All Posts By

Rick Meredith

Matt Morris invites us to start “troubling the Gospel.”

By Guest Post

Not having all the answers but being willing to ask the hard questions – this has been an abiding principle of Wild Goose from its earliest days. And providing the time and space to ask those questions through art, music, words, silence and movement – we believe that’s some of the most important work we do at this festival.

Troub-Gospel_900This year, we’re taking that belief even further with the addition of a new tent called Troubling the Gospel, dedicated to questioning our assumptions, interrogating easy answers, freeing the good news from the boxes it’s been put in, and striving to uncover new meaning in our sacred stories, in light of our own personal stories.

Co-curated by Sean Michael Morris, a critical pedagogue, teacher, and contemplative, and Matthew Morris, musician, blogger, and spiritual explorer, Sean and Matt will also be the primary facilitators for the tent. We asked Matt to tell us more of what we can expect from Troubling the Gospel.

Let’s start with the tent’s name. Why “Troubling the Gospel”? What’s that about?

The Gospel is an orientation, a lens through which things are seen, through which the world is turned upside down.The idea of the Troubling the Gospel tent is not as much to change the way we read the Gospel as it is to recognize the deep ways that the Gospel troubles us. When we do troubling the Gospel work, part of what we’re asking is “how is that connected to the kingdom of God”? What words do we use to describe that kingdom (or kin-dom), what images, what sounds, what memories, what hopes? What do we want the Gospel to say to us, and what is it saying to us? How do we hear the Gospel through others’ words, through our relationships and interactions and collaborations in community? Is the Gospel a work of social justice, and if it is, how do we work to translate that into our work, our social lives, our sense of justice?


So what we will actually find when we walk in the door?

A place of dialogue, art, and collaboration. With a multitude of art supplies to use— crayons, paper, finger paint, Play-doh — musical instruments, writing tools, and more.

Will there be workshops going on in the tent?

This will be both a space of individual reflection, and also of guided participation — with active workshops led by community teachers and artists. Each day, the tent will host  focused sessions working with a specific aspect or idea from the Gospel through one or another artistic medium, such as:

  • Troubling the Gospel with song
  • Troubling the Gospel through art
  • Troubling the Gospel with reflective writing
  • Troubling the Gospel through movement
  • Troubling the Gospel with story
  • Troubling the Gospel through confession
  • Troubling the Gospel through collaboration
  • Troubling the Gospel through dialogue
  • Troubling the Gospel through community building

There won’t be a podium, stage, or presentation space.  We want the participants to be the center of the discussion and work.

Each day will also include hours when visitors to the tent will be

encouraged to engage with a more personal, individual experience of

troubling the Gospel.

So what about the individual work? Will someone be directing that?

Facilitation will always be available during the tent’s open hours, but these individual reflection times will be primarily self-guided. Art, writing, and musical supplies will be on the tables. Each table, too, will include a prompt — a line from the Gospel, a thought or question for reflection, etc. — for visitors to engage with, if they’d like.

So if you had to sum it up in a sentence: Why visit the Troubling the Gospel tent?

So you can engage in and discover deeply personal relationships with the Gospel, its messages, its contexts, the text itself, its resonance, and all its repercussions.

Why I Hate Christian Fiction

By 2016 Festival, Guest Post

I am an out-and-proud Christian. So you would think I would love Christian fiction. But no, I can’t stand it. Oh, you’ve read some of it, too? So you know what I mean, then. The squeaky-clean protagonists give me hives. They don’t have any ACTUAL flaws, you know? And that’s just unrealistic. I mean, the Christians I know and love and worship with, week-in and week-out look nothing like the folks you find peopling the Left Behind series—unless we’re talking the bad guys, that is. No, we are seriously flawed individuals who often swear like longshoremen, and screw up in big ways on a regular basis.

And where are all the Gay and Lesbian people? Half of the folks in my church are GLBT folks. I’ve never read a Christian novel where I saw GLBT folks depicted as Christian heroes. I decided that since no one had ever published a book showing Christians as real folks—or at least Christians as I know Christians—I’d have to write it. So I wrote THE KINGDOM. And then I wrote a sequel, THE POWER. I’m working on THE GLORY now. Flawed characters? Check. Real people? Check. Love Jesus? Check. Badass demon hunters? Check. (Yeah, there’s a little bit of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in the DNA of those books, too.)

