TMG Spotlight: James Davis

This week on the TMG Spotlight we feature James Davis, a jazzy sound telling his stories on life and growing up.

  1. When did you begin singing/performing? Born in Jacksonville Florida, I started singing at six years old; my dad sang in the choir and loved gospel quartets
  2. What inspired you to begin singing/performing? I would sing along with my dad to the spiritual songs (as he called them) on the radio. The Gospel Hour was an exciting time to hear all of the quartet groups and my dad never got tired of listening to them. There were many awesome singers back then. A few my dad appreciated were: The Five Blind Boys of Mississippi, Staple Singers, Dixie Hummingbirds, Sensational Nightingales, the Jackson Southernaires, Mighty Clouds of Joy, Swan Silvertones, the Caravans, the Soul Stirrers and the Florida Boys. We would have “church” and jump and shout and yell Halleluiah in the living room as one of his favorites came on the radio. He knew all the songs so me and my sisters and brothers became the background singers. I joined the service when I was 18 and I was stationed in Crete Greece, there was very little entertainment. One day a fellow airman was playing “My Girl” by the Motown group the Temptations. We started singing the Top 40 songs that we got from the U.S. through military exchange stores, I talked about starting a vocal group organized to perform in the military clubs on the air station. This led to regular gigs and opened up opportunities to perform in Athens and in some spots in Wiesbaden Germany. Later while stationed in the Philippines, I joined a group called, “Madness” we did disco and whatever was “hot” at the time, and I started to collaborate and co-wrote some songs with the band. We performed in the military clubs and did weekly gigs at Clark Air Base. After leaving the service, I was in a group called “Solid Foundation” our lead singer at the time was Ruby Winters who had chart hits with Johnny Thunder and Jo Stafford and a Top 20 hit with the song, “I Don’t Want to Cry”. I wrote songs for the group and we performed in prisons, churches and concerts.
  3. What kind of hurdles, if any, did you have to go through to be where you are today? Since my style is not the norm, it was not always open to a lot of acceptance at first. I loved to write story songs blend the gospel message in upbeat tempos and in a variety of musical ways to express God’s goodness mixing in jazz, pop, r&b and hip hop sounds with each song taking on a different expression. But that’s the way the Lord gave it to me so I stayed with that style. It was not to make a living or to pursue fame, just an ordinary guy who loved writing and singing the way God gave it to me. I stayed with it because it is a part of me; it ministers to the needs of a lot of people and fills a void that needed to be filled in Christian music. The Christian life is a life of victory, joy and praise and I wanted to pursue that sound the Lord was giving me. The Lord kept giving me the songs and I kept singing them. So early on, I became conditioned to be ready for whatever came by way in rejection or acceptance. I brought my three sons musical instruments before they could walk. I started with the toy guitar, drums and keyboard and as they grew older, I got them the real deal. Wow! My own home grown band! We started writing songs and performing original compositions together and soon the choir started to love our songs to, so the Gospel Lighthouse Choir was singing all original material written by me, my sons and the church musicians. As we visited and performed in churches and prisons that is when the “wall came tumbling down” and the hurdles became easy to jump. This is a ministry that opens people hearts as they related to the stories and message in the music. Today there are few if any hurdles and that is a good thing.
  4. What would you tell other aspiring artists about the music/recording scene? It is not always easy, and you may not like all you see or hear but it’s not about you it about the people you minister to. As one of my pastors said years ago, “I’m just the mailman”. We deliver God’s message in our music, the Holy Sprit ministers to their hearts and souls and the Lord gets the credit. Don’t take critics personal, what you are doing for Christ will last. Be yourself and listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit and you will be guided in the right path. You have to stay focused on your calling, keep the music positive and what God’s has for you will come. Be happy where you are, that just might be the place where God wants you to be.
  5. How would you describe your musical style? Relative message music. This makes the songs universal. I write songs about life stories give an account of an event, an experience or circumstance in our life experiences, situations and the challenges we all may encounter. I believe these songs can connect us and helps us to relate to the Gospel message and respond in ways that helps us grow.
  6. What has been your most embarrassing moment singing/performing in front of a large audience? I was in a group I established called, “Solid Foundation”. We were singing with tracks one night but the technician put on the wrong song, one we hadn’t rehearsed but once. So we kind of looked at each other and since it was an original song, we went right ahead and sang the song like we had been singing it for all the time, fortunately, it turned out well.
  7. Do you prefer the studio or the stage? Why? Good question. I like a balance because it is in the studio I create and work on giving substance to the message and it comes to life. I then give that “baby” (the song) the nourishment it needs to become something special and unique, ready to be share. It’s a journey from one phase of development to the place of presentation, with the hopes of few stops in between, the stage being the destination with the preparation to perform.
  8. Have you started writing your next album? Funny you ask, yes I have but for now, just excited about my first release with Tate Music Group, “All Things In Time”. The title song relates well to changes today with the election of President Obama and the historical event my mom and dad didn’t live to see. He cried when he heard the “I Have A Dream” speech and had faith in better days to come. I think that is something we all are looking forward to, a better life and a better world where we all are one. My bible tells me that day will surely come to pass!
Thanks, James! Good luck to you and your album!


