Wednesday, March 30, 2005

My First Guest Blog!

William, over at A Motley Vision, asked me to comment on the state of the LDS Music scene. He posted it today!

Mark Hansen

Monday, March 28, 2005

2005 FCMA Workshop Review

Once a year (or mostly once a year) the Faith Centered Music Association holds its annual workshop. The FCMA is the organization that produces the Pearl Awards show each year. The Pearls are sort of like the Grammies for Mormons.

The workshop is an event where LDS musicians of all stripes, ages, and styles come together and learn strategies from those that have gone before. It’s always a fun time to network and meet as well as to learn. This year I learned a lot

The opening keynote speaker was Steven Kapp Perry. Even though he’s made quite a name for himself as a writer, producer, singer and actor, he’s also well-known as the son of Janice Kapp Perry. He spoke about some of his impressions about the current state of LDS music.

He spoke of a great circle, and that many LDS artists felt like they were standing around that circle, looking in. They felt that they wanted to create music for the saints themselves. For those that are already members of the church. There are others that stand around that circle looking outward. They’ve chosen to make music for the rest of the world to hear. His belief was that the LDS music world needs both. Some to sing to us, and others to sing to the world.

He commented that, even though LDS popular music has been around since the ‘70s, we are still primarily in the “emulation” phase, as he called it. By that he meant to say that few are really stepping out to create new sounds and new styles, but are primarily emulating the sounds of others, either within the LDS music world, or even the world beyond. He also said that he was fine with that. As the LDS pop scene continues to mature, there will be more innovators. We will develop our own sounds.

He also encouraged us as individual artists to practice emulation until we discover our own sounds, our own styles and ways of expressing ourselves.

He closed by citing Elder Ballard, “We must speak the language of technology”, and Orson Card, “Have some friend’s that aren’t (song)writers!”

Then, Janet Bradford, of the Marriott Library, told us of a “Mormon Arts Database”. In spite of the call to embrace technology, we hadn’t done it that day, so we could only hear her speak of it, rather than go visit it.

It’s a project currently under way with the full blessing and funding of BYU. It’s to contain data about authors, playwrites, songwriters, visual artists, and members of the church and their works in other creative disciplines. Designed primarily to facilitate scholarly research, the potential for promotion is huge, too. The early stages of the database can be found at

Jenny Phillips spoke to us about how she’s developed her career. She spoke of doing fireside performances all over the world, and learning to sing the songs in her shows in the native languages. She encouraged us to push forward with international and non-English music! (I’ve written one song in Spanish, does that count?)

She also spoke of the importance of a fanlist in long-term promotions. I’ve been hearing this more and more lately. Very important to an independent artist.

She clarified for us to not set our goal to having a CD, but to impact lives. The CD, the performances, and everything else will follow. To me, that sounded a lot like, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God...”

Finally, Jeff Simpson clarified for us some of the reasons and processes that went into the Excel/Deseret Book merger. He said that too often in the small LDS market, we worry too much about competition with each other. Some of that, in a friendly way, is good. But we obsess about it too much. He told us of an article he’d written for the LDS Bookseller’s Association Newsletter which talked about “The Pie”. Anyone familiar with marketing knows that he’s talking about how everyone’s market share is a slice of the pie. And when one label or company increases their share, it cuts into someone else’s slice. Jeff said that what he’d rather focus his efforts on is making the pie bigger.

He went on to explain that the biggest challenge to LDS music is not each other but the overall apathy and ignorance of the membership of the church. Most church members, by far, either don’t care to hear LDS artists, or even more, they flat out don’t know they even exist.

He even had a wry comment when someone asked if he felt like downloads had cut into Excel’s profit margins: “Oh, that someone would care enough to steal my music!”

Mark Hansen

Thursday, March 24, 2005

What 'Cho Gonna Do With a Cowboy...

Those of you who know me, know that I’m into Rock and Roll, not country. You also know that I like to follow the LDS music scene. But if you’ll let me take a moment, I’m going to diverge from both of those paths to pay tribute to a fellow singer/songwriter.

Many years ago, when I was first married and trying to squeeze my foot in the door of the SLC music scene, I was hanging out a lot at a studio called Suite Sound. One day, there was a cowboy in doing some country recording. When I say, “cowboy”, I mean “cowboy”. Not one of these pop city guys who sing country songs but are really vegetarians, I mean a real, belt-buckle wearing, rodeo-winning cowboy.