Is it hard to get something like that published? You bet. It’s like Mark Heard said, “I’m too sacred for the sinners and the saints wish I would leave.” And that’s why I started the Apocryphile Press, because honestly, no one else is going to touch books like this with a ten-foot pole. We’ve got about 130 titles out, many of them pushing (or downright punching out) the envelope of “acceptable” Christian publishing norms. Last year we published a large-format art book called THE PASSION OF CHRIST: A GAY VISION, which shows scenes from Jesus’ last week, his crucifixion and resurrection—if Jesus were a young gay man living in the American South in the 1960s. I know that sounds kind of out there, but in fact this book is stunningly beautiful and deeply moving.

We publish anything Steve Case wants to write, because he’s just a wacky good writer—check out his incredible FR. DARK to see what I mean. We also just published a bold new study of the book of Revelation called THE APOCALYPTIC GOSPEL by Justin Staller that has people buzzing.

So in between the awesome speakers and the awesomer music, please stop by our booth and check out our books. Steve Case, Justin Staller, and myself will be there. We’re giving away free ebook copies of THE KINGDOM and FR. DARK, we’ll be signing books, and selling them. We also promise to be insufferably silly. Most of all, I’m interested in hearing your book ideas—because we specialize in the kinds of books other publishers are afraid of. We are especially interested in Christian fiction that depicts real Christians—folks like you and me—as we actually are, warts and all, not as some idealized role models.

I want Apocryphile to specialize in BADASS CHRISTIAN FICTION. We’ve got a good start on that already. I figure Wild Goose is the PERFECT place to find folks who’d like what we publish, and who write the kinds of books we’d LIKE to publish. So do you have a book for us?

John R. Mabry

How big is that tent, exactly?

By 2016 Festival, Guest Post

Guest post by Christian Theological Seminary, Indianapolis, IN

Since our founding in 1855, Christian Theological Seminary has leaned toward the right side of history. We have been inclusive, ecumenical and respectful of all traditions and faiths. Founded as a school that assured “students attending it would not be brought into contact with the habits and manners that exist in populations where slavery exists,” CTS has continued to stand in solidarity with those whom history tries to leave behind. We were among the first theological schools to grant tenure to a woman, and we sheltered a faculty member of Japanese descent during the terrible period of US internment camps during WWII.

But our convictions are tested all the time. The latest? Whether to go to the Wild Goose Festival this year, because it’s being held in North Carolina—a state that just passed one of the nation’s most heinous anti-LGBT bills.

Don’t worry, Wild Goose: we’re coming. After all, we’re from Indiana—a state that’s neck-deep in hateful laws. What right do we have to call out North Carolina?

But that’s the dilemma of being a Christian, isn’t it? Our convictions are constantly tested. And at this stage in history, we may be facing one of the biggest tests of all.

We are among the Christians who believe in a “big-tent,” “embracing” and “tolerant” expression of faith. The tent we pitch is big enough for people of all faiths. But is it big enough for candidates who use hate to curry votes, legislators who work to limit school lunches for poor children, gun owners who quote the Bible to justify “stand-your-ground” laws?

Can we forgive these people? We try. Can we pray for them? We do. Can we learn how to include them in the tent, while also protecting those who are hurt by their actions? We are working on it.

Can we talk about all this at Wild Goose Festival? We will. See you there!

True Story

When potential students apply to Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, they tell us about themselves. High GPAs. Terrific references. Years of devotion to their home churches.

But it’s not until they’ve settled in a bit — when they get through orientation, move into their apartments, go to class — it’s not until then that the true stories come out. Stories of joy, hope, support, epiphanies. Stories of abuse, loss, shame, doubt.

Novelist E. M. Forster used this example to show the difference between facts and a story:

The king died, and the queen died.
The king died, and the queen died of grief.

Jesus’s story is full of joy, hope, support, epiphanies, abuse, loss, shame, and doubt. No wonder we connect to it, are transformed by it, seek to follow his “way.”

We can’t wait to swap stories with old friends and new at Wild Goose Festival this year.

Seminaries, Roads and Stories that become what Everything is About

By 2016 Festival, Guest Post

Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary (PLTS) is excited to be at Wild Goose! Located in Berkeley, CA, it is a little tiny bit like Wild Goose all year long.

