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7/31/2005

CELEBRATING WITH SEINFELD

TL033469My parents weren't into music, ever. Don't ask me what my musical influences were growing up. There weren't any.

My dad had a couple of Kingston Trio records, my mom an Elvis greatest hits collection, and at a garage sale once I bought a Buddy Holly record. I liked his glasses. Other than that there was no music in our house.

But early in the morning, while getting dressed for school, or late at night, always at the lowest volume possible, I hovered over the plastic record player beside my bed and listened intently to Bill Cosby and Robin Williams. Not the best staple for a developing mind but it got me through childhood and adolescence.

It made me the class clown and became my tool of choice for forging nervousness and self-loathing into approval from my peers and teachers. It taught me how to perform, how to time a joke and milk the ordinary for extraordinary, if only temporary, happiness. Laughing thrilled me like nothing else as a kid and I've always enjoyed infecting others with the same pleasure.

It must have been odd, to say the least, for my parents to watch their eight year-old recite an entire monologue from a comedy record, deleting the bad words along the way of course. Odder still for them to see me telling jokes of my own to crowds more than twenty years later who buy my "records." Odd to them but a dream come true for me.

Becky and I both love comedy, clean comedy, which is hard to find. Well, it's hard to find any that's still funny. Rarer still is smart comedy. Let's be honest, these are the days of the catch phrase, the "gitter dones" and "you might be a rednecks" are as ample as mindless feel good cliches on Christian radio and lowbrow brawls on daytime talk shows. Everyone's dumbing down and piling up the money as a result.

I guess that's one reason I loved Seinfeld when he first filled my TV screen. In a time of Chris Rock raunchiness and dozens of imitators Seinfeld was original in his refusal to stoop for applause. Truly funny intelligent people, I've always thought, don't need to use "shit" instead of a pronoun. And Seinfeld doesn't. Instead, I've watched amazed as this ordinary guy takes situations from my ordinary life and makes them extraordinarily hilarious in unpredictable ways.

So tonight, because comedy is a shared love of ours, and because Seinfeld is one of the best American comedians ever, we went to see Jerry at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center in Nashville. We bought some of the last seats available, way up high and off to one side. He looked tiny but the whit was as massive as ever. And his new material is even easier for us to relate to now that he's married with kids.

I didn't stop laughing all night. I actually slapped my knee. What a great way for becky and I to celebrate eight years of great times together: smiling.

And I'm so thankful now that my earliest influences weren't serious rock stars but people like me who poke fun at themselves and remind us all that life is filled with punchlines and reasons to grin. We just have to notice them. Thank you Mr. Seinfeld for helping us do that tonight.

Lighten up.

Got thoughts? Post a comment below or discuss on my message-board.

7/29/2005

MAC REVIVAL AT SHLOG.COM



While MAC users only make up a single digit percentage of all computer owners nationwide, SHLOGGERS apparently have better than average taste. 20% of you use the MAC OS to SHLOG each day. That makes me happy inside.

Go ahead. Each one reach one. Take the hand of the person next to you and walk with them as they turn from their XP past to a new life with APPLE. Every head bowed and every eye closed as Bono sings...

I see that hand. We're waiting on you...

PROPHETS PAST THE PRODUCE

I never finished an assigned book in school. I never read fiction and I almost never finish non-fiction that I begin. But magazines for some reason, odd ones picked up from airport news stands or on a visit to Barnes and Noble, always get read, underlined and saved. I'm through one before my Ritalin wears off. There's an entire box of them in my closet, hidden away like treasures, each one containing some gleaming nugget of wisdom or humor or Cliff Claven quality trivia I found fascinating or hopeful once upon a time.

I subscribe to WIRED and ROLLING STONE (don't recommend it) but often buy BILLBOARD and PASTE when I see them. Then there's Q, RISEN and a zillion other rarities I buy into a handful of times a year if I'm lucky enough to stumble onto them. Lastly there's the magazines I only buy once on a whim just to see what they're all about. These are usually on topics I know nothing about or magazines I know don't represent my view of the world at all. They're a glimpse inside a universe far different from mine, sometimes even opposed to mine, and I often find myself learning as I think critically through their sentences - approving, questioning, pondering and sometimes crinkling them angrily in the process.

Here's today's example: an article in ODE, a zine that claims to be "international" and "pro-fourth world". I picked it up in a whole food store check-out line. Amid the ads for self-healing workshops and "socially responsible" investment advice I stumbled upon a thought inspiring gem about the Grameen Bank of Bangladesh and it's founder Muhammad Yunus, the inventor of the micro-loan that is helping curtail poverty in the poorest of nations. His words are worth ruminating over, especially for those of us charged with living a more others-centric life as followers of a Christ who turned everything in his culture's value system upside down:

"The economics textbooks are ripe for revision. Then we can also rectify the misconception that a company is not always just a way to make money and a businessperson is not always someone who wants to maximize profits. Companies can also have another goal: to serve a societal purpose. The Grameen Bank is one such example, there are more and we need many more. We need companies whose first priority is striving towards a good aim. We need business people who are not driven by money but by their desire to contribute to society."

"They're out there you say? Of course, you mean those with a sense of corporate social responsibility. But tell me, how can you focus on corporate social responsibility if your primary aim is to turn a profit? The two don't mix. I can understand that a business person would want to make a donation to the tsunami victims. You give money to a fund that helps sick children and you hang nice, framed documents in your office so that everyone can see the good things you do. But let me ask this question: why isn't your company as a whole aimed at furthering a good cause?"

"Mind you, I'm not talking about charitable institutions, social or non-governmental organizations-they cannot, for instance, go to the bank for a loan and are dependent on subsidies and donations. I'm talking about a new sector: companies that don't want to make a loss, so they can continue to do business that contributes to the community as a whole. There aren't many like that because the private sector has been wrongly labeled as a group of merciless profit makers."

