Episode 17: Ben Phillips – Exploit Your Strengths



This week I’m talking with my friend Ben Phillips who has done pretty much everything there is to do in the music industry.  We are discussing road vs session drumming, relationships, producing, mixing, editing, demos vs. master recordings and how exploiting your strengths can give you an advantage at making a living in the music industry.

Show Notes:

Sponsors: Edenbrooke Productions – We offer consulting services and are offering listeners a 1-hour introductory special. To request more info on consulting services, email Marty at contact@johnmartinkeith.com.

Talking Points:

*Started playing drums at nine years old.

*Found ways to be around music anyway I could growing up.

*Went to Belmont University and studied studio engineering.

*I changed to session drumming as my focus.

*I would take any gig learning to play in all situations.

*Right out of college I had my first road gig with a signed artist from an audition.

*It was a stepping stone for me getting that experience.

*That led to a gig with a signed country artist because of relationship I had with a friend of mine who worked for the producer Dan Huff told him to put an band together for the tour and he called and asked if I was interested.

*It took 4 or 5 years of being in town and building relationships before I got that opportunity.

*The friendship I had with a bass player in college led to most of my gigs in the early days.

*New drummers wanting to do studio work should work on listening to everybody else, really listening to the vocal and going back and listening to how what you play affects the other parts.

*It’s good to understand production and know that there is going to be more stuff added later.

*You’re there to serve the producer and the artist, not yourself.

*Some people I have drummed for on records are Matthew West, Rush of Fools, Steven Curtis Chapman, Michael W. Smith, Blake Shelton, Chase Rice, Chris Jansen and more.

*When I was tracking drums in sessions I got be around a lot of great studio engineers and I got to ask them questions and learn a lot that way.

*I went through a period where it was hard to find good paying gigs and I quit for about 2 years.

*I moved away from Nashville and when I came back I decided to put a studio in my house, so I started reconnecting with and building relationships with friends from Belmont while meeting new people.

*It was slow for a few months while trying to reconnect and get work.

*I got a call from a college friend who needed me to play drums on session for CCM producer Pete Kipley at a studio on Music Row.

*Pete had a friend producing a song for Rebecca St. James for the Narnia soundtrack and asked if I would play drums on that.

*That led to a lot of work on different projects which set me on the path I’m on now.

*All of these relationships led from one thing to a bunch of things.

*I never know where the next lead or next step is going to come from.

*When it came to getting good drum sounds, I didn’t like how others were doing it so I learned to do it myself.

*I was one of the first people in Nashville to have a home studio before it became the norm.

*I got married so I moved the studio to another house in a different part of town.

*Because of another relationship I met a guitar player named Ilya Toshinskiy and he got me a lot of work doing country demos at my studio.

*Country writers were coming in all the time so I got to do a lot of work tracking and mixing for Shane MacAnally from the show Songland, Old Dominion, Sam Hunt, Kacey Musgraves and more before their careers took off.

*When you’re mixing a song with a writer there, you get more time to sit and talk with them and build relationships with them.

*A “demo” is a demonstration recording to show the label or manager how the song could go.

*Chris Jansen’s radio single “Buy Me Boat” is the demo that I recorded and mixed.

*A country or CCM demo average cost is $800 – 1000 for a full demo per song.

*A major label Country album recording can cost $20,000 per song on average.

*A Contemporary Christian Music label song is on average $2,000-4,000 per song.

*I can do a demo in about 4-5 hours per song, which is very fast.

*Musicians make about $60 an hour and usually do 3 songs in 3 hours at a time for $180 to record a demo if you’re with the Musician’s Union.

*On a master scale recording that ends up on an album the musician will make up to $750 for 3 hours an average.

*On a demo you only get paid for the work recording the demo.

*Recording on a album cut you can get royalties on the back end as well.

*A studio can be $2000 per day.

*If there is a bigger budget, everything is going to cost more just because you can charge it.

*They only charge $1000 per demo because they have to pay for multiple demos to then choose which songs to use on the album and re record those demos, so the demo budget per song is lower.

*Engineers and mixers only get paid for the initial work on the song, no back end royalties, so they charge more up front.

*A friend asked if he could do some guitar overdubs at my studio with producer Scott Hendricks and we hit it off and that got me working with him doing editing for major albums like Blake Shelton and more.

*Editing is cleaning up the recordings and making sure that everything is lined up and any pops and clicks, etc. are gone.

*Slow down and listen.

*I’m still striving for the next thing, still pushing for how to improve and get better, how to get to the next level.

*There is no finish line.

*I’m still learning how to play the game.

*What is the game? Music business, politics and relationships.

*What I want to put out in the music business is my reputation, cause if I don’t have a good reputation, I don’t have anything.

*I sold my studio and started renting space at Sea Gayle Publishing to focus on mixing and to be able to go to other studios to work.

*I had to change people’s perspective of being the guy drummed and could mix to being the mixer or the producer, so I sold my studio.

*There’s really no difference between and demo and a master recording. It just depends on if the demo gets placed on album or not. It still needs to be done at the highest level possible.

“Phase” is timing so when you put a plugin on something and there’s delay compensation and it’s not compensated correctly, it’s going to be out of phase from what you originally tracked it from depending on what plugin you put on it.

“Phase” is not a technical decision, it’s a creative decision.

*I can do a complete demo of a song from start to finish in 5-6 hours.

*A lot of people will send me a demo they had done somewhere else and ask me to fix it and make it better using the existing tracks.

*Production is managing expectations.

*Exploit your strengths.

*Go to where they’re making music you want to be a part of.

*The studio world and the live world do not generally mingle in Nashville.

*If you don’t want to play live, don’t start.

*It’s a paradox because when you start out you have to take any gig that will come along and a lot of times that’s a road gig.

*I didn’t really start working until I realized this is a business first.

*I am in the service industry of giving my clients what they want.

*Have integrity and be fair to everybody and have a good attitude.

*Marriage relationships are more important they your musical job so make decisions based on that.

*There are 100x more people making a living in the music business that are not famous than those that are famous.

*You never know what an opportunity will lead to, so say yes when you can.

*Work begets work.

*Make a decision and if doesn’t work, make a different decision.

*Most people want me to send an mp3 attachment, not a link.

*Give the client what they want.

*Send links that do not expire.


Ben Phillips started playing drums at the age of 9 in Atlanta, Ga. At age 14 he began engineering at his church and school. He continued this tag team with different bands until he got to college at Belmont University in Nashville, Tn. There he started focusing on recording and playing in the studio. When he graduated in 1997 he began touring with signed country artist SheDaisy, and a variety of local bands, while also recording with various christian and independent artists.
In 2005 he started a studio in house and later moved to a dedicated studio spot in Berry Hill, Tn. He would play drums, record, mix, engineer and produce for a variety of artists. Some of the artists he’s worked with include: Blake Shelton, Chris Janson, Brett Eldridge, Building 429, Francesca Battistelli, Big Daddy Weave, Dustin Lynch, Steven Curtis Chapman and Old Dominion as well as songs for the tv show Nashville. In 2019 he sold the studio to concentrate on mixing and producing and now has a mix room off of Music Row in Nashville.


Episode 16: Brent Milligan – Establish Competencies



This week I am talking with one of my favorite producers in music!  Brent Milligan currently produces and plays bass for Steven Curtis Chapman. He’s also worked with Michael W. Smith, Charlie Peacock, The Backstreet Boys and more. We are discussing his journey as a producer, a touring musician and A&R rep as well as the importance of taking advice from the people you look up to and putting it into practice in your career by becoming really good at one thing as a time.

Show Notes:

Sponsors: Edenbrooke Productions – We offer consulting services and are offering listeners a 1-hour introductory special. To request more info on consulting services, email Marty at contact@johnmartinkeith.com.
Talking Points:

*I grew up taking bass and cello lessons.