There is a story behind every person who comes to seminary, and each story is different. As the Director of Admissions, I get to hear a lot of those stories. I live and work at PLTS. Our campus is in kind of a funny location. Berkeley is funny just on its own, being the birthplace and epicenter of the free speech movement in the 1960’s. The campus is located 8 blocks up the steepest hill a road could be on, Originally intended for a trolley, this road is how Google will tell you to get there, but your car might really fight it. But it’s not the only way to get there.

In fact, the Berkeley hills are made up of a myriad of winding roads and pathways and staircases between people’s homes. You can pass lots of interesting things on the way, like the morning we passed a person having nude pictures taken of herself on some steps.

I’ve been thinking of those multiple roads as a good metaphor for how people come to understand their life story, their calling in life–which sometimes leads to seminary, and sometimes leads a million other places. Or sometimes lead to a million other places and then to seminary. Or sometimes lead to seminary and then to endless other places. Sometimes people wander a bit–up roads that are windier but not quite as hilly. Which path is better is really not the question. God is on all of those paths, and it is your own journey. Each journey has a story to tell.

And along the way of any road there are stories told, like the story in the sacred text of the Bible, where the guys are walking on the road to Emmaus, telling stories about all the things that had taken place in Jerusalem. Then Jesus, telling stories of the prophets, begins to make sense of the stories they are telling, and those stories become what everything is about.

When a person finds themselves at seminary, more stories happen: In the classroom, in coffee shops, during classes and protests and late-night end-of-the-semester paper-writing, new friendships are made, new understandings are born, and new experiences continue to shape a story that becomes what everything is about.

And then, trained as faithful leaders for a future unknown, people are sent out, ready. There is a story in front of every person who comes out of seminary too, which continues to become what everything is about.

Think about bringing your own story, and finding out what comes next.

Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary: A place for forward-thinking faithful leaders to engage in open-minded, interfaith study to prepare for faithful leadership in an evolving church and world. Come and talk to us about our story. PLTS is a graduate program of California Lutheran University, a seminary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and part of the largest interreligious theological consortium in the world–the Graduate Theological Union (GTU). Come ask us about it!




Twitter: @PLTSofCLU

Holly Johnson and Christa Compton will be there!

HollyJohnson_300pxHolly Johnson, Director of Admissions at PLTS, is also a graduate and pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. She loves live music, poetry, blurring the lines between sacred and secular, good food, good wine, and she’s a little thrilled that she gets to be at the Festival and call it work. @MinnesotaHolly @PLTSofCLU




ChristaCompton_300pxChrista Compton is a graduate of PLTS, and current pastor in New Jersey. She also likes music, poetry, literature, good food and wine. She describes herself as a southern woman who likes to defy stereotypes. @ChristaCompton

Can’t come all weekend? Get a Day Pass.

By Goose News

There’s no better way to experience The Goose than by spending Thursday through Sunday immersed in this transformational, experiential, sing and dance and play and dream and eat and camp and meditate and talk and listen and twirl-you-around-and-shake-you-up gathering like no other. Seriously, have you seen the video?

WebsiteHeader_1600x300However, if you can’t spend the weekend, the next best thing is to get a taste of it, by just coming for a day. That’s where Day Passes come in…a day pass is kind of like the Big Gulp of Wild Goose.

We’ve made a limited number of individual Day Passes available for Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. And they’re now on sale. Check out the day by day highlights and get your day pass tickets soon.


Please check the detailed schedule (available next week) for full details.

Rev Jacqui Lewis
Matt Maher
Ken Medema

Jim Wallis
Stan Mitchell
Frank Schaeffer
Soong-Chan Rah
Doug Pagitt
Michael Gungor
Emilie Townes
Joerg Rieger
Look Homeward
Emmanuel Jal
Pato Banton
Home-brewed Christianity Live
The Liturgists Podcast

Lisa Sharon Harper
Chris Crass
Charles Eisenstein
Shane Claiborne
Matthew Fox
Joe Davis and the Poetic Diaspora
Phil Madeira
Dar Williams
Indigo Girls

Ask Science Mike

A conversation with the leaders of Racial Justice Institute

By Goose News

How to turn tenderness into fearlessness. A conversation with the leaders of Racial Justice Institute.