I got to sit in and watch the sessions. I’ve never really been “into” country, but I’ve always respected artists of all styles. And I was hot to learn as much about studio recording as I could, so I liked to haunt sessions.

At one point, I got introduced. His name was Chris LeDoux. Throughout the session, he was kind and gracious to all of us. The engineers, his band, the hired gun musicians… I was just constantly amazed how sincerely nice he was.

Well, I stored that experience in the back of my head. Over the years, I’ve had the chance to record lots of people, and run live sound for lots of people, some even famous. Many have been kind, many rude. Few so genuine and helpful as Chris was to an insignificant little studio rat like me. Since then I’ve tried to live by his professional example.

A few years later, Garth Brooks mentioned him in a song, lamenting the life of a rodeo cowboy. “…A worn out tape of Chris LeDoux, lonely women and bad booze, seem to be the only things (I’ve left at all)…” And suddenly Chris’ career went from playing rodeos and state fairs to major label deals and big concerts.

Anyway. I found out a week or two ago that he recently died of liver cancer. I posted a short note telling my story on the email group where I first heard the news. Not long after that, I got an email, privately responding to my note. With permission, I include it here:


“Your e-mail about Chris was forwarded to me. I just wanted to let you know that you are exactly right. Chris was a true American treasure, as an NFR Champion, a singer/songwriter and as a man.

“In 1987 I was writing songs for Ed Bruce's publishing company on music row. A quiet-spoken cowboy that I didn't know walked in one afternoon and announced that Ed had sent him over, ‘... to look for cowboy songs.’ Being the smart-Aleck that I am, I sarcastically said, ‘You don't see many cowboys these days...since the Urban Cowboy thing.’ He looked me right in the eyes and said, ‘They're still out there. You just can't see 'em from the road.’ In addition to being a smart- Aleck, I'm a fairly perceptive fellow and I recognized a major-league song title when I heard it.

"Two weeks later Ed Bruce and I began penning the song idea, so innocently given to me by the stranger. A year and a half later we finished it. In early 1992 I got a call from Ed. He said that he had gotten our song cut. I asked him, ‘Who in the world recorded that thing?’ He said, ‘Chris LeDoux.’ (By this time, Garth had made a hit out of, ‘A worn out tape of Chris LeDoux, lonely women and bad booze...’) It suddenly hit me. I said, ‘Ed, is Chris a friend of yours and did you send him by the office a few years ago to see if we had any cowboy songs?’ Well, I guess you know the answer. In 1991, Liberty/Capitol Records sent Chris out to Ed's to write songs for his debut label album, ‘Whatcha Gonna Do With A Cowboy?’ He saw the lyric to, ‘...See Him From the Road,’ (that I had a calligrapher put to parchment) which was hanging on Ed's den wall. He asked about it, Ed played it for him and thank the Good Lord, Chris LeDoux recorded, ‘You Just Can't See Him From The Road.’ (He released a live version a few years later on, ‘Chris LeDoux - Live.’)

“I saw Chris at the gold record party in Nashville in 1993. I thanked him for, ‘...getting me out of the day job,’ and he laughed, ‘You must have had a pretty low payin' job!’ I saw him again in July of 2001 in Spearfish, SD. He was less than a year out of the hospital, carrying someone else's liver around in his body and full of anti-rejection drugs. He looked tired and when I asked him how he was doing he smiled big and said, ‘Great!’ (What else would you expect America's Cowboy to say?) I fully expected to see him sit on a bar stool that night with the acoustic and sing some of the more, ‘tame songs.’ I was wrong. They said his name, the lights went up, flash pots went off and he dove off of the drum riser. An hour later (after riding the mechanical bull, by the way) he left the whole place on their collective feet, screaming for more...a 52 year old man with teenaged girls screaming for him! (I never had teenaged girls screaming for me when I was a teenager!)

“I didn't know him very well, yet I knew everything about him...everything that matters, that is. We are all brothers (and sisters), all of us who are compelled to write and sing about cowboys and the West. We will all be together again, someday. God be with the LeDoux family and thank you Chris, for making an unknown songwriter very proud.”

