Chapter One: Opening Scene
Winding through the Tennessee hills, I found myself lost in dreamy conversation. Similar drives over the years have served as the perfect backdrop for birthing new ideas, and this particular drive was no exception. The drive was bursting with excitement over new frontiers my wife, Diana, and I were embarking on. Our recent launch of an artist management company filled a desire that had been brewing in my soul for years. As we made our way over Monteagle and descended toward Nickajack Lake and the Tennessee/Georgia border, I dreamed while Diana mostly listened. Diana had previously visited this unchartered territory of artist management that I was so eager to explore. Her wisdom-filled experience was full of caution, but her love for me transcended any reservations, causing her to nurture the desires of my heart. Diana silenced any hesitancy she may have been feeling and trusted that God had planted that desire in me for a purpose. And so the great adventure began.
An invitation to see a new artist perform at a youth event was the catalyst for this day trip. Driving up to the venue, my curiosity for what this young band would sound like was elevated. As a new management company, we were eager to find the "next big artist." The band had grabbed our attention through some recent media coverage, but their online performances weren't really enough to make an accurate analysis. The band members were cute and photogenic, but did they have what it takes to launch a substantial career in music? Unfortunately, the show was disappointing. With an audience of maybe twenty people, it was obvious the band was still learning how to master their instruments and would need quite a bit of help with stage presence and songwriting. After the show, I wanted so badly to pull an Elvis exit by jumping in the car and driving away before anyone noticed we were gone. Even though running would have been much easier, Diana talked me into saying a few words before we left. She often compares me to "American Idol's" Simon Cowell due to my brutal honesty. Diana, on the other hand, has an incredibly compassionate heart and pleaded with me to be nice and talk to the young band before leaving.
Somehow, we were talked into managing the band and set out on the arduous journey of developing their talent. Developing the young band proved to be a terribly painstaking process. Not because they were so far off as musicians, but because they argued with us every step of the way. The band members were convinced they knew everything about the music business and challenged most of the advice we offered. While I'm not normally one for waving my own accomplishment flag, I had to remind the band often of the fourteen million records I personally sold during my twenty-five-year career.
In addition to the argumentative band members, there were pushy parents involved, which made our task even more difficult. From day one, I spent hours listening to the parents of each of the band members complain about why the music industry would be overlooking their children who were already incredible stars in the parents' minds. The parents would relentlessly argue against most advice we offered, which made our journey miserable at times.
Moreover, another group that was also pursuing a music career appeared in a high-profile battle of the bands contest with the young band and created an unhealthy competitiveness in the minds of the band members and their parents. Many of our conversations were laced with their envy toward what was going on with the other band. I would regularly remind them how the Bible instructs us to not allow envy to enter our hearts.
If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
(Galatians 5:25-26, ESV)
The young musicians and their parents had, somewhere along the way, confused striving for excellence with a dangerous amount of jealousy. They masked envy under the guise of healthy competitiveness. Unfortunately, mis-managed jealousy eats at one's soul, creating an insatiable appetite for more and making it impossible to find peace. Jealousy is labeled as unspiritual and demonic in the Bible.
But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. (James 3:14-16, ESV)
The inability to find peace and contentment has robbed personal joy from countless musicians, so we continued the task of helping them learn to abate their jealousy. Even though their arguing and jealousy caused disorder and became extremely tiresome, I continued pushing through to complete the task.
Never desiring to work with rock stars, I attempted to mentor the young band in a way that would hopefully prevent them from becoming another casualty of fame. I certainly didn't want to help turn them into "Disney kid stars" who would one day regret chasing someone else's dream, so we spent hours with the band talking through the direction they desired to take. Their parents were pushing them toward chasing mainstream success, but we wanted to know the band members' hearts. Diana and I spent time praying that God would use us to help tame any monsters that might be lurking within the hearts of the band members. After much soul searching, the band determined that they wanted to be a Christian band. While that was music to my ears, only time would tell if their desire and calling to do Christian music was genuine or if they really wanted to be rock stars.