Are you tired of conversations about race that quickly turn into shouting matches? Do you feel uncomfortable, as a white person, bringing up race, or feel your “help” is not wanted in movements like Black Lives Matter? Do you feel frustrated, as a person of color, being asked to explain things to white folks? Is it possible to confront white privilege, promote racial justice, and still have friends?

The Racial Justice Institute is a day-long pre-festival event put together to tackle these questions and more. And though it’s called an “institute,” which may make you think of a stuffy classroom with long, boring lectures, it’s designed to be anything but.  Instead think “interactive workshop” — a day to talk deeply and honestly, sometimes awkwardly, about race, in a place where you will be respected and listened to. A time to feel, reflect, sing, pray, possibly even laugh, and most importantly, figure out how we can individually – and collectively – do something about racial injustice.

This personal and communal journey will be facilitated by a group of gifted and wise, multiracial and interdisciplinary facilitators including Micky ScottBey Jones, Kenji Kuramitsu, Rev. Jennifer Bailey, AnaYelsi and many more.

We caught up with some of these folks recently and tossed them a few questions about what to expect from the day and why it’s so important to be there.

Why do a whole extra day about Racial Justice? Won’t that be a big part of the festival?

Sure it will. There will be conversations and talks and storytelling and music around this subject throughout the festival. And on lots of other subjects.

This is a time to drill down, to participate in a facilitated conversation where you can engage honestly and openly, be comfortable asking uncomfortable questions, and spend more focused time with other people coming up with ideas for transformative action.

As you leave this event, we think your head will be spinning with new ideas, new understandings, and an increased depth of awareness, so as you go into the festival you’ll very likely enter into it more deeply than you would have before. Our facilitators will also be leading workshops throughout the festival, so participating in RJI will prepare you to get even more from those sessions. Not to mention you may also make some friends you can hang out with throughout the festival.  

Who is this for?

Everyone who wants to have a deep, open, challenging, thoughtful conversation about race and oppression. It is for people of color and for white people. It’s for people just beginning to engage issues of race, and those who have been engaged for years and need fresh perspectives.

What will I take home from it?

More awareness and wisdom. You might even leave with a commitment to change your life and the systems around you.

Why should I attend?

Because although ignorance can be bliss, one person’s bliss can create another’s hell.  Attending this will create knowledgeable bliss and less hell.  It’s backwards that way.

What will I learn?

How we’ve gotten to this place where certain people have privilege and others have been “disprivileged,” how it hurts, and what we can do about it. How you fit into the story of race, inequality and justice and what that means for you. How race has shaped American culture and systems like education, prison, economics and civil rights, where we are today and where we might be going. How none of us are free until we are all free, and the beauty of getting there together.

What will we do all day?  

Open our raw hearts so that the tenderness becomes fearlessness.

Yeah, but are we going to sit and listen to people talk all day?

Only if you want to. You can also speak if you’d like to share. And participate in all kinds of other ways. Which is why we call it an interactive workshop.

How will it be “interactive”?

Through contemplative exercises and small group conversations (including those we have at meal times) occasional singing, journaling, even, yes, possibly dancing. (For those who see themselves as “dancing challenged,” don’t worry, we aren’t talking “Dancing with the Stars” dancing.)

Is this going to involve a lot of debate?

Only if you can find someone to debate with. We’re planning opportunities for one-on-one conversations with each other and with the leaders…no game playing, just sharing our best truths.  Clear-eyed, vulnerable, compassionate truths.

Why are there so many people leading?

We want everyone to feel welcome, and we don’t want anyone to feel alone. Also, race isn’t just about black and white. So we’ve included facilitators with many different stories, many different perspectives and experiences —  black, white, Asian, Latinx, straight, queer, gay, 40s to 20s, Anglican to evangelical, black-churched to Pentecostal.

We heard there might be a campfire…will this be just another feel good campfire conversation about race?

It will be more like being the marshmallow in the campfire. We’ll let the flames burn away our sugary falseness.

If I attend am I going to get yelled at? Am I going to leave feeling more frustrated and/or guilt-ridden?

We recognize it can be scary to talk about race. We have created RJI to provide a place to experiment with being brave, to ask questions that bring up big feelings, risk vulnerability and to crack open complex ideas. In the process, perhaps we will find personal and cultural healing. Even transformation. It’s designed to be a day that leaves you not with more guilt but with deeper knowledge, inspiration, different questions and new relationships as well as resources and ideas for action. We hope that you’ll be changed and leave ready to help create change in the world.

