ORIGINALLY WRITTEN CYNTHIA MARTENS
The creative process of song writing doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Songwriters take their inspirations from their experiences and surroundings.
Just ask Jake Schmidt, 30, who remembers composing song lyrics when he was living on his parents’ farm in rural Hillsboro and a student at Goessel High School.
“I’ve always loved to sing,” Schmidt said. “I can remember sitting out on the tractor. I’d be driving and singing. And I’d just make up songs.”
Fast forward to the first week in October, when Schmidt’s compact-disc album, “The World Stood Still,” is delivered to his doorstep after eight months of recording and production work.
Although a smattering of songs on the CD could be labeled country gospel, Schmidt said it has a broader scope than that.
“I’m calling it music for the Lord,” he said. “If somebody would find the Lord through one of my songs on this CD, that’s really the ultimate goal. If I make money on it or it gets played on the radio, hey, that’s a great bonus.”
The album was recorded in a music studio near Benton and produced by a popular,well-known western group called the Prairie Rose Wranglers, who also played instrumentals on it.
Displaying his vocal talents on the album, Schmidt wrote five of the album’s 10 songs.
As one of three boys in the Ivan and Kathy Schmidt family, he attended school in the Goessel system-his parents’ alma mater.
He first picked up a guitar in second grade at Goessel Elementary School and took formal lessons, but quit the next year. Eight years later, as a sophomore, he began playing the guitar again. That was when he began writing songs, too.
He was no stranger to school or church choirs and had opportunities to sing with his mother during his early formative years.
“She always encouraged me that I had a good voice,” Schmidt said. “I guess that’s where it all started-with her and her encouragement.”
But others who heard him in church and at music contests had praise for his talents as well.
“Whenever someone encourages you like that, it makes you want to do it more,” Schmidt said. “It makes you want to keep going. If you get in a lull, it can really give you inspiration.”
At 6 feet tall, he participated in sports, including basketball and track. Graduating from GHS in 1991, he studied for a year at Hutchinson Community College but decided he didn’t want to continue after that. The work world beckoned him.
Schmidt had a full-time job at a grain elevator in Yoder until 1998. During that time he married wife Liz, who he credits for being the patient part of his life. His son, Luke, entered the family three years ago.
Now living in Buhler with his wife and son, Schmidt has been employed as a full-time electrician with Kraft Electric in Hutchinson for the past five years.
In the earlier years, he concentrated on writing country music because he thought he would eventually become a country-music star, Schmidt said.
“When I was 20, I told my mom, ‘If I haven’t made it by the time I’m 30, I’ll just give it up,'” Schmidt said. “And here I am,”he chuckled.
Over the last decade, he’s entered talent contests and continued performing in other areas as well.
“I’ve never quit singing and song writing,” Schmidt said. “I’ve played several little gigs and at fairs like Goessel. And I’ve done things like weddings and banquets.”
But during that time,he never made the big leap to test the water in cities bigger than Wichita.
“I never really took off to Nashville and went for it,” Schmidt said, reflecting on how his aspirations changed after marriage and a new son.
“My goal is not to be a big country-music star-it’s more on the song-writing side of it” Schmidt said.
“I’d rather write songs sitting here in Buhler and let someone in Nashville sing them.”
And one way to make the song industry aware of his writing talents is to record demos and his new CD.
In February,work on the CD began in earnest at Prairie Rose recording studio. The studio is affiliated with the Prairie Rose Chuckwagon Supper, a Western-style dining and entertainment establishment located between Whitewater and Benton.
The Prairie Rose Wranglers formed in 1999 to offer classic-cowboy musical entertainment at the chuckwagon supper.
Schmidt originally approached the group to improve his song-writing skills.
“I started with that,” Schmidt said. “And then some folks in Buhler approached me about doing a CD. They helped me fund it, and that’s where it all started.”
Jim Farrell, a member of the Wranglers, was the album producer.
“He did a ton of work on the album,” Schmidt said. “He played guitar, drums, keyboard-you name it, he did it.”
Schmidt said his personal favorite cut on the album is “First Day in Heaven,” a bluegrass piece he wrote at the last minute specifically for the album.
“I guess it’s my favorite because it was so much fun to do,” he said. “And we had a lot of fun in the studio with it.”
To add variety and interest to the album, he also included “I Can Only Imagine,” a contemporary Christian song.
“The ones I haven’t written that are on the CD are some of my favorites,” he said.
Schmidt contracted for a total of 1,000 CDs from Joyful Noise Productions, a company in Hollywood, Calif.
“And we’re fairly confident we can sell that many,” he said.
Selling for $15, the CDs will initially make their way onto the shelves of retail stores in Buhler and the grocery store in Goessel. But Schmidt can be contacted at 620-543-6684 to take orders, also.
“And there’s a fairly good possibility that some of the songs will get some radio play in Wichita,” he said. “We’re going to approach some of the radio stations there.”
As the album begins to make its way into the hands of the public, one hope is to promote it to singers and record producers looking for new song-writing talent, Schmidt said.
“We didn’t really go for a Jake Schmidt sound,” he said. “We mainly produced this album so different groups of people would like it.”
Beginning with his first song, “Precious Jesus,” written as a high-school sophomore, Schmidt has composed about 100 pieces of music.
The time it takes him to complete a song varies, Schmidt said. The shortest composition time was 11/2 days, and the longest was about a month.
“The hardest part of writing is finding inspiration,” he said.
“Some people can write songs on command, and I just let it happen. I don’t try to force anything.”
Easter and Christmas are his most productive song-writing times of the year.
“Those seem to be the main times that I’ve been able to produce some good stuff,” Schmidt said.
And when inspiration hits, his words can find their way onto napkins or even a framing stud while wiring a home.
“I don’t read music, and I can’t write the notes,” Schmidt said. “So I’ll figure out what I’m going to do, and then I’ll record it on a cassette so I don’t lose it.”
As the album made its debut in October, Schmidt was preparing to perform at the Buhler Frolic festival and the Common Ground Coffee House in Hutchinson.
And whether his songs ever make it to Nashville or just continue to get play in the area, Schmidt said he knows the importance of thanking everybody who made it all possible.
“It takes a lot of work to do something like this, and a lot of folks have been generous,” Schmidt said. “My family and friends have supported me in a lot of ways besides money and kept me going.”