*I knew a couple of guys who went to Belmont University who were starting to have some success as musicians in Nashville playing for people that I had heard of and it got me thinking I could do it too.

*I got to Nashville because a mutual friend knew the artist/producer Charlie Peacock who was my favorite artist.

*I got a voicemail from Charlie Peacock saying he needed a bass player for a festival and he felt like he was supposed to call me.

*I had auditioned for Margaret Becker’s band previously and she referred me to Charlie.

*I met Charlie at his studio and played through some songs and got to know him, then we flew to Sunshine Fest in Minnesota and that was my first real gig.

*Charlie asked to hear my songs and decided to teach me songwriting and producing and use me as a bass player from time to time.

*I had an open invitation to sit on his studio couch and say nothing and just be invisible. Just listen and watch which I was going to do at every opportunity.

*He let me use his studio whenever he was not using it and I would go in and work and learn from his engineer Craig Hanson.

*Charlie taught me to not cross pollinate musical styles when recording. Don’t do jazz licks on a pop record, etc.

*He taught me a lot about being a family man and be a musician.

*It’s okay to be faithful to your wife, faithful to a church, not doing crazy stuff.

*I met Brent Bourgeois through Charlie and had done some work together and he called me and asked if I wanted to play bass for Michael W. Smith because he just got hired to be his band leader.

*I played for Michael W. Smith for 7 years. At the same time, I was also writing and recording demos and a band wanted to record one of my songs. The A&R guy asked who they wanted to produced their album and they liked my work. The A&R guy was Eddie DeGarmo who I had played bass for on his band DeGarmo and Key’s tour. He knew I produced the demo and wanted to get me work producing and asked them if they wanted me to produce their album.

*Everyone I’ve worked with so far has been by referrals and relationships.

*Start building competencies .

*Charlie said that If you establish a competency as a producer or bass player, then people will be more likely to interested in your production. As opposed to just walking up to them and saying I want to produce.

*If you establish competency as a songwriter or musician, people will take you way more serious when you say you want to produce records.

*After playing for Michael W. Smith, I got asked to do A&R at a label and got off the road for 2 1/2 years.

*Then I got a call to start working for Steven Curtis Chapman. I had subbed in for his bass player over the years so we had a relationship. He heard a record I produced and asked if I would produce his next record Beauty Will Rise.

*Even when you’ve been successful, there is still that voice inside that says you’re not good enough.

*When producing with Steven Curtis Chapman, he usually brings in a voice memo and I have him track a guitar to a click track, then I will make a sketch of what I think might work by building tracks and a sound around his scratch track, then I send him an mp3 to see what he thinks and getting adjustments from him.

*Then he either thinks it great and keep going with it or he likes certain parts about it but maybe wants other parts to go in a different direction. I’m trying to get guidance from him, then once we get the course set, then I’ll start getting live instruments tracked.

*Then he’ll come in and sing and do bgv’s.

*Picking players and mixing engineers for an album is usually a collaboration between me and the artist.

*I became the head of A&R at Forefront Records because their guy left and they asked Charlie Peacock to be their interim A&R and he had to find his replacement and thought I would be good for the position.

*An A&R person does project management by helping the artist think through direction musically and think through song selection, producer choices, making sure there are songs that work for radio.

*You’re helping the artist turn in an album that’s going to help them with their career the most.

*You’re the go between for the artist and the label.

*Start with developing one competency.

*If you want to be a producer, start producing tracks. Learn to play your laptop like an instrument.

*Start doing whatever you aspire to do at whatever level you’re able to do it.

*Start putting up videos of you playing your instrument on You Tube and make a presence for yourself.

*If you have content that people can see what you do, that let’s people know your talent level and can open opportunities for you.

*You can make videos everyday and get your name out there.

*If you reach out to someone and ask them for coffee, they will usually meet with you and give you advice.

*It comes back to relationships.

*Be interested in people.

Brent Milligan is a Nashville based producer and musician. Originally from Baton Rouge Louisiana, he has lived in Nashville for many years with his wife Sarah and three kids, and has toured with or worked on albums by Michael W Smith, Steven Curtis Chapman, The Backstreet Boys, Toby Mac, DC talk, Paul Baloche, and many others. He can usually be found in his studio, spending time with his family, playing tennis, or making chocolate chip cookies.

Episode 15: Lauren Lucas – Success Begets More Success


This week I’m talking with country music artist Lauren Lucas.  Lauren has been signed to Warner Brothers and has also been an independent artist. We discuss the pros and cons of a signed vs. unsigned artist as well as publishing and touring as an indie artist.

Show Notes:

Sponsors: Edenbrooke Productions – We offer consulting services and are offering listeners a 1-hour introductory special. To request more info on consulting services, email Marty at contact@johnmartinkeith.com.

Talking Points:

*Knowing multiple instruments will get you more work.

*You can’t be an island in this business.

*Start building a foundation locally and get out playing shows.

*A family friend knew a guy in Nashville that came to check me out and ending up signing me to an artist development and publishing deal in Nashville.

*The development deal eventually fell through but while in college I got cast as a main character in the Broadway version of Urban Cowboy in New York.

*I ended up writing a song that was used in that Broadway show and was my first major placement.

*A professor connected me with a producer in town who ended up putting me with different co-writers all the time and we were recording demos.

*He pitched the songs to Warner Brothers Records and I went in to audition and got my first record deal that way.

*They released my first single and I went on a radio tour and also got to open for Rascal Flatts, Blake Shelton, Lone Star and others.

*The order of events can work differently depending on the situation. For some people, once you sign a record deal, then you have team put around you such as a booking agent, management, publisher, promotion, etc.

*For some, if you have label mates, then you can get put on a tour opening for others on your roster.

*Doors open up to have these companies be on your team because they see a label putting money behind you so that helps them to believe in what you are doing especially if you are successful because there is a lot of money to be earned.

*You’re lessening the risk for yourself when you can align with a company like that.

*When you sign a record deal and start working with a publisher, they are going to tell you to keep bringing them songs.

*Once the album was halfway finished, publishers who didn’t like my songs before now wanted to sign me based off the same songs.

*That caused me to have a chip on shoulder and I didn’t sign with them.

*Because of that and when I lost my record deal, then I was an island and I didn’t have a team around me to help pitch me to other labels and help me get back on my feet.

*There are so many artists that are signed to major label record deals that have albums that have never seen the light of day or have been signed and let go before anything ever happened with them.

*The guy who helped get me signed was temporarily running the label and he got replaced when I released my first single and the new guy had a different vision and my album never came out.

*When you’re trying to get a record deal and you’re the new kid with little success, you don’t have negotiating power for your contract, the label does.

*The other route some people go is focusing on songwriting and getting hits with other artists, then you have more leverage to negotiate because of that success.

*I transitioned into songwriting and released a couple of independent EPs.

*There is value into taking your destiny into your own hands and working hard and making bold decisions.

*There is also value in building a team around you and gaining credibility before making those bold decisions.

*It feels like when you’re waiting on other people that it’s taking forever.

*My expectations were skewed and I thought it was all supposed to happen right away.

*Once you sign a record deal it can take 5 or 6 years for anything to really take off and that’s after signing a deal.

*For those us that never give up, we’re the ones that end up being successful.

*After my label deal ended, I was able to sign a publishing deal with Jewel Coburn of Ten Ten Music who had Alan Jackson, Keith Urban and Mark Irwin writing for them at different times. She started a new company called Eleven Eleven Music and I wrote for that company.

*So many great songs end up in a drawer because there is only so much room for songs to get cut.

*I’ve written for Danielle Peck and had a song used on Shark Tank that she recorded. I had a song placed in a movie as the end credits song with Dakota Johnson. I also had a song placed in a movie called Americanizing Shelly.

