Wednesday, December 23, 2015

New Marc Andre Christmas Single!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Playing at Eddie's Run

We had a great time playing at Eddie's Run in Washington Courthouse, OH today. Thanks to Ed Hartshorn for inviting us to be a part of an awesome event!

Pictured from left to right on the stage are Eric Rice (acoustic guitar), Steve Hansen (bass), Marc Andre (vocals and keys), Andrew Simms (drums) and Eric Smith (electric guitar).

Pictured from left to right in the lower picture are Eric Rice (acoustic guitar), Andrew Simms (drums), Eddie Hartshorn Jr., Marc Andre (vocals and keys), Eric Smith (electric guitar) and Steve Hansen. (bass)

Here is more information about Eddie's Run:

"Eddie's Run is about making a way for people to come together for a great cause and have fun while helping the Special Needs! Eddie's Run is made up of 100% Volunteers and created to help Special Needs children and adults in many areas of their lives. The funds raised from this event are going to be funded to Fayette Progressive Industries Developmental Disabilities of Fayette County, Ohio. Eddie's Run is named after an autistic Special Needs child Eddie Hartshorn who is now an adult. Who did not know how to run until he was a teenager.
With help from his Dad he began to run. Eddie has gone on to win many Gold, Silver, and Bronze medals as a Special Olympics Athlete. You can learn more about Eddie on our Eddie's Story page. We invite you to come get involved because Eddie's Run Non-Profit is here to help many other Special Needs like Eddie to reach their dreams, their goals, and to never give up. To bring awareness to communities of the special needs who live among them. Proceeds from this event will raise funds to help provide uniforms, food and other assistance needed for events like Special Olympics, basketball, Prom, trips and other social activities, art supplies and classes. It will also help provide wheelchair accessible buses, fuel, food, workshop equipment and more. The Special Olympics give these amazing people, both children, and adults, self-worth and the opportunity to participate as athletes."

Learn more about Eddie's Run here:

Sunday, July 12, 2015

A God of Miracles

I am amazed and thankful as I look back over the last week. On Tuesday, we welcomed our precious daughter Hannah into the world. Crystal and I faced many fears as we anticipated the day of Hannah’s birth, especially as our son Joshua (who is now three) was taken from us in the delivery room and was rushed to Children’s Hospital where he spent eight days fighting for his life.

For those who have not heard the story, Crystal’s placenta abrupted during Joshua’s birth and Joshua was ripped from the womb as he was quickly losing blood and oxygen. He underwent two blood transfusions, had two MRIs, was strapped to a cooling blanket for eight days and was connected to an EEG to monitor for potential seizures.

I can’t forget that first day I visited Joshua alone at Children’s Hospital. I remember watching his little arms and legs shiver as he lay on the cooling blanket. The sound of his helpless, whimpering cry is forever etched in my mind. I just wanted to pick him up, hold him close and comfort him, but I wasn’t allowed to remove him from the miniature hospital table. Meanwhile, Crystal was forced to stay at St. Ann’s for forty-eight hours and wasn’t allowed to see her own son.

Over the next week, we visited Joshua every day - we knew God was in control, but we also felt completely helpless. I remember whispering to Joshua, “Keep fighting, buddy. You’re going to make it. God is going to help you through this. We love you little man.” Incredibly, Joshua was released a day before Easter of 2012 and as we celebrated the resurrection of our Savior, we thanked Him for resurrecting our son. Today, Joshua is a little miracle - healthy, quirky, energetic and beyond his years.

Reliving a Nightmare
As we look back, Joshua’s birth seems like a distant bad dream - vivid, yet surreal. However, this past Tuesday, one step into the delivery room awoke memories and emotions that we had buried for years. I’ve been married to Crystal for nearly seven years and I’ve never seen her as afraid as she was this past Tuesday. I kept telling her, “It’s not going to happen again. It rarely happens twice, and God is in control. He will not give you something you can’t handle.”

Within three and a half hours, we were holding our little girl. In fact, Hannah came into this world as Crystal was laughing. I don’t think it is a coincidence that Hannah’s name means “favor” and “grace.” Like so many times in our lives, we have once again felt God’s fatherly favor and His immeasurable grace.

There have been moments in my life when it feels like only a few things really matter - times when day-to-day seemingly pressing concerns blur into the unnoticed peripheral of importance. This week, I have watched Joshua kiss and comfort his little sister. I have watched my amazing wife care for our children. I have stopped to admire the setting sun as my son laughs while swinging at the playground. I have witnessed God’s love poured out through friends and family - visits while we were at the hospital, delicious meals brought to our home, kind words reminding us that we are being prayed for.

