubbing shoulders with our team, and getting involved with us, we see incredible life-changing results. And we also have seen many of our artists becoming successful on a national level. Musicians like Moorhouse and Stevie Tonks who gained high places in their respective X Factor seasons; our dance teams who have won or been placed highly in national dance competitions; our photographers who win national awards, our writers who produce magazines, our painters and designers – watch this space – there’s more to come. That is us being salt and light; our creativity creating a tangible influence in the world around us. Why? Because we are called to influence our world.

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every pillar of society. It’s certainly much easier to support education, health, government, business, home and family, and just leave the arts to a few strange people, asking the question, “What do the arts really achieve?” The problem is, art is seen by much of the church more as a vehicle for entertainment rather than a significant world-changing force. My wife Suzanne and I were in Europe a couple of years ago. One of the places we visited was the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. We took our time looking at the works of art painted by artists long gone, their messages living on through their art. As they interpreted their hearts and thoughts on canvas, you could sense God speaking to you; the architecture spoke loudly of the grandeur of our God, and the stained glass windows told the story of Good News. The most stunning moment for me came when the beautiful voice of a soprano singer began to echo through the church. As she sang I felt God in that place. I believe many people were influenced that day by the creativity of people and our Creator God. The church of centuries past owned and patroned the arts for the glory of God. I believe it’s time the church brought back His glory through the arts, for our time in history.

I believe that the church not only has a great opportunity but also an obligation to influence

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Whether they like it or not, the icons of pop culture owe a lot to the Good Book. Michael Frost, a theology lecturer at Alphacrucis College examines the far-reaching power of the scripture in song. When the church has considered the influence of the Christian gospel on popular culture, it has often done so by reflecting on the Christian artist (whatever we might mean by that). Whether the artist is a songwriter, musician, filmmaker or poet, we’ve ruminated on how they can express their talent and passion in light of their faith in Christ. For some this has manifested in a direct relationship between their art and their faith; for example writing songs that deal clearly with issues of faith, Christ and the gospel. Others have become what the church has sometimes referred to as ‘secular’ artists; in other words, those whose expression of faith is considered to be more indirect; influencing popular culture through

expression of Christian character and witness rather than through explicitly ‘Christian music’. There are also those who have attempted to straddle both worlds, becoming enigmatically referred to as the ‘crossover’ artist. In each case, these approaches are shaped by a perspective that looks at art and music as a means to connect with the ‘world’ and influence it for Christ. More recently however, the Christian community has begun to remind itself that music and art, in and of itself, is beautifully spiritual. And that perhaps our past paradigms, while helpful for a time, have not always empowered Christians to infuse their art and music with their faith in organic, authentically human and profoundly


influential ways. Even further, we might contemplate the ways in which Christ and the gospel are already at work within the culture in which we live. If we open our ears and eyes to the ways that God is already at work we might be both surprised and encouraged. The scriptures have had, and continue to have, a significant influence on the ideas and themes of music and popular culture beyond the church. At the roots of twenty-first century music itself lies a heartbeat that draws on the African-American spiritual, and much closer to home we find scripture and biblical themes deeply embedded within many Māori waiata. In this respect we find that the influence of the Christian gospel and scriptures is not just a matter for the contemporary artist but is also profoundly implanted within our own indigenous story. The scriptures also continue to shape and influence contemporary music through lyrics and themes that surface in intriguing places. While we might expect artists such as U2 and Mumford and Sons, given their historical connections to Christianity, to employ biblical ideas and imagery, we should also notice that it is Lady Gaga who uses the imagery of Judas to convey the depth (and the allure) of the dark side of that which can be experienced in love. Or Florence and the Machine who employ the figure of Delilah as a metaphor for betrayal. While not always using biblical texts and images in ways that the church does, what we can recognise is that despite the common idea of advancing secularism, biblical ideas continue to thread themselves through various aspects of our culture today. When we recognise the many ways that contemporary artists draw on scriptural themes and imagery to articulate meaning, it should give us a reason to pause and reflect. Sometimes the church has responded negatively when seeing scripture finding its way into popular culture. We might be disturbed at the secular use (or distortion) of the biblical text and feel a level of offence. At other times we might leap to the