So anyway, for what it’s worth, I’m paying him a little tribute in my blog.

Mark Hansen

Monday, March 21, 2005

One United Generation, the Story

WARNING: In the past few weeks, I’ve been adding some shameless plugs at the bottom of my postings. This one might feel like one big shameless plug, but I’m going to do it anyway.

Last Saturday was the culmination of a four year journey and a twenty + year dream for me. That morning I got the image files from my designer, and that evening I began printing and assembling my first CD. My second collection of my own songs, but the first to really be retail ready. Let me share the journey with you, my blog friends.

I discovered rock music in high school. Before that I was mainly into classical. But I picked up the guitar and wanted to learn it. Actually, I started on bass, but I learned them both pretty much concurrently.

I played in various bands through high school and early college. I also started writing songs early on. Really bad ones. I know everyone says that, but in my case it was really true. All through this time I was into all kinds of what we now call “classic rock” (boy that tells you how old I am). Boston, Yes, Kansas, Nazareth, Ozzy, BOC, all that stuff that young rockers are supposed to be interested in.

I remember at about that same time, or maybe a little earlier, the CES (Church Educational System) came out with a CD called “Like Unto Us”. It was schmaltzy and had lots of cheesy pop organ in it, and it drove me nuts, but it also inspired me. Someone was doing pop music for mormons. From that early beginning, I knew I wanted to do LDS rock.

After my mission, I read about a school that taught recording and sound engineering. My parents hesitated, but were willing to cough up the tuition, and I went. I learned a LOT. But not enough to get a job. But I kept looking, and did some independent work here and there.

Along the way, I was formulating the idea of doing LDS rock. I had actually written a bunch of songs, so I started a band. There were only two of us that were actually members of the church, but everyone else seemed to be open to the idea of playing religious rock, so we went ahead with it. This was in Indiana, so we didn’t have a stake center on every street. Visualize a city the size of Provo with only one LDS chapel, and that was Terre Haute. There were seven church members in my graduating class. Made dating tough.

But anyway, the band… I named the band “Covenant”, and we did some local gigs. I was getting on in age, and at 24, it was getting to be time to leave the nest. My sister (who had been living in SLC for years) invited to put me up while I found a job and an apartment. I figured that the valley was the best place to find LDS musicians.

So, I moved to Salt Lake, and immediately (after finding housing and employment) started putting up flyers in music stores. A guitarist named Larry contacted me, and he and I became fast friends. He’s a killer player still, and a great guy. His wife’s best friend was Jodi, and she and I were married about a year after I moved to the valley. Marrying her was the smartest thing I ever did, but that’s another story!

Right after we got married, I started trying to get myself worked into the Salt Lake Valley music and recording scene, with varying levels of success. I was helped along in the early stages by some great people. Chance Thomas, another great friend, who now has a name for himself for scoring the Lord of the Rings computer game. Jim Anglesey, who founded the recording program at BYU. Clive Romney, now of Enoch Train and head of Little Stream records and pretty much the nicest guy in the entire LDS music world. My grandfather, Rulon Brimhall (I was named after him, Rulon Mark Hansen), who bought me a 4 track cassette recorder. Dan Whitley, of Sun, Shade and Rain, who set me up in his studio.

It was while I was working with Dan, that I recorded and released my first collection, a cassette tape, called “A Joyful Noise”. It had a bunch of songs, many of which were truly only demo quality. I ran about 250 copies, sold precious few, and gave most of them away to family and friends. I currently only have one archive copy left in my possession.

That came out in 1993.

Soon after that, I took a hiatus from the music world. I needed a break. Then I got a job as an internet business mentor in 1998. My supervisor, Anne, in advising me to pursue my passions in business, got me to rethink my web businesses that I’d been involved in up to that point, and I resurrected my songs. The mp3 phenomenon was just beginning to perk up on the web, so I started posting my songs at a rate of one each month. Some were old, from the cassette, others were new ones that I had begun writing and recording.

Finally, four years ago, I took a plunge. I sold off much of my gear, gave away other parts of it, and bought a computer with Cubase recording software. I went digital. I decided at that point that it was time to make something of real quality and go for a CD release, ready for retail. This was to be more than just a demo, but rather, a full-blown production, as best I could create.