TMG Artist Spotlight: Shannon Hawkyard

This week, I want to introduce one of our TMG artists from the West Coast, Shannon Hawkyard. I had the privilege of working with her on her album artwork and we had a blast! I've asked Shannon some questions regarding the music biz and she has happily agreed to share her side of the story: being a new artist out there in the world, just wanting to get her voice heard. She shares her story and advice here on the TMG Design blog.


1. When did you begin singing/performing?
I was 4 years old when I started singing, and I was on "The Sunshine Kids" T.V. show when I was 7, so that was my first performance.

2. What inspired you to begin singing/performing?
I was so young...I only remember just loving the way it felt to open my mouth and sing!

3. What kind of hurdles, if any, did you have to go through to be where you are today?
I think fighting off discouragement and also pride at times...thinking I can do this on my own and not relying upon the Lord enough! Or wanting to know the plan and not feeling discouraged when things don't seem to be going the way I feel they "should" LOL!

4. What would you tell other aspiring artists about the music/recording scene?
Try not to compare yourself or your music to anyone else's. Keep your eyes and mind on the Lord and what HIS plans are for you. Try not to be lured by the things of the world, as they do lead us astray. Stay true to the One who gives you all the opportunity and gifts you need to be used by Him. And try not to think of things in terms of when you "make it big" so to speak. Whether you're playing/singing to 30,000 people or 3 people-the Lord wants to use you right where you are. It's not about doing this until something better comes along...it's about allowing the Lord to use you to be a blessing to others and trusting Him with the details! I need to remind myself to just rest in the Truth that He has everything in place already. I just need to be willing and obedient!

5. How would you describe your musical style?
Honest, heartfelt, uplifting, and easy to listen to.

6. What has been your most embarrassing moment singing/performing in front of an large audience?
Haven't had anything too earth-shattering happen yet, thank God! I have forgotten the words to my own songs once or twice-that was pretty embarrassing!

7. Do you prefer the studio or the stage? Why?
I actually prefer studio as far as sound quality because I have more "control" and don't ever feel nervous there. But the stage is where the Lord is able to do His work and (hopefully) minister to people. Being able to perform in front of an audience is a gift. But I do feel nervous and self-conscious there. I try to remind myself that the Lord's grace is sufficient for me, though, and that through my own weaknesses (and insecurities!) He makes me strong!

8. Have you started writing your next album?
I've had a few songs come to me and I feel like music is always bouncing around inside of me...we'll see what happens with that!?
9. Do you have any gigs lined up in the near future? If so, where?
Yep: churches, homeschooling conventions, a women's retreat. Adding new appearances as often as I can!

For dates of appearances, visit


Thanks, Shannon!

Listen to a song sample of Shannon's debut album, My Life Story, here and be sure to pick up a copy at your local store or at tatepublishing.com!


Upcoming TMG artists

Look out, world, here comes new TMG artists!

Sarah Scharff, an amazing new, young voice is coming to stores in just a few short months. You won't want to miss her new album titled, Waiting. Already a favorite of mine!

Also hitting the stores soon is another young aspiring TMG rapper who goes by the name of Roc. His vocals and rhymes are sure to please!  

Check out these and many other upcoming artists on the TMG-hosted radio show, X-Tracks, available online at tatemusicgroup.com.


Have you gotten your TMG Digital Download Card yet??