Now that's inspiration and radical rethinking I didn't expect to take home when I went out for Soy milk and dried fruit. That's more challenging and has me in greater dialogue with God than anything I've picked up from a Christian bookstore or a sermon in a long long time. Maybe we Christians should sell trail mix and leave the fight against selfish ambition and the rescue of the least of these to the pagans at the whole food market. I feel out zealed and out imagined. How about you?

Read the entire Muhammad Yunus article on-line here.

Got thoughts? Post a comment below or discuss on my message-board.

7/28/2005

I KNOW YOU ARE BUT WHAT AM I?

rich list

I'm rich. Are you? Find out here.

Got thoughts? Post a comment here at SHLOG.COM or discuss on my message-board.

7/27/2005

YOU DON'T NEED NASHVILLE #7: THE HEART PART

So far in this series called YOU DON'T NEED NASHVILLE I've posted about...

...what labels actually offer their artists, or what labels do.

...what a label does to promote artists and how an indie can do a lot of those things for herself, or the basics of promoting yourself.

...how being signed to a label often comes with a price paid paid from one's personal life, or the importance of priorities

...what artists REALLY make from this business, or all about my finances.

...what wearing the label "Christian artist" means one's audience and music will more than likely end up being, or are you "Christian" enough.

...how good a recorded project needs to be depending upon its purpose and intended audience and how it can be created for less, or recording for a reason on a budget.

I hope all that helped. Thank you for the kind e-mails many of you sent me through-out this series of posts. Your encouraging words and shared revelations kept me out on this limb long enough to finish the task.

The point of this series of posts was not to convince you, the indie artist, that labels are always good or bad. Nor was it to persuade you to sign or not sign on their dotted line. The goal was to give independent artists information from my perspective, certainly not the only or best perspective, about the industry so that fewer artists in the future make decisions they later regret or that do not get them closer to their musical and ministry goals. I hope you now recognize the complexity of the decision before you and now grasp why I can't answer the question, "Should I sign a Christian record deal?" when it's thrown at me after shows from that fast moving autograph line. The answer is yours to wrestle with.

MEN-10-RIT012In the end the indie artist is neither saved nor sunk after signing with or turning down a label. And that's the subject of my last post in this series. So much of my life post-school centered around trying to discern what "God's will" was for my life. And so much of that struggled was a search for the right job, a way to make money and be satisfied. How American and how not Christian of me.

I'm not saying that my heart wasn't occupied by God, my sins not forgiven and my eternal destiny not set in the stone of salvation simply because I constantly asked the wrong question: What job does God want me to have? But asking that question most is not Christian in that it does not reflect or require the priorities and perspective of Christ to ask it. It is asked most by someone who believes their purpose and/or worth lies somewhere within the box labeled "work", that life is just what we do from 8-5.

When God's will is nothing more than a job spitting magic eight ball we behave as if occupational concerns of ours are also the chief concerns of God. We live and pray as if the epicenter of God's will and our purpose is work. It is not.

The central component of the American life is work. It has to be in order for the GNP to rise, more cars to leave showroom floors, bigger and more houses to be erected, more taxes collected, parks built and bombs manufactured. The capitalist bases her life on labor for payment. The Christian, the citizen of Heaven first, is to build her life around God's highest priorities: relationship with God and man, knowing God and making God known, service to God and man, freeing slaves of all kinds, lifting the wounded in all gutters, making peace etc. In short, our lives are to be about making invisible God visible with others from this community called Church.

And I'm able to do that in many ways from any where in the world, doing almost any job (hitman and stripper not so much), and at any pay scale.

So many times, when I'm talking with independent artists who say they want recorded deals, their reasons stem from job dissatisfaction or a basic unhappiness with their life. They see my job as the greener pasture. But please believe me when I tell you I see no more content happy people souls in Nashville's label system than I did selling Walkmans at Service Merchandise, flipping chicken breasts at Chic-fil-A, entering data at a law firm or picking up discarded bulletins from my church's floor.

Contentment, I've found, does not lie in what I do but who I am. If who you are someone who spends most of their time and thoughts on work, if what you're supposed to do for a living is the primary question you bring to God day after day, work will continue to be your god after your sign that dream record deal. And no matter how sweet the success the sour feeling in your soul today will continue to poison your life with discontent.

But if you are person using every opportunity, talent, relationship and minute of every day to make God known and know Him better then you've probably found contentment already and will carry it with you into whatever occupation is up ahead.

So the conclusion to this series is a reminder that being indie doesn't change who you are and being signed can't do that either. That doesn't mean you can't move to Nashville, sign a deal and outsell me someday. It just means that as you do so you need to remind yourself that whatever you do for a living isn't most important. God's will is more than the classifieds. He's more than a career counselor. He's the one who made you full of melodies and personality and intellect ready to be spilled out on everyone in your life right now - not just someday. Make the most of where you are. Set goals for the future. And don't forget making records will never make you successful at heart. And it's the heart that matters most to Christians.

Thanks for reading. If I can ever be of more help to you please e-mail me. I'll do my best to listen and give good information.

And I know some label types have been lurking about reading this stuff. I alsa know I'm not right about everything. So please, if you disagree, agree or can just shed better light on anything this series has covered please step out of the shadows and post your words of wisdom here as a comment. We need all the help we can get understanding the machine called Christian music.

Got thoughts? Post a comment here or discuss on the message-board.

7/26/2005

EIGHT YEARS AGO

Eight years ago today my face hovered over a toilet at the First Baptist Church in Tyler, Texas just moments before smiling for a crowd and cameras as I watched Becky walk down the aisle.

