Emotional Relation - "You might be faced with the reality of your own failure, and maybe that failure is recurrent. I know this song came out of a place for me of feeling very not special in the world." - Stereo Stickman

Emotional Relation “You might be faced with the reality of your own failure, and maybe that failure is recurrent. I know this song came out of a place for me of feeling very not special in the world.”


A brand new album and a whole world of experiences to back it up – Emotional Relation’s Stephen Wendt kindly took part in a catch-up interview. We talk about the changes in his life both creatively and otherwise, what inspired the new project I Will Choose You, the depths of Christianity and its impact on daily life, and plenty more. Here’s the conversation in full.

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Hi Stephen – so great to catch up with you! Massive congratulations for the release of the new album. It’s been a few years since we spoke, what’s been the main change for you as a musician and artist?

Hi, Rebecca! It’s been a very eventful few years. From an all-out identity crisis, to my Mom going into the hospital and coming back home, to suddenly needing health insurance, it’s been quite the wild ride. But God is blessing me through all of it – yes, all of it.

The main changes for me as an artist actually aren’t totally evident on this album, because I recorded and finished this album back in 2021, except for some mild edits. I put off releasing it until I felt I had money and could promote it.

The main change for me as an artist has been a decreased self-negativity, and increased spiritual focus in my music. You’ll hear a lot of this later on my upcoming release Emotional Worship that I finished in 2023.

I still hear a lot of raw emotion and human relatability on I Will Choose You – you don’t lose the human angle on upcoming Emotional Worship, do you?

Oh no, not at all! Don’t get me wrong, I still believe in the power of music being relatable and real. In fact, I think there’s too much music out there, especially in the CCM scene, that’s simply not true to life, and doesn’t fully follow the example of the Psalms. I believe in a call for balance – personal emotion and honesty, mixed with praise and declarations of trust and glory. It just so happens when everyone who seems to get associated as “truly Christian” sings “God, God, God”, to achieve balance, you need some people who truly care about God going “Life, life, God!” That’s just my opinion.

But during the last few years, I actually felt that I was going TOO FAR in trying to relive and recapture the empty-feeling angst and remorseful darkness of my musical inspirations like Senses Fail and My Chemical Romance. I sometimes found myself trapped in strange modes of grief that pushed me to go darker and darker for some sense of release or meaning, and sometimes experienced an inexplicable feeling of supremely empty remorse. I want to say that I have an idea for the reason of part of this – it was something in my heart that was wrong – and God has really helped pulled me out of it.

The truth is, the sentiment of an honest and raw emotional expression is what I connect with most in music, but my favorite bands’ songs often reflected a grief without hope that simply hits harder because it has no complete resolution. My songs often grieve, but I don’t grieve without hope, because I have hope in God. So my roots and framework of emotional honesty in song remain, but I have tried to release myself from the attempt to recapture the *same* heart-wrenching remorse from my musical peers – instead I try to use feelings of angst to redirect primarily towards love and longing for God. I believe in the power of a sad (or happy) song to show my love for God.

Tell us about I Will Choose You – what inspired the concept, and how long has this album been in the making?

The concept of I Will Choose You is reasonably belied by the name – the title track was authored a few years ago when I fell in love with (another) girl who wasn’t really Christian. This girl was everything I wanted – she was pretty, kind, talkative, highly artistic, had a beautiful voice, curvaceous and quirky. Given the time, I think we could have grown closer naturally. But God used my OWN SONG “She’s a Dirty Word” to convict me.

Man, I hated that song, then! He laid it on my heart that though we weren’t officially boyfriend/girlfriend”, my heart was already in love with her, which was practically the same difference. So, in faith, I did the thing that I knew would likely end the relationship. I told her I was totally distraught because I had fallen in love with someone I could never be with because they weren’t a full Christian. She had just gotten out of a relationship a few months ago, and one way or another, God worked it out that me saying this was “all too much too soon” for her, which unfortunately ended our close friendship and potential relationship.

She was everything I wanted… except truly Christian. She believed in God – but it was more of a nominal belief, a belief that she pieced together, and followed as long as she liked it or it seemed comforting. The instant God might have a quality she disliked, it was rejected. This isn’t my heart at all – I have my own ideas of how I view God’s character, but I don’t hold my personal idea of God (which is just an educated guess, in truth) as the final knowledge of true goodness for myself, or even others – God is good for me, whether I like what He has to say, or not… God is always good. That’s an integral part of my belief, the respect of God as good and supremely loving yet supremely just.