The New Normal: From Three to Four
Life is definitely different now. We are taking it a day at a time. Crystal is dealing with some nasty headaches (possibly spinal headaches) and nursing brings its own set of challenges. In addition, Hannah still has her nights and days mixed up, but we are hoping this will change soon. Nevertheless, we are grateful and realize that this stage is temporary.

In conclusion, I just want to thank God for His goodness and I want to thank Him for reminding me of what is most important. I have always been a doer and I don’t like sitting idle for very long. I will always have songs to finish, concerts to schedule, a new week of work to anticipate. However, these moments with my children and my wife are precious beyond comparison. I am reminded that above everything, people are what matter the most.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Baby Hannah is Here!

Baby Hannah is Here! Mom and baby are doing great. Thanks to the staff at St. Ann's for the amazing care and thanks to the Lord for a smooth delivery! Joshua is a proud big brother!

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Kitamu Coffee - June 26th, 2015

Playing at Kitamu Coffee in Hilliard, OH on June 26th with special guest, Clay!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Upcoming Show - Friday, July 26th

The band and I will be playing at Kitamu Coffee in Hilliard, OH on Friday, July 26th at 7:30pm! We'll be joined by the band, Clay.

Click here to visit Kitamu Coffee's facebook page.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Adventures in Nashville (Guitars & Strings 2015)

I can’t forget my first trip to Nashville. It was in 2003 that I first traveled down south to Music City with my friend Dave Bechtel. Dave was working on a project for Columbus musician Lara Gifford and wanted to record at a “real studio” with studio musicians and he and Lara invited me to come along and watch it all happen.

A little over a year later, I was down in Nashville again recording my first rock album, Backstage Pass. I learned very quickly the difference it makes to record music in a great room with top-notch players and engineers. I’ve since been to Nashville five times. (The picture above was taken at Darkhorse Recording on October 14th, 2003)

Why Nashville?
I’ve been asked on many occasions why I travel to Nashville to record my albums. Certainly, there are a lot of great musicians and studios in Columbus, right? Couldn’t I just record everything locally to avoid the cost of travel, food and lodging? The answer is “Yes!” There are incredible musicians and good studios in Columbus! Nevertheless, I’d still prefer to record in Nashville. Why? For one, I’ve developed a working relationship with certain engineers and players in Nashville and I can trust that they will do incredible work. Usually I can only afford to pay for one day in a studio at a time and I want to have players who can work quickly and creatively, all the while varying their tones and their playing styles for individual songs.

This past January, we recorded ten songs for the new album in about six hours at Sound Emporium in Nashville. Miles McPherson (drums), Joeie Canaday (bass), Mike Payne (guitar) and Jerry McPherson (guitar) did an amazing job following and building upon my MIDI demos. They learned and played each song in about fifteen minutes or less. Typically, another fifteen minutes was spent layering the first pass with additional guitar parts. Of course, we’d be dead in the water if it wasn’t for engineer Todd Robbins and assistant engineer Mike Stankiewicz who captured the performances.

Going Inside Nashville
A couple weeks ago, Crystal and I traveled down to Nashville for the second time this year to record strings with David Davidson and guitar overdubs with Mike Payne. This time, we decided to bring our three-year old, Joshua, with us. The plan was to make it a mini family vacation complete with a stop at Great Wolf Lodge in Cincinnati on the way home.

We left Columbus on Sunday, May 17th at around 9:45am. It was a smooth trip with little traffic and nice weather. However, we did stop every two hours so that Crystal, being pregnant, could get out and walk and Joshua, being three, could get out and run his little legs tired. Joshua actually did great riding in the car for eight hours, although he was getting a little antsy towards the end of the trip. He must have asked us, “Are we there yet?” hundreds of times. At one point, we pulled into a strip mall to look for a place to eat. There weren’t any restaurants we were interested in, so we continued driving south toward an Olive Garden. As we pulled away from the strip mall, Joshua started to get upset and yelled, “I wanted to go INSIDE Nashville!!!” Apparently, he thought Nashville was a place inside the strip mall.

After eating at Olive Garden and listening to our waiter’s lengthy speech on real estate, we headed to the house of our friends Dave and Emily Bechtel where we would spend the night. This was the first time Dave and his family had met Joshua. We all had a great time roasting marshmallows and catching up and Joshua had a blast pouring sand in the sandbox, jumping on the neighbor's trampoline and playing with Stella’s toy kitchen. With no nap all day, Joshua finally fell asleep around 11:30pm (Columbus time). The grown-ups finished the night with some tasty caramel and cookies ‘n cream ice cream and a hilarious story involving Dave and an angry football coach. (Basically, Dave made a comment about a bad play and the coach came up and confronted Dave while the game was still happening.)

