Artist Spotlight: TMG Artist of the Year, Jeff Chandler
This week on the TMG artist spotlight, I'd like to introduce you to our very first TMG Artist of Year, Jeff Chandler! His album is currently in production with TMG, so you won't be seeing his cover art just yet! But I wanted to share with the world some interesting history Jeff shared with me and let you get to know who he is! Thanks so much, Jeff, and congratulations on winning the TMG Artist of the Year! Be sure to check out his performance and all the others, including Ron Walters, Sarah Scharff, The Cliftones and Sally Jayne, at TMG Artist of the Year page.
1. When did you begin singing/performing?
I was 16 years old. Had never sang a note...pretty much. I certainly had never had a solo before. Christmas time of 1991, my music minister at the time, Tony Kimbrell, let me have the lead "shepherd boy role" in our church's Christmas play. I loved acting. Being in front of people has always been fun (and mortifying) for me. Tony let me know that with that role I would have to sing a solo. So I learned it and sang it. It was awful, in my opinion. Like Michael W. Smith with a bad cold. (Nothing wrong with Smitty, I've always wanted to be him really and at times thought I was, but that's another boyhood dream story for another time).
I still have the VHS tape of me singing that first song. Scary! The funny thing was the response of the audience every night. People responded to it like I was Pavarotti. A scrawny little, nasally-singing kid with a towel on his head was making people cry with this debut solo about the birth of baby Jesus. I still don't believe it. It really became a defining moment for me. Up until this time I really had a focus to get a baseball scholarship and play for the Braves. This was an OBSESSION for me my entire boyhood. I completely dropped baseball-which was a huge deal-and gave my life to music. And here we are...
2. What inspired you to begin singing/performing?
This is interesting. Besides the story above, my mother tells me that when I was 10 I was in the kitchen with her; she was watching Richard Roberts (Oral's son) sing on television. I was apparently mesmerized by Richard and his ministry. I told her, "That's what I'm going to do", and then went about my business.
3. What kind of hurdles, if any, did you have to go through to be where you are today?
Holy cow, where do I begin? I guess I can honestly say: Mom warned me not to do this! LOL!! She wanted me to go to work for AT&T like my father had for 35 years now. I rebelled....(smile)...and I've paid for it dearly.
The last decade I've spent writing, touring, trying-no-beating my brains out to get a record deal, playing for no one (literally), to singing on stage with Casting Crowns for 12,000 people. The playing for no one was funny. I'll digress momentarily. We had a promoter/pastor who hired us for $1000 to play an event he was putting on. Apparently he wasn't a good promoter. NO ONE, not a soul, came to the event. There was another band there and we literally played for the other band and then they took the stage and played for us. It was awkward to say the least. You feel bad taking a grand to play for the other band...but we did. LOL!!!
We finally got a "record deal" in 2006, which basically amounted to nothing but a fair amount of debt for us all and loss of publishing on some of my songs. We had set out with the illusion we would replace U2, but what we did was get our single out to about 40 stations (who LOVED it by the way) and then faded back into oblivion.
It's funny, the statement, "to get where I am today"-I'm really nowhere anyone would want to be with my music accomplishments thus far, save this-I FINALLY do have a record deal I believe in with TMG! Excited to see where we go together in 2009! AND I did manage to get a song on Casting Crowns latest record. Mark Hall (lead singer for Crowns) asked me on a youth trip if they could use the song for "The Altar and the Door". So I guess I'm making some headway and it's about darn time.
4. What would you tell other aspiring artists about the music/recording scene?
My advice is this: No one, and i mean NO ONE, will ever believe in your music as much as you do. All the label reps that stroke you and make empty promises are making the same promises to many other hopeful youngsters who are just as or more talented than you. Don't rely on someone else to "get you out there." If you don't get yourself out there it won't be done. Consider a distribution deal with TMG. ;-) AND, never, never quit on your dream.
5. How would you describe your musical style?
6. What has been your most embarrassing moment singing/performing in front of an large audience?
OHHH...SO GLAD YOU ASKED THIS...
I was 17 and performing to a track at a local church. I was singing "I Believe in Miracles" by Russ Lee and Newsong. There is an extensive instrumental in the middle of the track and I was trying to decide how to pass this time vocally, so it's less awkward and impacting to my audience. I had decided to ad-lib and build with the music of the track, which built to a head at a certain point and then EXPLODED into a radical accordion solo! LOL! I'm so serious here too! It really did erupt into something that sounded like an accordion solo...amazing.
Anyhow, if you've ever performed with tracks you know the importance of timing your cues. Well, I mistimed this one horrendously. My plan was to turn my back on the audience, then at the supreme moment of climax, I would turn abruptly, leap toward the crowd with a mighty yell as the instrumental tsunami (headed up by the accordion) overtook them like never before! They would, of course, be moved beyond human emotional limits and soar to new levels of pleasure and euphoria, and buy out all my tapes! This was the plan....
What DID happen was this: I turned my back on the audience, mellowed out to fake them out and draw them in, began to sway to and fro (the whole time imagining they were swaying with me), and with the quickness of a kung-fu-master I spun about, lept forward with a powerful-vocal-tricked-out-yell....4 bars too soon. The poor folks just stared at me staring at them while the music quietly continued to build, and FINALLY went into the big instrumental...
I've never wished I could disappear until that moment. Ugh.
7. Do you prefer the studio or the stage? Why?
I love both. In the studio you can eat more snacks and watch YouTube videos, unlike on stage. But onstage is more exciting!
8. Have you started writing your next album?
Soon. I'm already in talks with one of my great friends, Aswan North, about writing for the next album. Shameless plug for Aswan here. Please check him out: myspace.com/aswannorth. His music speaks for itself, you'll love it. I'm a big fan!
Thank you so much, Jeff! You are an inspiration to anyone interested in the music biz and you are truly great at what you do!