Here's my inaugural column in my new quasi-regular role as a writer for The Tennessean's TuneInMusicCity.com:
You try writing about yourself some time.
Oh, wait...many of you already do. It's amazing to think about how many people would never think of keeping a journal or a diary, but have jumped on the blogging bandwagon. But along with that has come a sort of devaluation of the written word, and a definite criticism of the process of traditional criticism.
In other words, why am I here? Because I've been here before. If you've read about music in this town over the past decade and a half, you've probably run across my byline at least once. (If you've enjoyed what you've read, fantastic. If you remember anything about what you've read, then I've done my job.)
I've contributed to The Tennessean on and off for more than 10 years, I was involved in the launch of Citysearch.com's Nashville office as the music editor. I worked for Gaylord Entertainment's short-lived foray back into country music web content in the late part of the last decade, and I've been a contributor to All The Rage since day one.
(Remember when it was just called "The Rage" and it fit in your back pocket or purse? These days, some editions you can roll it up and fend off a pack of crazed pumas.)
But maybe more precisely, why am I here? On the Christian music channel of TuneInMusicCity.com?
I've been asking myself that same question since Nicole Keiper and I met a couple weeks ago to talk about my joining the team. I mean, I know my own credentials... I got my start as a professional writer as a freelancer in the pages of the recently departed CCM Magazine (more on that tomorrow) while in college, I was on the editorial team of an ambitious CD/magazine hybrid product called Crossroads in the mid-'90s, and I've contributed profiles on a slew of Christian artists to publications around the country.
But it's a very different time in both the Christian music business and the opinion-spouting business than when I first stuck my toes in the water. The shift toward vertical worship music and away from pop music with a Christian message has fundamentally changed the landscape of Christian music. It's also engendered a bit of homogenization industry-wide in that it's tougher to differentiate between artists if the primary output is praise choruses.
To the outside music world of 10 years ago, there wasn't much difference between, say, a dcTalk, a Newsboys and a Jars of Clay. But to those who were paying attention, they were three very different bands trying to reach very different segments of the audience.
Today, there doesn't seem to be as much differentiation, lyrically or sonically, between the artists making the biggest impact on the charts, at the box office, and in the hearts and minds of the listeners. But when you take a serious look at and listen to country music these days, much the same thing can be said.
There are, however, a great and growing number of artists who have made it their goal to express themselves (and the eternal truths they carry close to them) in a way that communicates clearly to the world around them. Some of them you know, some of them you remember and are still around, and some of them will be brand new to you. And to me.
There's certainly much more to be said about the current (and future) state of this side of the music industry, and I hope you'll stick around as we attempt to do it. Just remember, I'm not your youth pastor or your camp counselor... I might say some things you'll disagree with, and that's OK. That's what the comments section is for...just be civil and we'll all get along great.
I'm looking for excellence in both music and spirit. I hope you will too. Otherwise, why waste time listening (and in my case, writing) at all?