Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Alex Boye, the Cell Phone, and the Book of Mormon

The other weekend, at the music festival, Alex Boye presented a little bit comparing how we treat our cell phones compared to our Books of Mormon. Afterward, I did a little search, and found the same bit on some other blogs and sites. It’s really cool because it makes you think about which fills a bigger role in your life. Here’s the text:

Ever wonder what would happen if we treated our Book of Mormon like our cell

  • What if we carried it around in our purses or pockets?
  • What if we turned back to get it if we forgot it?
  • What if we flipped through it several times a day?
  • What if we spent an hour or more using it each day?
  • What if we used it to receive messages from its text?
  • What if we treated it like we couldn't live without it?
  • What if we gave it to kids as gifts?
  • What if we used it as we traveled?
  • What if we used it in case of an emergency?

Now, at the time, Alex took it a little bit further, and to catch his extension, click to the youtube video of him presenting it at a fireside and see. I’m not gonna spoil it for you. It’s cool.

It’s kinda funny for me, because I have one of those PDA smart phones. So, I actually carry my Book of Mormon IN my cell phone! Alex laughed when I showed him that. Even still, I could stop and read it more than I do.

He’s also asked for everyone that watches the video there to post their testimonies of the Book in the comments section. He talked about how cool it would be to get a million testimonies. I read through some of them (there were about a hundred when I was there), and I felt very inspired. I left mine there, and I’d like to encourage you all to as well.

Mark Hansen

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Inner Circle, Outer Circle...

First of all, before you read this, to make any sense of it at all, go read this posting over at A Motley Vision. I could summarize it, but, frankly, not that well, and it would be just as long as the original, so just go read it. I’ll wait until you get back.

Done? Ok, then…

He mentions that he’s not sure how the analogy he makes all works in something as small as the LDS market. In fact, it does. I have seen all three schools of thought that he mentions in my own interactions with other LDS musicians. Heck, I’ve seen them all in myself, but I’ll mention that later.

A while ago, at an LDS musicians group conference (hosted by the FCMA), I heard a speaker lay out a different analogy that covers similar concepts. This analogy helped me to grasp the different approaches. It’s not directly comparable to William’s, but it has similarities:

There's a circle, and all of us, as LDS musicians/artists, are standing in it. Some face inward, singing to the church. Their goal is to strengthen and to uplift those that are already members. These make no attempt to cross over to the larger markets. The best of these artists are both thought-provoking and inspiring. The worst come across as Sunday-school lessons set to music.

Others face outward, to singing to the outside world. These artists rarely carry religious messages, but rather sing about being generally good and living a good life. They are more analogous to the “integrationals”. Many of them view their musical work as being more missionary-ish.

As a subgroup here, there are some of these within the LDS market which will produce music that is very religious, but is more generically Christ-centered. It will avoid overt references to anything specifically Mormon, in an effort to approach the broader Christian market. These artists often find themselves alienated, since they’re often not “Mormon enough” to capture the LDS market, and are outright rejected by the mainstream Christian world.

The last group in the circle just sing where they are, and tend to not pay attention to which way they’re facing. They’re comparable to the “Transformationals”. They just create, and let the art fall where it may. This tends to make some of the most artistically satisfying music. However, the artists often have a very hard time marketing themselves, as there’s not a clear direction or focus for their art.

Because of my tendency to sit on fences and not take strong stands, my own music has at times fallen in each of the three categories. I definitely consider myself primarily a clean entertainer, but I also write songs that are purely “transformational”. I also feel very strongly that I am providing an alternative, and I often mimic mainstream styles, directed at an LDS market.

As I have tried to figure out where I stand, I’ve realized that I feel mostly “called” to face the inner circle. My goal is to take the musical sounds that I love (hard classic rock), and use it to strengthen those members of the church that also enjoy it. Because that segment of our membership is underserved by traditional LDS music. That’s the music I make, that’s the music I like to listen to, and so that’s what I share.

