I was seven when I knew I wanted to make music. I would lock myself in the dining room of my grandmother-in-law's house and sing along to Elvis and Beatles records for hours. But it wasn't until college that I took steps to pursue music seriously. I met up with some friends and we started writing songs. Before I knew it, crowds were gathered in my dorm room singing along. There's nothing like hearing other people sing your songs. We formed a band, played out, and even recorded an album my senior year. We even got a publishing deal. But wouldn't you know it, the company went bankrupt before our album was ever released. My dream of doing music for a living, was squashed. At least for now.
But that didn't stop my desire to make music. My dream? To one day be nominated for a Dove Award. That may seem silly to some, but to me it's recognition that you're a serious contributor to the Christian music industry. Your songs mean something. Your talent is appreciated. Maybe even that your songs have touched someone's life. It's one of the highest awards for any Christian music artist. I have never even been considered, of course. But there was one moment--30 seconds--that almost led me down that path.
Right after I graduated college I entered a vocal competition in Dallas, Texas, using one of the songs I recorded with the band. I soon found out that I'd be competing against 186 vocalists...and I was number 183 to perform. I knew the judges would be tired. And here I was, singing to a "track" of my song called Crucified. Shortly before I went on, I asked one of the other competitors if anyone had "blown away the judges yet."
"Not really," she said.
I got up, they handed me a mic, pushed play on the cassette player, and I sang my song. The crowd applauded. The judges applauded. It was an extremely positive response. When I sat back down in the room, the girl I had spoken to previously handed me a note on a piece of torn, red paper. "I think you're the one who just blew everyone away!" (I still have that note to this day.)
To my surprise, I won the competition. And the first place prize was to go to Nashville, record a project, open for Morgan Cryar (one of my all-time favorite artists--and who my oldest son is named after) and...wait for it...pitch your project to the president of Star Song records!
This was my chance!
With the help of some good friends, I raised enough money to travel to Nashville. I recorded my first solo project, called Shock the World. It was, at best, bubble-gum pop. There are some songs on there that I'm still proud of though. Probably wasn't my best effort but with the amount of studio time I had been given, (we recorded the entire album in 2 days) it was ok. I opened for Morgan Cryar, singing a handful of my songs and received a strong response.
"I'm on my way!" or so I thought.
When I arrived at the office of Star Song records, I sat in the lobby next to a young couple. He had spikey "nashville hair" and she had big, blonde hair! They were dressed in jeans and a t-shirt. He was wearing a denim jacket. I spent every last dollar I had to buy a cheap suit at the Nashville mall. I was feeling a little out of place. They told me they were a married couple and they were there to sign their recording contract for their first album. They called themselves Two Hearts. It was exciting to meet other artists who were just about to launch their careers. They had done it. They were getting their chance. I was hoping that, by that afternoon, I'd be in the same boat. They comforted me, wished me luck and then went into another room to look at their paperwork.
When the president of Star Song came out of his office to meet me, my producer introduced me as "the next Michael W. Smith." The president asked me, "Is that true, are you the next Michael W. Smith?" I said, "No sir. I'm the first Tim Glenn!" I was brimming with confidence. I knew this meeting could change my entire career path. I went into the office with the president, sat down in front of his massive mahogany desk. He sat in his leather chair on the other side. We made a little bit of chit-chat. I was obviously nervous as he popped my cassette into his tape player.
"Well then, 'first Tim Glenn', let's see what you've got." The first song--Take Me Away--came on. My foot was tapping. Probably as much out of nervousness as enjoying the beat.
That's all he listened. Never even made it to the first chorus. He stopped the tape. Popped it out. What is he thinking? Was it so good that he didn't need to hear any more? Was it so bad he didn't need to hear any more?"
It was the latter.
"I'm sorry, Tim. This just isn't what we're looking for right now. Good luck to you though." That was it. No contract. No suggestions. No second chance. Nothing. I walked out of that office, deflated. I took my shot. And I missed. I walked past Two Hearts, sitting in another room poring over their contract. They looked at me with the obvious question on their faces. I just shook my head no as I walked by. They whispered, "sorry!" My producer walked me out to the car, where I fought back tears the entire ride back to the house where I was staying.
I often have wondered what my life would've been like had that 30 seconds gone differently. Many musicians don't even get that one shot. I had mine and blew it. What if it had happened years later? I'm a much better songwriter and vocalist now than I was then. Or was it simply not meant to be? And if not, why has this passion stayed with me for 40-years?
Don't get me wrong, I love the way God has blessed me with a family and a career. And I still get to make music. Just not to the degree I had hoped for. But that 30 seconds was a very disappointing path changer.