This was just one of the many times I dug myself into a hole by falling into love with a girl that didn’t believe like me. Each time, it forced me into a scenario which felt like choosing between getting the girl, or God. 0/10, do not recommend… but regardless, I chose God. And that is where the title of the album came from. The declaration that I will choose You, over anything, and anyone else, no matter how much it hurts… It’s not a declaration of self-greatness, it’s a cry of my heart, and there’s a whole journey of commitment and complexity throughout life that must play out through the statement “I will choose You, Lord”.

The energy you bring to these songs is phenomenal. Are live shows on the cards this year?

Thank you so much! That energy likely stems from my genre influences, of course. It’s just how I express passion, but I’ve had to tone it down a little as I’ve gotten older, so I don’t hurt my voice!

I’m not sure when live shows will happen – though I occasionally perform my more God-focused songs at my small church! All in all, I’m taking life one step at a time, and I figure if I ever actually get very many listeners online, then maybe through some of my contacts and an ad or two, I can gather up a band to learn songs someday. For now, that part remains a dream, but I’m trying to follow through with promotion to get the music out there.

You open with the title-track, a rather epic and compelling listen, then close with the extensive fifteen-minute piano-reprise of the same title. Where in the writing and recording process did this decision happen, and what do you feel it adds to bookend the album in this way?

I guess I like to tell a story with my albums – I want it to have some kind of logical progression, even though it’s rare for me to write more than 2 songs in a row with the idea that they will follow each other.

I try to arrange the songs in a way that creates a reasonable facsimile of an emotional journey, with ups, downs, turn-arounds, and certain moments of remorse that sometimes happen right before shouts of joy. The album tells the story of a character, and/or myself, going through various emotional states, and making the declaration that he will choose God. In this case, the focus is choosing God over romance.

My Dad is a big Progressive Rock fan, so you can probably thank his influence one way or another for any of the songs being long and complex – it feels like a drive to impress or a self-concious streak about anything being too repetitive or boring, but it’s also just my own unique way of self-expression. One thing that really was my Dad’s idea was the idea to make an instrumental reprising the whole album. It was something we talked about and joked about, and I think he had no idea I would actually do it. Man, that took hours of midi arranging! I think the idea was that truly great concept albums or symphonies tend to reprise themselves and reference parts of the whole work in the end or throughout. At one point, he said the piano reprise was his favorite track from the album – but honestly, it’s the one I always skip, unless I’m listening to the whole album straight through! I find it beautiful, but a little obnoxious… I’m not THAT Prog!

You’re right to perceive that the story has an element of “HAHA, I WILL CHOOSE YOU!” then “All my emotions, sadness, and bittersweet longing…” then “I WILL CHOOSE YOU!” to it. The opening song is the declaration of faith in God and His sufficiency and provision. The middle songs go through all these various states of emotion directed either at God, a girl, or spectators. Then the final song When I Seek declares in the face of crushing doubts, that God doesn’t hide from those who truly seek Him, and the extended instrumental reprise of I Will Choose You gives this album a sense of being one big long book or symphony – where the opening chapter is also the closing the chapter, in a way, and the work of life is done.

Now that you mention it, I think I did struggle with track placement a bit when I first organized the album. I choose based on story placement, but I also have a stylistic order I like, and the first song MUST ROCK. The last song MUST BALLAD! Amongst other things. If the story order doesn’t fit this criteria, the story typically has to twist around to make that happen. It’s really rather ridiculous, but that’s my format.

What made you choose Has Beens as the leading single, and what does this song represent?

Has-Beens was recorded at my friend Russ Klaussen’s old house back in 2021, using his Gibson Les Paul guitar in Drop C! At the time, I was REALLY crazy about the Chunk! No, Captain Chunk! Album “Gone Are the Good Days”. This song is a bit of my imitation, and response to that. It offers a straightforward relation to everybody feeling like they aren’t what they used to be – with the implication that nothing I do or say or would fix their heart like God.

You see, God releases us from the self-defeating, heart-wrenching version of nostalgia or “getting old”. With God, better days are always ahead, because heaven is ahead. So no matter what we lose, we have something greater to look forward to. We can’t go back, but the good we had in our youth should just remind us how much better the good we will have in heaven is going to be, and that this world is not our home.

