Grace Notes
By Chris Crain

Mark Schultz and Big Daddy Weave are coming to Okolona Christian Church on November 7.

"I feel I know what I'm supposed to do in life - write songs, perform and communicate," says Schultz, who in just six years has become one of the industry's most popular songwriters, penning such "He's My Son," "Remember Me" and "Letters from War," which was selected as the centerpiece of the U.S. Army's 2004 "Be Safe - Make It Home" campaign. Schultz' hit, "Back in His Arms Again" was named BMI's Christian Song of the Year in 2003. His new CD, which released on September 26th, is titled Broken and Beautiful and finds Schultz forging a new creative partnership with producer Mark Bright, well known for his work with Carrie Underwood, Rascal Flatts, Sara Evans and other major country artists.

"We had kind of a dream meeting before we started the record," he says of the search for a new producer.

"I've done a lot of story songs clear back when I was a youth director at Nashville's First Presbyterian Church. I realized how powerful stories were, so I've been doing stories on my records and Mark Bright deals with stories all the time. So we thought that would be a great idea."

Music publishing veteran Jody Williams, a friend of Schultz from church, gave Bright some CDs and he was immediately impressed. "We got a call from Mark one day and he said, 'I just can't stop listening to these CDs.' I went to meet with him one day and I thought it would be like a ten-minute meeting and we met for two-and-a-half hours," says Schultz. "He's a strong Christian guy and just wanted to know about the Christian music industry and my songs. He said, 'What ever you want me to do, I'll do.' He's so giving and so humble and such a great guy. I really had an unbelievable experience. I was honored that he would do some of my songs."

Schultz also worked for the first time with producer Shaun Shankel. "It was neat because Shaun and I have been neighbors for three years and we never worked together," says Schultz. "One day we said 'We ought to do something together because I'd just have to get up in the morning and walk across the grass and grab a cup of coffee and do vocals and walk back home.' It turned out to be a great thing. He's a wonderful young producer. He's certainly different than Mark Bright in style because he's a pop guy, but it was just so fun. This is kind of a dream album for me to be able to work with Mark Bright and Shaun as well - two great producers."

Schultz credits Bright with pairing him with a microphone that made working in the studio a new experience. "I stepped behind the microphone and I just felt so comfortable. It just felt like a little bit like singing in the shower," says Schultz. "Ever since I started recording songs, the studio has been the hardest part for me. I love writing songs and love to perform them live. Recording songs in the studio is my least favorite part because I just have to sing them over and over and over again. But for some reason, he matched the right microphone up to my voice and as soon as I got behind the microphone, my voice just flew out of there. On previous albums, it would sometimes take me two or three days to just do one vocal for one song and I was walking out of there in two hours with a vocal finished. It was so fun."

I remember Schultz's first single, "I Am The Way," went #1 on Christian radio. It's been pretty non-stop for him since then.

"Sometimes I'm really blown away that it's 2006. My first record didn't come out 'til 2000," he says. "To have seven No. 1 radio singles, it's been a cool thing. It's been fun. When I walk out at a concert, I talk before I sing because I want to establish a strong connection with the audience. They feel that connection. I've had people say they felt like I was in their living room, playing songs and telling them stories."

Married in 2005 and having recently moved from Nashville to North Carolina, there's a lot bubbling up in his life to provide plenty of substance for his creative mill. He remains appreciative yet somewhat surprised at his platform.

"I always joke that I'm not that great of a singer, songwriter and piano player," he says. "But my prayer is that combining these elements will reveal my heart to people."

Openers Big Daddy Weave is touring in support of their new CD, Every Time I Breathe, which was also released on the 26th.

At press time, tickets were still available at the church and at itickets.com. For more information, call 962-6500.

At press time, tickets were still available for the Chris Tomlin concert coming up on the 12th at the Palace. You can get them at all Ticketmaster outlets.

Even though it's not a "music" event, he is beloved by musicians everywhere so I have to share this one: one of my favorite authors, Donald Miller, will be speaking at "The Vine" service at Southeast Christian Church on the 15th. The author of the wildly popular "Blue Like Jazz" and several other books, Miller will be also having a special question and answer session afterwards in the church's "Café 920."

If you've never read Miller, or maybe never even heard of him, more information is available at donaldmiller.com. He's a guy you could expect to see at a coffeehouse in the highlands as much or more than at a "megachurch." I've got to give big kudos to the folks at Southeast for bringing him in. I'll be there on the 15th-I encourage you make it if you can. It will probably be great!

A couple of months ago, I told you that it looked like The David Crowder Band was coming to town in November. Now it looks like it won't be happening. I'll keep up you updated if anything changes on that front.

At press time, tickets were still available for the Mercy Me, Audio Adrenaline and Phil Wickham show on November 3, at the Palace. You can get tickets through Ticketmaster. A reminder that if you're an Audio A fan, this will be the band's last Louisville concert appearance, as they are calling it quits later this year.