The String Session
I woke up Monday morning excited and slightly nervous about the long and ambitious day of recording ahead. We scarfed down some Honey Nut Cheerios and as we walked out the door, Joshua shouted, “We’re going! Bye Dave Bechtel!” As we were driving, Joshua kept saying, “It’ll be fun to go to Daddy’s concert!”

We arrived at violinist David Davidson’s around 9:30am and were greeted by engineer Bobby Shin. (The last time we had been to David’s was in 2011 when we had recorded strings for Snapshots of the Shattered Soul.) Violinist David Angell, violist Kris Wilkinson and cellist Sari Reist arrived around 9:45. My second cousin Ryan Payne (who lives in Nashville) and a composer named Alex also joined us. There was a possibility that Columbus-based composer Rich Barrett would also show up, but we were unsure if that would happen.

We started recording at 9:55. The goal was to record strings for four and a half original songs — three and a half songs with the quartet and one song with a solo cello part. We had two hours with the full group and an extra half-hour with Sari, the cellist. All of the songs were songs which I had written for the new album, with the exception of a Christmas song that I hope to re-release later this year.

We recorded anywhere from three to four passes for each of the full-group songs — these passes will later be layered with sampled strings for a large orchestra sound. We started with an arrangement composed by Robert Nugent. As we were finishing up the last take of the first song, we heard the door squeak and up the stairs came composer Rich Barrett. He had left Columbus at 5:00am and had made it just in time to hear his arrangement being recorded.

After recording Rich’s piece, we moved onto two string arrangements I had composed — one for the Christmas song and one for the bridge of a song on the new album. At one point, my second cousin Ryan had to leave and after he walked down the squeaky stairs and out the door, David Davidson asked, “How many people are up there anyway?” Engineer Bobby joked that there were around fifty-five.

We finished recording with the quartet just before noon and spent the next half-hour tracking a solo cello part that Rich had arranged. The sessions went incredibly smoothly and the string parts sounded great. It’s crazy how big of a sound you can get with just four players!

It’s also amazing how well Joshua did sitting still during the recording session. Originally, Crystal was simply going to drop me off at David’s and head out for some errands with Joshua, but she and Joshua ended up sticking around for an hour or so because Joshua was behaving so well (and was pre-occupied playing with Ryan’s iPhone). However, they did leave for an hour or so in search of a Chick-Fil-A. Sadly, MapQuest led them to an abandoned mall and they returned without any food (According to David Davidson, the mall had been shut down for fifteen years).

A Stomach Ache and the Perfect Guitar Sound
Bobby copied all the files to my hard drive and we left David’s around 1:00pm. Determined to eat chicken, we began heading southeast toward another Chick-Fil-A in Franklin. Rich Barrett followed us. The original plan was to begin recording guitar overdubs with Mike Payne at 1:00, but we re-scheduled for 2:00 as we were running behind and Mike had a project he was wrapping up. After we went through the drive-thru, Crystal drove as I devoured a chicken sandwich and a side salad.

It was about 2:05 when we made it to Mike’s. He had just finished some overdubs for Switchfoot and Building 429. Crystal and Joshua dropped me off and headed back to Dave and Emily’s for a fun afternoon at the neighborhood pool. Rich followed them to Dave’s.

The overdubs went very smoothly. Most songs only needed an extra track or two of guitars — an added layer of distortion guitar in the choruses, a solo guitar part in a bridge, a chunky rhythm part in the verses, etc. These sounds weren’t meant to define the songs; they were simply meant to strengthen the parts that were already there. Mike used some sweet pedals and unique guitars, including a baritone guitar and a Jaguar guitar (made famous by Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain — he added larger humbuckers for a rockier sound).

Mike recorded guitar parts for twelve songs and finished in less time than I had expected. I originally had planned to record from 1:00-7:00, but we started at 2:00 and finished at 6:30. After recording, we had a few extra minutes to chat about life and Mike was able to play me a few things he had been working on. Unfortunately, my stomach was killing me the entire time I was at Mike’s — probably because I ate my lunch so fast! Otherwise, I couldn’t have asked for a better day of recording. The strings sounded remarkable and Mike’s additional guitar layers filled out the songs and added some unique touches that couldn’t be achieved at the hurried rhythm session back in January.

Seriously, Are We There Yet?
Crystal and Joshua picked me up around 7:00pm. I thought I would introduce Joshua to Mike, but our little guy had fallen asleep in the car after a long day splashing in the neighborhood pool. He opened his eyes for a minute when I opened the door of the van, but his head quickly drooped over in his car seat and he was out again.