opposite extreme and try to declare that certain secular artists might in fact be Christian and therefore glorified as a potential witness to the world. But I wonder if there’s something much deeper going on here. Perhaps the themes of scripture find their way into the lyrics of popular music because the narrative of scripture tells and re-tells the story of the human heart. The stories of betrayal, brokenness, frailty and hope for redemption sit at the very heart of the gospel story. The scriptures resonate because they don’t just tell the story of ancient peoples, they are also telling our story. And this is not just the story of the church; it is the story of humanness. It’s here that we find the longings and desires of the human heart unfurled. The scriptures do not shy away from our darkness, but neither are they content to leave us there in isolation. They draw us towards hope and into the wide, open spaces of reconciliation and forgiveness. In light of this, and especially in a culture that has historical roots in the biblical narrative, it makes sense that the scriptures continue to find their way into the thoughts, ideas, themes and imagery of popular culture, well beyond the influence of the church itself. Perhaps when we see scripture and the gospel emerging within popular culture, rather than defaulting to the alternating responses of offence or celebration, we might also take the time to listen. Sometimes we have become so used to the texts and stories that we think we know what they mean and what they’re trying to say. But perhaps, just perhaps, we might find that in the voices of those beyond our community we can hear a re-telling of the scriptures that enlivens and awakens our own understanding. That perhaps the Spirit is at work in the world, not just to speak to ‘them’, but also to speak to ‘us’. Perhaps in this way, we might find that God is calling us all into the story, He is inviting us all to participate in his life, even in ways that we might not see coming.

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Q & A W I T H T H E C H I E F

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What does influence look like to Parachute as an organisation? Luke Oram interviews Parachute’s founder Mark de Jong. What does Parachute look like today? We’re a smaller core team, bolstered by a great bunch of part-timers and contractors. We’re part of a phenomenal musical community and spend most of our time deeply involved in the lives of artists. We’ve returned to the roots of our mission – developing artists holistically, and helping them become voices of influence. We’ve also branched out into an industry-facing commercial venture called Smoke. We see this as our mission in action; the salt-and-light stuff. We’ve been talking a lot about influence. What does it look like for Parachute? We’re working to become an integral part of New Zealand’s culture. More and more, we see ourselves as advocates, trying to be a flavouring agent within the music industry. Why does Parachute get involved in areas that aren’t anchored in a Christian faith? We actively look for ways to be a part of the wider music industry. Through Smoke we manage key artists and undertake commercial work, like producing music for X Factor and Dancing With The Stars. Those two jobs in particular were huge undertakings and really helped to position us well. These activities provide significant income for the music producers and musicians in our community, and have helped to fund charitable activities within Parachute Music. With a commercial venture like Smoke, why do you still need Supporters? Good question. In a lot of ways, Smoke is our attempt at working smarter. Many not-forprofit organisations undertake commercial ventures in order to fund their charitable activities. We consider it good stewardship. Smoke’s activities not only help fund Parachute’s work, but also provide opportunities and practical support for musicians we work with. That being said, Parachute’s charitable activities still rely on support. We invest heavily into the development of artists, our song grant and keeping the studio an accessible community resource – the vision and growth potential for these areas is limited only by the amount of resource we can put into them. Supporters are vital to us. They’re our lifeblood; people who have committed to our journey and our mission. There’s nothing more powerful than telling a young artist that they have an army of supporters behind them. Nothing can replace that.