So the song is really catchy, and my best attempt at professionalism in my genre, and incredibly relatable across a wide, wide group. But then in the second round of verses, it starts talking about God, saying,

“Will you ever get it back? / Will you ever be so young again? / It’ll all turn out okay / all is as the Lord has always planned / remember the things He did / When you were just a kid”

until finally coming out and saying to all the “Has-beens” out there, including myself,

“I could write a million songs for you to think about / but not one song would fix your heart like God”.

This song really encapsulates a lot of my goal with music – to relate, but to provide that Godly answer, too.

In totality, I felt the sum of this song makes it extremely single-like, and the single version doesn’t have that long intro with the guitar static and distorted bass doing the intro riff! 🙂

Save My Life has an interesting lyric. Can you tell us a bit more about that?

Sure! The parts I want to highlight are the Pre-Choruses and Choruses (doesn’t it just sound better to say Pre-Chori and Chori?):


Never the one to say level the one who says / Level the one who says they’re never the one to say / Never the one to say level the one who says: / What in the world are they talking about, oh God?

This is a circular lyric that represents vague Christian song lyrics at the same time as making a statement against using them all the time.

To make the meaning more clear AND confusing, let me replace some words in the lyric:

Pre-Chorus (semantically literal)

I would never be the person to say get rid of the person who says / get rid of the person who says they would never be the person to say / i’d never be the person to say get rid of the person who says: / What in the world are they talking about, oh God?

It’s so twisted up, you can’t tell what it’s really saying, any more!! That IS the point. The point is, why do we as Christians write songs where everything is so vague, and no one can really tell what’s being said, any more? I don’t condemn vague or emotion-only lyrics, I think they are powerful for the right people at the right time. I just invite us to consider a possibility: how will people who don’t believe in God fill in the “blanks” we’re leaving in our songs with God, if they don’t even believe in Him? You would be surprised how much people will try to fill in anything but God. God actually doesn’t even occur to some people. So no, I don’t condemn vague lyrics, but I do believe that having at least moments of directness increases our possibility of true impact exponentially!

I do think vague lyrics can make our music less impactful, in general. I understand we want to express emotions, and I do too. Not every song needs to be just a certain way. Each song has a unique purpose, and the artist decides that. Heaven knows poeticism and personal expression means the world to me. But I don’t wanna be caught leaving EVERY song blank where God should be, and finding out even the few people who thoughtfully consider my lyrics fill in the blanks with their girlfriend. I want to be helpful. All I desperately want to say is what follows in the Chorus:

Chorus 1

What’s life / Without You / In my life? Oh / I’m so flawed / To love my / Severed lungs, oh!

It’s totally clear, here is what is on my heart. My life is pointless without You, God. I am so flawed to love when I am separated from You, and I charactize it as enjoying being separated from my lungs.

Chorus 2

Sometimes I think of You / And in my disparaged view / I think that I could leave You / Sometimes I run from You / That’s cause I know it’s true / You reflect who I am inside / So God / Tell me please / That I’m alright / Tell me please / You’ll save my life

Sometimes, in a view I hold very lowly, I think I could leave God and do life pretty good on my own. In truth, I run from God because I know He will show me who I truly am inside my heart. So I just want to know that I am okay, and that God will save me despite my failures and flaws.

The revisions of the lyrics in the repeats make the meaning even clearer.

Pre-Chorus 2

Never the one to say level the one who says / Something about some something about some / Something you felt, some something so vague / What in the world are they talking about, when God

Chorus 1 (Variant)

What’s life / Without You / In my life, oh / I’m so flawed / To love my / Severed life, oh!

Exceedingly Average is one of the most memorable songs on the project. I’d love to know how this one came about, and what you hope people take away from it?

This song is the unofficial (or should I say official?) sequel to She’s A Dirty Word. It has lots of goofy little noises or quirky touches, and perplexing lyrics, yet buried within the song is this serious spiritual message just waiting to be heard by some unsuspecting Pop-Punk innocent. Haha!

I’m not always comfortable with being humorous yet taking myself seriously at the same time – I’ve experienced being perceived as humorous, then not being able to get people to hear anything but humor. It can be nearly impossible once people quantify something as humorous to get them to think of it in any other way. Heck, even I have fallen victim to that, though I’d like to think I can acknowledge that perception can vary. Still, I suppose the humor of the song represents my brightness, positivity, and joy. And it shows that I’m not afraid to have a good time and be a little goofy – and really, life can be a little goofy sometimes. Sometimes I think the humor is like a defense mechanism from the darkness, making fun of depressed or dangerous worldly attitudes I know are silly, even though I’m singing a song that will remain “obsessed” with them for half of its length.