*I own my publishing now because I am focusing more on tv/film music.

*I was in the band Farewell Angelina and they recorded some of my songs as well.

*It’s a big deal when you get songs cut with major label or indie artists because when they get sales or radio play you get paid, even little by little it adds up.

*Also as a performer with music services like Muzak, you get checks every quarter.

*Farewell Angelina got to open for The Bacon Brothers for the past couple of years and I knew a guy in the industry who is a talent buyer and needed a band to open for them at a show and asked if we wanted to come.

*We hit it off with them and have been able to continue working with them and even starting writing music with them.

*Now I get to open for The Bacon Brothers as a solo artist and I am doing my career on my terms.

*I am making my best music now. You make different decisions depending on what your priorities are.

*In my 20’s I just wanted to be famous and I made desperate choices.

*Looking back now it wasn’t about the music.

*Now I just want to make great music and I don’t want to be on the road unless that’s what I want to do.

*I’m happier and freer and I think it’s coming across in the music.

*If you are married and wanting to be a touring artist, make sure you have a good foundation of what your dreams are and what you intend to do so that’s clear up front and the other person knows this is a really big part of who you are and what you want to do and gives the a chance to decide if they want to be a part of that lifestyle if you’re not married yet.

*Always have consistent home based check ins and keep them in the top of your mind and communicate with them when you’re apart.

*There are no office hours. You’re potentially working all the time because even after a show the people bringing you in may want to go out and you feel obligated to do that.

*You kind of always have to be “on.”

*When I do my own booking I develop a form email of what I want to say (and personalize it for each person) and I’ll make a dropbox folder of head shot, a link to music or video that will help sell the package and put a link for them to download.

*So many venues want you to submit and pitch to them in a specific way. Either call between certain hours or email them with a very specific subject line in the subject heading, or they don’t want a link but they want attachments.

*So a lot of time is spent looking up where you want to go and what’s a good routing and then finding a venues that fit your style of music and finding out how they want you to contact them.

*It’s extremely time consuming and tedious.

*If a large booking agency signs you and you are a new act without much of a track record, they’re not always able to get you amazing gigs.

*Your success begets more success.

*They depend on that before they can get you major touring opportunities.

*There are smaller booking agencies that will get you into small towns but are consistent gigs and will help route tours for you.

*If you look up booking agents that work with wedding or cover bands, many of them have other departments that focus on different types of artists.

*Make emails as enticing and as brief as possible.

*Mark on your calendar a time to follow up.


Nashville singer/songwriter, Lauren Lucas, knows first-hand the familiar story of a small town, Carolina girl moving to a music city, only to have her dream locked away in the vault of a major label. Once she was free to release music in her own way, Lauren partnered with Grammy- winning engineer, Chad Carlson, for her critically acclaimed EP, If I Was Your Girl. With Lucas’ engaging melodies and soulful voice, the project caught the attention of Lady Antebellum’s Charles Kelley, who requested to hear the title track in an on-air radio interview with Hall-Of- Fame DJ, Gerry House.
In 2011, armed with another project titled, On with the Show, Lucas explored new points of view, both lyrically and musically. She blended her rootsy-soul with more pop-tinged melodies, reminiscent of her influences, such as Jonatha Brooke, Bonnie Raitt, John Mayer, and Norah Jones.
The Academy of Country Music and Tony Award nominee shows depth and maturity with her new single, “Go Home Paul.” This is the singer/songwriter’s fifth studio release and it finds her in new territory showcasing her musicianship on guitar and intimate vocals. Written by Lucas and Grammy nominated hit songwriter, Jay Knowles (Harry Connick, Jr., George Strait), the story of, “Go Home Paul,” makes the listener feel as though they’re keeping a secret or eavesdropping on a private conversation.
The track features noteworthy studio veterans including Park Chisolm (Kevin Costner & the Modern West, Aubrey Sellers) on arrangement and additional guitars, Alex McCollough (John Prine, Jim Lauderdale) of True East Mastering, and a long-overdue reunion with Pat McMakin (Ray Charles, Dolly Parton) leading the helm with production and mixing.
Lauren said, “‘Go Home Paul’ has been one of my favorite songs that I’ve been a part of as a songwriter. I’ve had both women and men come up to me after shows and tell me they relate to the story, so I’m thrilled to finally have it recorded and released into the world! Some of my favorite songs to listen to as a fan evoke emotion in me because they cut right to the truth. I hope we wrote this song personal enough that it feels universal to the listener.”
This is only the first of a string of new music releases planned for the remainder of the year and into 2020. In addition to her own music, you’ve heard Lauren’s work As a songwriter and composer on Broadway, on other artist’s projects, in films and on television, including ABC’s hit reality show, Shark Tank. As a touring artist, Lauren has shared stages with Kenny Chesney, Old Dominion, Blake Shelton, Billy Currington, Maroon 5, Gabe Dixon, Maia Sharp, and The Bacon Brothers (Kevin and Michael), to name a few. Lauren spent nearly three years touring with an all-female harmony band called, Farewell Angelina and penned several songs on their latest record. You can catch Lauren on the road as she teams up again with the Bacon Brothers in support of her new music.


Episode 14: Philip Peters – Know Your Stuff


This week I’m talking with my friend Philip Peters who is part of the True Artist Management team for artists TobyMac, Mandisa and DC Talk.  We discuss how to get into artist management, the day to day tasks of that position and how important it is to know all of parts of the music industry when trying to get a job in artist management.


Show Notes:

Sponsors: Edenbrooke Productions – We offer consulting services and are offering listeners a 1-hour introductory special. To request more info on consulting services, email Marty at contact@johnmartinkeith.com.

Talking Points:

*I went to Anderson University in Indiana and got a lot exposure going to concerts at the school.

*DC Talk was my favorite band and saw them several times.

*The Gaither Vocal Band, Sandi Patty, Steven Curtis Chapman and Sidewalk Prophets all came out of Anderson University.

*I was in the music business program at Anderson University as a freshman but it was very music heavy and that was not what I wanted to focus one so I moved to a marketing program.

*The marketing degree has shaped what I do heavily now because we do digital marketing and always having to post photos and videos on Facebook and Google ads everyday and be creative which is incorporated with the touring elements I work with.

*I did get a music business minor which helped me in music business law, etc.

*I learned there is more to music than just the band on stage.

*I started working as the student manager at the school auditorium. I’m good with organizing people, etc. so I would interact with artist managers and road managers.

*In that position I would get the artist/band rider and make sure to fill the dressing room with what they needed, make sure there were people to help set up the stage or drive the band and crew around.

*That got me thinking I could do that on the road for artists making sure it was getting done as a road manager.

*I was getting the degree and learning in the classroom, but also practical experience when artists would come to the school.

*I was doing everything I could to load gear, run the spotlight, learn all facets of the industry.

*My first job out of college was here at True Artist Management.

* “Settling Shows” – knowing how much money came in for the shows from selling tickets, making sure everyone gets paid correctly.

*The promoter and road manager and the venue manager typically take care of that so someone from each party is involved.

*Working at True Artist Management I work with DC Talk, Toby Mac and Mandisa.

*How persistent do you have to be when trying to get a job in artist management? You have to know your stuff. Know the music industry, listen to a podcast, read the book, know what you’re talking about.

*Don’t just come in and say “I’ve always wanted to work with so and so artist.”

*Talk about always wanting to tour, be a part of album making, or serve the artist well.

*Artist management can be one of the coolest jobs ever and it can also be a difficult job that no one is there to do so I have to do it.

*Management is everything from an airport run to label meetings, but know that stuff and be educated in that world.

