Mark Miller has started his own Christian label

       Musicians typically are far more involved in their craft than just playing instruments.

       Many own studios, start production companies and record labels and help new talent get noticed. Maybe more importantly, they play basketball and vacation with others who do the same.

       That's essentially how Sawyer Brown frontman (and Williamson County resident) Mark Miller, Christian mega-star Steven Curtis Chapman (who lives in Franklin) and Franklin's Provident Music Group President and CEO Terry Hemmings all ended up coming together to form Beach Street Records, a Christian label that will be distributed through Provident Music Distribution.

       Because Hemmings, Miller and Chapman who are also friends outside 'the biz' all wear many hats, they were able to find their first band, record and produce their first album, arrange tour dates and get that record to the buyer without really having to leave their inner circle.

       "The difference is, Mark has a unique view of the market because he hasn't been in the Christian subculture in any part of his career," Hemmings said. "His perspective is fresh and healthy and he also has this unique creative talent."

       It was the band, Atlanta-based Casting Crowns, whom Miller found through a friend, that helped spur on the creation of the label, which had been in the works at various stages for years.

       "God has his timing in everything," Miller said. "If this had been our timing, this would have happened two or three years ago."

       Miller and Hemmings have gotten together for years to listen to music Miller has been working on and producing. Miller and Chapman have been longtime friends and are now connected through their children. Miller played a demo of Casting Crowns for Hemmings, who asked if Chapman had heard it yet.

       "I hadn't played it for Steven because you don't just bombard people with tapes," "Miller said. "Terry thought the band was incredible so I played it for Steven. It was out of that that Terry, Steven and I said, 'Why don't we do something together?"

       But a goal from the beginning for this label, named by Miller's daughter, was to be more than a business partner with its bands. All three founders wanted to use their experience in different facets of the business to help new bands learn from the mistakes they might have made in the beginning of a recording career.

       "We want to be more than producers and get involved with mentoring the acts," Miller said. "We will be more involved than producers. Throughout this process so far, that's been the most rewarding for me. Being a Christian in the secular market, I had the confidence to say no when I needed to. You are allowed to say no, but you don't feel like you have that option in the beginning."

       Miller said when he first contacted Mark Hall, the band's frontman, he wanted to lend his approval of what they were doing.

       "I called Mark and said, 'I don't know what I can do for you, but your music is incredible," Miller said. "Looking back, if someone had done that for me, it would have meant a lot. I wanted to tell him the music was great."

       The self-titled album, which will be released on Sept. 30, was recorded at Miller's Dirt Road Studios in the northern part of Williamson County and was co-produced by Miller and Chapman.

       Hemmings said even though Casting Crowns comes into a company driving the careers of the likes of Third Day and Michael W. Smith, he doesn't see a need to make comparisons although he does see similarities.

       "There is something very unique about this band," he said. "I don't compare it to any other new signing. There are common elements, like the same way Mac Powell (frontman for Third Day) communicates to a crowd, Mark Hall has a similar skill set. He is a communicator. He's been a youth pastor; it's not just the music. It's also his ability to communicate what he's about and what the band is about."

       As for the future of Beach Street Records, Miller said the trio wants to sign acts that are passionate about their musical ministry and what they want to say.

       "We are not necessarily interested in the next big crossover superstar," he said. "We want the musicians to be ministers and we want to help them do that. Mark is adamant about this being a ministry. If you are a Christian label, this is the kind of band you want to sign. Even if you are not a Christian label, this is the kind of band you want to sign."

copyright © By Melonee McKinney
Staff Writer for The Tennessean

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