So this song is written for everyone who thinks of themselves as very average – not very great, not very bad. But consider this perspective: to some individuals, being so average is perhaps worse than being memorably bad or memorably good. In this mindset, because they think of themselves as so incredibly average, they do not feel special in any way. Which makes the phrase “exceedingly average” become a new way of saying “I’m not special, in fact I’m really messed up and forgettable, just like everybody else, and relating to that is the only reason anybody would love me.” Many people might be consumed by their inadequacy – their inability to perform or consistently do what they think they should. We might feel like we do “okay” in life, but not as good as we should. And that makes us feel bad about ourselves. We might feel like everything we ever do is a clone of something someone else did, or a lesser version of something someone else already mastered.

You might be faced with the reality of your own failure, and maybe that failure is recurrent. I know this song came out of a place for me of feeling very not special in the world, and feeling sorry to the Lord I seemed to be only average at obeying what He tells me.

But no matter your issues, problems, or length of failure, the Lord is greater than all of it. And He can use you, yes, even in your dark place, if only you will reach out to Him. And that is what this song is really about. If you think you are exceedingly average in some way, then be reminded He is exceedingly greater and makes up for that. He empowers followers to do His will not in just an average way – but in a great way!

I’d like to share this scripture that I feel speaks to this point.

2 Corinthians 12:9 NASB1995:

[9] And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.

So there it is. Do you feel average at doing good, or even worse, or even totally not special in your human qualities? God can make you into something more special than even the most talented and beautiful worldly performer. But it’s not your performance or outwardly observable qualities that makes you special to God – it’s your unique, created soul.

Exceedingly Average could seem kind of rude or indicative of self-hate from a certain perspective. Is that the place it comes from, for you?

The song does spend a long time sounding somewhat self-deprecatory of myself and others who like me. The emotions go through blaming myself, hating myself, wishing I was better, and saying my life is falling apart and I’m not okay anymore, because my alibi of being a good person is running out of time to use. Which means that my idea of being a good person is being revealed as untrue, all building up to this realization that I and/or the listeners that feel the same way are exceedingly average people. It positions it as this relatable statement, even a humorously over-the-top depiction of a protester fighting for their “political right” to say their life has no moral certainty.

It goes so far as to say the reason why you like me is because you’re just like me… you’re exceedingly average. It’s definitely got a lot of feelings in there we can relate to when we’re young, when we often feel like nobody cares about us and lie to ourselves saying “I am so worthless.” I’d like to think a sentiment isn’t really rude if you’re so depressed that you devalue yourself in the same way as others. People just need help!

The song starts out as this anthem of the people who feel average and not at all special.

But eventually, it gets to the place where it’s all that, and something a bit more. The song makes this statement that the only thing worth regretting is the times we failed God. So instead of regretting that being “average” makes you mess up and even makes you sing because you’re depressed, and hating yourself for it all, now it’s saying that God is exceedingly greater than all of our failures and problems. It’s saying it’s not worth it to hate ourselves, and that the only thing worth regretting is a time we failed to do what God wanted. God loves us in spite of our failure and it is such a blessing to know that we are made whole again in Christ. We don’t have to be obsessed with the nature of our abilities or extent of our inadequacy – because He covers all of that. He works through us when we trust Him and does things in us we never could do alone. It has never been about US being good enough – it has always been about how good HE is and what He can do through us. Essentially, our inadequacy is irrelevant. Because we do not operate by our own power, anyway. His grace and empowerment are sufficient. We just have to find where He is calling us to be.

Something to think about, here, is the fact that most of the apostles Jesus chose were not very special, religious people who thought they had it all together. The people Jesus chose were exceedingly average people who were willing to drop anything and everything and follow Christ. My point in this is that God LOVES to use people the world thinks could never make a difference, to do something great for Him. It’s important to remember His will defines “great”, so it might be big on an earthly scale, or it might not. But when we follow God, He will accomplish a good work in us. There is never a question as to whether He has empowered us to live our “call” or not – He always does. The question is, where is the Lord calling me, right now? And the answer can change sometimes. Sometimes He calls us into a new season.