At that point, I had a collection of about 80 songs that I had written. I looked them over to pick which ones to record and re-record. I ended up making the decision to move ahead with new songs. I wanted to keep looking forward. Plus, the newer ones were better tunes, anyway.

The process of creating the CD has its ups and downs. Some times I was working like a man possessed, other times, weeks would go by before I played a note. All the while, I’d be playing a gig or two here and there. Usually about once a month.

Then, about a year ago, I found I had 11 songs, almost completed. A redo of one track here, fix this there. But nothing was in the can yet. So, I decided that I would move forward one song at a time. Finish it. Move on. I set the goal to have the music done by the end of ’04, and I succeeded. You can read along with the process in my studio blog

Now, the graphics are done, the duplication is happening, and the goal is reached. The CD is ready. I’m pleased to announce that, and thanks for the chance to tell the story. I don’t know of any other CD, written with original tunes for the LDS market, that rocks this hard. I’m proud of it, even though I hear all the flaws. Check it out at my site. Let me know what you think.

The offer, BTW, to other LDS bloggers who’d like a copy to review still stands! Email me!

Mark Hansen

Saturday, March 19, 2005

The Work and… Well… Some Glory… Kinda…

My wife and I went out on a date last night, and we saw “The Work and the Glory”. After watching, we came out of the theater, looked at each other, and said, “Meh…”

I mean, it was OK, but it wasn’t great. There were a couple of moments where it almost tried to kinda get intense, but it just didn’t deliver. Overall, it still felt preachy.

Perhaps the most telling review of it I’ve heard or read so far was my Wife’s. She said, “I liked ‘Legacy’ better.”

There were some bright spots. The bad guys were good. I mean, they were done well. The actor that played Father Steed (I forget his name) was pretty good, I thought. Possibly the best of them all.

I had a good time. But I liked “Singles Ward” better.

Mark Hansen

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

A Story

Imagine with me, a moment, a tribe of Native Americans. And imagine that there was a burial ground of deep significance where many of their predecessors had died, having been driven from their homes by a brutal genocide. The site is so revered that it’s considered sacred. Many members of the tribe travel there and draw spiritual strength from the lives of those that died there. They draw close to those ancestors by reverently re-enacting the experiences of those that traveled that site.

The problem is, they don’t own this land. It’s owned by the federal government. Because these Native Americans respect that holy ground, they want to make sure that others don’t desecrate it. They want to share the sacred feelings that permeate the hills. They don’t want non-native Americans to ridicule their beliefs or mock their rituals. They want to be able to tell people what is appropriate behavior on such an important site.

But it’s owned by a foreign power, controlled by outsiders.

The ACLU is, of course, taking up the fight. They’re all about protecting the rights of people, correct?

Now, let’s shift our imaginations a little. It’s not a native American tribe, but an established American church, the LDS church, my church. It’s a site where a large group of our pioneer ancestors died as they struggled to find a peaceful home in the mountain west. They had been driven from their lands in Nauvoo, Illinois by a violent mob and an extermination order signed by the governor of the state. As they crossed the prairies, they were caught by a brutal winter and many of them died at a place called Martin’s Cove. Others were saved by rescue parties sent from the Salt Lake Valley, made of other mormons that had made the journey before them.

To members of our faith, this is sacred ground. Rather than reject their beliefs in Nauvoo and find safety, they chose to stand firm to their testimonies and be driven away, eventually to die in a frigid wilderness.

This land is sacred to us as a reminder of our heritage.

But the land is owned by the government.

As a tribute to this experience, the Church negotiated a lease of this land from the federal government. A part of that lease allows the Church to regulate the behavior of visitors (mormon and non-mormon alike) at the site, to preserve the sacred feelings there.

And the ACLU is involved. But not to defend the rights of the believing, but to rail against them. The Church has no right, they claim, to tell others what to do or say on federal land. That violates the constitutional right of all to free speech. So, if someone wants to stand at the site and preach hatred of the mormons at our sacred site, they should be allowed to.

Let’s go back to the original imagined scenario. Let’s reverse the roles. What if someone were to go to a Native American sacred site and start ridiculing their beliefs, practices, and traditions. How fast do you think the ACLU would jump to defend the natives’ rights to worship in peace? Heads would be spinning as the lawyers would swarm.

