Our Kickstarter Anniversary! A Look Back

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A year ago on March 5th, 2015, we successfully funded my first Kickstarter project. Within 30 days, we had raised more than $20,000 to produce my debut album “SUDDENLY” (available on Bandcamp and iTunes). People from all over the world—U.S., U.K., Canada, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Switzerland, and France—pledged their financial support to this project and helped to make my dream come true.

Today I would like to commemorate this journey and retell the story as I remember. For me, it was so much more than just a fundraising journey; it was an adventure and a discovery of God and of myself. But to tell this story, I need to go back even further. I want to start at the very beginning, when this dream of recording an album first started.

How It All Began

I was in high school when my dad gave me my first microphone and recording software (I think he had wanted to learn how to record music himself before passing the baton to me. My dad is a jack-of-all-trades; he always loves learning new things). Garageband was my introduction to music production. I remember setting up my first home studio in our garage, and during my parent’s home group every Wednesday night, while I was babysitting the kids, I would be writing songs and recording them on Garageband.

Eventually I switched to ProTools (which is the industry standard for recording software), after playing around with Logic Pro (which I also loved). By that time, I knew this was something I wanted to invest in. I began to teach myself how to record music by watching online tutorials and purchased a better microphone and software instruments.

When I was sixteen, my dad sponsored a “field trip” to a local music studio. I invited a couple of my friends who played instruments, and we formed a makeshift band. We barely practiced, but we were confident enough to record our first “EP.” Turns out, the experience was a good “slap in the face,” because the reality was… we were bad. It was the moment I realized that good music requires way more than just youthful fantasy and a couple of hours of practice. It takes talent, dedication, and hard work. It takes precision, excellence, and perseverance. As a young person, that was the best wake-up call for me.

Music Is Life

I continued writing music. Throughout the years, whenever some significant event happened in my life, I would write a song about it. For example, “Chapters in Life” was written when my youth pastor Jess Shao and his family announced that they were moving away in 2007. “Encounter,” which became the theme song for our youth conference that summer, was written after the 2008 presidential election. Whenever I heard a sermon or message that really impacted, challenged or inspired me, I would write a song about it, e.g. “The Secret of the Secret Place” was based on Heidi Baker’s sermon at Bethel in 2014 and “Reformers” was inspired by Theresa Dedmon’s message about creativity and reigniting a Kingdom Renaissance, also in 2014. “Suddenly” was inspired by the life of Jeremy Lin, NBA basketball player, and his rise to fame in 2012. By the age of 19, I had written over fifty songs.

Music became my outlet. In a way, it became my identity. It was how I processed the world around me. It was my therapy. (I’m sure many people can relate to this.)

I began experimenting with studio recording on my own. I combined a couple of songs that I had recorded on my own along with some songs that a friend and I had recorded in a college studio (for a class that we were in) and titled it “At the End of the Day”—my first EP, which I handed out to friends and family on Christmas Day in 2012 (I was even able to give Misty Edwards a copy of my EP when she visited our church the following year).

Does God Want Me To Be Happy?

In 2014 I decided to attend Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry in Redding, California, so I packed up all of my recording gear and moved to Redding two weeks before school started. When I got there, I decided to put my time to good use and recorded piano-vocal demos of all my favorite original songs. I put them on a CD and gave them to Luke Hendrickson, one of the producers for Bethel Music and IHOP Forerunner Music. He had helped produce an album for my home church and was a friend of mine.

We talked a little bit about my desire to record an album, but I couldn’t give him a solid answer, like “Yes, let’s do this.” In my heart of hearts, I wanted to produce an album with him. I loved his sound and his style; everything that he had ever worked on was golden to me. And that is super rare for an artist. Every producer in the world imprints their unique personality and tone into the music they produce—it’s inevitable. So to find someone that you really feel in sync with on a stylistic level, whose music you have been a fan of consistently, is really a gem and a rarity.

But I was stuck in a mire of thinking: Maybe God doesn’t want me to produce this album.

I had begun to believe something in the depths of my consciousness: If I want it too much, then God won’t give it to me. And somewhere beneath that was the idea that God doesn’t want me to be happy.

A War of Worlds

For the first half of BSSM First Year and especially during winter break, I mulled over these thoughts. I felt like there a war of worlds inside of me. On one side was my old way of thinking, strongholds that had been built up inside of me over time that told me, “Melody, the only thing that matters is your spiritual life. God doesn’t care about anything else—much less your dreams. Just focus on your inner-life, praying and studying the Word. Everything else you do is temporary and pointless.”