*I came in my first day on the job knowing what artists were with which agencies and labels so that so when someone says they need to talk to so and so, I know who that is.

*Be very prepared so you don’t have to be taught everything.

*Some of the hardest parts of being an artist manager is knowing the artist works nights and weekends on tour, so you’re working office hours during the day, but if a flight goes wrong or the is a problem at a show you may be working the night as well.

*You also have to be spinning lots of plates and when they are all spinning, no one notices. But if one falls everyone notices.

*You can kind of live in the area that no one is ever happy.

*The best part of being an artist manager is seeing tours come together and be successful.

*What are some practical steps for someone wanting to get into artist management?

*Make sure you know what you are good at.

*If the artist is the center, the manager is the nucleus around that and the spokes of digital team, merch, publishing, label, etc.

*The manager is trusted by the artist to make decisions for them, the right hand man.

*Make sure you are good at multi-tasking and don’t get overwhelmed easily.

*Don’t be easily stressed because you are going to live at a level of stress because you’re going to be working on the future while executing things in the present.

*I hear 2 things from people for why they want a manager: 1.) The workload is too much and 2.) I (the artist) don’t like to be the bad guy.

*There are many ways to get into artist management: working at a venue, promoting a show, etc.

*What does it take for an artist to approach a manager and ask them to represent them?

*Usually they are already signed to a label when they come to a manager.

*If you are playing x amount of shows a year and making x amount of money and you have a strong following on your own need help with marketing or crafting some songs, etc. then that might be different.

*For us, most artists sign to label then the label will connect them to management and booking agents.



Philip Peters works for True Artist Management where he is a Management Associate for Christian music artists DC Talk, TobyMac, and Mandisa. Additionally, Peters served as the youth pastor at his church in Franklin, TN. from 2008-2014 and is also the founder of Restore Haiti, a service organization serving Jacmel, Haiti.

Philip founded Restore Haiti in 2005 which supports over 60 schools with supplies and tuition as well as drilling wells for clean water in communities. He attends the Gate Community Church in Franklin, TN. and is a member of the Alumni Council at Anderson University in Indiana.

Philip and his wife Laura Beth live in Franklin, TN and have one son, Jacob, who is 2 years old.


Episode 13: Nate Sousa – Be Valuable To People



Show Notes:

Today I am talking with my buddy Nate “The Sooze” Sousa. He is the music director at Fellowship Bible Church in Brentwood, TN and he is also one of the founders of the guitar amp profiling company Tone Junkie which records and captures amp sounds for digital amplifiers that guitar players can buy online. Our conversation covers what is needed when you want to work as a worship leader or music director in a church of any size.  Plus, we talk about the ever present need for strong relationships in ministry as well as how putting together multiple jobs in music can allow you to make a great living without the need to feel like you have to be famous to do so.

Sponsors: Edenbrooke Productions – We offer consulting services and are offering listeners a 1-hour introductory special. To request more info on consulting services, email Marty at contact@johnmartinkeith.com.
Talking Points:

*Nate is the music director at Fellowship Bible Church in Brentwood, TN.

*My dad helped start a band called The Motowns which later became Tower of Power.

*Dad became a worship leader and I was raised in a musical household. I became the drummer for my dad at church when I was in 5th grade.

*I realized my dad did this for a living and I saw that you can make a living doing music.

*I went to college at Azusa Pacific University and majored in music and took theory and arranging and hymnology (the study of hymns) which was a great overview of old church music.

*I decided to change majors from music to theology because I liked the church history part of it. I wanted to be musically proficient and know how theory worked but I also needed to know the Bible and needed a solid foundation for Truth.

*Then I went to Fuller Theological Seminary and studied Theology (The Study of God) and Art and put my two passions together that I wanted to be doing with my life.

*How did you transition from college into the workforce with what you studied? I started looking for churches to work for as a worship pastor or music director.

*Music Director – someone who helps lead the band, creates charts, makes backing tracks using Ableton, arranging, running point on recordings if you can record new songs, etc. It’s a lot of behind the scenes, a lot of prep work. It’s still pastoring people and meeting with people and having those relationships. It doesn’t include that upfront singing and speaking leadership to the congregation.

*My first job was as a worship leader at a small church and even though that particular environment wasn’t my sweet spot I knew it was something I should do.

*Start saying “yes” when something comes along in the realm of what you would like to do, maybe just give a try.

*When you’re just starting out and looking for work it doesn’t help to be super picky at that point necessarily.

*Sometimes it does if your making sure that you are theologically on base with what you know to be true and that the church is also teaching that also because there can be miscommunication and issues if those things don’t line up.

*Make sure your beliefs line up with the church’s beliefs.

*Besides that, you should take any opportunity you can get when you are first starting out.

*I worked as worship leader at that church for six months, then there was a built in check up time with the pastor to see how things were going.

*I learned that singing and leading was not my strong suit so I left that position.

*I learned what I’m good at and not so good at and what I have passion around and don’t have passion around.

*One of the outcomes of being a “yes man” is saying I got experience.

*I started to hone in on becoming a music director and helping worship leaders to take details off their plate.

*Music directors are used mainly in larger churches. Smaller churches don’t need one, they need a worship pastor/music director all in one.

*Wanting a music director position at a church means the number of opportunities goes down exponentially because most churches are smaller and don’t need that position separated from the worship pastor position.

*I got invited by a friend to play at Friend’s Church in CA. for a young adults group on Thursday nights which paid a little bit.

*During that time I was finishing school and waiting tables.

*Then they asked me to play on Sundays. I saw a gap that needed to be filled there.

*I built great relationships there. I met the music director there and realized this guy had the job I wanted.

*Find people that are doing what you want to be doing and draft them and follow along what they are doing.

*I would hang out with him all the time and ask lots of questions and go to his office and learn things from him and he basically started mentoring me.

*He showed me Sibelius Notation Software for creating music charts.

*Over time he would ask me to fill in for him to lead the band when he was out of town to the point it became a part time music director assistant position.

*Be valuable to people.

*Go above and beyond.

*After me being involved for about six years, the music director ended up leaving and I was asked to step into that role full time.

*Aaron Blanton from Nashville moved to Friend’s Church to be the one of the worship pastors and we became great friends and worked together to bring the church into a new era musically.

*What does it take to be a music director at a church?

*Best case scenario is handing musicians information they can trust. It’s the skill to chart out music that players can understand.

*Using Planning Center to make sure people have all the resources they need for a Sunday service.

*Make sure mp3 songs are in the right key for rehearsing at home.

*It’s a lot of administration work.

*It’s very relationship based as well.

*I’m the most direct contact with the band people.

*I pastor the worship team differently than the worship leaders would because I have more contact with them because I’m their first point of contact.

*Aaron Blanton moved back to Nashville and became the worship pastor here at Fellowship. He called me and said there was an opening for a music director at Fellowship and my wife and I prayed about it and I came out to interview and felt this was a great place to be.

*The relationship with Aaron was a huge reason to be able to make the move.

*Part of my life in music has been piecing together multiple streams of income.

*While being church music director in California, I became a guitar teacher which allowed me to become a better player.

*I played for a country cover band in Southern California because of a relationship where a friend asked me to play in his band.

*Those things allowed me to do music full time and quit the jobs that were not music related.

*I decided if I was going to be away from my family working then I would like it to be in my wheelhouse.

*I wanted jobs that would all be connected using my skill as a musician to earn money for my family.

*When I moved to Tennessee in addition to music directing at Fellowship I started working with a company called Tone Junkie because of a relationship with the owner John Sullivan.

*We bonded over music gear and got together a couple of times a month and eventually started recording the sessions for people who might enjoy hearing us play and talk about gear.

*We started getting some listeners and subscribers but it took off when John bought a Kemper digital guitar amp which captures the sound of an amp and puts it in the Kemper.