Do you have any funny stories about the songs from this album?

Well, the funny part about Exceedingly Average is when I originally came up with it, I was positive the thought was floating around in my brain from some other punk artist’s song. I thought “Oh, that’s good! Where did I get that? I must have gotten it from somewhere.” Then I thought “Oh well, I will just do my own thing with it”, and didn’t look anything up before writing the song, because I didn’t want to taint my writing. But later, I did Google it, just to see what the internet had to offer, and to my surprise, I found a big fat zero!

“Surely I can’t be the first one to name a song Exceedingly Average! Is that not a creative turn of phrase someone else has used before me?”

I’m still perplexed by it. I was positive I was making a song that would have countless other competitors on the market, each more beautifully produced than the last, with terribly relatable self-deprecation, but it would seem I am the ONLY one who thinks of himself as exceedingly average…? Haha! Who knows. Just don’t be *mean* about it. Otherwise we’d have to break out *median*. 😂😂😂😂 Sorry, little math humor there for ya.

With a track like One More for the Road, is there much of an editing process, or is this a freestyle solo expression of emotion?

It’s honestly kind of reassuring that you ask, actually. I’m glad that it sounded human enough to beg the question. My answer is that it’s a combination of the two processes. Most definitely there is an element of playing the keys parts, either as I hear them in my head or stumbling around to find a part, and using quantize to make sure they’re reasonably on time. I am NOT the greatest keys player! There is also EXTENSIVE MIDI editing that goes on with most of my songs, though, especially ones like this, where the entire song is MIDI, using as many human elements as feasible.

At the end of the day, I make a lot of music, and sometimes the songs I make take on a life as an instrumental. I struggle with anxiety and over-emotionality, but when I am immersed in creating a song, these can sometimes go away or become a generalized expressionable entity. Music is something God gave me to do that helps me, and it’s a good thing.

These instrumentals are built up through hours of self-application, playing a MIDI controller, and editing MIDI, and editing human MIDI drum loops from EZDrummer. Layers like strings get added, as arrangement is another level of consideration, and I often create the beginning of string parts by duplicating chordal information from elsewhere, or by improvising a part. I do channel emotion into these songs, although it’s somewhat undefined and best described as “wordless groanings”. Somewhere, I try to give the song a title that can engage the listener with a potential concept that characterizes the emotion portrayed, but everyone is free to charactize it in their own way.

In the case of One More for the Road, the idea is kind of this emotional instrumental track that feels very orchestrated, like something that a band plays over the speakers in an intermission at a concert before coming in with the Rock arrangement as a grand finale. It’s characterized as a band’s last song to honor the journey of being on the road.

In hindsight, it feels like you can almost hear the entire story of a musician or even a single concert, from lonely, simple sounds, to increasing complexity, the euphoria of the success and stage moments, and then the slowing down at the end of life, with a gentle ending.

I like to think of it like my version of Pachelbel’s Cannon.

How did you come up with the lyrics for Changing Our Reflection, and do you turn to poetry or read much in terms of inspiring the way you write?

Interesting question! Changing Our Reflection is the most lyrically challenging song on the album, I think.

These lyrics deal with how society is celebrating wrong, what God calls “sin”, and then scolding Bible believers, really for even existing or having an opinion. The world is celebrating people who do things God says are wrong, as brave, powerful, and right. The song tackles the issue by thinking of it like changing our reflection in a mirror.

We change our reflection by painting on the mirror, or twisting it around like a fun-house mirror, or looking at it from just the right angle. But none of that actually changes the reality underneath… we’re broken and lying to ourselves. We’re still the same broken, messed up people no matter how much we twist the image in the mirror to look nice. That goes for everybody! Changing the mirror doesn’t change us, it just changes what we see. We don’t want to see the way the world really is, what God created us to be, we just want to make our own reality, and be what we want to be. And far too often, we fall in love with being the opposite of what God made us to be.

I don’t read much at all, but for some reason, I am highly verbal and people tell me I write very well. These lyrics aren’t inspired by any specific poems or literary sources, but poeticism is important to me, as poeticism is part of the efficacy of my art – high poeticism or emotionalism mixed with clear, true message is typically the most effective way to communicate in song, I think.

Check out these lyrics, they really tell a story, I think:

Changing Our Reflection

Verse 1

Take a stand for living truth / And you will find yourself / He’s always been there / Waiting for you, yeah! / But this world’s telling you / The truth is wrong and so are you / What will you do when they come for you? Yeah!


