Matthew Lawson: Rick, thank you so much for taking time to chat with us today, my friend. For those who don’t know who you are and what you do, would you introduce yourself and explain what your position/job in SGM is?
Rick Shelton: I currently serve the Southern Gospel Music community as the vice president of Daywind Music Publishing. The primary function of this position is to create a family of songwriters and to secure recordings and other uses of their songs. The obvious other side of that equation is to help artists and record labels find their next hit song and make great records. I also manage our effort to create choir music for the church.
ML: In your early days before your career really “took off”, did you have a deep desire to do what you’re doing now? If so, when did you know in your heart this is what God had put you on the earth to do?
RS: Ha, well, I’m still working hard to see my career “take off”. I fell in love with this music as an early teenager and then all I ever wanted to do was sing it. Initially, as so many others have, I sang with my family. During my college years in the 90s, I had a little-known trio called Rick Shelton & The Way. Upon graduating, I moved to Nashville to work for Mike Speck who was very involved in creating church choir music. I received some valuable direction from my key mentors at the time and stepped off the stage and began working behind the scenes. A few years were invested in the Solid Gospel Radio Network managing promotional campaigns for artists and record labels. I also served for several years as a bi-vocational worship pastor at First Baptist Church, Old Hickory, TN. The reason for listing my resume is to demonstrate the path on which God directed my steps and how He prepared me to become a Christian music publisher. Through those experiences I learned how and why songs work as a performer, on radio, and in the church. He positioned me to develop relationships with artists and record labels. Only when that preparation had been completed, did He reveal to me that music publishing would be my life’s work. I’ve been a publisher now for nearly 17 years. I’m so very grateful for the calling and blessing in serving His servants for so many years. I am blessed.
ML: As a publisher and vice president, you work with a large majority of award-winning and rising songwriters, artists and musicians on a daily basis. Who are some of your personal favorite artists to listen to for pure enjoyment?
RS: My favorite artist is whomever I’m pitching songs to at the time. Ha, just kidding. My all-time favorite artist is the Cathedrals. I still listen to their music as much as any current artists. And we have some incredible talent in our industry today. Joseph Habedank writes great songs and makes great albums. I love his work. Karen Peck & New River create tremendous albums. I think 11th Hour is one of the strongest newer groups. I enjoy their music. Scotty Inman writes well and Triumphant is super. Gold City is solid and they record great songs. Ernie Haase & Signature Sound, The Booth Brothers, Gordon Mote are all wonderful. I hope I don’t get into trouble for not mentioning a particular artist. I love great songs and I tend to listen to those who record really great songs. Another artist from the past that I listen to regularly is the Lanny Wolfe Trio. Lanny Wolfe has written incredible songs and their recordings from the 70s and early 80s are among my favorites.
ML: Personally, you have been a mentor to me. You have been essential in my growth both professionally and personally. I owe you a big “thank you”, Rick. That being said, you seem to have a special place in your heart for carrying this great music into the next generation. Is that so?
RS: I’m very proud of you, Matthew. You are making a difference. And I expect you will make a significant impact in our genre and in the world. This music has meant so much to me through the years. I’m thankful that it has held a significant place in my life since I was young. It is powerful and life-changing. My hope is that it will take root in the lives of young people. That they will find encouragement for their journey. I found a friend in Gospel Music that has been with me my whole life. What a joy to help the next generation discover their purpose and find their area of service in the Kingdom.
ML: What is God currently trying to teach you in this season of your life?
RS: To judge less and love more.