*We started profiling (recording) our amps into the Kemper and offering them for sale online and we sold thousands of our profiles all over the world over the past couple of years.

*We have a website, www.tonejunkiestore.com and podcast.

*You Tube Channel

*Aaron Blanton moved to work for Integrity Music and they needed someone to make worship charts for their company and he asked me to chart music and be a “Song Setter” for that company so I work for them part time.

*A “Song Setter” uses computer programs like Finale or Sibelius where you can input music into charts using just slashes to making scores for movies.

*It’s having the ability to hear music and write it out for musicians to play in churches.

*Integrity Music wants multiple versions with different parts like guitar, piano, vocals etc. so I turn in ten files for each song.

*What is some advice you would give to people wanting to get into playing worship music?

*Don’t be afraid to do jobs that are not 100% what you want.

*Ask what are the reasons to say “yes” and give a job a chance.

*Get the experience. If you wait and wait you still don’t have experience, so jump in with people that are willing to give you a chance.

*Large churches or organizations are not going to hire you to lead thousands of people without experience. Start in smaller churches or venues and get experience leading people and work your way up from there.

*I was not in big bands or anything where everyone knew my name. I found joy in playing church music and it didn’t have to be a stepping stone for something else.

*But if you get invited to go play for someone or do session work or something and that is what you are trying to do, go do it.

*Whatever you are wanting to do, find people who are already doing it and ask them if you can get with them and ask them questions.

*Don’t have an entitlement mentality and assume that you deserve something. That works against you.

*Be humble and generous and have gratitude.

*Pay attention to how you come across to people because people can sense that and it is written all over your face.

www.fellowshipbiblechurch.org to watch live or recorded services.

www.weareworship.com is where you can get charts I create for Integrity Music.

Nate Sousa grew up playing music from an early age, being taught by his father. After studying music in college, he went on to teach private lessons, direct music in churches, play on the road for several years, and do the weekend warrior band thing. Piecing together music gigs has been Nate’s bread and butter for the last 15 years. He is currently the Director of Music at Fellowship Bible church in Brentwood, TN; while also helping to create content for Tone Junkie TV and We Are Worship.


Episode 12: Eric Kalver – Understand What The Product Is


This week I’m talking with music supervisor, composer and drummer Eric Kalver.  Eric is in L.A. and stays extremely busy currently working for the video game publisher Activision. When he’s not finding cool songs to put into video games, he is either composing music or playing drums in a bunch of different bands around L.A. He took time out to talk with me about his journey from being a magician’s assistant (yes, you read that correctly) to being one of the top music supervisors in L.A.
Show Notes:
Sponsors: Edenbrooke Productions – We offer consulting services and are offering listeners a 1-hour introductory special. To request more info on consulting services, email Marty at contact@johnmartinkeith.com.
Talking Points:

*Eric grew up in a family of magicians.

*Check out The Amazing Eric and Bozo on You Tube.

*I went to Berklee School of Music for drumming and began taking arranging classes.

*I realized by doing arranging that would help me stick out of the crowd.

*A “lead sheet” is a music chart that is condensed so that it’s easy to read and on just a page or two so the whole band can read off the same sheet.

*I moved to L.A. sooner than I planned because people told me that the jobs would be gone if I waited.

*My first job in L.A. came because my father knew someone who produced the Daytime Emmy Awards and got me a job as a production assistant, moving chairs and sets and getting people where they needed to be.

*That got me work doing other entertainments jobs through the same company for about 3 months while I looked for music jobs.

*I was able to email and connect with a person from Berklee who lived in L.A. and eventually got me work as a copyist.

“Copyist work” has to do with the sheet music that is being played by an orchestra or player.

*I would take the master score the orchestrator was working with and I would extract the parts from the master score using a computer program called Finale.

*In Finale I would go into each instrument part and “clean it up” once it was extracted from the main score.

“Clean it up” meaning the spacing of the notes, making sure the notes make sense when you read them, cleaning up the dynamics, making sure things aren’t all over the place.

*A “copyist” is like a proof reader for a book editor.

*Having a network of like minded people who do the same kind of work as you who, if you get along with them and they trust your work ethic, then you can be recommended for jobs in the future.

*When networking, instead of offering my card to someone, it’s best if I get a person’s business card so they are the top of my mind and I can follow up with them because I may not be on the top of their mind.

*It’s better not to talk about the thing you want to network about until the other person brings it up.

*It’s all about “the hang.”

*Because of my Berklee connections I found a composer looking for an assistant. I got hired by Brian Tyler who worked on the Fast and Furious movies and Avengers: Age of Ultron.

*I didn’t study composing in college but I needed a job and was willing to learn and since Hollywood is a film scoring town, I applied for the job and I got it.

*When you’re an assistant to a composer, it’s not necessarily a job where you’re doing music the whole time.

*My job was more of an administrative job when I started. I was picking up laundry and lunch and running errands. That’s part of the job. They don’t tell you in school how to arrange the food and do hospitality, how to treat clients who are coming into the studio, etc.

*Attention to detail is important.

*Taking care of these details can prove to your boss that you can handle bigger tasks later on.

*Now, if I’m hiring a musician and they aren’t easy to hang out with it’s just not going to work.

*I got to do some orchestrating on the movies Fast Five and Skyline.

*As an orchestrator I was taking instrument parts and deciding how to split up chords that the composer created with the instrument.

*I eventually moved on and got a job at Alfred Music Publishing which is one of the main music education sheet music publishers.

*I got that job because of another connection from Berklee.

*I was the Choral Production Editor which meant I would take sheet music and proof read it for grammatical and musical errors.

*It’s another administrative job. I was helping organize the releases of choral music and helping create the covers with InDesign and editing the text.

*Through building relationships with the editors at Alfred Music Publishing and them learning what I went to school for, I got some percussion ensemble arrangements published through Alfred for Star Wars music.

*I did a Star Wars Themes Medley and Star Wars Cantina band for xylophone, marimbas, drums, bass, bells, mallets, etc.

*Then I learned about music supervision and applied to jobs and got hired as a music coordinator for a one stop shop.

* “One Stop Shop” means the company represents both “the master recording” and “the publishing” of a song. So the clearance process is very easy where I just reach out to one company who can approve both sides and it’s a relatively fast clearance process.

*I got that job at Heavy Hitters Music, not because of my musical background but from my administrative background at Alfred Music Publishing and for film composers doing copyist work and orchestrating.

*When I first started working for Heavy Hitters I was pitching music for the library to music supervisors, doing searches, guiding the company’s writers to help them know what we needed written.

*I then found a job at Activision through a referral. Now I was on the choosing side where before I was on the pitching side.

*Now I’m looking at budgets and terms, researching songs to find out where the ownership splits are.

*It’s like detective work.

*I then worked at Music and Strategy which is a company this is hired by ad agencies or specific brands as a hired music department to help with song clearance, creative ideas, negotiations, etc.

*I was working with big ad agencies creatively as well as clearance.

*Ad agency work is around the clock.

*I recently went back to Activision as a music supervisor and now I handle the music for the trailers, in game uses, internal uses, anything music related for the company.

*The music supervisor is the gate keeper to get your music in the door at a company but is not the final say. There are multiple people like directors and producers, etc. above me that have to like the music too.

*When you send an email to people like me you have to keep it short and sweet. Get to the point and tell me what you do. We are busy and don’t have time to read long emails.

*If you’re going to pitch music, you need to understand what the product is.

*What are some tips and advice for getting your foot in the door in the types of jobs you’ve had?

*Getting administrative skills down is very important to become a music coordinator. Knowing how to use Microsoft Word, Excel, knowing how to write an email and spell words correctly.