We thought Joshua would sleep for a while, but about thirty minutes into our trip, his toy laptop fell and woke him up. Of course, he started crying so we took a break, stopped at Kroger, got gas and then went inside so he could play with the phones (his favorite thing to do at Kroger). We then continued driving and arrived at Great Wolf Lodge around 1:30am. Joshua was awake for a long time, but finally fell asleep at midnight. This was the second day he had gone without a nap.

It took a long time to get settled into our room and I think we finally fell asleep around 3:00am. Crystal took Joshua to the room and I unloaded the van. Somehow I managed to forget our room number and I had both of our phones in Crystal’s purse so I couldn’t call Crystal to find out what room we were in. To add to the confusion, I was actually on the wrong floor for a while! I was walking up and down the halls with our bags trying my key wristband on multiple doors. I finally used Crystal’s phone to call the front desk to find out our room number (not sure why I didn't think of this sooner). I was probably wandering up and down the halls for a good half hour or so (Great Wolf is a huge place). Oh, the situations I get myself into.

Water Slides, Young Waitresses and Night Terrors
Tuesday morning, we woke up around 9:45 and just made it down to the cafeteria for breakfast, which closed at 10:30. We had a fun day playing in the water and going down waterslides. Joshua even went down a couple of the big slides — one of which he ended up going down facing backward (He was crying, "Daddy!" when he got to the bottom). The other was a large inner tube ride which he and I rode on together. He really enjoyed this slide...however, my legs were killing me after carrying him up five stories of steps multiple times (He refused to walk). Meanwhile, Crystal was jealous, as she couldn’t ride the waterslides because she is pregnant. However, I promised her we’d come back soon after baby girl is born!

We skipped lunch, ate a few snacks and then had an early dinner around 4:00 at the Lodge Wood Fire Grill. The food was pricey, but tasty. Joshua had a fun time flirting with the young waitresses.

We went back out to the water slides for several hours and then went back to our room, hoping we could get Joshua to bed a little earlier than the night before. His bedroom was pretty neat. It actually looked like a log cabin — complete with bunk beds, a TV and paintings of animals on the wall.

We did get to bed a little earlier this time…maybe around 11:30. Joshua slept in his “big boy bed” the night before and had done fine. However, this night, around midnight, he started crying. I ran into his little “cabin” room to find him lying on the floor. He was having a night terror and had fallen out of the bed! We had to hold him and console him for a about a half hour before he stopped crying. We were probably driving the neighbors crazy. We put him in his Pack ‘N Play for the rest of the night, and he slept well.

Drying Off Your Shorts And Going Home
We woke up a little earlier on Wednesday, as we wanted to squeeze in as much water slide time before we had to check out. We had planned on checking out at 11:00, but decided to pay a little extra for a later 2:00pm check out.

Minus a few hiccups, we had an awesome trip and returned to Columbus on Wednesday afternoon. However, we had to stop at a production house to convert the Pro Tools sessions I recorded at Mike Payne’s to Pro Tools version 9 (we had recorded them in version 11 at Mike’s). This is something I could have done at Mike’s, but I was so distracted by my aching stomach and the excitement of the day, I forgot this simple step!

Hurry Up And Wait
Many people ask me, “So are you almost finished with the album?” My answer is, “Yes and no.” At this point, about 95% of the instruments have been recorded. I may add a few additional keyboard/synth elements to several songs, but these can be recorded at my home studio.

The next step is to record the final lead and background vocals. Again, I can record the vocals at home. However, there are many costs that lie ahead. Last time around, I rented a compressor from a friend (necessary for recording vocals), but he sold it…so I may need to buy my own. After the vocals are recorded, the album will need to be mixed and mastered. This is a huge expense — about half of the total album budget. So, the album is somewhat on hold until I get some more freelance work.

Currently, I’m taking a break from working on the album to focus on playing concerts and finding freelance work — and of course, we have a baby girl coming in mid-July! Life is definitely going to change for us! In summary, I plan to focus on recording vocals in the later summer/early fall and I hope the album can be mixed and mastered early next year… or maybe sooner if God wills.

I'm just thankful that we could once again go INSIDE Nashville.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

LoveWorks 5K in Gahanna

Playing at the LoveWorks 5K in Gahanna, OH yesterday. - with Matthew Wooten and Eric Smith.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Interview with Producer Dave Bechtel

I always enjoy learning how other creative people tick. This being said, I thought I’d start a series of interviews with some of my creative friends detailing their work and creative process.