One thing I’ve noticed among LDS musicians is that there is a higher degree of tolerance among the different artists. Those that have chosen to face inward in the circle tend to not cast aspersions on those that choose to face the world, and vice versa. My general experience has been that we all want to help make good music and if that uplifts a particular audience so be it. In my limited experience, for example, in the world of LDS film, I’ve seen a lot of bitter intolerance, as if each creator had some sort of direct connection to “the right way to be”, and everyone else was off “ruining it for everyone”. That was very sad for me to see.

Mark Hansen

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Thoughts on the LDS Independent Music Fest 2008

Some background: In the middle of 1999, a lonely LDS guitarist and folksinger in Idaho was frustrated that he had no way to communicate with other church musicians. He started an email group called LDSmusicians. A few days later, I found it and joined. Soon after, there were others and we became quite a chatty and encouraging group. We shared our song, and helped each other get more points with their mp3 sites. We talked shop, and critiqued each other’s work. We talked about ways to get gigs and promote ourselves.

And that summer, in 2000, we set up a couple of traditions. One was producing an annual compilation CD, and another was the music festival. As many as could make the journey would gather together at the American Fork Amphitheater on a Saturday in late August. We would play music together all day long, and at the end, we staged a concert. We’ve been doing it every year ever since, with one exception.

It’s always been a lot of fun to see people year after year. You get to hear their new tunes, tell some stories and have a great time. It’s like a big family reunion.

So, last weekend, it happened again. This year, it was a three-day festival, with a youth night on Friday, an all day event on Saturday, and a Sunday evening devotional for the more sacred music. I attended Friday an Saturday, but wasn’t able to attend on Sunday.


Steve Brown, of the acoustic duo Border Crossing, was in charge this year, and was greatly assisted by Julie Keyser. I showed up around 5:00 and saw them both there, as well as a few others. The sound and lights guys were there, setting. I was glad, ‘cause I’d done that in years past, and I was very grateful that it was someone else’s problem this year!

All of us just hung out and talked for a long time. It was great fun. In the back of my mind, I can remember Gaylen Rust, of yourldsneighborhood.combeing there, but in retrospect, I’m not sure. The two days kinda blurred for me. He was definitely there on Saturday. He’d helped out a LOT with the fest, in terms of promotions and sponsorship. We talked a lot about what was going on in LDS music. He’s getting involved pretty heavily in promotions and marketing. Which is something our little group needs desperately to learn.

At about 8:00, Shawn Phillips started DJing. It was supposed to be a dance, but there was hardly anyone there, much less dancing. Still, it was really cool to listen to the way he’d blend the music and the samples. At about 9:00 we decided to start the live performance part of the show. I went on first, and did what I felt was one of my best sets in a long time. I was feeling really confident in the show.

Then Arhythmatik took the stage and he had everyone dancing and shouting along with him. What a performer! He’s solid! It was exciting to me to see the few people that were there respond so well to two performers (he and I) that are so far out of what is normally mainstream LDS music.

It was a lot of fun, and I left that night thinking how lucky I was to be involved in such a great group.


The next morning I was slow getting started. I had my two boys with me, and it wasn’t easy getting them ready to go. Still, we managed, and when we arrived there were already a number of other musicians there. I was surprised to see Greg Hansen there. Greg and Gaylen have been teaming up to get the yourldsneighborhood jukebox going to help provide promotional outlets for indie LDS artists. It was fascinating to talk to the two of them. Greg has been involved heavily in the LDS music industry for a long long time. We talked a lot about trends, like the imminent death of the pearl awards, the future of the LDSBA and its convention, the way the internet is taking a bigger and bigger chunk out of retail… Fascinating stuff.

Early in the afternoon, we set up for the “Songwriters in the Round”. Four of us had been asked to sit up on the stage and take turns playing songs, with just our own acoustic guitars. I was both very honored to be asked to participate, as well and very nervous. I enjoy unplugged gigs, but I don’t do as well at them. I have a struggle remembering the words while I’m trying to play the guitar as well. But I did OK. I got Sam Payne, another participant, to scat along with me on “Thank You”, and Brendon came up to pound out a beat on my guitar case during “Superman”.

