“I’ve been waiting for my dreams to turn into something I could believe in… And I’ll taste every moment and live it out loud, I know this is the time, this is the time to be more than a name or a face in the crowd. I know this is the time, this is the time of my life.” (The Time of my Life – David Cook)
I have survived an entire week without having a heart attack or anything, though there were a couple times in there I was unsure if I was going to make it.
Most all of that anxiety centered around showcases Monday. Since I have never written anything before, and don’t play any instruments well enough to accompany myself, I felt at a disadvantage. It’s nobodies fault but my own, because I just need to learn to play the guitar and piano. I mean really, if I want to be a musician, I just need to do it. But for now, I can’t. It wasn’t hard finding someone to play for me since everyone can play the guitar (except me). I decided to perform “Even if it Breaks Your Heart” by the Eli Young Band and “Why Don’t We Just Dance” by Josh Turner. They were easy enough for a guitar player seeing them for the first time and I had sung them both before. So I practiced a lot. And then practiced more. And then was still freaking out for the showcase. And surprisingly, the one that sucked more of the two was the Josh Turner, which I have sung a million times and am typically better at, but that was not the case on Monday. Whatever. Pretty much everyone else was performing original songs also, so there is just another step back for me. But I am not the only one who hasn’t written original stuff.
Before the performance (well, a day or two before actually), the director of the CMC tried giving a pep talk by telling us it wasn’t a big deal because in reality, every single one of us sucked. We are at this school to get better, so we all suck right now. He said it was supposed to make us feel better. I can’t really say it did, though.
After my showcase, the rest of the week was looking pretty darn good. I had that stress lifted and could enjoy everything that was going on. Instead of starting “normal” classes like I thought we would be, this week was about going around and visiting different people and studios in Nashville to hear what this business is all about. We met a lot of cool and interesting people that have done some amazing things with their careers.
On Monday we visited Vance Powell. Vance works/owns Sputnik Sound. It is a smaller home-type studio in an area of town that is filled with studios. Vance is an interesting guy. I guess you could say he is kind of old-fashioned. He likes to keep and use old equipment and is anti big, over the top studios. The main person he works with is Jack White. Vance records and mixes and masters all of Jack’s work. He worked at Blackbird Studios for 10 years (which is the giant studio owned by John McBride, husband of Martina McBride). Vance thinks big studios are on their way out, because they aren’t efficient and aren’t necessary anymore. Vance has won three grammy’s for his work, but he says they aren’t important, because they are not what bring him business. Good, quality work brings him business.
After that we went and visited musician Nathan Lee at his “house” which was also like a little venue filled with couches, crazy paintings and furniture, and reeking of incense. Nathan tried his hand at the commercial industry, as most do, and found it wasn’t for him. He had a record deal at one point and everything. But one thing I’ve learned over this week, is that getting a record deal is far from making it. What Nathan does now is run a non-profit business that brings music to prisons. But he is the only musician that participates in his business, and he does not get any money for it. He puts on little shows now and then, but relies mainly on donations to live. What he is doing is a really important thing, I think. He said it is really tough, and often unrewarding. The people he sings for are murderers, rapists, and other criminals. It is not often he touches someone with his music and his message, but those occasions when he does touch someone, that makes all the unsafe feelings and constant heckling worth it. He would eventually like to get other artists on board as well. If you ever felt inclined to help with this cause, you can donate here.
Tuesday morning we had the opportunity to talk with two CMC alumni who are making a career out of music. There names are Jill and Kate, and they are a female duo together by the name JillandKate. They don’t do their own stuff too often though, because what really sets them apart is that they are both backup singers for Kelly Clarkson. So they have been going on tour with her for multiple years now, singing with her. It was really cool to hear from them and just learn how to proceed after CMC, and that there is hope for us after this program.
