By Kendra Johnson, Arts Editor
Singer-songwriter Kedrick Nettleton performed at Shawnee’s Downtown Block Party on Mar. 16. His performance was one of many recent appearances in the Shawnee, OK area. He performs alongside drummer Justin Tisdale.
A junior creative writing major and communication studies minor at OBU, Nettleton plays guitar and bass, along with a little piano. His informal and laid-back performance style engages audiences and matches the emphasis of his songwriting.
Nettleton readily admits that he is not the most technically advanced of musicians. Yet, the simplicity of his work, combined with his clear love for what he does, gives his performances a genuine tone that cannot be taught.
“It’s just sort of something I’ve always done, always wanted to do, I guess.” Nettleton said. “I learned to play the guitar when I was… I think I started playing when I was in fifth grade. It’s just something I’ve sort of really latched on to, and I just sort of can’t not play music, if that makes sense. So, it’s not so much something I’ve consciously chosen, it’s just even when I don’t mean to I find myself just playing and writing and stuff like that.”
He began playing music with Tisdale as a teenager.
“Kedrick and I had been friends through middle school and high school,” Tisdale said. “We did not begin to play music together consistently until our senior year, however. We both played on the worship team with a group of incredibly talented students. We enjoyed that experience so much, we wanted to continue performing together.”
Tisdale is now a junior classical languages major and history minor at the University of Oklahoma in Norman. Since Tisdale is at OU and Nettleton is at OBU, the distance makes practicing difficult at times.
“We often do not have many, if any, chances to rehearse before we perform,” Tisdale said. “This means that I am often playing off of Kedrick, more or less making the drum part as we perform.”
However, music has helped maintain friendships for Tisdale that might otherwise have been broken by the distance.
“Performing music together has helped to maintain my friendship, not only with Kedrick, but also with other friends from high school who are at OBU,” He said. “It is all too easy for friendships to fade, but music gives me an excuse to see old friends, and to keep those relationships stronger.”
“We actually went to high school together,” Nettleton said. “We went to a Christian high
school – a little sort of tiny Christian high school – and we did chapel every week and so there was a praise band in chapel. …And so, our senior year, a group of friends and I sort of decided we wanted to do praise band and they sort of let us take it and run with it.”
Nettleton’s Sound Cloud bio hints at his faith background by containing the quote, “I am not my own, for I have been made new.” The line comes from the Owl City song “Meteor Shower” and refers to the writer’s Christian faith. “That [line], to me, is sort of the essence of what it is to be a Christian,” Nettleton said.
However, Nettleton’s music does not fit in the typical Christian Contemporary Music category, staying somewhat more on the side of mainstream music.
“My first ever musical experience was playing praise songs, and I actually am a worship pastor right now for a church,” he said. “The bands I’ve always listened to have never been Christian bands. I think you can wrestle with faith in a way that everyone’s interested even if they’re not Christian. I think obviously the main example of this is I love U2.”
One of Nettleton’s concerns with Christian Contemporary Music is that he finds it often misleading.
“I don’t necessarily think Christian music is all that honest, or at least Contemporary Christian Music,” Nettleton said. “I don’t feel like they talk about very much the reality of what it is to follow Christ. It’s sort of all just ‘he’s so good, you know, –praise him – everything’s going great – it’s a sunny sort of day,’ and I don’t think that’s very honest at all. I don’t even think that’s very Biblical at all.”
Nettleton argues that Biblically written music should be able to speak, even about the difficulties of life, in a way that’s real, rather than contriving happy endings where they may not be realistic.
“I think if you look in the Psalms, a lot of the Psalms are David being, you know, ‘things really suck right now – I don’t even feel God – where are you, like – I haven’t felt you in a long time – that kind of thing’,” Nettleton said. “And I think that’s much more honest. It is a big part of my life and so I know it gets into the lyrics and so I talk about it, but I want to talk about it in a way so that people ask questions and not just immediately turn off from it.”
The honesty and relatability of Nettleton’s music is part of its appeal. Songs like “Tell Me, Show Me” and “Breaking Point” speak of the challenges, as well of the hope, in everyday life. “Tell me, I can’t find a way./ Show me, show me how to stay,” opens the chorus of “Tell Me, Show Me”, and “Breaking Point” shows the struggles of wondering if you’ve hit
the bottom. Nettleton and Tisdale’s next public performance is scheduled for Saturday, April 21 at 1 p.m. at Celebration of Life Park, Downtown Shawnee. The performance will be a part of Shawnee’s annual Redbud Festival, and more information can be found at Safe Events For Family’s (SEFF) Facebook page. The performance is free and open to all.