But the mormons are the target du jour. The flavor of the month for the wolf pack. We’re traditional, conservative, rich, and powerful (not individually, of course, but as an organization). As much as I don’t like it personally, we also tend to vote Republican. It’s like we’ve got a “Kick Me” sign on our backsides and a target on our foreheads.

We’ll survive. “No Unhallowed hand…” and all…

Mark Hansen

Monday, March 14, 2005

Songs of Zion

“A Time for Ana”
CS Bezas

“I have a dear friend named Ana. She symbolizes to me all children on this earth who have yet to experience peace. It was for her that I wrote the title track to this album. In some small way I hope to contribute to the well-being of many children who, just like Ana, long for an easier life.”

These comments from her CDBaby site express the nature and the purpose of this CD. It’s tone and sound (piano solos) are very soft and relaxing. It’s designed to unstress, to ease, and to bring peace. In that way, it very much succeeds.

Normally, I like a variety in my listening. Maybe it’s my ADD. I like to throw in a CD and hear a fast one, a slow one, something in between, something loud, something soft… You know, a mix.

But this one isn’t designed for that, and so I have to judge it on a different standard. It’s intention is relaxation, and it works its magic very well there.

One of the things I loved about this CD, especially compared to other “New Age Piano” artists (whatever that means these days), was that it was very minimal. Too often, contemporary piano artists seem to be obsessed with filling the song’s space with as many notes as possible. They do that by either pounding out thunderous and clustered chords one after the other, or by putting in so many rolls, arpeggios and frills that I wonder if I’m in a smoky piano lounge. This CD is almost minimalist. Simple melodies dance above gentle chords and accompaniments. I almost thought that I could learn to play these songs, they were so clear, clean and simple.

The CD was full of original melodies, but in addition to that, the song often referenced existing tunes. “A River to Cross”, for example, hinted at “Oh, My Father”. “A Time for Ana” referenced the children’s tune “Are You Sleeping”. As you read the stories of the songs in the “liner notes” at the website, these make much more sense.

“Summer Rain” was the most visual, almost to being a tone poem. The gentle summer rains were expressed by light flickers of notes dancing and falling from the upper octaves of the keys.

“A Time for Ana” would be great, especially for Sunday listening. Put it on for background while studying your scriptures, or use it as meditation music. It’ll put you in that place for thought and relaxation.


Shameless Plug: “A River to Cross” is to be a featured song at “Latter Day Songs” this week. Check it out on the 15th!

Mark Hansen

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Songs of Zion

“Songs of the Seers”
The Arizona Mormon Choir and Orchestra

One of the problems I have with music that I’m supposed to listen to on Sunday is that most of it doesn’t seem to have the depth that I like. Either it’s musically or lyrically shallow. I don’t just like to listen to music as background noise. I like to pay attention, so I need to have some music that wants my attention. Too much church music, especially Sunday church music, is written just to be peaceful. As a result, I have a hard time finding stuff I like for my Sundays.

That’s why I’m very glad I got a hold of Songs of the Seers, by the Arizona Mormon Choir and Orchestra.

Don’t get me wrong. This music is peaceful. It is relaxing. It’s not a pop album. But it’s not fluffy, either. In fact what struck me most overall about this recording was that the arrangements were innovative, unique, and varied. I think that, as I listened, my favorites were the orchestral numbers. “An Angel from on High”, which starts the CD, is one of the best of those, too. “Lead me into Life Eternal” is good, too.

Many of them were more straight-ahead hymn arrangements with organ and choir, of the sort that you hear Mo’ Tab’ do at conference time.

One of my favorites was “Our God is a God of Love”. This was different than the others because it felt more like prose that had been set to music, rather than a traditional hymn. As a result, it had an “art song” kind of feel, which added a unique flair.

Another unique approach was “Jesus, Once of Humble Birth”. The piano that starts this one is full of enticing Debussy-esque dissonance. Very ethereal and almost jazz-like. The choir enters and sings the traditional melody, but with some very non-traditional harmonies. A flute descant at the end gives it some extra flourish. It’s not something I would have even considered for a hymn like this one, but it worked. Very tasty!

