Culture Creators: An Interview with David Radford of The Gray Havens

“Good, beautiful stories plunge the reader into a fictional world in such a way that when they come out again, they perceive the real world more clearly and with more joy than before. In much the same way, song lyrics—when married to the right melody—can penetrate the heart. Story plays such a huge part in our songs because powerfulnarratives have been so transforming for us personally.” —Dave Radford

One of my favorite ongoing blog series is LifeHackers' How I Work. Simple questions about how people in a variety of workplaces get stuff done. As I read more and more of these, I kept thinking about wondering about creative people I know and what their answers might be. That got me thinking. Why not host an interview series at my own blog with Christians who are working with excellence, who I admire, and who do creative stuff? I was concerned about getting enough people to host a meaningful series, but the yeses kept rolling in. So here we are.


Who are The Gray Havens: Based in Chicago, The Gray Havens have established a loyal following since the release of the Where Eyes Don’t Go EP in 2013. This year they have been featured at Under The Radar’s Escape To The Lake event, along with Jason Gray and Sara Groves, among others, as well as Under The Radar’s post-Dove Awards Nashville showcase, alongside Andrew Peterson, JJ Heller, and Andrew Greer and Cindy Morgan. The duo will launch their Fire And Stone release tour in January. For more information about The Gray Havens and their latest release click here.

David’s Workspace

David’s Workspace

Mathew B. Sims: One word to describe your workspace?

David Radford: Transformer (as in it never looks the same—we’re in the middle of moving so my desk is in the main room).

MBS: What music do you listen to while working?

DR: I like white noise or rain. and are two sites I use often. Sometimes I’ll listen to a baroque station on the internet.

MBS: What’s your best creativity hack?

DR: Set your phone to airplane mode and become as “unavailable” as you possibly can for a couple hours if you seriously want to get something done.

MBS: What are you currently reading?

DR: James K. A. Smith’s How (Not) To Be Secular and Prayer by Tim Keller.

MBS: What’s your favorite book?

DR: The Lord of the Rings Trilogy

MBS: Would you consider yourself an introvert or extrovert?

DR: Both actually.

MBS: What does a daily routine look like when recording an album?

DR: Wake up and do as much of a normal morning routine as possible, drive to the studio while warming up (we have a cd of vocal exercises we sing to), arrive, and drink coffee. After that it sort of depends on what kind of day it is. My favorite days are when the studio musicians come in and track live together (bass, drums, guitars). I sit in the co-pilot seat with the producer and give the musician’s direction before and after each “take.” Other days we’re just focusing on vocals or guitars or strings or whatever.

MBS: What advice would you give someone who wants to write lyrics that touch the heart?

DR: Write something that moves you and it will probably move others. Understand the difference between bathos and pathos (got this from Tim Keller). Bathos just explains what’s happening: “There was an exciting waterfall.” Pathos makes you experience what’s happening: “Surging water, from the heights of heaven, etc . . . ”  Also, try casting your song in a narrative.

MBS: What tools are invaluable for you?

DR: I use Evernote all the time (using it right now to answer these questions). I also like Omnifocus for getting things done. I bought it after reading Matt Perman's fantastic book on productivity called What’s Best Next. I’m constantly recording song ideas on my iPhone’s voice memo app.

MBS: What’s the best cup of coffee you’ve ever had?

DR: Conscious Cup Coffee Roasters in Crystal Lake, IL. Hands down. And I’ve been to a lot of coffee shops. Conscious actually made us our own blend of coffee called The Gray Havens Blend. It’s pretty amazing :)

MBS: How would you describe your music in one sentence?

DR: Narrative-pop-folk.

Click to Pre-Order

Click to Pre-Order

Follow What David Creates. Pre-Order The Gray Havens’ Fire and Stone which releases next Monday, January 6, 2015.

Look for The Gray Havens' new album, "Fire and Stone," coming January 6th! Twitter/Instagram: @grayhavensmusic Video by Ebourcier Creative - Audio editing by Joel Rousseau