April 2003: The Associated Press

gospel-music-association-music-week

The Associated Press State & Local Wire

April 10, 2003, Thursday, BC cycle

During Gospel Music Week, Christian music reigns in Nashville bars, nightspots

BYLINE: By BOBBY ROSS JR., Associated Press Writer

SECTION: Domestic News; State and Regional

LENGTH: 591 words

DATELINE: NASHVILLE, Tenn.

Fiberglass horses and neon signs emblazoned with “Budweiser” and “Jose Cuervo” aren’t usually part of the backdrop for a Christian music concert. And the patrons at the Wildhorse Saloon don’t typically order iced tea and water.

But this is Gospel Music Week, when some of Nashville’s most popular bars and nightspots trade lying-and-cheating songs for hymns about prayer and redemption.

Dressed in black and strumming a guitar, 37-year-old Paducah, Ky., native Eric Horner looked like any other country music singer as he joined an ear-piercing band onstage at the Wildhorse. But the lyrics of his new album’s title cut, “Prayer Warrior,” gave him away.

“The army of the Lord must daily take our stand,” Horner sang at a talent showcase Tuesday. “He is our rock, our sword, our shield, even on the battlefield.”

About 3,000 Christian music artists, promoters, retailers and record executives have gathered in Nashville for events that culminate with the 34th annual Dove Awards on Thursday night. The awards recognize everything from staid gospel quartets and country to rock, rap and teen pop.

Nashville may be the home of country music, but the Christian music industry – with 50 million albums sold and $1 billion in revenue in each of the last two years – is also a force here.

Christian music’s three major record labels – Provident Music Group, EMI Christian Music Group and Warner Brothers Christian – are based in Nashville, and at least 250 area companies have ties to the industry, according to the Gospel Music Association.

At no time is the industry’s influence more evident than during Gospel Music Week.

“Really, it’s our once-in-a-year opportunity to gather together and both celebrate what Christian music is all about and see where it’s going,” said Tricia Whitehead, Gospel Music Association spokeswoman.

“It’s also an opportunity for management companies to introduce their new artists – the people who are going to come in and fill the shoes of Michael W. Smith, Steven Curtis Chapman and Third Day.”

Instead of setting up a booth inside the Nashville Convention Center like other stations, New Jersey station WAWZ-FM parked a 31-foot recreational vehicle turned makeshift studio on Nashville’s busy Commerce Street and invited artists inside.

“They stop by our RV and we give them some snacks and some fruit and talk about their songs,” said Keith Stevens, the station’s music director and afternoon drive-time personality.

Elsewhere, Christian music flows nonstop at major venues such as the Ryman Auditorium and the Renaissance Hotel and at nightspots such as Bar Nashville and The Palm.

“At any given time at night, there’s probably 10 to 15 shows related to GMA going on in addition to the big ones,” Whitehead said. “People use whatever venues are open.”

Performing at the Wildhorse, Horner explained to the crowd that he’d been on the stage before. He moved to Nashville to pursue a country music career, he said, “but God never seemed to open those doors.”

Last fall, he recorded his first Christian music CD. And now he, like hundreds of aspiring Christian artists, hoped to generate interest during Gospel Music Week.

The crowd was a bit less rowdy than those he encountered in secular music.

“I like this kind of audience better because the people aren’t getting drunk and they care about what you’re singing,” he said with a smile.

On the Net:

Gospel Music Association Web site: http://www.gospelmusic.org

Dove Awards Live!: http://www.doveawardslive.com

The Associated Press State & Local Wire

April 11, 2003, Friday, BC cycle

‘Friends’ pay tribute to contemporary Christian singer’s 20-year career

BYLINE: By BOBBY ROSS JR., Associated Press Writer

SECTION: State and Regional

LENGTH: 642 words

DATELINE: NASHVILLE, Tenn.

For contemporary Christian singer Michael W. Smith, Thursday was a big night.

And not just because he won six Dove Awards from the Gospel Music Association, including his second straight best artist honor.

A bigger highlight came at the show’s end as an all-star cast of Christian performers paid tribute to Smith’s 20-year career and his signature song “Friends.”

“Friends are friends forever if the Lord’s the Lord of them, and a friend will not say never, ’cause the welcome will not end,” Amy Grant sang as Smith played the piano. Point of Grace, Michael Tait, Anointed and Avalon joined in the performance.

In a recorded message, former President George H. Bush said Smith has blessed millions as an ambassador of music.

“My family has been blessed over the years to call you friend,” Bush said. “God bless you, Michael, and your family.”

Bush’s son – President George W. Bush – also is a Smith fan.

Smith wrote “There She Stands,” a post-Sept. 11 tribute to the U.S. flag, at the younger Bush’s suggestion.

“He respects me and loves what I do,” said Smith, a frequent visitor and performer at the White House. “I think I have been an encouragement to him. I e-mail him from time to time.”

In all, Smith claimed six of Christian music’s version of the Grammys – including best male vocalist – bringing his total to 41 since 1987.

Christian pop star Nichole Nordeman, expecting her first child this summer, won seven awards. She fought back tears after winning songwriter of the year.

“Amy Grant made me start crying and now it’s just a hormonal train wreck,” said Nordeman, whose other honors included best female vocalist and song of the year for “Holy.”

The Dove Awards recognize everything from staid gospel quartets and country to rock, rap and teen pop. The 4,500 members of the Gospel Music Association nominate and vote for the winners.

PAX TV will air the taped show, which was not broadcast live, on April 19.

Six-time best artist winner Steven Curtis Chapman and Cece Winans, one of Christian music’s best-loved divas, hosted the 34th annual show at the Gaylord Entertainment Center.

“We’re here to celebrate the music that delivers the ultimate message of hope and peace,” Winans said as the show opened.

The audience raised its hands in support of U.S. troops at the urging of Third Day – which won group of the year for the third straight year and best rock recorded song for “40 Days.”

“I want to say real quick, there is freedom in Iraq tonight,” Third Day member Mac Powell said, drawing cheers and a standing ovation from the crowd.

After receiving nine nominations, Toby McKeehan of the group dc Talk settled for one award. McKeehan, who performs under the pseudonym tobyMac, won for short form music video for “Irene.”

Other major winners included the Paul Colman Trio as new artist of the year and Brown Bannister as producer of the year.

Bannister joined Vince Gill in producing Grant’s “Legacy … Hymns & Faith,” the inspirational album winner.

Grant and Gill, who are married, also won for country recorded song for “The River’s Gonna Keep On Rolling,” while Randy Travis’s “Rise And Shine” was the country album winner.

Smith tried to put his awards in perspective, describing them as “another thing that I have to lay at the foot of the cross.”

“Somebody asked me backstage, ‘Does this really ever get old? Do you ever really get tired of it?”‘ he said in accepting his third best artist award in five years.

“I said, ‘You know what? I’ll always be grateful because it is an honor and a great responsibility to be in this business and be about the things of God.”‘

But money and awards don’t bring peace, Smith said. “I just want to fall in love with God and be his man,” he said.

On the Net:

Gospel Music Association: http://www.gospelmusic.org