Here it is. This album is finally complete and will soon be available for all to enjoy. This has been a wonderful challenge for me, and it has been a realization of my musical journey and relationship with Deseret and IRI. I have come to the understanding that my career won’t involve any help from any organization or individual, and I cannot and should not expect it to be any other way.
I began making music on a karaoke machine in the mid/late 90s. By the end of the 90s I was producing music and learning about the business and creative process involved in the industry. In 2001 my career officially began by signing my first recording contract to a small independent label based in the Atlanta area.
After gaining momentum in the business, performing regularly in various parts of Colorado, radio play, receiving notoriety and recognition locally, and preparing for success on a larger scale with the help of this record label, I decided just before my 22nd birthday to serve a mission. I know the timing was ill and poor, but is there ever a convenient time to serve? Does the opportunity to help and fulfill a calling ever present itself when we have perceived room on our plate? So, I left. The label was not happy. The terms of our contract were for me to record a certain number of tracks in a three year time frame. I recorded like a mad man for the months leading up to my entering the MTC. I completed my obligation before leaving for my mission, so I felt somewhat comforted knowing I had fulfilled my obligation. My contract with them subsequently lapsed a few months after returning from my mission. The official word from them was that nothing ever happened with my music, though my cousin who served a mission in Mexico said that a local street vendor down there tried to sell him one of my CDs. Who knows…
After my mission I moved to Arizona to reestablish my career in a different environment. There was really no need for me to stay in Colorado. After moving to Arizona I immediately began recording the abundance of material I had written over the past two years of service. Writing for those two years and not being able to record or perform was like a caged dog having fresh meat dangled just outside my grasp. The minute I was released I jumped in the studio and began calling club promoters. I had two years of material just itching to jump off my notebook pages.
It was during this period that I met the girl who eventually begged me to marry her. At least, that’s how I remember it. Shortly after our marriage I completed my first released album, Scrapbook. During this period I made contact with retail purchasers at Deseret and Tyler Castleton, the president of Shadow Mountain. I traveled to Utah to meet with them, but received resistance because my music was too “hard.” A couple years later I recorded my next album, For the People. It was this album that garnered attention with some folks at Deseret. The success of this album earned me another trip to Utah, this time to meet in Sheri Dew’s office with her and a few executives. We discussed if there truly was a possibility of working together. We talked about Deseret’s policies, and what type of feeling my songs would have to conjure in the listeners. It was decided that I would start making an album for them, and we would all go back and forth in a group effort to make something tailored to their taste but that still would not lose any artistic credibility.
I immediately jumped in the studio the minute my plane touched back down in Arizona. The result of this process was my next album, Turkey Burgers for Vegetarians. It was decided by Shadow Mountain during this process that they would pass on this album. Heartbroken, I released this album independently as my third album. By this point my relationship with the music business had cooled off. I had stopped performing in clubs and other venues. It wasn’t fun anymore. I just enjoyed the writing and recording and producing. I couldn’t stand the stereotypical accessories that come along with being a rapper. I was happy and content with what I had accomplished and I was ready to move on (reference Last Song). This is when I received the most annoying phone call I had received in my life.
Let it be known that I already hate Octobers (reference February 1996). I was playing in the street with my kids one October afternoon when my wife’s brother from Minnesota called me. I don’t hear from him often so it was nice to receive a call. I quickly learned he did not just call for a friendly visit. He had business he wanted to discuss. He said his wife had recently acquired the worst piece of garbage he had ever listened to. The album was called Popcorn Bopping, released by none other than Shadow Mountain. He said that his kids love the album, but he and his wife want to drive the minivan off a cliff when the kids ask to listen to it. His suggestion was that I make an album for kids, and parents. He wanted me to make, basically, an audio version of a Pixar film. You know, a kid genre, but holds the adult’s attention too. My first reaction was disgust. The thought of a project like that would lose me any artistic integrity that I possessed, and I would be limiting myself entirely to a niche market, within only the LDS community. It would be career suicide. I hung up the phone with an eye roll and scoff at the stupidity of Dave’s request. I told my wife about it and she thought it was dumb of me to not at least record some songs and see what I come up with. So, the creative process began.
The first song I wrote was Daddy’s Homecoming. It was an immediate success and I was surprised at how easy the process was. I continued writing, recording and producing over the next several months and finally had 12 or 13 songs I felt were good enough to make an album. I got the album all mastered and then, on a prayer, went back to Deseret and Shadow Mountain with my new kids material. After hearing about 10 seconds of a song, Shadow Mountain said they would pass because it was rap. They said they knew the church would not grant licensing rights for these songs because of my genre. At this point I was sick of even dealing with them anymore, so I went to the church (IRI) directly. I contacted the licensing request department and submitted my request and all the paperwork. Traditionally, and with any other copyright owner in the world, a copyright owner grants a request and then is entitled to sampling, or some other type of royalty. It’s about 9 cents a song. It’s an extremely easy process and happens every day. The church itself grants rights all the time. Look at any album on the shelf at Deseret. There will be a cover or remake or some variation of a copyrighted song. I was told that the process takes 6 to 8 weeks to hear back about my request. I heard back in 2 weeks with a nice denial letter. This means someone popped in my cd, played it for 6 seconds until they heard a kick drum, then immediately printed out the standard denial letter and then sent it to me. This means about 8 months of work and an entire album will now be shelved and never heard. I was more than a little irritated with the church (not gospel or brethren) but church and paid employees for having such a narrow view of what is good, uplifting and appropriate. I can’t tell you how much time I spent on the phone with Sheri discussing my options. It was inevitably apparent that I had to ultimately start from scratch and create a new album from nothing, using only songs from the public domain.
I don’t know if any of you have looked through the children’s song book, but there are about 280 songs. About 30 of them are in the public domain. About 6 of those songs are familiar. This lead me to my first real dilemma, finding songs that are free to use, but still familiar and recognizable. This proved to be a tremendous challenge. After collecting songs that fell into those categories, I had to determine which of those songs I felt passionate enough to write and produce. I often felt like I had no options. After another several months of grinding I began to find a groove. The material started coming together and I was actually happy with what was coming out of the speakers.
Now that this album is complete…again, I am excited to get it out to the world. My goal is to make living the gospel normal. My goal is to eliminate Mormon culture, and promote living the doctrine and principles. Music is not any more evil than social networking. A few years ago the church was emphatic, “Stay away from MySpace and other social networking sites!” Now they are begging you to “Get your Mormon.org profiles and use Facebook to share the gospel!” What changed? The answer is nothing, only their opinions and perspective of the Internet. It is my intent to do the same thing musically.
I thank you for being involved in my journey. Feel free to connect with me and share what I am doing.
Disclaimer: I received one or more of the products or services for free in the hope that I would mention them on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.