We are happy to share this short interview with Brother Peace (Brother Minh An), the monastic behind many of the most popular songs on the Plum Village App. The songs – some of which are covers, some which he wrote himself – capture beauty, grief, and hope, and sometimes all these feelings and more in just a few minutes of music. And they all have an appropriately uplifting zen energy, meaning that they always nourish the good seeds in the listener.
Brother Peace was ordained in 2018 and lives at Deer Park Monastery, where he is currently helping to organize the Rhythm of the Earth Mindful Music Festival, a fundraiser for the new monastic residence.
What is your main inspiration?
Folk songs. They say, “If it was never new, and it never gets old, then it’s a folk song.” I’m inspired especially by the folk songs I sang in chapel when I worked at an Episcopalian summer camp, songs that usually everyone seems to know, but no one can remember who wrote them; songs like ‘When the Saints Go Marching In’, ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’, and ‘The Hammer Song’. I’m also inspired by the folk songs we sing at our practice centers, like ‘I Have Arrived, I Am Home’, ‘Breathing In, Breathing Out’, and ‘Happiness’.
Did you make music prior to your monastic life?
Mostly, before I was a monk, I taught music to children, but I didn’t write much. I didn’t know what to write about. Now that I’m a practitioner, I have more direction. I want to write songs that relieve suffering, and remembering that aspiration helps. But actually I still don’t feel like I create anything. Most artists are familiar with the feeling that they’re just a vessel; when I write I’m really just training myself to let Mother Earth sing through me.
We’d love to hear about the messages in these songs and when they were written.
‘Together We Build the Future’ was written for the children at Deer Park’s Family Retreat in 2018. ‘Be True, Be You’ and ‘You Are Enough’ were written for Deer Park’s Teen Camps in 2019 and 2022, respectively. ‘All In My Heart’ was written by Nhu-Mai. Her recording is great. ‘We Are the Earth Walking on Earth’ was written for Deer Park’s Earth Holder Retreat in 2020 and Gustavo Santaolalla deserves credit for the melody. ‘It Won’t Always Be This Way’ was written after my parents’ deaths, and it’s for everyone who suffers with fear and despair.
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