Neil Owen, Julie Keyser, and Sam also participated. Julie sang one about when she lost one of her babies after only a few hours of life. That one hit very close to home and got me teared up. It was very well written. Of couse Sam is an incredible writer, and Neil is the consummate bluesman. He does one (I don’t remember the title) based on some New Testament scriptures. Very gospel. Great stuff.

After the Songwriters, we had the open mic. A number of people had sort of stumbled onto us and they got up and performed. I was quite impressed with them, too, but I didn’t remember their names. My two boys got to sing a couple of primary songs, and everybody loved that as well.

As the stage guys and the bands for the evening began setting up, Julie and Steve stepped forward to present the first annual “Green Jello” awards. That first year that we had the fest, there were some in the LDS industry that whispered that our little show would be like a “Roadshow on Steroids”, or that it was all very “green jello”. Some of us got a little miffed, but others said that being “green jello” meant we were music of the people, not of the machine. In honor of that, they created these awards.

I was pleasantly surprised when they announced me as the “lifetime achievement” award. We all kinda chuckled over that one, but there are very few of us in the email group that have been with the group since the beginning, and stayed with it. I guess that’s an achievement! Anyways, I was touched. It sure made me feel good. And I got a cool little trophy, too.

In the Early Evening show, there were three ladies that had formed a group called “Musically Inclined”. They played some up-tempo tunes to minus tracks. Great job, and crystal clear harmonies.

Lindy Kerby did some tunes that I think were off her new CD. I love her voice. She did the solo at the end of “How Beautiful”

I did two tunes, too. I had planned on doing three, but my tracks CD had gotten scratched, and so that last tune kept skipping.

The evening show started with Jen Handy and her group. She’s got a killer voice, and her sound is a very strong Contemporary Christian vibe. Did I mention her voice is amazing?

Then, we got to hear more of Neil Owen, this time accompanied on the Dobro by Ryan Tilby and a bit of harmonica from Sam Payne. What a show.

Then, Sam took the stage. I always love watching him perform. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him more animated on stage than this time, though. They started with their version of “Route 66” and he was all over it. It’s fun to watch him dance, too. He’s the ultimate hick jazzman! Great set.

Finally, Alex Boye. Another consummate showman. But with a lot of heart and testimony. And another killer voice.

Overall Impressions

I’ve had a rather tough time these last two-three years trying to figure out what my place is in the LDS music world. And, it all sort of came together for me this weekend. I got a lot of encouragement from speaking with Gaylen, Greg, Alex, and Sam, and to suddenly be recognized so much by the group made me feel like I actually have a place in it.

I’m starting to see that my focus of writing, recording, and releasing mp3 singles is a great model for me to follow in promoting my site and my music. I’m not in a position where I can do a lot of touring or performing. Pressing thousands of CD’s is also beyond my limits. But I can put together some kickin’ tunes and share them on the ‘net.

I’m very excited about the ones I’ve been working on lately, as well. I’m collaborating with Arhythmatik on a rock/rap crossover tune, I’ve got some rockers and ballads both coming along, including one I wrote a few years back for my anniversary.

Come along for the ride with me!

Mark Hansen

Thursday, August 14, 2008

So, Modest is Hottest, Right?

I was just talking with my good friend Heather, who, with her husband, owns “Modest by Design”. They do girls formal wear, and all of it’s modest. No spaghetti straps or strapless/backless gowns here. No slits up the sides, or plunging necklines. I always have a great time visiting with them. This particular time, she had some interesting (and good) news to share.

As she was talking about how their business is going she pointed out some fascinating things. She said that many of their modest dress designs come from manufacturers of non-modest dresses. I wasn’t sure what that meant. She showed me. She found one of their dresses and pulled it off the rack for me.

No, I didn’t try it on, thank you very much…

She showed me where the hemline was on the original design, and pointed out the sleeves. They had gone to the manufacturer and said, “We’ll sell this if you make the hem longer, raise the bustline, and add sleeves to it. Make it more modest, and we’ll sell it for you!”

When they first started, they had tried this, but had been basically laughed off. But now, she says, they have the numbers (the sales) to hold their attention.

I was intrigued.

