house concerts

Chasing Inspiration in National Parks

When we started planning to travel to 13 National Parks to write our next album, a few people definitely seemed to have a little bit of confusion about the project. What we were doing and why? 

It’s true, we’ve come to find in the last couple of years that nothing inspires us quite like nature. It’s not that we wanted to write songs about the parks, or the trees, or the water… not really… more than that, we wanted to give ourselves an incredible experience to create this record from. 

Have you ever noticed the difference in your attitude or psyche in general when you take a few moments' break from your work to step outside? Perhaps it’s Vitamin D from the sunshine, perhaps it’s positive energy being emitted into the atmosphere from the trees, perhaps it’s just giving your brain a moment to breathe and think about something new. 

We’ve found that we tend to feel most inspired in one of two places: when we’re outside in nature and when we travel. Something about opening ourselves up to learn and experience new things  - that’s when the magic seems to show up. Knowing this, why would we purposefully set out to write our next record sitting indoors? Go where you feel most inspired - this was the basic premise. 



So we went; we explored; we did our best to document it, and for the most part it is still a complete and utter blur. We’re still processing all of the things we saw and touched and smelled and the beautiful souls we met. From Park Ranger Ian - dancing about in Big Bend National Park and warning us of the abundant Javolina - to the guys living in their trucks beside the beach in Crescent City, California that we shared some of our Mountain House meals with - to the incredible communities we played for in places like Birmingham, Dallas, Austin, Oklahoma City, Spokane, and Livingston, MT. To Tim in Ok City, who was going through a particularly rough patch of life but took time out to help us diagnose the first of many van problems we would have on the road - to Dietrich and the Providence House community in Austin - to Tim & Rachel and their friends in Spokane who inspired us with their incredible business stories, their amazing homemade pizza, and their generosity - to Audrey and the 100 or so people who we watched that beautiful sun set with over the mountains of Montana - to the hundreds of you who contributed your own hard earned money to this project, so that we could fix our van, pay our musicians, and bring this music to life. 

With every day that passes, we remember new things and we feel even more grateful to have had this time to work on this project.

We weren’t sure what would happen when we set out on this journey. When we said to the outdoors - “Your turn. Teach us what you will.” When we did our very best to put no human restraints on our creativity, but instead to go wherever it wanted to take us.

What has resulted for now is 13 new songs. One for each National Park we visited - even though that was in no way planned or thought out. These songs are not about the parks any more than they are about each of us. Shared human experiences, learning as we go, being taught from each person and thing we come in contact with. We’re honored to share them with you and we hope that they will reveal things to you about yourself that you may not have known before. We hope they inspire you to go on your own adventure; to take your own risks. To live this one, wild life we’ve been given with dignity - being true to yourself and the others in your life with the honesty that we all deserve. Create your own work; blaze your own trail; light your own fire on the beach of your choice. We believe in you, we love you, and we continue to be in this together with you. We hope these songs will be your mantra and the anthems that lead you as you go out seeking. 

And we’ll be here, creating more music, when you return. 


Dan & Josh

Let's talk about Becky


It was late on a Saturday night in North Carolina. We had just finished playing a show in a trendy loft space in a small town. It’s a listening room where the community comes together monthly to enjoy live music and hang out together, and it’s a really beautiful place. I found myself standing by a table full of cheeses, nibbling on some snacks after a long but good day when our friend David swung by and started a conversation. At this point I’ve known David for a couple of years from seeing him at these events. He and his family are supporters of our music and it’s always a treat to see them. That was the moment when he blind sided me with a single statement; “I hate Christian music but if what you guys are making is Christian music, sign me up!” 

Sometimes people ask us if the music we make is religious. It’s the type of loaded question that I’ll typically avoid in fear of being entirely misunderstood. I am afraid of being aligned with a system who’s most negative characteristics are more in line with what you would expect from a hate group than the promotion of love and unity. I have fought hard to keep all of the music under this project as relatable as possible to everyone, despite this looming category that for many, can lump your work into a heaping pile of negative association.

So the short answer to David’s question was this: “We believe in God and write music about things that matter to us. I have always felt a responsibility as an artist to welcome everyone's interpretation of our work. Agendas and art don’t mesh well, so I don’t have one, other than to be honest about who I am.” On a similar note, I have often weighed the pros and cons of entering our music into the religious marketplace. As it turns out, our tunes are automatically disqualified by our lack of marketability to someone named Becky. 

Have you ever heard of Becky? She is the representative persona of the target audience of Adult Contemporary Christian music (i.e. the largest portion of it’s market). She’s a white, 40 year old soccer mom who always votes republican and lives in suburban America with her two children. I’ve had the pleasure of sitting around the conference table while music industry executives babble on about Becky’s family, the color of her minivan, her aversion to math homework, melted crayons and “OMG, isn’t Chik-fil-a just the best sandwich of all time!?” She is spoken of as if she is a spirit in the room and our God appointed mission is to accommodate her musical taste at all costs. 

Interestingly, I’ve never caught her last name nor heard mention of Becky’s husband. This has led me to believe she is likely among the 50% of divorced Christians still fighting to keep the sanctity of marriage "safe from the homosexuals"…but I digress. In Christian music world, the game is simple; the artist who sings songs for Becky makes money and the one who doesn’t is rendered nonviable by the people who control the industry. 

Paper Lights doesn’t fit the industry model set for Christian music. Every meeting we have had with Christian labels has ended with an A&R rep asking something like “Why are you doing this instead of what we know makes money?” Generally religion makes me queazy. I’m not ashamed of what I believe. I write about it all the time without using the same trite language and four chords of our peers. I am, however, ashamed of the load of divisive attributes that come with religious systems and how that has hurt people we care about. We often get to play in the living rooms of all kinds of people with varying beliefs and ideals. Those people are our family. We value our long term relationships with them. We love them.



The purpose of this blog isn’t to dog on the Christian music industry. I can understand having a representative control group in business or maybe even going so far as to name her and talk about her preferences. But Becky is an artifact of the past who represents a largely ignored marketplace of intelligent music seekers. We know that most of the people who listen to our music are 18-35 year old millenials who prefer risk over the comforts of a traditional lifestyle. We know that a large portion of them are religious. A sizable portion aren’t. All of you as a whole are the reason we get to make music, and we are so grateful for you! 

My point is this: we all tend to fast categorize each other whether it be about politics, race, religion, sexuality etc.. These beliefs can easily align us in categories with things we don’t agree with. I see this fast categorizing as an easy way around taking time to understand someone better. I hope that transparency with each other about the nuance of who we are as individuals will break down the idea that we all have to be defined by a category. 

I hope our music is relatable on a human level - that it feels honest and challenges us to think for ourselves. I hope that the inspiration that we have experienced through a process made possible by so many different types of people, can be felt through the music we make. 

Above all, I hope that our music promotes unification, respect, and understanding for each other through transparency.

- Dan