“How do you pick the songs?”
That’s such a great question from another Portraits of White fan. In order to answer that, you need to know about a pivotal point in my music journey in 2004, long before Portraits of White existed.
I’m sitting in Franklin, Tennessee at The Factory. It’s my first time in Nashville and I’m eager to learn. I’m here because my record producer [Keith] moved from Pennsylvania to Nashville so he could help music artists. In fact, the night before he and his family packed up the U-haul and hit the road, we finished recording my vocals. Not only did their belongings move to Nashville, I felt like my music career had just moved with them, leaving me behind. I was sure my recording days were over. After all, with the talent that swarms Nashville, why would he want to work with me ever again?
Keith had been such a blessing in my life as the producer of I Still Believe (my 3rd album). He had a passion to find more ways to help the music artists he was working with, so he relocated to Music City. Within six months of moving to Tennessee, he put together an amazing conference of speakers and resources for musicians. Now, here I am at the conference, in the front row, note pad ready. My cup is turned upward, waiting to be filled.
All kinds of speakers, producers, publicists, songwriters, coaches, etc., are there, filling us with incredible inspiration, wisdom and resources. This is the conference where I will meet my future producer Eric Copeland, as well as find a manager. It’s a pivotal point in my music journey. I can feel it. The water is stirring.
It is through these connections that I will eventually meet Ed Kee, the original conductor of Portraits of White, who will help me launch my big dream. Of course, I don’t know that yet.
But of all the amazing information I take in at the conference, the most significant life-changing moment happens when Tom Jackson, Live Music Producer, steps out on the stage.
“Your audience doesn’t come to just hear you sing or play, they come to experience moments”, he says.
He has my full attention.
“There are three reasons people go to concerts”, he continues.
- To be captured and engaged.
- To experience moments.
- To be changed.
Please tell me more, Tom.
I can’t decide whether to take notes or just sit and absorb. Everything he is saying is resonating with me like nothing else I’d ever heard. In all my years of various music lessons on multiple instruments, no one has talked about this angle of performing—at least not that I recall. I sit on the edge of my seat as Tom takes us deeper.
“Songs create moments. When you create many different moments in your night, people will come back to your merch table and ask for a song by its name or by something they remember about the song. But what they are really asking is… “Where is that song that made me cry? Where is the song that made me laugh? Where is the song that gave me chills?” In other words, “Where is the song that made me feel that way…because I want to feel that way again.” —Tom Jackson, Live Music Method
I have experienced this many times at my table after a concert. A perfect example is my song, Never By Accident. After I tell the story and play the song, inevitably someone will come up to me and ask, “Where’s the accident song?” I smile and point the way to the CD, or iTunes. It doesn’t matter that they can’t remember the exact title. They just know that they want THAT song. They felt something while they were listening and they want to take the feeling home with them.
I love hearing people’s homemade titles of my songs—it’s like they give me a gift; their own interpretation of the song.
One of the greatest compliments I’ve ever received came on a survey I sent out after Portraits of White one year. “I laughed, I cried, I sang and I left wanting more.”
My yellow brick road is paved with songs. Each song is a brick on the journey to the Emerald City. Each song creates some kind of moments. And with those moments in mind, that’s how I choose the songs. I look for different moments. I try to make sure the concert road contains all of the elements needed to pave the way for a great show. That’s my yellow brick road.
Speaking of roads…it seems appropriate to end this post with a journal entry I wrote on my trip home from the Nashville conference in 2004.
“I’m on the plane heading home after the CIA Summit (Christian Independant Artists). I don’t even know where to begin. This weekend was another “God thing.” A pivotal point in my life. When will I ever learn that when God seems to bring a season to an end, it only means that down the road something better will come along and you’ll look back at what you left behind (and though you’re thankful for what you had) you realize that letting go was the absolute best thing! Everything builds on everything else. It all counts, but if you cling to the present season and resist letting go, you’ll miss out on bigger opportunities.
Just when it felt like I got cut off from my only chance at getting out of Newville, all heaven has broken loose for me. I met SO many great people this weekend. Producers, evaluators, speakers and other artists who are doing what I do. I know I have a great problem—not how will I ever find anyone else to work with, but which great one should I pursue?
I learned so much about loving your audience, getting bookings, performing with more passion, giving more to others and finding joy and fulfillment in what I’m doing.
I can feel things stirring in my spirit. I know good things are ahead. I also know that I’ve needed tools to help me take things to the next level.” — Frances Drost, March 7, 2004 Journal