I was suffering from a long night, not second thoughts. It began with a poker game in which my friends purposefully lost hand after hand to me so I'd have some spending money for the honeymoon. And it's hard to lose to a guy who's never played. We smoked cigars and enjoyed the stench no woman in any of our futures would ever approve of as my single friends jokingly tried to persuade me a flower-pattern-free house and the freedom to leave the toilet seat up were reasons enough to go brideless for life. These were my last hours without a ring on my hand.

Eventually I would find myself held down, stripped, legs mangily shaved and body graffitied in Sharpie marker. Step by step instructions for the honeymoon scribbled all over me around the drawn on blue bikini outline. Nice. Men say, "I love you" in the oddest ways.

Brian, today my booking agent/road manager/co-pastor, was at the time just my brother-in-law. Our wives are sisters and when he married he was forced by his "friends" to stay up all night playing basketball. So Brian decided this would be a tradition. Marry into the family and you must go without sleep the night before the service. Bad idea.

There are three big rules to keeping me healthy: no red meat, no caffeine, give me sleep. If I break any of these rules I get sick, especially if you add into the mix a little healthy stress like, oh I don't know, a wedding.

The morning of the service Brian took me to breakfast at McDonalds. I was wiped and starving so I ordered a sausage something (rule one broken), a large Dr.Pepper (there goes rule two) and then hurried home to a harried mother who quickly told me I looked terrible and needed to hurry up and get ready for the service (and there's the last one).

Drinking a bottle of Pepto Bismol over the few hours before the musicians struck up didn't seem to do much. But I was eventually able to stand and walk to my position at the front of the church. Becky's Uncle and Father both presided over the ceremony and I'm told it was beautiful and perfect.

I can't remember. I took a muscle relaxer that seems to have relaxed my memory as well. I do remember Becky looking incredibly elegant and carefree, beaming as she walked toward me, looking me in the eyes every step of the way as if 800 people weren't staring at her. So confident. So calming.

And I remember the vows, the to have and to holds. I remember getting choked up at a line about taking her as my wife and best friend forever. There's something about having a best friend guaranteed for life that makes a guy with shaved legs, lurid drawings on his stomach, shaking knees, a disgruntled large intestine, bagged eyes, crawly skin, no money in the bank and no real job in sight feel good. To know someone would have me and hold me and befriend me even then, not knowing what forever would be made of, shook me up and stood me tall all at once. And still does.

42-15244870"This ring means I love mommy," I told my oldest daughter last night at bedtime. "And mommy's ring means she loves me. That's why we never take them off. We always love each other and always will. When people get married they promise they'll always be best friends and take care of each other and love each other no matter what. And tomorrow we'll have a party because we kept our promise. It's called an anniversary."

Happy first eight years of forever to me.

Got thoughts? Post a comment here or discuss on the message-board.

7/25/2005

POLL RESULTS: LOVE YOUR ENEMY

LOVE ENEMY POLL

These are the final results of the latest poll on SHLOG.COM. SHLOG readers were asked what Jesus meant when he said we should love our enemies. The poll shows the split among modern Christians in America over what His admonition means for us today. Many (25%) apparently believe individuals and governments, armies etc should love their enemies by not harming them physically. These respondents, it might be fair to say, are pacifists or, the term I prefer, non-violent resistors in the tradition of Martin Luther King Jr. and most early Christians of the first three centuries perhaps.

The largest group of poll participants in the SHLOG.COM poll, however, interprets Jesus' words on loving enemies as meaning something other than a refusal to physically harm those we despise or those who despise and/or harm us (39%). The poll did not give this largest number of respondents an opportunity to explain what Jesus meant then by "Love your enemy." So, if you believe Jesus' call to love those who hate us has nothing to do with how we treat them physically, here's your chance to explain your view of Christ's teachings on enemies to the world...or at least to shloggers around the world. We're reading. Write on.

And check out the new poll about denominational attitudes. You can choose more than one answer this time.

Post a comment here below or discuss at the message-board.

UPDATES TO SHLOG.COM

I've posted something for each day of Street Week now (July 11-18). Check out the archives for all of the news from the road on Street Week and some pictures too.

-SG

7/20/2005

#1

#1 CHRISTIAN RECORD

Thank you to everyone who prayed for us, played the songs, stocked the discs, interviewed me, came to shows and bought White Flag on July 12th. You made it the #1 Christian album in the country. Thank you.

SG

7/18/2005

FROM THE ROAD: GOING HOME, BUT FIRST...

After the Sugarland show the band and crew packed up and headed home to Nashville. I, on the other hand, stayed overnight with my in-laws and took a flight out in the morning to another city. I met up with a program director for a major radio network and one of our radio promoters for a lunch meeting, a chance to get to know each other and, honestly, give our single Bless the Lord a better shot at getting attention.

(NOTE: A radio promoter is a person hired by the label to bug and shmooze stations into playing songs from the label's artists. Those songs are called "singles.")

I told the network's programmer that I wasn't in town to ask him to play my single - that's the radio promoter's job. I was there to learn. I love to learn about this business and teach others what I discover because it quells cynicism and angst. Knowledge does that.

If a station doesn't play my music my human response it disappointment. If they don't play any music from my label for two years my human response is anger. I'm just immature that way - especially when other artist friends of mine tell me of how their label gives TVs, vacation packages and golf outings to programmers in exchange for radio play. Chaps my hide.

So I can stew and curse and throw an artist tantrum or I can learn why a network like this does what they do and how they do it. I can try to get to the heart of what they want to accomplish, what their, for lack of a less used word, "mission" is.

If I can walk away truly supportive of who they are and what they're out to do I'm less likely to be angry when I'm not part of what they're doing. I can honestly say when I hear my new single has been added to rotation, "Well, that makes. That song doesn't help them meet their goals. It won't get them what they want."