*You have to be able to do these things clearly because you’re writing to people requesting music rights, etc. so you have to be organized and have templates and spreadsheets with the status of where you are in the process.

*It comes back to networking and being a valid person that someone will vouch for you to get into these positions.

*When you’re trying to get into the music industry, you will have to do jobs that are not music related and that’s okay.

*It takes time. It’s hard work and stuff you didn’t expect to do but it all means something and can lead to something in the future

Raised by a family of magicians (seriously), Eric already had stage, TV, and radio experience by age 5. At age 11, the discovery of The Beatles and the movie “That Thing You Do” inspired him to become a drummer. 20 years later, he still gets to live the dream of working in music.

Eric wears multiple hats in the industry. He’s the Music Supervisor at Activision Blizzard, working on games such as Call of Duty, Overwatch, Spyro, and Guitar Hero. He is a published arranger, a composer, and a regularly gigging drummer playing in multiple groups that perform all around the Los Angeles area.

You can regularly see Eric playing drums for Baby Wants Candy at Upright Citizens Brigade, weddings and corporate events with Business Time Entertainment, live band karaoke with The Moon Units,, and on the Netflix comedy special, Todd Glass: Act Happy.

Episode 11: Hope Thal – Make Sure People Know You Exist


This week I am talking with my friend and co-writer Hope Thal who lives in L.A.  She is a great film composer who has worked on multiple indie projects and is now on staff at Joy Music House which offers music preparation, orchestrating, and everything else that goes into creating a great score. Hope is also currently working behind the scenes on a top secret t.v. show for Dreamworks. We met when she was a guest speaker for a course I was taking and I reached out to her about writing together for tv and film projects. Thankfully she said yes and now we get to talk about her journey that has led her to this moment.  I know you will be encouraged by her story!
Show Notes:

Sponsors: Edenbrooke Productions – We offer consulting services and are offering listeners a 1-hour introductory special. To request more info on consulting services, email Marty at contact@johnmartinkeith.com.
Talking Points:

*Make sure you’re always doing something that you like and that you’re good at when you’re trying to become a professional musician.

*It helps to be able to say I did this ten episode web series, people don’t even have to see it to already feel like “Oh because you’re doing something, I feel that if somebody hired you then there’s more hope to hire you than if I hadn’t done anything.”

*Relationships are a skill you have to develop.

*Having boldness and a tasteful manner is very important.

*It says a lot when you’re just willing to put yourself out there.

*Be persistent.

*It’s okay to keep asking when things are getting rescheduled, they’re not trying to avoid you.

*Check out Catch The Moon Music.

*Never say “no.” You’ll figure it out as you go.

“Spotting Session” – Sitting with the executive producer to watch the show and talk about the score. When is the music in and out, deciding if the temp music works or if it needs to replaced.

*My job is to take notes during the session and make the time code and make sure I’ve gotten everything they’ve talked about so that composers can just engage with the director or executive producer without having to write anything down.

*After the composers create the music, I add all the music into Logic and do a Quicktime movie for pass number one, then send it over for review, get notes and keep going back and forth until it’s where they want it.

*Occasionally I get to be the one doing the music editing.

*I do all the printing of the stems which is taking the entire episode and separating all the tracks for the mixing stage.

*I create lead sheets for the music which is writing out the melody line and chord chart from the audio.

*What I’m doing now will produce fruit later if I’m just patient and be the best that I can at everything I’m doing.

*What is some practical advice for scoring or composing or admin work?

*Get involved in the community of whatever you are doing.

*Most work has been through word of mouth, relationships, school, AWFC, Society of Composers and Lyricists.

*The work you’re doing may not pay bills now, but it will lead to opportunities in the future. Small steps.

*It takes an incredible amount of patience and trust that those are the results you’re going to get.

*Your talent is important but you have to put time and energy into making sure people know you exist.

*Patience and persistence!

*It takes time to build that career.

H.B. Thal website


Hope Bartimioli Thal (H.B. Thal) is a composer, songwriter and vocalist based out of Los Angeles. She studied classical voice at Grand Canyon University in Arizona before moving to LA to study Film Scoring at UCLA Extension. Since graduating in 2017 she has been writing on various independent projects including 2018 LA Live Festival Best Short film winner: Cat’s Outta the Bag.
She is a composer at Joy Music House, a score production company started by composer Catherine Joy which offers services including music preparation, orchestrating, and everything else that goes into creating a great score. In March, 2019 H.B. released a self titled 4 song EP on all platforms showcasing her skills as a songwriter as well as joining the administrative team of The AWFC (The Alliance for Women Film Composers), as the Director of Communications.
Hope has a passion for story telling through score and songwriting. Whether it is assisting other composers or working with filmmakers she loves to collaborate and be a part of bringing stories to life.

Episode 10: Jeremy Quarles (Part 2) – Foster Relationships and Have The Spirit To Want To Learn


In part 2 of my conversation with Jeremy Quarles, we focus on road managing different bands and artists including his current position with Grammy and Dove Award winner Steven Curtis Chapman as well as the ins and outs of running live sound for shows.

Show notes:

Sponsors: Edenbrooke Productions – We offer consulting services and are offering listeners a 1-hour introductory special. To request more info on consulting services, email Marty at contact@johnmartinkeith.com.

Talking Points:

*What steps did you take to let people know that you wanted to transition into road managing?

*I learned a lot about road managing from Francesca Battistelli’s road manager Greg Lee. I watched him road manage her while I was doing production.

*When your road managing, there’s nobody to learn from because you’re doing the job. So that time was really instrumental to me because I was able to learn how to best do it.

*Greg Lee also worked for Streamlined Event Agency who’s main task is producing tours and they put road managers out on various tours. He was able to offer me a job road managing for some tours, short runs and one offs that the company produced.

*I also contacted other road managers that I knew and told them that I was moving into road managing and just letting people know that’s the direction I was heading.

*You can’t be afraid to let people know those things and ask for those things.

*I took about a year and a half to make the transition completely from a production guy who could road manage to a road manager who could do production.

*It’s uncomfortable and it’s hard work.

*If you can do anything and be satisfied with your life, then you should probably do something else. But if you can’t, then you know the music industry is for you.

*Some artists I’ve worked with: Love and the Outcome, Brandon Heath, Sidewalk Prophets, Mandisa, Aaron Shust, Anthem Lights, Selah, Hawk Nelson.

*What does “advancing a show” mean? It’s everything you do leading up to a show. Being in constant contact with the venue. Making sure they’re going to have food for the artists and dressing rooms, green rooms and private restrooms for the band, especially in churches which are not set up to be event venues. And helping the promoter prepare for the artist coming in.

*It can also be providing the most updated stage plots and backline rider so they can be as ready as they can be for the band coming in with no surprises.

*Then as road manager, I go on the road with the artist to make sure all of those things are actually getting done.

*My goal when I’m on the road is to have nothing to do because everything is already done. It’s just managing and making sure the day happens as we have it set up. That way if something comes up, you have the capacity to handle it instead of doing things that should have already been done in advance.

*As road manager I am responsible for getting the payment check and making sure it is correct.

*I usually email the promoter the week before they are cutting checks to remind them of the amount we agreed to.

*A cash buyout is when the promoter gives money to each band and crew member so they can eat out somewhere instead of catering the event. The amount is usually around $15-20 for lunch and $25-30 for dinner per person.

*Once a tour was over and I needed more work, I would connect with artist managers and artists I knew which opened doors.

*Front of House (FOH) Engineering means running sound for the what the audience hears and you’re out with the audience at a mixing console.

*Monitor engineering means running sound for what the band hears on stage either in-ears or floor monitors and you’re working side stage from the band.

*What’s the difference in FOH and monitor engineering? For me, I can make 6 people happy easier than 6,000 people. Running monitors is mixing the levels of instruments for each band member in their ears or floor wedges. It’s about making the musician as comfortable as possible so they can play the best they can.