Be sure to ask Eva, your marketing rep, how YOU can get your hands on a digital download card for your album!

These are a great selling tool to get your music out there. You can sell these instead of a physical cd! The card fits in any wallet and is designed just for your album! The card has instructions on how to visit our website and download the album in minutes!

Just another way Tate Music Group is taking care of YOU and your music!



Not quite sure what it is about the holiday season, but it makes me want to go to the movies! As well as eat amazing food until I'm sick and spend time with my family. It's such a great season of love and all things good. I just love it.

But what I really love....Movies! Here are three that I am really looking forward to!

The Road | Written by Cormac McCarthy | Adapted by Joe Penhall | Directed by John Hillcoat

This is one of the most phenomenal books I've ever read. The classic human tragedy that will tear your heart out but won't let you stop reading. I sure hope the movie does justice to the book.

Watchmen | Written by Alan Moore & David Gib
bons | Adapted by Sam Hamm | Directed by Zack Snyder

The first time I saw this trailer, it freaked me out! I didn't want to see it. Since then, I've seen it five or so times and every time I see I, I want to see the movie more. It's compelling and intriguing. I don't know what the story line is, but the graphic work looks incredible! 

Australia | Written & Directed by Baz Lurman

I love epic movies such as these. Reminds me 
of Far and Away (also starring Nicole Kidman), a personal favorite. Cinematography looks divine, courtesy of Baz Lurman, who also directed Romeo and Juliet and Moulin Rouge. He has an amazing eye for artful cinema.

Enjoy the show!


FAQ volume one for Tate Music Group Design

Occasionally I will get repeat questions here and there. We all get them, right? Just comes with the territory of knowing your trade. Instead of creating one big blog with all the questions I've ever gotten (because, quite frankly, there have not been many), I will post them individually as I get asked more often. 

The first question that I feel has come up on more than one occasion is: 

"What type of camera can I use?"

To be honest, this can be a little tricky. My first response, and request, to any artist is to visit a professional photographer, instead of trying to do them yourself. Like I mentioned in my previous post, they know how to make you look good!

But, what if you have a fairly decent camera of your own? Can you do it yourself? Possibly. 

All photos that we use for print must be at 300dpi or greater, and measure at least 4"x6". They can be submitted either in jpg, tiff or pdf format.

I would recommend using an digital SLR camera, such as Canon or Nikon. These high-end cameras have the ability to take photos that are large and clear. The more pixels, the better. I personally own a Canon Rebel XSi and I love it! I get crystal clear shots that I can manipulate without losing quality. The variety of settings lets me get photos in formats of whatever I need.

I also have a Canon PowerShot SD1000 that I carry around with me for quick shots of random things I see. Some cameras like these (nearly everyone has their own personal digital camera now) have the capability of taking higher resolution photos, but you would need to consult your owner's manual to review the settings in order to get the proper shot. Even still, a photo taken on one of these may not work for print for a variety of reasons.

And last but not least, I have my iPhone camera, which has surprisingly good quality considering it is primarily a phone. However, no photo from that camera could be used for print. The image size is much too small and the resolution much too low to print properly. But it sure is fun to use it! I recently found an app called CameraBag that can do some pretty awesome stuff to your simple photos taken on the iPhone. Take a look at some of my creations:
 My dogs, Chloe and Roxy using the the Lolo setting.

A bear at the St. Louis using the 1974 setting. 

My husband with our nephew using the Helga setting.

The iPhone camera is pretty great, but enough about that. We can't use those for print! 

Again, you can't go wrong with a professional, but if you have the means to take high quality photos yourself, try it out and see what you get. If you're unsure, you can send it to me, I will let you know if it's usable.

Speaking of professional, I've got to give props to my personal choice of photographer, Angel Porch of Art and Soul Photography. She is amazing and I love her work. Check her out here. She lives here in Oklahoma but she is available for travel anywhere!

Happy shooting!


Tate Music Group Design Process and Upcoming Releases

Long time, no blog! Wow, what a month! Finished up quite a few Tate Music Group albums this month and they'll be hitting the market in no time. I am so excited to see where they go. Congrats to you all! I had the pleasure of working with Willie Blake Davis on his upcoming album, Foundation Solid. He had some great photos taken beforehand, with his personal photographer, and they turned out great! Makes my job easy! Take a look at what we finalized, there on the right.

