Wednesday, March 31, 2010

TVD's Record Store Day 2010 Label Showcase | Ardent Records, Music, and Studios | Joy Whitlock

Joy Whitlock was initially discovered by Todd Agnew, when he stumbled upon her cover band at a local Memphis venue. Surprisingly impressed with her captivating vocals and even more inspired by her testimony, Todd pitched Joy to the label and in 2005 Ardent released an EP titled 'The Fake EP.' In 2008 she released her first nationally distributed LP, 'God and a Girl.' Reminiscent of singer songwriters Jennifer Knapp, KT Tunstall, Lucinda Williams, both albums weave candid lyrics and compelling vocals showcasing her authentic spiritual journey and communicating hope within struggle and faith despite fear.

Always a fan of music, Joy professes that her first Sarah McLachlan concert as a teen is what truly ignited her passion for music and songwriting. Here she shares five albums that were influential in shaping her musical career.

1. Sarah McLachlan – 'Possession'
As an adolescent and pre-teen, I was into R&B and rap music. Looking back now, it surprises even me. Around the age of 17, I was taken to a Lilith Fair concert and was introduced to the music of Sarah McLachlan. My life now is a direct result of that night; the very next day I owned my first guitar. Her album “Possession” ripped my heart out. I had never heard lyrics so real and articulate. It changed the course of my life.

2. Garrison Starr - 'Eighteen Over Me'
This was my first introduction to “acoustic driven” music. Again, it blew my mind. It was raw and full of emotion that was completely identifiable to me. This album helped shape the way I began to write.

3. Foo Fighters - 'The Colour and the Shape'
This album was amazing then and is amazing now. It is in my opinion, their best album after all these years. My writing style, in no way, resembles theirs, but if I could write a rock album, I would reference the Foo Fighters and only the Foo Fighters. This album is pure rock 'n' roll.

4. Jennifer Knapp - 'The Collection'
I became a Christian in 2004 and was no fool to the stigma placed on Christian music. I was already confused about what form my songs would take. I knew that my passion was completely God and completely music, but I was disheartened by the “manufactured” sound that often came across on Christian radio. So I was not prepared for what I found when I walked into a Christian bookstore looking for CDs to buy. I simply began walking through the aisles picking up CDs that looked interesting. I stumbled upon one with an album cover of a girl and a guitar. Sold! And when I heard her music…. I was home. Nobody was writing like this girl. And still, nobody is.

5. Brandi Carlile - 'Give Up the Ghost'
This chick is a class act. Sometimes you don’t have the complete picture with musicians until you see them live. There have been a couple of artists that I have enjoyed until I went to their show. They were either too withdrawn and wanted nothing to do with the audience or they were completely obnoxious. This young lady is the real deal. She is intelligent, humorous, has a great personality, and is truly engaging. All of her albums are winners, but this one is my favorite.

Joy Whitlock - Faith Don't Fail Me Now (Mp3)

TVD's Record Store Day 2010 Label Showcase | Ardent Records, Music, and Studios | John Hampton Remembers Alex Chilton

When I hung the phone up, I had just finished going through my iPhoto pictures, trying vainly to categorize them for the thirty seventh time. I kept coming across one in particular that fit into 9 of my categories and I had to get it down to 1. It could be “Ardent Folk”, “Music Folk”, “Family”, “Bizarre”, “Bigger that Life”, “Clients”… it was a picture of Alex with my first wife, before I had met either. Hmmmmm. When my phone rang, I answered it with my “EEEYELLOW.” Adam, my assistant, was telling me that Alex Chilton had just died. That was followed by that eerie silence. First I thought “he can’t be dead. I just saw him.” I guess it’s a weird form of shock. Adam was saying something about Fry – John Fry, our founder. Since I was going right by his house on my way home, I thought I would just drop by and check on him. His wife was at home, but then again, she wasn’t around in the day.