PARACHUTE’S

P A R A C H U T E

STRUCTURE

A R T S

T R U S T

PARACHUTE MUSIC

SMOKE

Church focused

Music industry focused

ARTIST DEVELOPMENT

ARTIST MANAGEMENT

Stevie Tonks, Elijah & Leilani, Amanda Maara, Ben Mollison, Trigarow

Ruby Frost, The Soorleys, Mae Valley, Brendon Thomas and the Vibes, Nakita Turner, Sam de Jong

PARACHUTE STUDIOS

SMOKE STUDIOS

Community recording & rehearsal facility

Commercial music jingles, X Factor etc

NOISE

ARTIST SERVICES

Building community between musicians who are Christians

Offering musicians a range of practical resources and help

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T H E P A R A C H U T E M U S I C

ENGINE ROOM In January, an APRA survey identified Kingsland as the Auckland suburb populated by the most songwriters. With Parachute H.Q humming with reality stars to local hitmakers, we’re proud to be in the centre of the city’s music mecca. Here’s a few of the things we’ve been up to recently.

THE SONG GRANT Helping young artists reach their potential has always been at the heart of what we do. This year we got practical, establishing a grant for emerging Christian songwriters under 25 who have a killer tune on their hands. Launched in August, the bi-monthly grant has now completed two intakes. The winners are paired with one of New Zealand’s top producers, spending quality time at Parachute Studios. The end result is for them to emerge with a completed radio-ready track. Keep your ear to the ground to hear our winners’ songs – and if you’re an aspiring young songwriter, send that killer tune our way. parachutemusic.com/song-grant


ARTISTS IN DEVELOPMENT In August we gathered our Artists in Development from around the country for an inaugural bootcamp. They worked together over an intensive four-day weekend of practical seminars, studio work and co-writing. We covered topics like Artist Etiquette, Lyric Writing, Styling & Branding and The Spiritual Journey. We also organised co-writing sessions with mentors Ruby Frost, Dave Baxter (Avalanche City), Benny Tipene, Joe Faris (Ezra Vine) and Leroy Clampitt (Taste Nasa) to work on new songs. Each artist and their mentor then recorded their song upstairs at Parachute Studios with producer Sam de Jong. We owe a massive thank you to the Longview Trust for their support of the Artist Development programme, and for making weekends like this a reality.

ARTISTS IN DEVELOPMENT ALUMNI

Earlier this year, Australian tambourine-toting family band The Soorleys hit the road with a vengeance, playing a bunch of showcases in Nashville. They even managed to wrangle their way to Monroe, Louisiana to play an intimate gig at Willie’s Diner, owned by Duck Dynasty’s Willie Robertson. Back in Australia, they rocked Groovin The Moo (with the likes of A$AP Ferg, Broods and The Preatures), supported Aussie troubadour Josh Pyke and became crowd favourites at Queensland’s Gympie Muster. August saw the gang launch their sophomore EP ‘True North’, with its barn-storming lead single ‘Destination’, which shot to #1 on national community radio. After two years on our Artist in Development programme, Nakita Turner signed with Smoke Management, and is starting work on her debut EP. Earlier this year she paired up with crowdfunding platform Spark My Potential, and raised $12,600 in total. She’s been co-writing with some of New Zealand’s best songwriters - look out for her EP early 2016.

T H E

PA R AC H U T E

M U S I C

E N G I N E

RO O M

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PARACHUTE STUDIOS It’s been Grand Central Station at Parachute Studios in 2015. The year kicked off with a proper bang, seeing the studio bustling with the X Factor final 12 contestants creating and rehearsing their show tunes, and our producers creating up to 30 songs for the show each week. Crowned the show’s champion in May, beatboxing Beau Monga stuck around and recorded his debut album with producer Sam de Jong. The self-titled album, recorded over six days, peaked at #2 on the charts. Then, from beatboxing to Bossa Nova, the studio came alive producing music for the sixth season of Dancing With The Stars. Creating the tracks for the show saw everyone from horn sections to string ensembles bunkered in the studios, recreating everything from classical anthems to 80’s glam hits. In the next few months, winners of the Smokefree Rockquest will start working on recording their new singles. And filling up the rest of the daylight hours, is a revolving cast of regulars, who are rehearsing and recording. From artists in development co-writes, to new projects from Mae Valley, Avalanche City, Taste Nasa, Leisure and Benny Tipene.


“Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.�


MAKING THE RIGHT VOICES THAT MUCH LOUDER.

26 Years Strong


Parachute Magazine - Summer 15/16 The Influence Edition