So I asked this programmer to explain what he's doing, how and why and was shocked by his honesty. In a nutshell, and I hope I don't misrepresent by simplifying more than two hours of conversation this way, his primary goal is to increase his audience size and therefore increase advertising revenue. He used the metaphor of a mountain regularly and this increase in ratings and revenue is the peak for his station and, he believes, every station.

He goes about reaching this peak by testing songs on people already listening to his station and those who sometimes listen. The goal then is to find new music that appeals to both old loyal listeners and potential loyal listeners. The station then sounds, not surprisingly, old. That's not to say it's bad. It just plays a great deal of "gold" music - old hits that are familiar to listeners and test well. And then sprinkles in new songs that sound like those old hits. Thing is these "new" songs aren't often all that new.

He proudly told me, for instance, that his station just added SHOULD I TELL THEM, a song of mine that went #1 three years ago, because it tested well for him.

There's more to the conversation you'd find interesting but here's what surprised me the most. After time talking about testing etc I moved beyond business goals and strategy to spiritual matters. I asked him what I want everyone in this business to be asked, regardless of their sector of the industry. Who is your audience? Christians? Non-Christians? Both? And why? What do you dream happens through you for them and in them? What's the spiritual goal of your station?

The answer floored me. I'll share that soon. Until then, what do you think you local Christian station's answers are to those important questions? WHat about your favorite artist or author or label? Have you asked? Maybe you should.

Got thoughts? Discuss this SHLOG on my message-board

7/17/2005

FROM THE ROAD: STREET WEEK Sugarland, TX

Sugarland is a suburb of Houston where my father-in-law pastors Williams Trace Baptist Church. The people at his church feel like a second family to us even though we only get to see them three or four times a year. This was our first time to play in their new sanctuary, a massive pewed room I was promised would be adorned with a plaque soon that reads “Shaun Groves Worship Center.” That would make it a house of worship named after me not a house for worshiping me.

Apparently the engravers are backlogged or something. Maybe next time.

Thanks to KSBJ for promoting this show so well and selling tickets for us too. And thanks to Pappasitos for feeding me queso, fajitas and other manna from heaven twice while in Texas.

Got thoughts? Discuss this SHLOG on my message-board

7/16/2005

FROM THE ROAD: STREET WEEK Corpus Christi, TX

The folks of Corpus were preparing for a hurricane that would hit in the next 72 hours. As we made the rounds from venue and hotel to lunch and Family Christian Store appearance we noticed lots of cars loaded down with plywood and other supplies for securing homes from destructive storms.

As a result, in spite of KBNJ's stellar promotions, the crowd was smaller than I've had there in the past. But those who braved the downpour and shrugged off the impending hurricane were rowdy and ready for WHITE FLAG. Afterward contest winners climbed aboard our bus and had cheesecake with us. I like contests that involve me getting to eat. More of that.

Thanks to Aaron Daniels at KBNJ and to the brave people of Corpus for coming out once again. You make me miss Texas. Well, you and your fajitas.

Got thoughts? Discuss this SHLOG on my message-board

7/15/2005

FROM THE ROAD: STREET WEEK Tyler, TX

This is where my parents and sister live and where I grew up. KVNE, the station there, once played nothing but choirs and Sandi Patty, not that there's anything wrong with that, but today plays more contemporary fare. Because they're not a reporting station (a station whose activity helps determine what songs are on the charts) they have freedom to play songs that labels aren't asking radio to play. So KVNE is playing four songs from my new CD. That’ll mess you up. Way more than the legal limit. I’m pretty sure there’s a warning label of some kind on the disc about that kind of thing.

I did the morning show at KVNE, an interview with the local TV station I grew up watching, and then headed to lunch with contest winners: more Mexican food for me. The show that night was at Friendly Baptist Church (every church in Texas is Baptist it seems) and I recognized most of the large crowd from my childhood. There was a lot of "Do you remember me?" going on afterwards. Not fair. You got old since I last saw you.

It poured in Tyler as people were deciding whether or not to come to the show so fewer people came than bought tickets. And the other downer of the night was a newspaper reporter’s complaints that the sound was bad and too loud. I know the journalist and like him a lot actually so I was surprised that when he wrote about the show he spent as much time on the poor sound quality he perceived as he did the music and message of the evening, even going as far as interviewing people at the show, not about anything of substance in the evening, but about whether they too thought it was too loud.

Truth is we were in a church, a Baptist church, and Baptist churches made to host distortion fueled concerts are as rare as baptistries filled by water towers. We do our best to get pictures of venues, square footage, seating maximums etc to determine whether we’ll sound good in each venue but we can’t please everyone.

What's ironic or just unfortunate is that my home church in Tyler is a little upset with me for not having the concert on their campus as I've done in the past. But the reason we didn't bring our show there is because we thought it was too small and square to sound good - too much wood and parallel surfaces make for bad sounding shows. So we moved the show in hopes of better sound, risking hurting old friends, and wound up with a difficult sound night (that still, I think, managed to sound good) and hurt old friends. Sometimes we can't win.

Apparently the sound issues we may or may not have had didn’t hinder people’s appreciation of the evening. Many children were sponsored through Compassion International and a record percentage of CDs left the merchandise table and are hopefully being spun at any volume level their owner desires.

Thanks KVNE, The Tyler Telegraph, Friendly Baptist Church, Mom and Dad and everyone else in Tyler who got the word out about the show. And yes, of course, I do remember you. Absolutely.

Got thoughts? Discuss this SHLOG on my message-board

7/14/2005

FROM THE ROAD: STREET WEEK Tulsa, OK

Broken Arrow TowerKXOJ in Tulsa, by contrast to the station we dealt with in Dallas, produced the best radio spots (and funniest) I've ever heard on radio anywhere and got a large crowd out to the show in Broken Arrow. They had me on their morning show, the top rated show in Tulsa, and we took radio contest winners to lunch at Abuellos, my favorite Mexican food joint outside of Texas.