Sign up to join us for the event here.

Check out the full schedule for the day here.

Have more questions? Contact Micky ScottBey Jones

Hear and tell stories at Wild Goose 2016

By Goose News

This year, all over the Wild Goose Festival, and especially in the Wild Goose Studio Tent and Video Tent, you will have opportunity to hear stories, tell your own story, and be a part of workshops designed to help your story sing (y’know…metaphorically).

As people of faith, we’ve always believed stories have power. Stories matter. The stories we read in the scriptures and our own personal stories bear witness to what we’ve experienced of God in our lives and in the world. They tell of our small joys and huge moments of grace. And yes, also of all the ways we’ve failed ourselves and each other.

Get ready for some amazing storytelling opportunities throughout the weekend.  We’ll announce specific times soon – check the website for updates as we get closer. Here’s what’s happening:

1. Storytelling Workshop (two hours): Rebecca Anderson, co-host of Wild Goose Story SlamRebecca
You know a great story when you hear it – but what makes it work? In these two hours, come get an intro to the craft of storytelling, strengthen your style, and use structure intentionally and creatively for maximum impact. Offer and receive the kind of feedback that makes everyone’s stories better.

2. Tenx9 – with art!
(“ten by nine”) is a Belfast-originated monthly community storytelling night where 9 people have up ten minutes each to tell a real story from their lives. It’s about real people and real stories. It’s not about professional storytelling; it’s about strange people telling their strange stories to strangers, a placetenx9Graphic for the nervous and the unsure to get up and give it a go. We make space for the ordinary, because we believe everybody has a story. Tenx9 is thrilled to be hosting a night of storytelling at Wild Goose for the first time ever, and we’ve decided our theme will be “Courage: Stories of Resistance.” We welcome your submissions! If you have a story of courageous resistance, regardless the scale or context, let us know. Propose your story by filling out this form. We will get back in touch to confirm spots by June 17. To learn more about Tenx9 and our approach to storytelling nights, meander around our website at Tenx9 is a place where stories may very well break your heart and put it back together again. If you want to be moved, to feel deeply, join  us for Tenx9 at Wild Goose. Got a story? We’d love to hear from you. SUBMIT YOUR STORY HERE

3. Storytelling workshop: Michael McRay, host of Tenx9 StorytellingMichaelMcRay
In this two-hour workshop, writers will reflect on the overarching narrative of your life, brainstorm some of your greatest stories (interpret that as you will) through various themes, compare and contrast compelling and mediocre sample stories, and if time permits, peer-review each other’s narratives to provide constructive feedback for story development. Please bring a true personal story of no more than 750 words. These plans are subject to change.

4. Finishing touches
Been working on a story at a workshop or on your own?  Come get some feedback and tweaking designed to boost your confidence and get you ready to put your name in the hat at the evening story slam.

5. Wild Goose StorySLAM with Music! Hosted by Mark Longhurst and Rebecca Anderson. With live music
StorySlamImageA fan of The Moth?  This is gonna be your jam.  Come and put your name in the hat to be one of 10 storytellers – or just come and listen to true stories, crafted for impact, humor, and connection. Our theme for the night is From Shit to Shine: Stories of Redemption.

Storytellers: Prepare a 5-minute true, first-person story about a transformation.

Think: a divorce that became a blessing, a fight that ended in friendship, an addiction that helped access vulnerability, a lie that stumbled into trust, a wound that became a scar, a death more crushing than you could endure…until you did. You lived to tell the tale, now’s your chance to tell it!

Additional Stories -- in worship, on the mainstage...

We’ve also got a need for stories to integrate on other stages. We need stories ranging from shorties (3 – 4 minutes) to mid-length (5 – 7 minutes) to slot between other events and as part of worship, too.  Sure, we’ll pull from the overflow of Courage: Stories of Resistance and StorySLAM tellers, but if you have a story on any theme that you’re aching to tell, SUBMIT IT HERE!  We need all kinds of voices, and all kinds of tales.