One of my good friends, Dave Bechtel, is a music producer in Nashville, TN. He’s been working in Nashville for about ten years now and has produced nearly 150 albums. Dave and I grew up together in Columbus, OH and have known each other since kindergarten. He and his family have had a huge influence on me musically and otherwise. In particular, Dave’s dad, Bob Bechtel, was my middle school and high school band teacher. Bob reached out and encouraged me as a young musician. In addition, throughout the years, Dave and I have worked on several music projects together, and I owe much of my recording knowledge to him. I feel honored to have Dave as my first interviewee.

How did your interest in music begin?
“My interest in music began simply by being born into a family that had a great deal of involvement in music. My mother actually went into labor while playing the organ at the church Christmas Eve musical that my dad was directing. My father was the oldest of six children all of whom were school band or choir directors at some point. The whole music thing has just been an everyday part of my life as long as I can remember.”

Who has been the biggest inspiration to you musically?
“By far my biggest inspiration in music would be my dad. He had a collection of thousands of LPs and then later CDs. I was exposed to an extremely large variety of music on a daily basis in our home.”

Describe your work as a producer. What exactly do you do?
“What exactly do I do as a producer? That's the second most asked question I get asked from people when talking about work (the first being "What famous people have you worked with"?). It really varies from day to day. Some days are filled with nothing but phone calls, emails and text messages trying to juggle schedules and come up with a plan that accommodates all the various talent that is involved in making a record. Other days, I'll have my nose buried in a computer monitor preparing for a recording session or editing the recordings that we have made. Occasionally, I help an artist with their song writing. Everyday seems to present a different challenge that requires a broad skill set. The whole "jack of all trades, master of none" could certainly apply to me.”

What do you enjoy the most about producing artists?
“Probably the most rewarding aspect about working with an artist is to bring his/her vision and frankly, his/her dreams to life. There is nothing better in my work life than seeing an artist cry when playing back a recording in the control room.”

What inspires you musically?
“I really have very little appreciation for music that doesn't create an emotional impact when I'm listening to it. I absolutely cannot stand "background music." I would MUCH rather listen to the beautiful sound of silence than listen to a homogenized, uninspired noise that is designed and created to blend into the background. A song doesn't have to be "BIG" to create a meaningful emotional reaction...sometimes it's the simplicity that is the driving force behind the song.”

Describe your creative process. What are some of the key stages you go through while producing an album for an artist?
“Every project is different so there are different approaches for each project. Some projects require an extensive amount of planning and preparation to execute — songs to be selected, charts to write, orchestrations to be arranged, players to be scheduled, studios to be booked…the list goes on…and of course there are other projects where I have folks call up and say "I'm coming up to Nashville in three weeks. Get the crew together…we're going to cut six songs" and the first time I will hear the songs is when the artist shows up at the studio. Overall, I'd say that planning stage of making a record might seem like something that is very "un-creative" but, it's with the structure and parameters that are installed that make the creative process really flourish. Boundaries are actually are very good thing in the creative world as it allows an artist to focus their energies on a vision and task and then execute it. That's one of the main things that I try to help with.”

What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned working as a producer?
“I think the biggest lesson I've learned in working with artists is learning how to listen to them. It's critical that I work on achieving their vision for the project and not mine. If there are creative choices I'm making that don't fit into what the artist has in mind, I need to step back and be able to put my pride aside and work harder to capture the artist’s vision or gently explain why some of the choices I am making could perhaps be in the best interest of the artist and their project.”

What are some of the challenges you've faced as a producer?

In your opinion, what is the difference between a good album and a great album?
“I really think it comes down to the songs. A great song can overcome a poor recording or an uninspiring mix.”

What do you think makes an album over-produced?
“I don’t think there is such a thing as an "over-produced" project. However, I believe that an album can be poorly produced and sometimes, such a project can be mislabeled as an “over-produced” album. A song isn’t necessarily “over produced” if there are a lot of elements in the mix. However, a song is poorly produced if layers and layers of sounds are stacked on top of each other simply because a person cannot make a decision about which elements are critical to the song.”

What projects are you currently working on?
“By the time this interview is read, I'm sure I'll have a completely different set of projects I'll be working on but right now...I just finished up a Country pop EP, am mixing a Christian pop rock album and will be finishing the mixes on a traditional Irish folk album and I have lots of preparations to be made for a large scale Christmas project.”

How does your faith impact what you do as producer?
“My faith is or at least should be intertwined with everything that I do. There are times when I work with artists that have opposing world views and different moral standards and it's not really my place to tell them how I think they are wrong about any given hot topic issue but rather to be salt and light and let the love of Christ shine through. There can be a lot of shady folks in the music business and I'm grateful for parents and mentors that drilled into me the importance of living out my faith and standing by my convictions.”