So what exactly HAPPENS in the design process, you ask?

It is a fun process! I love to hear artists' ideas for their artwork, and be able to incorporate them in the design. They know their art and it is my honor to to put a face to it. Here's what I do:

  1. I find out who's finished with recording and mastering process and I track down all the info I can on them so that I am fully prepared. 
  2. I send my initial email to each artist that I am working with for the month. I tell them what I do and what they can expect during the month. I also ask for any photos they may have (if they hadn't been sent previously) and for their lyrics and thank yous. I need all of this stuff before I can get started! Example: I compare it to baking: you wouldn't start mixing the ingredients without the milk or eggs! They are the staples, as are the photos and lyrics. Without them, we are at a standstill.
  3. After I get all the files I need, I listen to the music, to get the feel and audience appeal. Once I feel confident in the direction, I either (a.) look for images that would suit the music, or (b.) arrange the artist's photos in any intriguing, marketable way that is catching and suitable. 
  4. Once I get the imagery situated, I add the type. I play with a bunch of different variations in type to find the very best one(s), those that are legible, suitable and appealing.
  5. After that, I narrow down the cover options to the very best 3-5 designs, and I send those to the artist for their review. We decide on a cover before we complete the rest of the artwork.
  6. When they get back to me, we make a few tweaks here and there, until we get it exactly right. I like to hear their suggestions and enjoy it when I can incorporate them. Sometimes it doesn't always happen, but it's always great when it does. That's the Tate Publishing partnership at work!
  7. After they have approved a cover, I move on to designing the rest of the artwork: insert, intray and disc label. I love the creativity that can flow during this part. It's great to see the continuity that follows throughout the packaging.
  8. After all that is done, I send them to the artist for review. We tweak and edit if needed, and then they approve.
  9. And finally...OFF TO PRINT! 
Tate Music Group artists are encouraged to be apart of each step of the process, and to give feedback at every turn. We partner with you to create the album you've dreamed about for years. We want you to be completely satisfied with your product, and your experience in our business. For more info, visit our website. Our acquisitions staff are looking forward to hearing YOU!


professional photo shoots

Are they a big deal? Do I really need to have them taken? Will it really make a difference?

Yes, yes and YES!

We all want to look our best when we're promoting ourselves and our art. We want to give a good first impression. So what makes a professional photographer better than our family members?

Here's a few reasons: 

Even though your cousin may be an aspiring photographer, they may not have the equipment that will help you look your best. That lone bright flash on your face won't go away very easily. A professional photographer has the proper lighting, backdrops, poses and most importantly, the eye, to get the best picture.

A professional photographer will have the proper quality of files that we must have to print. All photos must be at 300dpi in order to print properly and not look pixelated or blurry. A professional photographer can prepare those files for you and you don't have to worry about it!

Booking a photographer could take some extra time and a little money out of pocket, but in the long run, you'll be glad you did it. When you're looking at your cd 5 or 10 years from now, you'll be glad you captured yourself in the most professional way (and you'll still look young!).

You never know where a professional photographer is hiding. Ask around your church, your work, your kid's school, anywhere...someone may know someone else that can meet with you and do a shoot. It's always fun to work with someone you know personally because they know YOU!

If you're considering the options, I highly recommend that all of our artists visit a professional photographer. TMG wants you to accomplish your dream and look good while doing it!


Have you heard?

 I am excited about album design. 


Because I love music. Music is so multifaceted and far-reaching, able to break down barriers and join people together. Listening to music, really listening to it, helps me understand the heart that created it. Hearing and feeling the  joy, celebration and peace, even the tears and heartache, that went into creating the sounds I hear is inspiring to me. When I can place myself in their shoes, it makes it all the more real. When an artist tells me what they went through personally to make their music, I can understand where they are coming from when I listen.

I also love design. If I can combine the two, music and design, it just doesn't get any better. It is my ultimate goal to create a design that enhances the artist and their art. Something they can be proud of. Something they are not afraid to put their face on. Something that will stand out and be bold.

The Tate Music Group Design Department wants you to know that we don't take your music lightly. We listen to it, design around it, and we compliment the music with a design that is marketable and fresh. No more Word Art cd labels! We want you to stand out, to be noticed, and to be heard. 

You have a story to tell and a song to sing. Let us help you shine.