On the other side was a whole new world… At Bethel, I was immersed in a whole new set of core values that told me, “Melody, your dreams are valid. God wants to use you to impact this world. Dream big and go after them. You were meant to live a powerful and supernatural life. Our lives here on earth matter, and we were meant to make an impact, not fade away into eternity as the world tumbles into oblivion. God wants to bring heaven on earth, through you.”

(I’m not saying that anyone taught me to think the way that I did; I am not blaming anyone for my old belief system. However, I will say that I grew up in a church culture that emphasized a lot more on our secret life with God and not so much on our contribution to society and conquering the seven mountains, as much as Bethel does. There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, I am so incredibly grateful for being raised in a church culture that values inner-life and intimacy with God as much as it does. And the reality is that every church has her unique God-given calling and set of core values.)

As I continued mulling over these thoughts and feeling the tension mount up inside of me, I began to cry out to God. I needed to hear His voice and receive direction from Him. It felt like such a huge deal to me at that time. The question was so much more than “Should I produce this album or not?” I felt like I was going through a definitive season of my life that would ultimately affect the way I viewed and understood the nature of God. Is He really good all of the time?

“… And He Will Give You the Desires of Your Heart”

I remember praying, “God, if You want me to give up my dream… I will. And I will still believe that You are good, all of the time.” I had come to a point of surrender. I really didn’t know what He wanted and I felt a lack of direction, but I knew that the least I could do was believe in His nature, i.e. God is good and He is trustworthy. Even if I knew nothing else, I knew I could bank my entire life on this reality… simply because it was the truth according to His Word.

During that time, God began to highlight this verse to me: Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” What was the desire of my heart? At that time, it was to produce this album. The problem was, how was I to know if I was delighting myself in the Lord?

I remember one day specifically. That morning we had small group, and I shared my inner-struggle with the girls. Afterwards, they prayed for me, and one of the girls prophesied, “Melody, I feel like God wants to give you the desire of your heart.” That afternoon, I received an anonymous card (from my Secret Santa) and written inside was this verse, Psalm 37:4 “… and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Two confirmations in one day! I can’t explain how I knew, but I just knew that it was the Lord speaking to me.

The Lord continued to shift my thinking through different sermons and prophetic words, and by the end of January I decided to contact Luke. We were going to produce this album.

Kickstarter: The Roller Coaster

The next step was deciding how to do that. I found out that it would cost at least $19,000 to produce this album, which was money I did not have. I began researching different fundraising options and decided on Kickstarter. The risky part of Kickstarter is that it has an all-or-nothing approach. Either your project is successfully funded within 30 days, or it’s not and you get nothing. This was a huge leap of faith for me, but I thought, “God, if you want me to produce this album, You’ll make it happen. If it doesn’t work out, then I know that’s what You intended. This is Your project.” And for the entire process of the Kickstarter, that’s how I prayed.

I had already given up my dream to God, and now that He was giving it back to me (or in a sense, giving me permission to dream again), I felt so much more freedom going into it. There was a sense in my heart that, whether it was a success or failure, it wouldn’t affect me terribly. I wouldn’t feel devastated if it didn’t work out, because I had already given it to the Lord.

On the morning of February 3rd, 2015, I launched my Kickstarter, “Melody Hwang’s Debut Album – SUDDENLY.” Not even an hour later, I got a phone call from a friend. He said to me, “Melody, I just saw your Kickstarter project. I have launched a few Kickstarter projects in the past myself, and I know the statistics. Statistically, for a project to be successful, you need to raise at least 50% on the first day.” He then went on to share with me some ways that I could possibly make that happen.

I was shocked. 50% on the first day?! I had launched my project with a goal of $16,000, so 50% of that would be $8,000. I’m not sure what I was expecting for the first day, but it certainly wasn’t that! I still had to go to school for the rest of the day—how was I going to manage this huge feat, while being in the Civic Auditorium where there is barely any internet service?

I quickly sent out emails and messages to all of my closest friends and family, explaining the situation to them and asking for their help with sharing my project on social media.

Then I went to school.

The first miracle happened: by the end of the day, I had raised $8,084.

I got down on my knees and thanked God.

Before the week was over, I had raised 100% of my goal. And by the end of the thirty days, I had raised $21,654. We were 135% funded.