First Baptist Broken Arrow is a massive church that is built for great sounding concerts and for the first time we felt like we sounded great. II hope you don’t mistake that for egotism. It’s not. It’s just that I’ve never played electric guitars, two of them, live with my band before while using in-ear monitors. Doesn’t sound hard, but for me it is. In Franklin, TN and in Dallas, TX I made mistakes, lots of them, because I couldn’t hear well enough to know if I was playing the right thing or because I just hadn’t switched pedals and instruments enough to get it down.

But in Tulsa I made no mistakes and neither did the band. The crowd was fiercely into the show, listening and dancing, laughing and pondering at all the right times. And the church just sounds great. I wish more churches paid attention to acoustics when building in hopes of hosting shows. It really paid off for FBC Broken Arrow.

I got the feeling this church doesn’t do anything half way. Want dinner? How about a full spread of Tex Mex and a jillion drink choices? Want a runner? How about a staff member in a van doing nothing all day but waiting for you to need a ride? Want to be baptized? How about a water tower dedicated to nothing but?

Actually I have no idea what the tower is for but I hope people use it to find this church staffed with service minded people, great cooks and of course people who know a thing or two about sound.

Thanks for having us. And thanks to KXOJ, the only station in the country that has played every single of mine ever released, for telling your listeners about the show and just being real people (that are actually funny) I look forward to hanging out with every time I visit. Oklahoma, you’re more than OK.

Got thoughts? Discuss this SHLOG on my message-board

KXOJ TULSA

I'm on the air right now in Tulsa (8-9AM Central). Listen on-line at KXOJ.COM.

Come out to First Baptist Broken Arrow tonight at 7PM.

Until I have more time...

-Shaun

7/13/2005

FROM THE ROAD: STREET WEEK Dallas, TX

Well, it wasn't exactly Dallas. It was Mansfield.

Strange thing about radio stations is that they have so much power that they often, in my experience, expect more from the artists and labels they work with than they are willing to give to those artists and labels in return. This show was a good example of that. A station in the area that I've played free promotional concerts for twice in the past did not promote this show as promised. They were given 100 tickets to give away on the air - thus creating mini-ads for the show, at least 50 such ads. Instead, a few of the tickets were given away at a live remote broadcast from another event in town a day or two before this show and the rest are unaccounted for. The show was therefore not promoted as promised and in fact was the worst attended show of the week.

But the people who came to the show seemed to enjoy it. Well, not during it – they’re Baptists you know – so only afterwards did they smile and grow a personality, but smiling sometime is better than no time I guess.

What is it about us Baptists? An artist friend of mine and I talked about this once on a tour. While we’ve both grown up in this denomination and I pastor in it still today, I truly cringe at the thought of playing for a dominantly Baptist crowd. We’re still, reverent or fearful – it’s hard to tell the difference – and then, when the service or show is over, we come alive, buy out everything in the lobby, wait in line for autographs and the chance to encourage and profess to having the best time of our lives. Wow. If that’s the best time this crowd truly ever had they needed to tell their face.

A sea – OK, a small puddle – of teens made up most of the crowd and I felt twice as young as them, or at least twice as excited. But of course I have a lot to be happy about right now. A year and a half of work is finally on shelves and infecting minds and hearts and hopefully reforming us all. That’s exciting!

I can’t help but wonder out loud though if part of youthful stoicism is due to wealth. In a wealthy youth group there seems to be little to get excited about. True I guess that materialism kills authenticity or at least smiles. Or maybe, perhaps, it’s that wealthier churches over-entertain their congregants to the point that even a rock show is commonplace. Who knows? I sure don’t. But it is a regular experience on the road for me so I try not to measure the fervency of faith by the shape of faces after days like this.

Just a good reminder to me that faith lives in hearts and not always in grins and feelings. There are plenty of shallow saints squinty-eyed right now and surely an abundance of disciples seemingly down in the mouth.

Anyway, I did have a great time in Dallas with those who came. Thanks to Starman, Jason Oxley and every other street team member and church staff member who got the word out. Without you I’d have played to no one. Thanks, y'all.

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7/12/2005

FROM THE ROAD: STREET WEEK Franklin, TN

7.19.05 JULY 12: NASHVILLE, TN
While Brian and I were in Florida our band and crew were setting up in Franklin, TN ( a suburb of Nashville) at The People's Church (my home church) for the first full band show of the week. Max Technologies of Franklin gave us a huge sound system for the Street Week shows and an even larger one for this first band night only. That system, coupled with the skilled lighting guys at our church and our three huge screens, made for a show much better looking and sounding than I deserve or am used to.

Many media were invited but I saw none. That’s a small blow, not to the ego, but to the record itself – or so one would be tempted to think. But without much radio play of new material for the last two years and limited touring as a result, the lack of media coverage is understandable. I haven’t done anything in a while worth covering. Even with great reviews of White Flag coming out daily, the overall attitude from media seems to be “we’ll see”. Of course it’s hard to see what this record is all about if media isn’t willing to come out and see what this record is all about. So many journalists and dignitaries stayed home, which made for a lively night free of journalists with notepads and stoic stares but rich in friends, family and cheerleaders of all kinds who seemed to enjoy what they heard. And that matters most.

They liked it enough to set a sales record for us in Nashville in fact, buying more CDs in one night at The People’s Church than I’ve sold in an entire year city-wide in the past. Wow. Thank you.

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WHITE FLAG IN STORES TODAY!

We played for a packed house last night and sold out of White Flag. The people off Florida, only after 5PM, were the first to be able to buy it - and they did - big time. Thanks.