I was also impressed overall with the performance of the choir. I never struggled to understand the words, and they were consistently on in their pitch and dynamics. An excellent performance.

It was also nice to see that so many of our respected leaders over the years have felt the creative muse, and done so well putting their testimonies into lyric. I also thought that, even though these were all prophets of the restoration, most of these works could easily be appreciated by a general Christian audience. In fact, these songs might well go far in showing the general Christian world just how Christian we Mormons really are.


Shameless plug: Sam Payne's "Big Time" is one of the featured songs over at, as well as tunes by Pianist Lisa Powell, and GEM!

Mark Hansen

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Jodi and Jacob

Guest blogger today!

Last night I got this from my wife down in Arizona. She's been sending out these reports from time to time to our family and friends who've been supporting (both morally and financially) Jacob's efforts in these classes.

Anyway, I realized that she'd summed up very nicely the feelings I've had as well. So, I thought I'd share them here.


Well it has been a while since I have written. Things have been intense here. Mark and Brendon came for a little over a week and we were swamped. We did something every day after school. Jake didn't do as well while they were here and I think the majority of it was that he was tired. We usually come home and rest a bit. Then we eat dinner and go to bed. :) On the weekends we do a little and we go swimming in a therapy pool once or twice.

With them here we just went all the time. Jake seems to be doing better this week. I am a bit frustrated because he isn't holding his head up as much. It is so hard when he goes back into old habits but then there have been times when it has been incredible. We went to see a movie yesterday and they had those little rides for the kids. They had a motorcycle which he had to reach far forward to hold the handles and then it jerks and goes back and forth. He held his head high and held on all by himself so he did well.

His walking gets better. He doesn't by any means walk by himself. He is very slow and we have to remind him to stand and often remind him to move his foot, but when we started the program I had to hold his weight to keep his body up. Now I just hold his arms at the elbows so they stay straight on the ladder he holds himself up with. He completely moves his foot forward but the conductor makes him so he doesn't cross.

I was talking to another mom and she said that it was frustrating for her when she went home the first time because although she could see so much change, the average person didn't notice improvement. This made me think about Jake. He has improved more then any other kid in the class. All of the people in the class say so including the conductors. The ones that saw him suffer to sit with help holding onto the ladder to being able to hold himself on and upright most of the time (although the last couple of days I have been frustrated because he keeps putting his head on the ladder and table). He can clap which he never did because he couldn't open up his hands enough, He can give me a big hug without me being the one to put his arms around me, He can soot from his arms and hold his head up while laying down. He can sit on the floor and hold himself up with his legs straight out for minutes at a time.

It made me think about how we take life. WE expect so much out of little time. WE feel like we have to have so much progress or it isn't worth anything. We don't look at the little things in life and realize how blessed we are to have or do those things. Ok now I am getting off on another things altogether. Sorry. LOL

Anyway he is still doing well. He is having a more difficult time wanting to go to school although he doesn't really complain he just says oh not school again. Then he wants to go. He loves it while we are there. I think he is getting tired. I know I am. I even thought about packing up today and just going home. But I have seen what a week can do and wouldn't give up that for anything. I will be so glad to get home though.

Jake has met a friend here. He is so sweet. They hug each other and can't go anywhere without holding hands. It is so sweet. The little boy helps Jake hold things and turn pages, and Jake keeps him going when he wants to give up in class. They help each other and tell each other how they are best friends. It has been so fun and I have enjoyed getting to know his mom. She has been a big support here for me. We go places together and it is fun. They left today and both boys cried and have made us promise we will see each other again. It was sad. I even got emotional. It will be hard to finish this program without the 2 of them.

I think this note seems kind of down and I apologize about that. I really don't feel this way. I guess having Mark come and he was a bit down with things and it made me think that people might think Jake is going to be running down the hallway when we get home. He will not. He has made so much progress and I really believe he will be able to walk with his walker when we get home with all of its support. It know he will be able to sit on a bench at school without the support of a wheelchair that is so much bigger then the chairs in school and he will be at their level. I am so glad we have spent the money and the time and the sacrifice doing this. It has made a huge difference for us.

Thanks for all your support


And to that, I add my thanks for the encouragement of the bloggernacle. Thanks very much.

Mark Hansen


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