But there was more. She said that she and her husband had been working with one of the companies to expand their modest line of clothing because the company had found that three of those dresses were outselling the rest of their catalog!

With her impish smile, she said, “Who’d have thought that there are girls out there that don’t want to dress like ho’s!?”

A long time ago, I wrote:

“I know a boy
Who likes the girls sweet and pure
Who don’t have to dress to allure
They let their own lights shine..”

…And put it in my song, “He’s Out There”. Heather, actually, sang back-up vocals on it, too!

So, kudos to Heather and Eddie for making it work!

Mark Hansen

Mark on TV!

On Monday, I had an especially fun morning! I got to go to the KJZZ studios up in Salt Lake and participate in the "Home Team" morning show, hosted by fellow LDS musician Julie Hanks (De Azevedo). The program was about the good and bad of technology, and we got to talk about our internet group of LDS musicians and the festival coming up this Friday, Saturday and Sunday in Springville.

So, check out the video and come see us at the fest! I'll be performing Friday and Saturday.

Mark Hansen

Wednesday, August 06, 2008


William, over at A Motley Vision, mentioned that the LDSBA (LDS Bookseller's Association) Convention is going on this week. I actually got to attend this a few years back, when “One United Generation” was getting distributed. It was a great time. Lots of fun, and I got to see and meet a lot of cool people.

It’s basically a place where owners of LDS bookstores gather and find authors, publishers, musicians, and creators of LDS-oriented products. They buy their stock for the year, party, hobnob, find out what’s cool and new, and then go home.

The show is closed to the public, meaning that only members of the organization can attend. The only reason I got in was because my distributor got me in. It’s whole purpose is for product creators and distributors to get their wares seen and bought by retailers, who then stock their shelves with it.

This is a pretty common model in industry related trade shows. One of the biggest one that I know of is NAMM (National Association of Music Merchandisers). They have a huge show that draws all kinds of industry people every year. It’s also closed to the public.

AMV was commenting on how the attendance (and value) of the convention is dwindling. Partly, I imagine, due to the fewer and fewer LDS retailers out there. William was speculating that opening it up to the public might be a good idea.

A part of me agrees. I think it would be a lot of fun! I’ve been to some LDS product expos in the past, and I’ve always enjoyed them. I get a kick out of it. I love walking around and seeing what people are coming up with. I like seeing our own popular culture in action. I don’t always like what I see, but I like seeing it happen.

Another part of me has seen the low attendance that these shows tend to draw. Maybe it’s because they’re undercapitalized, and don’t have the budgets to do the heavy advertising. Maybe it’s because they’re usually held here in Utah, and we’re pretty saturated already with LDS products. Maybe it’s because a lot of Mormons see that sort of thing as the over-commercialization of our faith.

I’m not sure what the real reason is. The fact is, that without people coming and shopping, the vendors can’t justify the effort and the expense of setting up a booth. Without vendors, of course, the expos die.

As a creator, a musician, I would love to have the opportunity to present my wares, my CD’s directly to a buying public. Let them choose. I also realize that it makes me a willing participant in the ongoing overcommercialization of my faith. Oh, well… I can’t please everyone. I’m just making tunes that I wanna share, ya know?

Nonetheless, I do like to see situations and events that celebrate our members creating our own popular culture. I do like to see us celebrating our faith and our uniqueness. That doesn’t seem to be too wrong, either…

Mark Hansen

Friday, August 01, 2008

Back to the Temple

Jodi and I went to the temple today. I’m ashamed to admit it’s probably been more than a year since we went last. I’ve just let life get in the way, and it’s been frustrating.

But as the session was starting, and the voice begins the narration, I found myself just sitting and smiling. I was just absorbing the good feeling of being there. Then all of a sudden the Spirit just drops on me, and I’m tearing up and my chest feels like it’s gonna explode. It was an incredible feeling.

It’s been a while since I’ve felt it that strong. It was a real wake-up call for me. I mean, I’ve been active, I say my prayers, I read my scriptures, but I’ve really, really missed out by not going to the temple.

Mark Hansen


Related Posts with Thumbnails