*For monitor engineers, simplicity is best. There is a baseline of how things sound good, but if you’re at that baseline, take it simple.

*I now work for Steven Curtis Chapman as road manager and production manager.

*I got that job after working on a Jason Gray tour and met one of the artists named Lindsay McCaul. Lindsay’s husband Mark Mattingly came to visit who worked for Creative Trust who managed SCC and he did their live events at the time. Over time we started attending Fellowship Bible Church where Lindsay is a worship leader and was able to reconnect with her and Mark. I did some road managing for Mark with other artists as well. Mark is now SCC’s manager and was looking for a dedicated road manger for SCC and Mark called me to see if I would be interested and I said yes.

*You meet all of these people along the way and God directs your paths in the way you’re supposed to go.

*Day to day tasks as road manager for Steven Curtis Chapman – Advancing shows, communicating with promoters about 4-6 weeks ahead of a show. Looking at the calendar and staying on top of travel, booking flights and making sure we get to where we need to go. Taking care of meal buyouts. Lot’s of communication with the promoters to get ready for the show.

*I’m also mixing FOH and monitors for SCC since it’s only him performing on this tour.

*I make sure the venue has all the production we need at the venue so it is a smooth day.

*When it comes to the sound system at a church, the booking agent will send out a rider that has minimum requirements and they have to sign off on it saying their system meets these requirements or they are planning on bring in an external sound company.

*Advice for getting into live audio production or road managing –

*Don’t be afraid to say no to things that aren’t going to move you forward to where you want to be.

*For audio engineering – contacting local companies if you want to do live sound. They are all over the country and do concerts and all kinds of events that need a sound system. Contact them and tell them you want to work and learn.

*Have the spirit to want to learn because you need to learn the business and you need to be the best at it so you can to be able to succeed.

*For road managing – Foster relationships and be willing to learn and put yourself out there.

*Peach and Pine Home.com – Interior design company my wife and I run. I am the project manager and director of content.

*Love Where You Live Podcast – home tip and tricks

Jeremy grew up just north of Atlanta, GA and has always had a love for music and an entrepreneurial spirit. In 2008, Jeremy moved from Atlanta to Nashville, where he attended Belmont University to study Audio Engineering and Music. Though many in the program were drawn to the studio, he found himself being drawn toward the road.

While finishing school, Jeremy began to work at a local audio company in Nashville, where he started working live events both in Nashville and abroad. Upon graduating, Jeremy worked his way up as an audio contractor working various tours and conferences and eventually started to work for artists mixing FOH and Monitors. While his passion for the music industry was strong, Jeremy’s passion for the production side of live events started to wane. This led to a time of self-discovery, in which he found a new passion – road managing.

Over a period of two years, Jeremy began to intentionally transition his focus from being an audio engineer who could road manage to being a road manager who could also mix. In addition to going on the road as a road manager, Jeremy also began advancing for artists he didn’t travel with as an “Advance Manager.” Since starting to work as a Road/Advance Manager, Jeremy has worked for many of the biggest names in Christian music, including:
Steven Curtis Chapman (current)
Third Day
Francesca Battistelli
Brandon Heath
Love & The Outcome
Sidewalk Prophets
The Afters
Christy Nockels
Meredith Andrews
Jason Gray
Aaron Shust
Anthem Lights
Hawk Nelson

Since late 2017, Jeremy has been the Road / Production Manager for Steven Curtis Chapman, which is his current position. They just completed over 100 shows on the “SCC Solo Tour.”
When Jeremy isn’t on the road, he is working as Project Manager and Director of Content at Peach and Pine Home, the interior design firm he and his wife, Chandler, own and operate. Their newest project is a podcast called “Love Where You Live,” a podcast about all-things interior design and home renovation. Golf is his favorite hobby, and his ideal afternoon includes a round of golf on a mostly sunny, 65 degree day and hanging out with his wife and close friends.

Episode 9: Jeremy Quarles (Part 1) – Learning How To Say No


My good friend Jeremy Quarles and I visited recently to discuss his work in the music industry working with a sound company as a professional live sound engineer and also as a road manager and production manager for different artists and festivals.  In part 1 of our conversation we discuss how to go about getting a job working for production companies, the pros and cons being an independent contractor, building relationships that open doors for bigger opportunities and learning how to say “no” to things that distract from your true goals.

Show Notes:

Sponsors: Edenbrooke Productions – We offer consulting services and are offering listeners a 1-hour introductory special. To request more info on consulting services, email Marty at contact@johnmartinkeith.com.

Talking Points:

*I was classically trained on piano starting at 4 years old.

*I went to Belmont University and focused in audio engineering.

*During senior year of college I gravitated toward live sound and reached out to Spectrum Sound and worked part time prepping gear and learning what the live concert industry was.

*I offered to work for free just to learn.

*I became a contract worker after a short period of time and they would use me for shows when needed.

*What did you do at a show starting out? I was at the bottom loading and unloading, doing low level audio engineer jobs like making sure the cables are connected properly and signals are getting to all the consoles, etc.

*It takes a lot of organization and forethought knowing how the whole system works which is why it’s an entry level position. Because you are having to learn how everything works and getting that general overview of how the system works before you get into specializing into one thing.

*Contract work has advantages – Flexibility to pursue other interest and jobs when work is slow. You’re not tied down to one particular company or job.

*Contract work disadvantages – You’re not getting healthcare benefits, you don’t have a minimum salary so your budgeting is up in the air when shows are inconsistent.

*You can move up the ranks quickly from loading and unloading trucks to running sound for events as long as you pick up on it because there is always a lot of work with concerts and events especially in Nashville.

*I was doing different jobs from the patch where you’re coordinating all the inputs and outputs, to system tuning where you hang the P.A. and tune it for the front of house engineers coming in whether the band was bring someone in to run sound or if it was someone from Spectrum Sound. I was a stage tech helping the mix engineer for festivals, then I moved into mixing monitors and front of house for my own festival stage.

*I was making connections along the way with the tours and the bands I was working with.

*I was on the Rock and Worship Tour with Mercy Me and Jeremy Camp and some others and when you’re on the road for a long time, you get to know people and make connections.

*You’re not doing it to make connections but you’re always in each others mind when things come up in the future.

*The music industry is a small pocket of people.

*I had a friend who was a sound engineer and road manager who asked me to fill in for a couple of shows for Christy Nockels which was great because I wanted to get away from the technical side and more into the personal side working with artists and artist management. So this was a good opportunity to give it a try and see how it went.

*That is what turned my thinking into road managing.

*In Christian music a lot of people do more than one job on the road. A very common job for one person is front of house engineer and road manager.

*My first full time gig as road manager / FOH engineer was Francesca Battistelli.

*At that artist level she needed a dedicated road manager and a dedicated production manager.

*I became production managing and running front of house taking care of everything production related.

*What is a Production Manager responsible for? Taking care of audio, lighting and video. Working with artist management to find out what they want on the tour, what kind of elements are needed. Being in charge of the lighting director, video director, audio crew.

*Also if management wants a light show for the tour, I would go to different vendors and hire them to do the design and come out on the tour.

*I started with Francesca as a production guy who could road manage and realized I wanted to be a road manager who could do production.

*That transition means turning down some work.

*It’s a scary position to be in because you have to say no to things that aren’t going to take you where you want to go in the future in order to get to where you want to go in the future because if you don’t, you won’t have time to do the things that are going to propel you forward.