Tuesday afternoon we went to the house of songwriter Regie Hamm. This was probably my favorite experience of the entire week. Like most people in the music industry, Regie has had a very up and down life. Started out wanting to be a performer, like everyone does. Then eventually he settled into a groove of songwriting, which he is really good at. He had publishing deals, and was just doing awesome. At this time he had a recording contract and had released a single that was climbing the charts. That all changed when he went to China with his wife to adopt their daughter and found out she was very ill. There were many complications and it took longer than expected. When he returned, his song had fallen on the charts, his tour was canceled, and he was dropped from his recording contract. He had a rough patch in there with no diagnosis for his ill daughter, and no job. After five years of nothing good, his wife convinced him to enter the American Idol songwriting competition, and he won. He wrote “The Time of my Life,” David Cook’s chart-topping song. This really got them back on their feet and he has been writing songs again since then. And his daughter finally got a diagnosis, and has Angelman Syndrome, something that will never be fixed. She will never be able to speak or live a normal life. But at least they are now able to manage it a little better. His story was just very inspirational to me, and to see all the success he has had even though a good portion of his life has been spent struggling. Regie has written over 20 number one songs including the David Cook song and “How Do I Live” by LeAnn Rimes.
Wednesday morning we went to TobyMac Studios, which is obviously where TobyMac does all his recording, but many other artists record there too. We met with Bryan Lenox, who is a world class music producer. He just went over some of his process, and what his life is like. He seemed like a really great guy, and has obviously done some amazing work in the music world. Also working there is another alumni of the CMC that we got to talk with a little bit about how he got started there and lived out of his van for a while in the beginning. Sounds very promising.
Wednesday afternoon we went to a place called SoundCheck. It is a huge building that artists can rent out rooms in and set up and rehearse for their tours. We talked with some of the audio people there and some management, and just looked around at the amazing space. The rooms were huge and have full permanent trussing in some of them, so artists literally build the entire stage they have during their tour and rehearse it like it will be. It seems like every artists use it, names mentioned while we were there was Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban, Brad Paisley, Vince Gill, and more. And while we were there we got the opportunity to go into one of the rehearsals and listen. It was Britt Nicole’s band rehearsing her tour set, unfortunately she was not there with them, but it was still really cool.
Thursday we visited Brentwood Baptist Church, also known as Fort God. I know there are bigger churches, but I have never seen a church this big. They said there was about 8,000 members and they have about 100 employees. This is a church! My church might have 100 members on a good Sunday. This idea is just outrageous to me. There are three different areas where worship is held, because they cannot all be in the same room. And there are many different services throughout Sunday and the rest of the week. There’s also a coffee shop, basketball court, and library there. No big deal. This place is just enormous. It was a good thing we had a guy that worked there walking us around, because I literally would have gotten lost. It was crazy.
We had our first track classes too. So us artists met with our instructor, Rick Elias, who let me tell you, is quite a guy. People outside the industry may not recognize the name, but those inside the industry will. Apparently, everybody knows of him (that’s what we were told at least. They said if you asked Rascal Flatts, all three of them would know who he was). He is a crazy good songwriter and artist. And he wrote the music for the movies That Thing You Do and My Big Fat Greek Wedding. He seemed pretty cool. I am excited to learn from him this semester, and hopefully take away some songwriting skills. I wouldn’t mind writing and getting paid for it. He used the example that he has spent 20 minutes writing a song, and has gotten paid $60,000 for that song. That’s how good he is. I wouldn’t mind doing that at all. But first, learning to write songs…. haha.
This weekend we are going back to SoundCheck in groups because we are working the Load In and Load Out for the Kutless and Tenth Avenue North tours. That’s pretty legit, right? I’m doing band load in on Sunday, so I will be bringing in the band’s equipment and setting it up and possibly hearing some of the stuff they are doing. Sounds pretty sweet.
So many things have happened in the past 6 days that I have been in Nashville, it is crazy to think it has only been a week. I can tell this semester is going to be crazy intense, but rewarding at the same time. This hasn’t felt like school yet. This is doing what I love and want to do for the rest of my life. I get to look at, write, and perform contemporary music of my own style and choosing every single week. While that is certainly nerve-racking, it is so wonderful and helpful. I am so excited to see what this semester holds and how I am changed through it. I’m ready.