- Lauren McNeese
Mr. Slaten's Lyrical Life
Chris Slaten, songwriter and high school English teacher, had open heart surgery at four years old. In middle school, he began to experience heart problems related to the procedure, and had to leave athletics as a result. He turned to music instead. “I could not play after school sports that I was previously involved in. And knowing that I’d be at home, my dad brought home a guitar, and the first thing I did was start making stuff up on it.” In high school, he was a proud member of the up and coming band, Pants, and was eventually led to start his own group, Son of Laughter. “We actually had shirts made-- the shirts said ‘Pants’ on them,” he chuckles.
“The whole name Son of Laughter comes to the Sally Lloyd-Jones Storybook Bible, where she refers to Isaac as the son of laughter because he was born when his parents laughed at God out of exasperation because it didn’t seem like He was fulfilling his promises...that laughter of cynicism, that when a child comes, that laughter turns to a laughter of joy.”
Slaten has published two albums to date, No Story is Over, featuring “Voting Day,” “Flesh and Bone,” and “The Meal We Could Not Make,” as well as The Mantis and the Moon. His artistic endeavors have not ended, however, as he continues creating. Slaten plays worship music some at North Shore Fellowship, as well as house shows.
To students who are in the early stages of their artistic endeavors, Slaten advises that patience and perseverance are key: “To be patient with their own growth as creators, and to show up for the work. So when they create something and they don’t like it, they don’t need to think of that as a sign of I don’t need to be doing this, but as a sign of this is what the first step looked like. And also, the fact that it could take decades before they feel like they are creating something that they feel like they have control over and that they love and that only happens if you are practicing it and sharing it with people.” Sharing it with other people can help artists grow as well, he continues, as this practice may make artists much more aware of what they are communicating and it gives one a completely different perspective on what they created. You can only grow, Slaten says, by practicing it, creating it, committing to making work, and setting aside time to do it. “Lots of people have novels and songs that they hope to write one day, but the only way it happens is by showing up for work. And it might be terrible, and you might have to write a hundred terrible songs or create a hundred terrible pieces before you come close to creating something that you feel is worth the time of someone else. And that’s a beautiful thing for you, and also a beautiful thing for others to see if you’re sharing, because we get to see you grow. Submit to Nonesuch, that’s what we’re all about.”
It is also important to emphasize to young artists that they keep in mind inspiration will likely not just come naturally-- one must put the work in, and the inspiration will come as you do the work. “I go to a conference every year, and I got to hear Leif Enger speak, he wrote Peace Like a River, and one of the things he charged us with, he said that ‘persistence is the landing strip of the muse.’” In other words, inspiration will not come until you’ve been persistent and faithful in doing the work. So don’t wait for the inspiration to come to you. Start working, and the inspiration will come as you do the work.
“Someone once told me to choose your major based on what you love. It was something like, ‘The world doesn’t need more people who make lots of money, it needs people who are alive.’ Or there was another one like ‘the world’s greatest need and your deepest joy, when they meet, that’s your calling,” Slaten explains, as to what made him want to become an English teacher. An alum of Berry, Slaten went to work in insurance at Unum for several years, handling disability claims after college. At that point Drew Campbell, High School English teacher, and Forrest Walker, High School Principal, who had previous connections with Slaten through summer work with him at Camp Vesper Point, and encouraged him to check out CCS. Mr. Slaten has been a part of the CCS community for 11 years, and his involvement has included filling roles ranging from teaching English, public speaking, creative writing, assistant track coach, and working in admissions.
Slaten will be spending a significant part of his summer touring the midwest, sharing with others his work, a mixture of passion and perseverance, head and heart, good lyrics and beautiful harmony. Additionally, Son of Laughter recordings are for sale and streaming on on The Rabbit Room, Youtube, Spotify, and iTunes. Check out Son of Laughter’s live band performance of The Gardener, homemade music video, music video and blog meditation for "Partington Cove,” and website, www.son-of-laughter.com.