The Birth of “SUDDENLY”

I don’t think I had ever been more grateful and shocked at the same time. This whole experience was a miracle from God. The generosity of my friends and family (as well as strangers whom I had never met in my life) was completely flooring to me. I couldn’t believe that God’s goodness was that good! I knew… from this day forward, I would never have another excuse to believe that God is unable to provide. Anything is possible. God is always able to make a way. Whether it is financially, spiritually or relationally, God is our Provider, and there is no lack in heaven.

(Since then, I have experienced story after story of financial provision. God has been increasing my faith to new levels, and I truly believe in Him for financial miracles—not just for myself but also for the people around me!)

Luke Hendrickson produced my album, and it was one of the most thrilling and educational experiences in my life. I got to observe and learn from one of the best in the industry. We spent many hours a week in the studio, arranging music, coming up with new ideas, recording vocals and harmonies, mixing, and also just talking. Luke became like a mentor to me. I was able to ask him questions about music, about community, and about faith. I wouldn’t trade that opportunity for anything else.

On June 9, 2015, I officially released my debut album “SUDDENLY” on iTunes. I released two versions in different languages, an English version and a Mandarin version.

Since then, I’ve been able to sell my CD in Christian bookstores (FRCC bookstore and in all Christian bookstores in Taiwan) and at most of the FRCC conferences in the U.S. and in Taiwan. I’ve been able to use my songs in sermons to inspire young people to follow after God and explore their creativity. I’ve heard testimonies back from people all over the world of how my music has impacted them, including one testimony of an Iranian businessman who heard my song “Beauty Arise,” liked it so much that he translated it into Persian, and then accepted Jesus Christ as his personal savior (That’s probably the best one I’ve heard so far).

Always More to Discover

It’s been an adventure, like I said. A discovery of God and of myself.

It’s been a discovery of God, because I no longer just know in my head that God is good. I’ve experienced it. I know it in my heart. And it’s not just because He made my dream come true, but because He led me on a journey that required risk and trust… and He showed Himself faithful.

He showed me that He really cares about my dreams and not just “spiritual things.” He’s a lot more thoughtful and generous and abundant than I had realized. He completely blew up my grid for what it means to be a child of God—the fact that I am a child and no longer a slave, that it’s more about what He has already done for me and wants to continue doing for me than about what I can do for Him. It just blows my mind.

It has also been a discovery of me, because it wasn’t until I started asking these questions about the goodness of God that I realized I had questions about the goodness of God. I didn’t know until then that I had been operating out of a slave mentality and (oppressive) religious spirit. I didn’t realize that my theology was keeping me chained up in a powerless mindset, paralyzed from pursuing my dreams. I didn’t really know God’s heart. And out of everything I learned in this process, I think that was the biggest eye-opener. In fact, that started me on a process that continues till today.

Having grown up in church, as a pastor’s kid, it is really easy to think that I know God. At least I know everything there is to know about God. I’ve heard all of the Bible stories, and I can memorize a ton of scriptures. I’ve given up years of my life to serve God full-time, so that must mean something.

But to realize that I didn’t know God… was absolutely exhilarating. I felt like a little kid again. Of course, it’s taken time (and a good amount of dying) to shed layer upon layer of the hard religious shell I had formed around myself, but I’m getting there. I’m beginning to feel a lot more softness where there used to be hardness. And that is the miracle I’m most grateful for.

The Journey Continues

I’m still on this journey, both musically and spiritually.

Musically—I continue writing songs and producing demos, which I post on social media every once in a while (Check out my YouTube channel, Bandcamp and Souncloud). I’ve also begun to produce music for other people, which is something new that I’ve been stepping into recently. I look forward to posting more content, such as lyric videos, music videos and song blogs, in the near future. Also, a second album will be on its way! To stay connected, follow me on Facebook.

Spiritually—God has been so incredibly good to me this year. He’s put me in a safe community where I’ve been learning to grow in vulnerability and love. He’s taught me the value of weakness and relying on others. And he’s stretched me in the areas of giving and sacrifice. All the while, I continue discovering more about God’s heart that I had never experienced before, and I’m not surprised when He challenges some of my age-old beliefs. There is just no way to put God in a box. Just when you think you’ve defined Him, He completely wrecks your framework. He’s that huge and amazing.

All this to say… Thank you, God, for this adventure! Thank you to all of my Kickstarter supporters who helped to make this album come true! Thank you to all of my friends and family for encouraging and believing in me!

God is good, all the time! And all the time, God is good!

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