Wish I had time to post more this morning. We're leaving Boca Raton for Nashville in five minutes. Once there we'll rush to The People's Church in Franklin, TN to make last minute sound adjustments and rehearse a little more for tonight's CD Release Concert there at 7PM. It's free. Come out and see us if you're in the area.

I'll retro post later this week and do a little show and tell about my time in the Mouth Of The Rat in Florida.

-SG

7/11/2005

FROM THE ROAD: STREET WEEK Boca Raton, FL

BocaThe week a CD is released to the public is called Street Week. Every CD sold that week counts towards the first week's SoundScan total, reflected on the albums sales chart. A CD's first week chart position is key to getting the attention of the media, retail and radio branches of the Christian music business, promoters and hopefully key to getting more help from all of them in the weeks ahead. He with the most "scans" is number one for that week, called Street Week.

Street Week always begins on a Tuesday and goes to the following Monday. However, there is a loophole, some small print, we took advantage of this time around. Street Week sales actually begin being tabulated at 5:01 PM Monday. Everything sold after 5 Monday is tallied as Tuesday sales. Don't know why. But I like it.

CD TableIn light of that we played our first Street Week show in Boca Raton (Mouth of the Rat) on Monday the 11th and sold CDs beginning at exactly 5:01. It was a solo show which made it difficult to pull off the new band oriented CD but the people of Boca Raton and the West Palm Beach area didn’t seem to mind. The great thing about playing new music is no one knows when it doesn’t sound like the CD – and no one knows when I flub a lyric – especially if I make a decent one up on the spot, or just anything that rhymes.

West Palm WAY2Thanks in huge part to West Palm Beach’s WAY-FM, the folks of Florida know my music and come to my shows even on Monday nights. And I don’t take that for granted. So the least I can do is stop by the studio and allow Brandt and Donna, the most attractive people in radio today, to mock me publicly for a couple hours…as long as they provide me with a chicken biscuit from Chic-fil-A and a Dr.Pepper. (notice the shiny aluminum wrapped goodness resting between Donna and me.)

West Palm WAYThanks WAY-FM for being truly entertaining great radio by any standard, Christian or not. And thanks to Donna, Brandt, everyone at Spanish River Church and the folks of Florida for making the first show of White Flag’s Street Week a success. Lots of concert-goers left with CDs in hand and more than 30 children were sponsored through Compassion International.

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7/09/2005

BLOG IN THE BACKSEAT

SHLOG.COM may get a little boring over the next few days but stick with it. If I run you off please give it another chance in couple weeks or so.

The artist life is very cyclical and mine is ramping up for the release of WHITE FLAG on July 12. So all this past week I've been editing video for the live shows the week of the release and today the band and I practiced intensely. I'll go to bed early tonight so I can be on the radio first thing Sunday morning. Then Monday the concerts begin. I'll be in Boca Raton, then Nashville and then....


You get the idea. So I'm not sure how much time I'll have to say or how much I'll want to say after saying more than I've ever wanted to say to one member of the media after another. I'll be said out I think after a week of non-stop shows, interviews, meet and greets with "fans", meetings with radio and retail powers that be and little else.

I'll do my best to check in but consider yourself warned that SHLOG.COM may become quite the cyber ghost-town for the next several days.

Until the blitz ends...

SG

FAITH OF OUR FATHERS

I have two Greek Orthodox friends who've injected into my faith parts of their own. They challenge me with their knowledge of the bible and church history and their commitment to their beliefs regardless of how boring or conspicuous it makes them seem to everyone else.

My brief time with these two men has piqued my interest in the earliest records of the Christian Church, in the teachings of the earliest followers of the Way, as they called it.

This morning I bumped into one of them again and one of the many things we talked about was how different a church service is today in America from a church service in the Middle East during the first three centuries. It got me thinking about what exactly Christianity is, where it comes from. Christianity, it turns out, is a Jewish Middle Eastern religion that originally embraced paradox (God is both wrath and love, life with God is easy and hard) and mystery (the book of Ephesians contradicts itself confusingly). Early Christians used Middle Eastern methods of communing with God as well, like the time Peter meditated while fasting and wound up hallucinating about a blanket.

I feel like something's missing from my faith, from the theology or methodology. I don't know what but I'm thinking this new interest of mine in the ancient origins of Christianity, how primitive believers thought, prayed and lived together holds part of the answer - or maybe just more questions we moderns haven't thought to ask.

I'll let you know what I discover.

7/08/2005

MY KING ON TERROR

On my way to the radio station this morning the conservative talk show host I was listening to was interrupted by the news of terrorist attacks in London. After my time in the studio I turned the radio back on in time to hear another talk show host interviewing a British journalist who witnessed one of the horrific explosions.

The radio pundit was encouraging the people of London to get angry and kill their enemies. He admitted that his response was immature and that his anger had overwhelmed him but continued to call for the deaths of the terrorists who were "waging a war on American values and religion." He went as far as asking those in London to splash suspected terrorists with pig blood, knowing that a Muslim who comes in contact with the unclean fluids of the animal is damned to hell according to the teachings of their faith.

genImageI feel today the way I felt years ago sitting on a tour bus on the way to Wichita Falls. The TV screen doused our brains in replays of hostilities against the citizens of New York continuously, foaming my sorrow and shock into rage and bloodlust. And as I swung from mourner to mercenary that September day I now realize the momentum swept me farther from the kingdom of God and closer to the ghetto of man. I realize now, regrettably, how little of my passion was expressed in or founded upon God's words or His Son's example.