Tell Your Story on Video

WhatsYourStoryWe want to make sure your story is captured on video and archived for viewing on the Goose website after the festival.
Storytellers: We may not have video coverage at all storytelling events, so please make arrangements to tell your story to our cameras either before or after your scheduled storytelling time. We want to make sure your story is heard! When you arrive at the festival, please stop by to schedule a time to tell your story to our camera.
If you’re not a scheduled storyteller but would like to share your story – whatever your story may be – we want to capture your story too! All are welcome! In the past, we’ve grabbed people walking by and asked them to spontaneously “Tell us your story.” This year, we’d like you to think about what you’d like to say in advance, then stop by and talk to us.

Our video studio, “What’s Your Story,” will be located next to the Art Studio tent.

Why I’m Participating in the Wild Goose Racial Justice Institute

By Goose News

Why I’m Participating in the Wild Goose Racial Justice Institute
by Sarah Withrow King (Re-posted from Evangelicals For Action)
Sara Withrow King is a contributor this year and a leader in our Racial Justice Institute, a pre-festival event sponsored by Evangelicals for Social Action.

On July 7, 2016, on the eve of 2016’s Wild Goose Festival, I’ll be participating in a Racial Justice Institute sponsored by ESA.racial-diversity-frimages.iStock
My primary vocation is animal protection. I’m an indoor kitty, and this is an outdoor festival. I grew up in Oregon and get hot and cranky when exposed to temperatures above 65 degrees Fahrenheit. But I’m really excited, and I want to tell you why so that you’ll consider joining Micky, AnaYelsi, Darren, Kenji, Paul, Jen, Kristyn, and me for this one-day interactive workshop engaging issues of race and justice through practical, spiritual, emotional, historical, and social streams of knowledge.

And so, a list. I’m thrilled to participate in the Racial Justice Institute….

  1. Because we’ll look at race through a whole bunch of lenses, making for a deeper, richer experience.
  2. Because liberal progressives need to be redeemed, right alongside the right-wingers and independents and everyone between and beyond.
  3. Because I’ve hung out with these folks before, and it’s a guaranteed good time.
  4. Because in 1995, I told the only African American kid in my class that “racism doesn’t exist anymore” and didn’t realize how wrong I was until Trayvon Martin was shot walking home from the store.
  5. Because injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
  6. Because my fight for animals, your fight for gender equality, his fight for the unborn, her fight for safe schools, our fight for one another won’t mean a thing as long as skin color is used to measure the worth of a person.
  7. Because it’s possible to acknowledge past and current injustice, to accept that light skin is privileged skin and that people who looked like me perpetuated and continue to perpetuate horrific crimes against people who do not look like me…and not get bogged down in white guilt.
  8. Because white fragility is as damaging as white supremacy.
  9. Because I want my young son to grow up watching me tackle white privilege head on so that he becomes an anti-racist man.

Sign up, would you? I need people like you to walk this road with me.

Sarah Withrow King is the Deputy Director of the Sider Center, the co-director of CreatureKind, and the author of two books, Animals Are Not Ours (No Really, They’re Not): An Evangelical Animal Liberation Theology. (Wipf & Stock) and Vegangelical: How Caring for Animals Can Shape Your Faith (Zondervan).

All Are Welcome.

By Goose News

“All are welcome.” We’ve been saying that since the very first Wild Goose and we’ve always meant it. And by welcome we don’t mean “tolerated,” or “accepted.” We mean embraced, as in long-lost-friend-embraced, you’re-finally-home-embraced. This “welcome to all” has been so much a part of the Wild Goose DNA that we’ve almost come to take it for granted.

But we realized, especially in light of the passage of North Carolina’s HB2, that we needed to be more explicit about our welcome. So we’ve adopted and put in writing an anti-harassment policy. You can read it here.

We’re committed to helping make our world safer for everyone. We hope this policy makes that clear, and if you have any questions about it, please ask.

When North Carolina passed this legislation, we thought long and hard about whether to cancel the festival or move it in protest. But ultimately we’ve decided it’s important to be here, to be visible, and to be a voice for God’s radical love (check out Kimberly Knight’s passionate blog post on Patheos). We hope you’ll join us!

It’s all about saying “Yes.” An interview with Phil Madeira.

By Goose News

Phil Madeira is a Nashville-based musician, songwriter and producer who’s worked with names like Emmylou Harris, Buddy Miller, Alison Krauss, Mat Kearney, Garth Brooks, Toby Keith, Amy Grant and The Civil Wars…just to name a few. He’s also an author, painter, artist and long time friend of The Wild Goose Festival. And this year he’s helping curate the first ever Wild Goose Songwriting Contest.

