”How did you get an audition to sing with Carrie Underwood?”
“How did you become Danny Gokey’s band leader?”
“How can I get a publishing deal?”
“How did you get Mark Bright to be your producer?”
These are questions that we’ve heard a lot. Nashville is a wonderful but interesting place. On one hand, if you’ve got a dream to work in the music business, Music City is where you need to be. On the other hand, a lot of people have that same dream, so they all move to Nashville too. This town is jam packed with extremely talented musicians and savvy people all trying to get the same job openings. It’s fierce competition for sure. So what’s our advice in overcoming this overwhelming equation? Drumroll please… IT’S ALL IN WHO YOU KNOW!
In this town, you absolutely have to be proactive in getting your name out there. The days of things happening because of dumb luck are essentially over. It takes hard work, pure & simple. However, don’t be discouraged by the sea of competition. A little known secret is that you can actually help create those “right place at the right time” moments. Obviously, you’ll need to be able to bring your “A” game when you finally get that meeting or interview. In case you’re wondering, Two Story Road didn’t just happen over night. Not by a long shot. Here’s the “story” behind our “road” and how all the dots got connected and led us to where we are today.
The first person we ever met in the music industry was Rod Essig, who is the Vice President of CAA, arguably the biggest booking & talent agency in the world. Brandon’s Dad had a co-worker who had been longtime friends with Rod and arranged for Brandon to have lunch with him once he started attending Belmont. Brandon stayed in touch with Rod over the years, filling him in from time to time on what we were up to.
During his junior year at Belmont, Brandon met ASCAP rep Mike Doyle, who saw him play at a Writer’s Showcase that Belmont was hosting. Mike took Brandon under his wing and started helping him develop his songwriting. One day Mike called us and said he had passed a CD of some of Brandon’s songs to a friend of his who lived in Nashville but had contacts in Los Angeles. Mike said we may or may not hear from her, but you never know. Two weeks later, Brandon’s CD found it’s way into the hands of the President of Sony Music Publishing Los Angeles, and they offered Brandon a co-publishing deal over the phone.
A couple of years later, Mike introduced us to one of Brandon’s long-time favorite producers, Tommy Sims (Garth Brooks, Eric Clapton, & Bruce Springsteen). At that time, Tommy was getting ready to start producing a new record for a well-known American & International Gospel artist, Jaci Velasquez. Tommy asked Brandon to help him produce a few songs on that record and by doing so, Brandon & I both got to know Jaci. After that record was finished, Jaci started putting together her band for the tour and needed a background singer. Since she would frequently come over to our home studio to work on things with Brandon, she & I became good friends. Once she knew I was interested in being her background singer, she gave me an audition. Ironically, the song I sang to get into Belmont (Jaci’s “On My Knees”) ended up being the exact same one I auditioned with to land my first job as a touring background vocalist! Since Jaci had fans worldwide, that job took me to pretty much every continent but Antarctica. It was an amazing 4 year ride to say the least. Here’s a fun throwback picture of me & Jaci after my very first show with her. 🙂
About halfway into my tour with Jaci, Brandon got a call from a friend that he went to Belmont with, that was now the road manager for Gretchen Wilson. She was getting ready to have auditions for a new piano player, and he asked Brandon if he’d like to audition. Brandon was one of ten people who auditioned, and he got the job, which lasted 2.5 years.
During my time with Jaci, I ended up meeting some of the members of two other well known Christian groups, Avalon and Point of Grace. I got a call from Avalon that one of their members was taking a maternity break, and they asked if I’d fill in for her. About six months later, I got the exact same “we need a maternity fill-in” call from Point Of Grace. I ended up filling in for that same person in Point Of Grace for three of her pregnancies!
Here’s where things get interesting. After some of my fill-in shows for Avalon & Point Of Grace, I was back on tour with Jaci, and her bass player had to miss a few shows. Jaci hired Mark Childers to fill in until our bass player could come back. After getting to know Mark a little bit, I found out he had played bass for both Avalon and Point of Grace. We quickly became good friends since we knew so many of the same people. Fast forward about 3 years later and Mark is now the band leader for Carrie Underwood. Ta-Da! My tour with Jaci ended in the fall of ’07 and about three months later, I got a call from Mark. Needless to say, Mark gave me, along with a small handful of girls, an audition and before I knew it I was Carrie’s new background singer, which lasted 5 incredible years.
Backtracking just a little bit, about a year into my tour with Jaci, I met & became friends with a Christian producer named Victor “Liquid” Oquendo. He was working a lot with Toby Mac (DC Talk) & was also friends with a lot of Jaci’s band members. Since Brandon was doing his fair share of producing, he & Victor quickly became friends. Victor was also friends with a bass player in Nashville named Ivan Santiago. In the summer of ’09, Ivan’s brother-in-law had just finished singing on American Idol, and his name was Danny Gokey. Victor recommended Ivan to call Brandon, and within a month, he was touring with Danny which lasted 3 years.
Most of the people we have around us now are a direct reflection of where we came from. We’ve been asked by several people how we were able to get Mark Bright, one of country music biggest producers, to work with us even though we’re a new act. Well, being that he was both Carrie & Danny’s producer, we became very close friends with Mark over the years. It wasn’t just luck either that Rod Essig agreed to be our booking agent at CAA. We’ve had a friendship with him that goes way back. At the end of the day, no matter what business you’re in, people like working with people that they know and have a track record with. We didn’t have to explain to anyone on our team that we would do whatever it took to make Two Story Road successful. They already saw how hard we had worked helping other artists build their dreams.
Here’s some friendly advice. You probably have this map in your head of how you think you’ll get from where you are now to where you ultimately want to be. Let’s call it, getting from A to B. Sometimes things will unfold perfectly and it’ll happen just as you always thought it would. However, more often than not, it won’t. Leave your mind open to the fact that you might have to go from A to C, C to D, and then D will bring you back to B. The important thing to remember is to not look at those extra stops as distractions or delays. If anything, all the things you do while trying to get to the finish line will make you that much more prepared when you get there. Had Brandon & I started Two Story Road right out of college, we wouldn’t have known hardly anyone. Having legitimate friendships with people that can pull weight around this town is pure gold. Know this…nine times out of ten, those “overnight” success stories you hear about ALWAYS have a back story…and now you know a brief summary of ours. We wouldn’t change one thing about the road we’ve traveled, even if we could. We’ve met & become friends with some pretty amazing people.
We think Steve Jobs said it best: “the journey is the reward.”
9/28/14 – 11:30pm
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