To learn more about Dave Bechtel and his work, visit his web site at

Monday, April 13, 2015

Lessons I’ve Learned as a Server

It’s always interesting to me how others respond when I tell them I work as a server. I am often met with a concerned look and the question, “Is that going ok for you?” Sometimes well-meaning people will begin mentioning other jobs I could be doing as if to assume I want to run away from serving as quick as possible. A couple times, new acquaintances have asked, “Oh, so you’re one of those starving artists?” In the eyes of some folks, serving jobs are mostly reserved for kids trying to get through college or for people who couldn’t make it or never had the motivation to make it in the career world.

Who Would Have Thought
Serving is relatively new to me. I began working as a server for the first time at a New Mexican restaurant about a year and a half ago. It was amazing how I even found the job. At the time, I was working as a production assistant at a television station. I was waking up five days a week at 2:45 am and was making very little money for a whole lot of work. At one point, I mentioned on Facebook that I was looking for a better job. I didn’t think my post would yield any results, and in fact, I regretted that I expressed my job dissatisfaction so publicly (Facebook is for baby pictures and happy thoughts, right?). Surprisingly, a few days later, we were eating at Chick-Fil-A and ran into a friend’s wife who said her husband was hiring at his restaurant. To make a long story short, I left the television job about ten months later after multiple frustrations and roadblocks and began a new career as a server at my friend's restaurant.

My friend and new boss at the restaurant gave me a chance to do something I had no experience in. Anyone who has left the career world knows how difficult it is to get a job where you are over-qualified. It’s ironic that a college grad will probably find it next to impossible to get a job at McDonald’s.

Working at the restaurant has been a good thing for me. My boss and co-workers are great. In fact, on many levels, this is probably the best job I have ever had and unless God changes my course, I plan to stick with the job for a while and for a variety of reasons. For one, I need to build a steady employment record. Last year, Crystal and I applied for a mortgage loan and discovered that my income won’t count until I’ve worked as a server for two years. So, I’m locked in for that reason. In addition, I really don’t know what else I could do at this point in Columbus, OH. I am qualified to work as an audio technician in a production house, but full-time jobs in that field are about as rare as an albino squirrel. As a side note, I did once work as a worship pastor at a church, but discovered that a passion for music doesn’t always equate to a passion for church music ministry. Some folks are made for that sort of thing. I totally want to serve in a church, but the thought of leading a worship ministry actually drains my fuel tank.

Welcome to the Serving Industry
I’ve learned a lot working as a server. For one, serving is hard work. There are days when I am on my feet 10-12 hours straight. In fact, I’ve lost 10 lbs. or more since I started working at the restaurant. I had to buy new jeans because my old ones were falling off. No joke.

I’ve also been happy to learn that servers can make really good money. I’m actually making almost twice as much as I was making as a television production assistant and I am working the same number of hours. Most people are surprised when I tell them that some of the rookie reporters I was working with were literally on food stamps.

Working as a server has challenged me to keep my cool when I want to fly off the handle. Things can get pretty intense when you are working in a tiny space with 7-8 other servers who are all trying to make money just like you. Sometimes, you may get a smaller section (less tables) than another server. Sometimes, another server will get to go home earlier than you, and for some reason, you’re the one stuck deck brushing the floor at 11:30pm. Sometimes, you will hate sports because of what they do to the restaurant business. Sometimes, you will get a bad tip. Sometimes, you will have a night of bad tips…or a week.

Tips for Tippers
Wow, I could talk for a while about bad tippers. It’s easy to stereotype certain types of people, and for good reason. Even though I am a Christian, I cringe when I see a group of people praying before a meal or when I see someone wearing a cross around his/her neck. He/she may say kind things and speak Christianese, but in the back of my mind, I’m wondering what I’m going to find when I open that black server book buried underneath a pile of napkins, crayons, salsa bowls, and queso drizzle. Will I be tipped the outstanding 20%, the moderate 15%, the disappointing 10% or the insulting round-up-to-the-nearest-dollar-above-the-total or here’s-the-change-I-had-in-my-pocket tip?

Last week, I had a table of six foreign young adults who cumulatively tipped me about $1.50 on a $60 bill. They all shared 4-5 entries and then evenly split the bill between themselves. Each person ended up with a bill of about $9.86. One person rewarded me with $1.00. Another person didn’t give me anything. The other four gave me .14 each, and one girl actually added a smiley face next to her signature to let me know that they enjoyed my service.

I have to be honest — it’s tough to have a good attitude when people are that rude. I am a Christian. I’m supposed to serve people out of the goodness of my heart, right? I just have to keep remembering that I have a chance to be Christ to everyone I meet every day even when people don’t treat me fairly.