I first met Alex at Shoe Studios in Memphis when he was producing another friend, Tommy Hoehn. And Jon Tiven was there as pseudo executive producer. Tommy and Alex had written a song called “She Might Look My Way” which someone said had missed the cut for Big Star’s Radio City record.

The drums weren’t quite the “vibe” and they needed a drummer. I got the gig. At Shoe, you couldn’t see into the control room. The usual glass ONLY through the headphones. Being the first time for me to ever play in ANY studio, it was … disconcerting at best. So I played as directed and the record was eventually released on Henry Loeb’s “Power Play” records which had also released the Scruffs first single. WOW! I had just played on my first record ever and Alex, the Big Star, had produced it. I was hot stuff, right? Well,considering I was just out of high school and already headed toward my goal-working in a recording studio. I was a happy dude. It was 1974.

March 17, 2010. As I headed down John’s street, I first looked the 1/4 mile to the garage to see if he had company. He did, but I drove up anyway. I called him from his driveway and when he answered, I asked him if everything was cool in there. He replied he was in the “shock bubble”, but assured me he was fine (for now). John had worked extensively on both of the Big Star records and had become very close with Alex, Chris Bell, Andy Hummell and Jody Stephens. They were his friends as well as his label’s pride.

#1 record and Radio City were two of the most influential records ever made. But with distribution problems surrounding Stax… well, Big Star’s sales just never happened. I had heard rumors of Big Star’s records ending up in the soul music section of record stores, which I guess made sense in a weird sort of way. If the rumor is true, it would explain why such an influential band had such dismal sales. When you want to buy a rock record, you go to the rock section and if the record isn’t there, you usually buy something else instead of asking “Where are your Big Star records?” I tend to believe the story given the track record Stax had at the time.

Cut to 1977. A guy named Miles Copeland (as in IRS Records, as in Stewart as in The Police) had called to book time for a band he wanted Alex to produce called “The Cramps.” Alex asked if I could engineer the record. Since all I knew at the time was how to align a tape machine and repair faders, I was the perfect choice! Right?

We had a ball doing that record. Lux Interior was always in character, Brian threw a cinder block at a pile of stuff we had built from folding chairs, flourescent tube lights, a couple of cymbals … and we recorded the subsequent chaos. Lux sang “Human Fly” and “Sunglasses After Dark”. It was NYU performance art becoming a validated rock music scene. Alex basically taught me how to make a rock-a-billy record, and we superimposed that methodology on the Cramps. NOW Alex had been there when I engineered my first record.

As luck would have it, I had inadvertently caused some distortion on the Cramps record. And Alex wanted remuneration for it. So Ardent gave him a week to fix the problem, which he used to record his record “Feudalist Tarts” (a cute little trick he had learned from his producer, Jim Dickinson) But wait! That’s cheating! No, I guess in Alex’s eyes, it was legit. I mean, Dickinson did it, so why can’t Alex? Jim always avowed that ‘you can’t have music without some element of crime.’

After that, I hadn’t seen Alex until it was time for him to produce a record on Tav Falco, who had just returned from Belgium where he was learning to Tango. That record, “Behind the Magnolia Curtain” was yet another cult fave, and Alex was now an underground super-star.

1968. Alex Chilton came out of the chute at 16 and within a couple of years had made a plane-load of money having his voice heard around the world. When the “Tops” were opening for the Beach Boys on tour, he stayed in drummer Dennis Wilson’s guest house with none other than Chuckie Manson! (Dennis had thought Charles was harmless enough, so Alex figures what the heck?)