Will you stay here with the Lord? / Or push Him away?


The wrong is right / The right is wrong / At least for us today, right now / Have we become / Too blind to see / Our own reflection / Or are we just changing it?

Verse 2

They say truth is relative / It changes with the times / But if you cross their line / You should die, yeah! / Nothing is real / Except their own idea of what is right / That changes based on how they feel tonight


Will you stay here with the Lord? / Or push Him away?


The wrong is right/ The right is wrong / At least for us today, right now / Have we become / Too blind to see / Our own reflection / Or are we just changing…


Life to be the way that we make / Sin is a lie from years ago / God is someone I’d like to meet / In my own way, on my own time / Where the buck stops, nobody knows / It’s all okay / Yes, it’s “okay” / Will this be the end of our lives / As we always knew them, Lord?

Bridge 2

Emptiness consumes our souls / And we wonder why we long, so / Tell ourselves that we’re alright / We’re not alright / Here, without You

Bridge 3

I feel at home with You / Yet I find it so difficult to do what You say / Is it too late for me / To be made new within the light of Your perfect grace?

Chorus 2

I’ll try again / Just tell me when / I’m doing half a good job of pleasing You, Lord / You’re all I need / You’re all I want / Teach me what it really means to say these words, Lord


The days are getting better / With You here by my side / And You renew my hope / That we can do right / If there is still hope for me / I know it’s there for you / Just go to Jesus / With your heart open / Yeah!

Now the next few things to talk about related to this song are really personal and deeply meaningful to me, so I don’t mean to offend anybody, but it’s on my heart that the reason God let me go through them is so I can try to help others. If you don’t want a Christian perspective on gender identity, feel free to skip the next few paragraphs.

The message of this song is especially apt when you think of all the gender-identity crises going on in today’s youth, feelings of which I am no stranger to. I have wanted to be female before. I have known I was a man, but had no idea how to care about being one, instead in love with acting as much like a girl as I felt I could without sinning. God revealed this to me, and told me this heart state was wrong. My heart should have been to be myself as God made me, to be a unique and different man without sin. Instead, it was to be as feminine as a man could be without sinning.

It hurt to hear this, because these aspects were so deeply intertwined into my personality. I spent years making a personality for myself, (handwriting, hair, clothing style, voice, music style, favorite colors, etcetra) only to feel like (for a relatively brief moment in time) God hated me in some way. But God never hated me. In fact, God didn’t even hate much of what I was doing… because most of what I was doing wasn’t directly sinful. God only hated one aspect of my heart state. If God had never told me, not only would my heart have never been more pleasing to Him, but I also would never be speaking these words right now, for whoever needs to hear them… The trouble is how hard it was to understand exactly what God wanted of me. But the blessing is this: Most of what I did personally wasn’t wrong for a Christian in action, I just needed to adjust my heart reasons for doing it. Then a few of my actions and feelings naturally shifted over time when I adjusted my heart.

The end result is that slowly, as my heart has changed, I am more comfortable being me as I was created. I experience less and less of a somehow unquenchable longing to achieve beauty when I see a beautiful woman! It used to be that somehow attraction fed my desire to achieve what I perceived as “equal beauty” for myself. Over time, things kept getting just a little more off-base. What started as imitating guys in bands turned into wanting to be something I’m not, and not caring about how God made me. Now I know that true beauty isn’t found in excessively imitating either genders’ characteristics, or whatever makes me feel attractive, or attracted. True beauty is found in being what God made you to be. Not everybody will be able to see that kind of beauty, because it’s not only physical, it’s spiritual.

It’s not that all my uniqueness is gone, or that I suddenly want to be just like every other man ever made, or that I always have the answer to every male-female gender question, now. I still want to be different (without sin), I just want to have pure and admirable reasons for doing so – among which, a semi-feminine sensibility based on what things I find physically or even emotionally beautiful may be among them. But only in submission to what I feel is appropriate for a man who cares about his gender.

It was a long journey, and very difficult, but the quickest way to summarize it is I felt God simply wanted me to care that He made me a man. It was when I truly stepped into that, and actually cared about honoring it, that a certain weight of unknown emptiness and deep mournful longing was lifted from my heart. I am no longing striving to be something I wasn’t made to be, and consequently struggling to perform! It’s freeing! Now, a weight of anxiety has also occurred from all this, which I think is from the enemy! I think of it as the result of my desperate desire for certainty in the search to please God. These areas of gender and self-expression have little certainty in details, and many people spouting emotionally damaging opinions! Regardless, when I am able to accept and do what I believe God is telling me, anxiety dies.