Lenora Rand, author of the blog Spiritual Suckitude, who will be leading a workshop about finding the holy in our stories at Wild Goose this year, caught up with him this week to ask a few questions.

Lenora: In your 2012 album, Mercyland, Hymns for the Rest of Us, Paste magazine said, you coaxed “the divine from plain dirt.” Christianity Today said you captured “…the vulnerable exchange between hurting humans and a holy God.” And Evangelicals for Social Action, said, your music called us “…to live today in a way that brings heaven a little closer.” Wow. Is that what you set out to do?

Phil: Mercyland Volumes 1 & 2 were created as a response to the hysteria that continues to be stirred up by American fundamentalism, all in the name of Jesus.  Look at the so-called “religious freedom” laws being passed in the South in 2016.  I started the first Mercyland in 2009, writing with and recording the then-unknown Civil Wars.  “From This Valley” is all about  the outcast, the orphan, the invisible community that Christ spoke of often.  Emmylou Harris’ willingness to participate in both records gave credence to what I was doing, both musically and philosophically.  My intention was not to make a Christian music record, but to just make the statement that God loves everyone.  To that end, I succeeded.

Lenora: A lot of people might call Wild Goose a festival “for the rest of us.” Do you think of it that way? What drew you to Wild Goose in the first place? What keeps you coming back?

Phil: I was invited to play songs from Mercyland, as well as my own brand of roots music in 2012, I think, the second year.  What drew me was the opportunity to share my music.  What I found there was an interesting mix of folks trying to rescue a faith that has been politicized, nationalized, and de-sanitized by the status quo.  While there, I made vital relationships, including the woman who signed me to a book deal.  You never know what saying “yes” to the unknown will yield in your life, but in my case, I’ve been back every year for more of the same kind of community building.

PhilM-CULenora: The theme this year at Wild Goose, “Story,” is all about bringing our stories together and seeing what happens when they rub up against each other. As someone who’s co-written with lots of musicians in your career, what’s the value of coming together and co-creating?

Phil: Co-creating is important to my very survival.  In the endeavor to get songs to the masses, I’ve found that writing a song with another person will always make the meaning more universal.  The co-written song becomes less about me and more about us, and usually that makes it much more resonant with a larger audience.

Lenora: Why did you agree to help curate the Wild Goose Festival’s Songwriting Contest? Why is this a good thing for the Goose to do?

Phil: The invitation benefits the Goose as well as the songwriter.  Who knows what bright light will shine from some unknown corner of our world?  Who knows what wonderful message or melody might emerge when we invite the unknown into our midst? 

 At our Mercyland Songwriter Workshops (this year in Hot Springs NC July 17-21 by the way), we’ve continually discovered those kinds of voices and hearts.  Because I’m often in the thick of unknown writers, I see it all the time, and I know that the Goose is in store for some wonderful new music.

Lenora: It’s pretty scary to put yourself out there as an artist and share your work with others, especially when they’re not your family and friends who are mostly fairly nice to you. Why do you think it could be a good thing for aspiring songwriters to submit a song to this contest? Besides the fact that they could win a lovely Republic 317 mahogany Parlor Resonator guitar, of course.

Phil: Allow me to answer with a story:
A few years after Emmylou invited me to be in her band, I found an album cover I had designed for a graphics class I’d taken in college.  At the time, I had no record to put in the sleeve, so I filled the credits with the great session players of the day- Lee Sklar, Russ Kunkel, Al Perkins, and others.  Thirty years after making this cover, I looked at those credits and realized I had played with every single person I’d written down in that waking dream.  What really blew my mind was reading Emmylou’s name among them!  At 21, I had dreamed big and then forgotten all about it. 

 I often share this story with people who are afraid to dream the kind of dream I was dreaming as a young man.  Wild Goose is offering the opportunity to share a dream, that impossible story that is waiting to be lived out.  If someone’s dream is to be a songwriter, here’s an opportunity to make it come true.  Again, it’s only a matter of saying “yes.”

 There’s still time to enter the Wild Goose Songwriters Contest. Submissions accepted until April 30, 2016.

Phil Madeira music, art, and books available at

For info on Mercyland Songwriter Workshops, go to