So, once again I watch the enemies of life snuff out a handful of strangers I'm oddly bound to and missing. And once again my heart slouches, my face falls and my fist forms. But this time instead of patriotic rhetoric or holy war rally cries I'm taking care to listen most intently to the eternal, sustaining and true declarations of my King in hopes of being better anchored in this latest sea of emotion and press pounding. The words of the bible, especially those of Jesus, He and His people having lived so long ago under the thumb of terror with no physical freedom in sight, are my greatest comfort in the shadow of terror today. I hope they ease your anger and sorrow as well and help us to think like Christians more than Americans:

"Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes. "A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master.
Matthew 10:21-24

Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.
Matthew 5:39

When they hurled insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered he made no threats. Instead he entrusted himself to he who judges justly.
1Peter 2:23

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.
Luke 6:27-28

If you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even "sinners" do that.
Luke 6:27-28

Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
Matthew 5:44

Love your enemies, do good to them. Then your reward will be great and you will be sons of the Most High because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.
Luke 6:27-28

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Romans 12:21

If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.
Proverbs 25:21

Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath.
Romans 12:19

Do not repay anyone evil for evil.
Romans 12:17

All who draw the sword will die by the sword.
Matthew 26:52

Forgive them, they know not what they do.
Matthew 26:52

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7/07/2005

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE RADIO IN HOUSTON

godlistens_logoI'm a DJ today, co-hosting the morning show at KSBJ in Houston - the station with the largest listening audience in the country. Yikes.

Tune in if you live in Houston or listen on-line if you don't. I'll be on the air from 6-9AM Central. More to come...after I take a nap.

Thanks to Matt and Turbo at WAY FM in Nashville for letting me use their studio this morning to broadcast from.

How'd I do? Discuss my DJ abilities or lack thereof and anything else on SHLOG.COM over on my message-board.

7/05/2005

STREET WEEK SNAFU IN TEXAS

LOGOS bookstore in Dallas, Tx has begun selling WHITE FLAG, one week early and all you-know-what will now break lose.

Maybe.

Let me explain why.

First of all, I'm not angry with LOGOS unless they sold the CD early on purpose to get a jump on competition. That's not fair. But I doubt that's what happened. Sometimes stores, even huge chains, make mistakes, read a release date incorrectly, get confused, and put a disc on shelves before it's time. Mistakes happen to us all. Easily forgiven.

But this is a bad thing, regardless of why it happened, for a few reasons - none of which are all that life and death for sure.

Street Week (the week a CD released officially) is a major opportunity for momentum to be built with retailer, media, touring and radio. In Dallas, for instance, where my single Bless the Lord is not being played, it would be helpful perhaps to be able to report to the local station that WHITE FLAG was in the top 5 best selling CDs in the city on street week. They might consider the single just based on the size of my audience in their station's range. They should anyway. Or if a retailer down the street isn't carrying my CD they might stock up if our sales on street week were greater than they expected. And total nationwide sales often make great press releases that excite potential promoters and media and create buzz that generates shows, sales, coverage and, hopefully, more chances to infect brains with the messages in the music. That's the hope anyway.

But selling a week early means those sales at LOGOs will not count as street week sales. And they'll be missed since they supposedly sold tons by setting up shop at a massive Christian festival in Dallas hosted by the largest station in town. That's a lot of sales that will never be tallied.

But that's not all. What about the person who pre-ordered WHITE FLAG weeks ago? 600+ pre-orders have been taken just at my shows in the last month or so. These pre-ordered because it was only $5 to do so at a show and $9 on-line and because they thought they'd be some of the first people to get the CD - on July 12.

And what about LOGOS' competition? If I owned a store in Dallas that was playing by the rules and released when asked to on July 12th I'd be a little upset with LOGOS right now. id' be really upset if the record they jumped the gun on turned out to be a charting record - in the top ten even. I'd wonder how many more sales I would have had if people had to choose between my store and LOGOS on July 12th. I'd also wonder about LOGO's motivations for thwarting the street date restrictions - are clueless or greedy? I'd wonder.

The businessman side of me would wonder - fairly or not. And the business side of me today isn't real pleased that this happened but the preacher side of me, the nice guy side of me, doesn't really mind. Most of me really doesn't care how somebody gets my music or when, as long as it's legal, as long as the words and meaning on that round chunk of silicon go beyond the ears to the heart and mind of the listener. That's what really matters. So really all that's happened is some people in one city got to smile, cry, be challenged or encouraged (or disappointed and confused) seven days before everyone else. Not the end of the world.

So if you work for my label please give LOGOS a break. If you own a store in their area don't beat them up too badly. But if you live in Dallas and happen to pay LOGOS a visit anytime soon, do me a favor, bring them a calendar so this doesn't happen again.

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7/04/2005

FROM THE ROAD: PORTLAND TO NASHVILLE

I'm sitting in the only airport in the country (that I know of) with FREE WiFi. I love Portland. We'll be taking off soon, boarding our first of two flights today, heading home. We'll get there in time for fireworks at the cult de sac we hope.

Until tomorrow,
-Shaun

7/03/2005

FROM THE ROAD: KELSO/LONGVIEW, WA

Two gigs today. The first was playing a handful of songs at a church in Kelso decked out in the usual Fourth of July trimmings. I've grown up around this kind of thing but I don't think I'll ever feel comfortable seeing this much nation stuff in God's house. Something about it just feel wrong to me. But that's another post for another day I guess.

bulletinflaginchurch

Chuck Lopez, the music minister at the church, let us use his office as a green room. He's got good toys in there. Thanks for letting me use your force, Chuck.

Darth

DSC01868Then it was off in the "tour bus" (this week's was a Ford Focus) to lunch with Danny from Way-FM and a few other new friends. Then, once stuffed with Oregon's version of Mexican food (man, these people need some real Tex-Mex in a big way) we drove a few blocks to the "Go Fourth" festival, thrown by numerous denominations in the cities of Longview and Kelso to celebrate and create unity among all Christians here.