Jeremy grew up just north of Atlanta, GA and has always had a love for music and an entrepreneurial spirit. In 2008, Jeremy moved from Atlanta to Nashville, where he attended Belmont University to study Audio Engineering and Music. Though many in the program were drawn to the studio, he found himself being drawn toward the road.
While finishing school, Jeremy began to work at a local audio company in Nashville, where he started working live events both in Nashville and abroad. Upon graduating, Jeremy worked his way up as an audio contractor working various tours and conferences and eventually started to work for artists mixing FOH and Monitors. While his passion for the music industry was strong, Jeremy’s passion for the production side of live events started to wane. This led to a time of self-discovery, in which he found a new passion – road managing.
Over a period of two years, Jeremy began to intentionally transition his focus from being an audio engineer who could road manage to being a road manager who could also mix. In addition to going on the road as a road manager, Jeremy also began advancing for artists he didn’t travel with as an “Advance Manager.” Since starting to work as a Road/Advance Manager, Jeremy has worked for many of the biggest names in Christian music, including:
Steven Curtis Chapman (current)
Third Day
Francesca Battistelli
Brandon Heath
Love & The Outcome
Sidewalk Prophets
The Afters
Christy Nockels
Meredith Andrews
Jason Gray
Aaron Shust
Anthem Lights
Hawk Nelson

Since late 2017, Jeremy has been the Road / Production Manager for Steven Curtis Chapman, which is his current position. They just completed over 100 shows on the “SCC Solo Tour.”
When Jeremy isn’t on the road, he is working as Project Manager and Director of Content at Peach and Pine Home, the interior design firm he and his wife, Chandler, own and operate. Their newest project is a podcast called “Love Where You Live,” a podcast about all-things interior design and home renovation. Golf is his favorite hobby, and his ideal afternoon includes a round of golf on a mostly sunny, 65 degree day and hanging out with his wife and close friends.

Episode 8: Keith Everette Smith – Go Beyond Expectations


My friend Keith Everette Smith and I sat down together recently to discuss his rise through the ranks of the music industry to create his own path to success as a producer, artist developer, session player and touring musician working with some of the biggest names in all of music.
Show Notes:
Sponsors: Edenbrooke Productions – We offer consulting services and are offering listeners a 1-hour introductory special. To request more info on consulting services, email Marty at contact@johnmartinkeith.com.

Talking Points:

*Keith plays trumpet, piano, drums, guitar and bass. He also produces music and does artist development.

*I started out learning trumpet and drums as a small child and added other instruments along the way.

*I started producing music in high school and college for friend’s bands by reading articles in magazines.

*Enthusiasm has always led what I’ve done.

*I produced an album and did some road managing for college friend Meredith Andrews who is now a well known worship artist.
*I Enjoyed the aspect Artist Development and helping build a career from the ground up.

*I was invited to be on staff as Instrumental Director at Saddleback Church in CA because of a relationship.

*I produced the boy band Anthem Lights while at Saddleback Church.

*I began artist development for Anthem Lights and got them signed to Provident Music in Nashville. That was my door in to Nashville. Plus, I had already produced other albums independently.

*I did not expect to play trumpet when moving to Nashville. I came to Nashville to be a producer.

*What does it mean to do Artist Development? Developing your gut, your ability to evaluate talent and people of good character. It’s a very gut level thing in terms of finding people to develop.

*The non-negotiable thing for me is finding people with great character.

*Fame is a really dangerous thing.

*I consider it a great responsibility to make sure I’m helping good people steward success well.

*It’s an exercise in taking something great and making it even greater by exaggerating it and making it stand out even more than it already does.

*Most people spend their artistic life trying to fit in.

*You have to figure out how to join the ranks of those you respect, then how to stand out from them.

*The way you win at artist development is exaggerate what makes them great.

*Sometimes you can take a negative thing about an artist and turn it into a positive.

*Limitations are wonderful breeding grounds for opportunity and success.

*Comparison can be very important or detrimental.

*What are day to day attributes of being an artist developer? It’s making sure the music is great, making sure the artist is on social media and streaming services, helping an artist figure out who they are and what makes them unique, who they are as a person.

*Keith’s wife Tasha Layton is an artist and vocal coach and she says “you grow as a singer as you grow as a person.”

*What do you (artist) care about? Are you believable? Is your message trustworthy. That’s why an audience will listen to you.

*I am looking for inconsistencies in the message all day long.

*There is much about artist development and producing an artist that is simply psychology.

*Labels want to know: Can I sell it? Do people want it? Can I make money off of it?

*You have to be careful with your own artistic integrity.

*I’m trying to develop the artist into something that is appealing and consistent enough to be a good investment for the record label.

*You are doing whatever it take to be able to present the artist the way they need to be presented to labels, publishers, managers, etc.

*Social Proofing – building an artists career enough to prove to the labels that they are worth signing and investing in because other people have already proven that they like this artist. So you can trust that if you decide to sign this artist, it’s worth it because the masses already like it.


*For most of us, doing multiple things in music is what let’s us make a living at it.

*You can’t be average. You have to be exceptional at 2 or 3 things and let what your average at fill in the gaps when there is time.

*My career has consisted of producing, songwriting, horn playing, arranging, vocal editing for big producers and artists.

*My horn playing and arranging is what gets me in the room with the biggest clients.

*Have something unique to bring.

*Your consistency is so important.

*Showing up everyday, being easy to work with, doing a great job, meeting people who are working on small projects and build those relationships so as they build up to bigger projects, you can be someone they call on.

*A friend I knew when I was on staff at Saddleback Church in CA worked on Disney projects and called me to work on The Jonas Brothers.

*I ran into a friend on the street in Nashville who knew I played horns and he asked if I could play horns on a project and it turned out to be Jack White.

*If people think you are trying to use them to make the next connection, they will stiff arm that and not want to work with you.

*Be eager but it let it come to you.

*You are always serving people. Go beyond their expectations. Don’t ask for anything in return.

*Don’t do anything for free. That devalues you.

*Develop a strategy of how you tell people how much you are worth.

*Get to know about the local Musicians Union and find out what the standard rates are for recording.

*Spend the money on a great vocal mic.


*A horn player I used to play with in the band Denver and Mile High Orchestra was playing for Toby’s albums and he called me to play on a song. That guy moved away and he referred Toby to call me for the next album.

*Then Toby asked me about playing other instruments and asked me to come play in the road as a utility player (multiple instruments).

*You have to run the business of your career.

*Know the realm of the business you are working in.

*Practical advice for people getting into this business:

*Ask someone you trust what you are doing wrong.

*Ask for help to make weaknesses strong.

*Not everyone’s supposed to do this the way they thought. Maybe you need to be in a different part of the industry.

*It’s not worth sacrificing your family.

*If you don’t love it, do something else. If you do love it, follow the paths that open up.

*Enjoy it!

*Keith’s social media @producerkeith1 on Instagram

*You can contact Keith at www.keitheverettesmith.com

*Toby Mac’s song Keith played on that Keith suggests: “Everything” on the Elements record.

Keith Everette Smith is a Multi-Grammy and Dove Award winning producer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and a member of TobyMac’s Diverse City Band.  If there’s one thread that comes through everything he does, it’s that he’s good at seeing potential, envisioning where to go and helping lead people there. He is an activator.
Smith is a lifelong trumpet player whose understanding of music, recording and performer development positions him as a sought after session player and arranger.   As a producer, Keith has a track record of success both within and outside of the church.  He has worked with artist like Jack White, The Jonas Brothers, TobyMac, Plumb, Dave Barnes, MercyMe, Amy Grant, Marc Broussard and many others.  He has also played on soundtracks and scores for movies and television including “The Lone Ranger”, “The Jersey Boys”, “Degrassi”, commercials for SoBe, and produced music for the 2016 People’s Choice Awards.
Keith has served on staff at churches like Fellowship Bible Church in Brentwood, TN and Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA and is formerly the network manager for Ascension Worship in Nashville.