I’ve also discovered that stereotypes aren’t always true. One day, I served food to two middle-school boys who must have gone out for lunch with their parents’ credit card. I wasn’t even expecting a tip, but they actually tipped me 20%! I’ve stereotyped older people and certain nationalities…but I’ve been proved wrong again and again. It’s a good lesson to never say “always.” People aren’t always who you think they are. On the flip side, when people are insensitive, it’s good to remember that God loves them, and we should too.

Like my job at the restaurant, I’m thankful for opportunities that stretch me. I’m grateful that seemingly mundane things can be life altering, and I’m amazed how God can use the most ordinary experiences to bring us closer to Him. I’m not sure if I’ll work as a server for the rest of my life, but I pray that I’ll continue to learn what it means to be a servant as long as I have breath to serve.

Using the Salt in the Shaker
In conclusion, I would say be thoughtful of servers. Most servers make $4.00 an hour and your tip may be what is paying for their rent or their babies’ diapers. Especially, as Christians, we need to remember that we have a bad reputation when it comes to tipping. Saying thanks with your mouth and giving a 10% or 15% tip doesn’t look good to a server who is used to getting 20%. I’ve heard of Christian customers asking servers how they can be prayed for, praying for them, and then backing it up with a good tip. You never know how you may change someone’s day or life course.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Baby Sister and the Next Trip to Nashville

I thought I’d take a moment and fill you in on our latest news.

To begin, as some of you may already know, we are expecting a baby girl in July! Joshua, who is turning three this next week, is excited about having a baby sister. It will be fun to see the two interact. From time to time, he will put his head up to mommy’s tummy to say, “I love you baby sister.” Precious.

Family Developments
Joshua is a little genius and a tech geek. He knows his alphabet already and can spell and type his name and our names in addition to a handful of other names and words. He can tell you about Facebook, Twitter and “Hafoo” (Yahoo) and even knows short cuts on our Mac (command-Q for quit, command-O for open, etc.) He enjoys looking at books, playing the piano, dancing and he loves to jump (he jumps on his trampoline as well as every bed in the house). Right now, his favorite song is “I’ve got a river of life.” His imagination continues to develop. He often talks to his animals for an hour after we put him to bed. We are so thankful that he is a healthy little boy.

Short of some back pain, Crystal is doing well with her pregnancy. Given her age and placental abruption with Joshua’s birth, the doctors are taking extra precautions this time around. We have already had two level-two ultrasounds, and to date, baby girl seems to be healthy and active. Crystal will be 25 weeks this coming Monday. (Pictured is a 3D ultrasound from several weeks ago)

Crystal continues to work two days a week and I work about 35 hours a week at a restaurant as a server and do freelance audio/music work when it comes around. I recently completed music for a new PC game and also filled in as an audio technician for a week at a local production house.

Baby Steps
In music news, we are planning a second trip to Nashville in May to record strings and guitar overdubs. This time, Joshua will be coming with us and we will stop at a water park in Cincinnati on the way back to Columbus. This will probably be our last mini-vacation before baby arrives.

The new album, Right Where You Want Me, continues to take shape. The most difficult task right now is to wait. For the most part, I’ve done everything I can do until our trip to Nashville in May, except for a little bit of editing. I’m anxious to hear the live strings and the added layers of guitars. We will be recording strings at David Davidson’s home studio and will be recording guitar overdubs at Mike Payne’s home studio (both David and Mike played on my last project). We’ll be recording strings for two songs and for the bridge of a third song. Robert Nugent and Rich Barrett each arranged strings for one song.

After this next trip to Nashville, I will start recording vocals at my home studio. However, I’m not sure if I’ll be able to capture all the vocals before baby is here. If not, it may be a challenge to record with a toddler and an infant at home, but where there’s a will, there’s a way!

The album will then need to be mixed and mastered. This stage is rather expensive, but fortunately, it requires the least amount of work from me. I usually put all creative efforts aside at this point and focus on making extra money (through freelance work and extra hours at my day job).

I really believe that this new album will be a blessing to many people and I’m amazed to see how God continues to provide for its production. I’d appreciate your prayers as we continue to step forward in faith. Please pray that God will give strength to Crystal as she walks beside me and inspiration to me as I continue to refine the songs. In addition, pray that God will provide extra freelance work for me. As with any Christian effort, there is an underlying spiritual battle, as the enemy doesn’t want to see Jesus’ name proclaimed.