DSC01875And did I mention already that folks in the Northwest are a little different from us down south. Yea, they are. We eat funnel cakes, cotton candy and other heart stopping indulgences at shindigs like this. Apparently people in these parts want to live though. What's that about?

salmonbbqVegeburgers

Thanks to the cities of Kelso and Longview, Danny and everyone at WAY-FM. I had a great time. Next time though, I'm bringing you some real Mexican food.

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7/02/2005

FROM THE ROAD: SALEM, OR

thrillvilleOregon's definitely not the South. For starters, when you walk into a southern gas station the first thing you'll see is NASCAR memorabilia, beef jerky or bumper stickers. The second thing you'll see is every partially hydrogenated snack food ever made. But in Oregon all that is replaced with mixed fruit and nuts and every granola snack food ever made.

Then there's the rain. Every time I've been to the Northwest it's rained - a lot.

wheelBut today in Salem I actually spotted beef jerky in a convenience store and it didn't rain a drop. It was a good day in the sun on a stage at the base of a treed mountain. I do think there are more trees in Oregon than people. And that made for an amazing drive from Portland, where we landed late last night, to Thrillville USA. Yes, Thrillville USA...and RV park.

crowdSure it's not Carnegie Hall but there was sound and lights and people. What else do you need?

Thanks to K-Love, Air1 and Excel Marketing to bringing me out. It was a...thrill.

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7/01/2005

CUCUMBERS OF UNUSUAL SIZE

VeggieConferenceOn my last day of playing Mr. Mom my kids and I paid a visit to Big Idea headquarters. Big Idea recently relocated from Chicago to Franklin, Tn and is the maker of all things Veggie Tales. A friend of mine works there and invited me to bring the kids by if I ever ran out of fun things to do with them. It took me only three days to call him. Thankfully his schedule had a hole in it.

VeggieToysHe met us at the door to the big Idea offices along with Kurt Heinecke, the main music guy at Big Idea. Veggie Tales music is the only kid music I can actually enjoy. Most of that is because the lyrics are very well crafted - not at all about "adult" things, but very well done, extremely smart and irreverent. They remind me of old Warner Brothers cartoons in that there are two layers happening at once. A kid layer of bold color and big eyed talking vegetables and another layer of sarcastic grown-up pleasing humor (poking fun at suburbanites in SUVs they don't really need, for instance). And the chord progressions are complex and clever enough to make a music nerd like me appreciative. Kurt Heinecke has everything to do with all of that. I'm a big fan.

After seeing the offices, playing with toys in development and coveting the Big Idea conference room with its massive screen and killer sound system, we went to Kurt's office. He let us see a rough of a new Veggie Tales flick in the making, with just enough animated for him to compose and record to. It was impressive to see his studio and the process of film scoring midstream.

But four year-olds and two year-olds aren't into composing. They're into farting.

Fortunately for them, their father and his composer friend are too. Kurt let the kids play with his fart noise making toys, melodicas, "thunder pipes", cymbals and other toys for kids of all ages (he's got more of them than he has actual studio gear I think).

GabriellaKurtThen it was off to meet Mike Nawrocki, one of the founders of Big Idea, the voice of Larry the Cucumber and another co-writer of Veggie Tales' songs. He was extremely gracious, taking time out of his busy day to hang out with us for a few minutes. He even broke into the Larry voice for next extra charge, which freaked my kids out. They weren't sure how Larry's voice was coming from this strange man. So I just told them Mr.Mike got hungry and ate Larry. They seemed OK with that. I think.

Thanks Steve, Mike, Kurt and everyone else at Big idea for putting a smile on my kids' faces and making stuff for little people that parents don't hate.

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NEW FEATURE AT SHLOG.COM

I've added a poll section to the right under "Today's Quote". I'll use it to pick your brain, get us thinking, answer my own questions or just amuse myself. Check it out. And find out what the other shloggers are thinking by viewing the results.

-Shaun

PAINTED AND UNTAINTED

people watching daddy singI paint. Well, not much anymore, but I began life as a visual artist and only migrated to melodies and poetry in an effort to woo women in high school. But I've always thought in pictures more than sounds. And my most content moments as a child were at the kitchen table, crayon or paintbrush in hand, glue under my nails, slivers of paper scattered around me, covered in the debris of the creative process. Created was my Ritalin. Still is. Before doctors and moms medicated the overly enthusiastic and manic my mother channelled my hyperactivity and intellect into pages and paint. And it's still my drug of choice.

Today my work is songs and my hobby is painting pieces like this one. I made this last week when I needed a break from industry and wanted to fill a bare wall in my bedroom. Making it was the highlight of my week. The most peaceful and happy I've felt in a long time. My life is good right now, great even, but putting this image on canvas took me from content to downright euphoric.

I guess the thing I love so much about painting these days is how untainted the whole process is by the outside world, by the critic and the audience. It's free. There's nothing riding on how well my images are liked. There's no mandate to be an upbeat, positive and safe for the whole family painter. There's no testing done on my brushstrokes, no corporate voice changing my palette with the market, no chart to make, no tickets to sell, no trips to take and awards to aspire to.

When I smear color on canvas I'm a kid again, mesmerized and enthralled by being able to make something I like. And there's not even the slightest desire to stand back to back to anyone else. There's no assessment of value. No labeling it "art" or "good."

mommy loves daddyInstead I just make. Make what I like. And while people sometimes comment on the honesty of my shows or songs I have to admit that my paintings, because they're unscrutinized and unsold, are the most honest works I make these days. The rest is half honesty and half marketable commodity. Half joy and half necessary labor.

If only we artists could make a living making stuff for mom's refrigerator and not the masses. If only I could write songs as unashamedly, freely and flippantly as I decorate a page. Maybe someday.

(Picture credits: 1:"People Watching Daddy Sing" by Gabriella Groves, 2:Untitled by Me, 3:"Mommy Loves Daddy" by Gabriella Groves)

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