Tell me about track 8, I Love You Every Time.

Well, this is a love song that’s about a girl who doesn’t think she’s good enough for a guy. The guy’s response is that she forgets the many good things about herself, and no matter how times she says “you deserve better than I”, he will just keep on saying “I love you, every time”.

In all honesty, I’ve always felt like the sonic quality of this one is missing something, so it’s not my favorite to listen to, because it can make me self-conscious. But I do think the lyric is a bit ingeniously sweet.

The reason I wanted to mention it is because it’s my Mom’s favorite song on the album! She is so weird and quirky, and for some reason, she thinks this song is adorable! So I couldn’t forget to mention her. Just goes to show, you never know what song will strike who!

The song When I Seek (I’ll Never Find You Hide From Me) is a highly introspective piece that seems to come out on the side of Faith. What does this song mean to you?

I always try to close my albums with an emotional ballad that’s entirely sincere. Something deep and profound, yet totally emotionally honest, as well… In all honesty, I try to make the last song kind of encapsulate the real journey you hear in the album, or the real moment of humility, coming back to God after all the crazy wild emotions of the album. I like Rock music, but I think all moral styles are valid, so I like to close with a song that, I guess, tries to remind people of my tender heart for God.

When I Seek is such a meaningful song to me, I feel I could do a whole interview just talking about this one song!

Basically, the song speaks about some really strong doubts and worries:

  1. Would God still love me if I didn’t love Him, or even believe in Him?
  2. Would God still care about me if I didn’t believe the same as many other Christians on some key issue?

Let me just say, it is so easy to get the idea that God wouldn’t love you if you weren’t just perfect. Well, it’s good, even necessary, to seek the truth, and try to do good. But God’s love itself doesn’t depend on your love. He is faithful even if you are not.

God proved His love doesn’t rely on our performance, because He died for us as Jesus while we were still sinners. So yes, God would still love you even if you didn’t believe in Him. Enough to die for you.

God cares about each individual deeply and is close to the brokenhearted. To those having severe questions or doubts, I say read the Bible, pray, ask other trusted Christians, and seek God. And I would remind the questioner of this verse:

James 1:5 NASB1995

[5] But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

You see, when man did wrong in the Garden of Eden, we hid from God, because we were afraid and ashamed. But God is never afraid or ashamed to show Himself. So God never hides from us when we truly seek Him. If you seek, you will find. But you have to be willing to really find and receive.

It’s because of that confidence I have that God will never hide from me when I seek, that He takes care of His own, that I can say, with faith,

So I’ll wake up to You / And I’ll get up to sing / And I’ll wake up to be / What You’re asking me / And I’ll wake up to scream / Lord, help my unbelief / And I’ll wake up to see / You’re right beside / And I’ll be fine with this life / Cause I’ll never find You hide from me… when I seek.

What’s your plan of action for 2024 as an independent artist?

My plan would be to make some money, follow God’s lead, try to promote my music to get hearts to hear it, and trust that God can accomplish a good work through me that I could never accomplish alone.

I’m also looking to expand my Patreon page subscribers over time, searching for a way to make music sustainable.

What’s the main thing you want people to know about the album I Will Choose You?

This album is a collection of songs that is devoted to telling the story of choosing God. There’s a myriad of styles, but though I connect with a certain style more strongly, God doesn’t have a musical style for validity, He has a heart state for validity. I just want to do something good for God, and I grow as I go. No, I don’t want to be just like everybody else, but no, I don’t want to sin, either. I hope the album is meaningful to you. I believe God gave it to me to help me and to help others.

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

Thank You God for music, and giving me the gift of praising You in my own style. I want to be faithful in every way!

And thank you Rebecca for your kind and thoughtful reviews and questions. Your support of independent artists means a lot, and I consider you a valued friend. You are the sweetest person.

Get a Stereo Stickman review… you won’t regret it!

Thanks so much for your time and insight Stephen!

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Check out Emotional Relation on Facebook & Instagram or visit their Website.

Rebecca Cullen

Founder & Editor

Founder, Editor, Musician & MA Songwriter

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