We are excited to see what the rest of this year holds! Thank you for your continued support and encouragement.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Tracking at Sound Emporium 1/25

I couldn’t be more pleased with our recording session at Sound Emporium in Nashville this past Monday! We tracked drums, bass and two electric guitars for 10 songs during two sessions (10-1 and 2-5) and spent another three hours recording acoustic guitar overdubs for seven songs and acoustic and electric guitar overdubs for an eleventh song.

I want to send out a huge thanks to engineer Todd Robbins and assistant engineer Mike Stankiewicz and to all the studio players — Jerry McPherson (electric guitar), Mike Payne (electric and acoustic guitar), Joeie Canaday (bass) and Miles McPherson (drums).

Crystal and I left Columbus on Sunday morning and arrived in Nashville around six pm. Our son Joshua stayed at home with his Nana and Papa (Crystal’s parents). We wanted to take him with us, but the trip seemed like an intense three days for a high-energy two and half year old.

After checking into our hotel, Crystal and I headed 20 minutes south to the home of our good friends Dave and Emily. We had a wonderful pot roast dinner and met one of Dave’s clients, Marco, a guitarist from Italy. Dave also gave us a tour of his home studio that he has been working on for some time. I was quite impressed — the studio looked both comfortable and professional!

We headed back to the Hampton Inn hoping for a good night of rest. Unfortunately, I woke up at three am and couldn’t go back to sleep. Crystal didn’t sleep well either. I felt like a kid on Christmas Eve waiting to see what was under the tree.

Let the Recording Begin
We arrived at Sound Emporium around 8:00 am on Monday morning. Engineer Todd Robbins and assistant engineer Mike Stankiewicz were already at the studio preparing for the session.
They were adjusting the drum set when I walked in. It was cool to finally meet Todd in person (he mixed my previous project and will be mixing this one as well). What an entertaining guy! He kept us laughing all day with his stories. I especially enjoyed his story about a random lady who walked into a session at Sound Emporium to ask Todd how to get her click track working again in Pro Tools. He told her the key command and she turned around and walked out the door with a quick, “Thanks, bye!” She even came back later to thank him. As he put it, “…only in Nashville.”

The gear at Sound Emporium was impressive. Studio B was recently equipped with a 48-channel API console and the wall of high-end compressors and EQ’s made my mouth water. The majority of the mics and instruments had been set up. A cartage company had dropped off Miles McPherson’s drums and Jerry McPherson’s guitar rig the night before.

The plan was to begin tracking at 10am. Unfortunately, we got started a little late (around 10:30), but still managed to get through five songs in the first three-hour session. We then all walked over to the famous Martin’s BBQ next door for a quick lunch. I had been told I should try the Redneck Taco, but I stuck with a conservative pulled pork sandwich. Crystal went for the half rack of ribs. Good stuff! We headed back to the studio at 2:00 for the second session.

I was a little nervous as we had six songs to track in three hours. I had set an ambitious goal of tracking 11 songs in six hours (the players were accustomed to spending a day in the studio recording one-two songs). Amazingly, the guys flew through the last five songs. However, time did not allow for us to record the eleventh song.

Around 5:10, a group of young guys from Jerry and Mile’s cartage companies came running in the door to pack up the drums and guitar rig as both Jerry and Miles had a 6:00 pm session at another studio. With a quick handshake, Jerry, Miles and Joeie were out the door.

Guitar Overdubs
After everyone had cleared out, Todd and assistant engineer Mike began setting up mics to record acoustic guitar with Mike Payne. From 5:20 until 7:30, Mike cranked through the rhythm acoustic guitar parts for six songs. We recorded two tracks of acoustic guitar for each song. I also tracked B3 for one tune while Mike was playing acoustic.

I was a little bummed that we were unable to record the eleventh song. However, Mike spent a half hour or so adding acoustic and electric guitar to my programmed drums and keyboards and the song ended up sounding great as is!

Mike Stankiewicz (assistant engineer) copied all the Pro Tools sessions to my drive and we finally left the studio around 9pm. It was a thirteen-hour day and we were ready to get some shut-eye.

No Place Like Home
We hit the road for Columbus on Tuesday morning around 10am Nashville time and kept talking about how excited we were to get home to see Joshua. This was the first time we had been away from him for more than a day. Tuesday morning, his Nana (Crystal’s mom) told him he would get to see mommy and daddy around dinnertime, after he took a nap. He quickly replied, “Let’s have dinner now!” Smart kid.

We arrived in Columbus around 5pm Tuesday evening and we were greeted by the warm hug of a little boy who said, “I missed you!” God definitely went before us on this trip and we are so happy for smooth travels and an amazing recording session.

Now begins the editing stage. The next step is to record live strings and vocals in the coming months.