New Song: Shine Your Light (and a little about songwriting process)

shine your light.001We sang this song again at our worship service yesterday –it’s the song I wrote for the 2014 HOPE Global Summit which I got to be a part of the week prior.  I’ve been a volunteer for HOPE worldwide for many years, and so proud of the work they do all around the world.  Many years ago I wrote a song inspired by HOPE called “People Helping People” (see this earlier post).  Thought it was about time to write a new HOPE song!  Wish I had captured it the week before with the addition singers musicians and ukulele and stuff.  But here is a decent recording so you guys can use it in your worship services or community outreach events if you’d like.  I’m hoping to get some time in the studio over the summer to put together some new recordings, hopefully I could get a studio version of this song made as well.  There is more further down below about the process I took in writing this song.

While I’m at it I thought it might be helpful to share a little about my songwriting process, for those that write songs.  This is a little embarrassing but I’m going to share some raw recordings with you so you can see how it works for me.  The most important thing about songwriting for me is to try to capture the moment of inspiration.  Like if I get a tune in my head or like the sound of a particular chord progression or whatever, I try to capture it right away, as much as I’ve got at that moment.  There have been so many times I woke up in the middle of the night with a song and thought, “this is such a catchy song, I’m sure I’ll remember it later” only for it it be lost forever.  So I have learned over the years to do my best to capture this stuff.  So I have many hours of snippets of song ideas.  In the days before smartphones I used to sometimes call and leave myself a message on my work voicemail or something.  But now days an iPhone memo is really handy (or Garageband is even better if you’ve got time for that).

So I was down at some tide pools on a Monday with my ukulele singing some songs.  I knew I wanted to write a song for the upcoming HOPE Summit, which was entitled “Light of the World.”  I was thinking it would be nice to do something with a “world beat” feel, happy and fun, so when I got this melody I thought maybe it could work.  It’s a little rambling (you can hear there are parts of the jam that didn’t make it into the final song) but I make a lot of recordings like this – just kind of testing out melodies, finding the “hook,” the part of the song that really grabs me.  As you will hear on the recording, I usually have just a melody first, no lyrics.  But often I have an idea of the kind of vowel sounds I might want at different parts of the melody.  In this case you can hear the long “I” sound that repeats in the chorus, and you can see how that carried through into the final lyrics of the song (light / lives / alright / worldwide).

Then I was driving and heard a little vocal thing that I thought might layer the chorus, but I ended up using it for a bridge.  Again you can hear how the long “O” vowel sound became “hope” in the final bridge of the song.  Again this recording sounds pretty darn stupid.  Just sharing how it works for the process – I need to capture what I am hearing in the moment.

Finally I arrived home (you can hear my car dinging cause my door was open) and by that had the repeating hook in my head “shine your light, whoa” – really catchy.  Make a quick recording.

Couple weeks later I put the lyrics together.  That is always the longest and most painstaking part for me.  I will put more in a future post about writing lyrics; there is a lot that goes into it.  But a few things in this case to mention.  I  wanted the song to be kind of about what it means to be a HOPE volunteer.  But also spiritually to be a light to the lost world.  I wanted to reference what Jesus said in Matthew 5:14.  I spent some time reading stuff on HOPE worldwide’s website and testimonies by students on HOPE Youth Corp.  I wanted to try to include HOPE’s motto, “bringing HOPE and changing lives.”  There is the repeating “I” vowel sound I mentioned above, and I also had some rhymes I liked in the phrasing (difference / distance,  we go / bring hope, sorrow / tomorrow).

After writing the lyrics I made a quick scratch recording in Garageband, which allowed for a couple tracks of overdubs to try out some harmonies.  I have three kids so they often make their way into my scratch recordings as you hear in this one.

So that’s it.  Here are the final lyrics, and you can hear how the whole song came out with the Youtube video and hopefully an upcoming studio version.  If you are a song writer and you follow a similar process or a totally different one, love to hear about it –feel free to comment below.  Thanks for coming along with me on my songwriting journey!



Looking at the world you can sure feel small,
Thinking that you can’t make a difference at all.
Don’t sit back and say, “What can I do?”
Start with what you see right in front of you.

Do what you can, make a difference,
Span the distance, shine your light!
Healing the hurting as we go,
We will bring hope, changing lives.
Telling the hearts feeling sorrow
That tomorrow it’ll be alright
Hand joining hand all together
We’re helping to bring hope worldwide
Shine your light, oh
Shine your light, oh
Shine your light

Jesus said we’d be the light of the world,
Said to bring hope to the boys and girls.
God can do a lot with a little faith.
Shine a little light and it’ll radiate.

The world needs hope.
The world needs hope.



G    / C    / G    / D

G    / C    / G    / C
G    / D    / G    / D
G    / C    / G    / C
D    / D    / D    / D (break)

G    / C    / Em    / D
G    / C    / Em    / D
G    / C    / Em    / D
G    / C    / G…    / D (break)

3 Comments on “New Song: Shine Your Light (and a little about songwriting process)”

  1. Air says:

    great song bro! makes me really want to dance and to shine my light more!. 🙂

  2. Douglas E. says:

    First off, I love the song! I also really enjoyed “People Helping People”, but I think this song is gonna be even more popular, since it looks (and sounds) great for congregational singing.

    It’s interesting how you have a consistent process for song-writing. My style of writing songs is all over the place. Sometimes I’ll start with the overall concept. Other times, I’ll start with lyrics. Frequently I’ll start by writing/choosing a Chord progression. On a few occasions (and I’m hoping that I can do this more often) I’ll start by composing the melody on Keyboard. Maybe I should try to come up with a song-writing routine.

    I’m also hoping you can get more time to record your music. I’m a huge fan of your albums, and I’m looking forward to hearing what the full studio recordings will sound like. (I’m guessing there will be several songs with Ukulele parts) Will you record a full studio version of “Bent On Conquest”?

    • jbriancraig says:

      Thanks bro yeah definitely plan to have a full studio version of that one – just needing to make more time for recording! Appreciate the encouragement

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