After his ginormous success as the vocalist for the Box-Tops, as in The Letter, Soul Deep, Neon Rainbow, Cry Like a Baby, … a rock-pile of smash hits … he met Icewater’s Jody Stephens and Chris Bell (more on Chris soon) and rocket scientist Andy Hummell. Alex and Chris were fairly confident they could make a PowerPop band ala Raspberries, Byrds, Badfinger; PowerPop was music largely influenced by ’60s British Music: Todd Rundgren’s “Runt” LP, Raspberries single “Go All the Way”, Badfinger’s “Baby Blue” and “No Matter What” (a song Paul wrote for the Beatles), Dwight Twilley, Matthew Sweet … that was PowerPop. It’s a long list. And Alex was standing right in the middle of it’s birth. Had it not been for the demise of their distributor, Stax, I’m convinced they would have been the hottest thing since sunburn. “Back of a Car”, “September Gurls”, “Thirteen” … come on. Tell me that isn’t some of the best music you’ve ever heard.

Though Alex could be cantankerous, i.e. kicking his Fender Twin at the famed and packed Antenna Club or slapping my hand away from the e.q. on a mix, I’m convinced that was the inveterate showman he was. Because he really was a great dude. I told him my birthday once around 1976. One day in 1997 at Ardent, he walked up to join me and a friend at 7 card stud, and out of nowhere, he looked up at me , kind of gazing through me, and said “November …(pause) … seventeenth.” Uncanny.

1986. When we started the Replacements “Pleased to Meet Me”, I was listening to their demos-soon-to-be-masters they had recorded the week before, and I thought to myself, “Paul sure sounds like Alex.” Again in 1988, as we heard Tommy Keene’s demos for “Based on Happy Times,” I thought to myself, “Tommy sure sounds like Alex.” Influenced.

Alex made an indelible mark on music. A big one. Anyone who is highly influenced by this art form, call me. I love recording PowerPop. Just ask Gin Blossoms.

R I P Alex. We love you. God loves you. We’ll miss you.

TVD's Record Store Day 2010 Label Showcase | Ardent Records, Music, and Studios | Jeremy Horn Interviews John Hampton

I recently sat down with the legendary and always entertaining producer extraordinaire John Hampton. Hamp is best know for his work with artists like Gin Blossoms, The White Stripes and The Raconteurs; but he’s also been a long time producer and engineer for many Christian label projects as a producer in residence for Ardent Records/Studios. Join us in our conversation as we run the gambit of our A.D.D. minds and talk a little about all things Ardent Records past, present, and future.

Horn Interviews Hampton | The TVD Podcast [105Mg] (Mp3)

Jeremy Horn | Jeremy Horn is an interesting guy.

He grew up in Memphis—“Home of the Blues” and the “Birthplace of Rock-n-Roll”—but his music sounds more like the Beatles than B.B. King or Elvis.

He writes songs for the church and songs for the radio—yet his songs are often deeper and more complex than either has traditionally allowed.

He lives in a city that is known as much for its racial unrest and inner-city violence as it is the place Elvis called home—yet leads worship at one of the largest multicultural churches in the South, where half the congregation is African-American.

Jeremy Horn is an enigma. But when you meet him, he looks and sounds just like the guy next door—if the guy next door has a traditional southern drawl.

“The best way for me to describe Memphis,” laughs Horn, “is that it's a small town with one million people. I can't go anywhere without seeing someone I know. It's not the cleanest city and it's seen some tough times. But at the same time, there are real people here. There’s a lot of musicians here who are just interested in making music, not being famous.”

Making music is what has preoccupied Horn ever since he was given his first guitar at the age of fifteen. Growing up on the sounds of Tom Petty and The Beatles, Horn spent most of his early years emulating the sounds and songwriting styles of the popular culture. It took him a few years and one wise, older friend to realize there was more to being a songwriter than just sounding like one.

“I thought he was taking me to lunch to talk about getting a record deal,” laughed Horn. “Instead, he wanted to help me meet Jesus.”

“I used to write songs about social injustices in the world. My friend said, ‘Hey man, why don't you try to give people some hope? You have this talent and this skill, but what are you going to do with it? Are you going to try to find something to say, or just write what everybody else is writing?’”

Jeremy Horn is a new artist on Ardent Records. His new album “We Welcome You In” comes out this week. Check out a song from it here, then download the entire album for FREE here.

Jeremy Horn - Now Is the Time [Live] (Mp3)