Currently residing in Central Virginia, Gianna Elyse is a singer-songwriter, instrumentalist, and composer. Follow her artistic and spiritual journey as she seeks to be a better student of life and daughter of God [Romans 8:19-22].
Blessed am I, as I do not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers,but my delight is in the law of the Lord, and I meditate on his law day and night.
I am like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither - whatever I do prospers
Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away.Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.
(Paraphrased from Psalm 1:1-6)
A tree… which yields its fruit in season. The trees look dead at the moment, because of the harsh winter, but they stand the test of time, and will bud once again. So it is with me. During the harsh winter, I will stand the test of time, as I plant myself in the Word of God, Jesus Christ; God is watching over me, and the Holy Spirit guides and comforts me.
I’ll risk a cliché here… changing the world begins with changing within myself first (Matthew 7:3). There are seasons in my life where God puts a pause on what I thought was good, so that I could pursue His work in my life, no matter how menial and looked down upon it seems to me or to others (1 Corinthians 10:23). God is teaching me more and more not to rely on what I see, as the situations we face are intensely spiritual (Isaiah 55:8-9; 2 Corinthians 5:7; Ephesians 6:10-20: Colossians 3:2; 1 Peter 5:5-11).
Christians are exhorted to put on spiritual armor, to pray constantly… (Job 1:4-2:10; Ephesians 6:10-20; 1 Peter 5:5-11) gives insight into this more. Those who are successful leading their life, and that in humility and submission to God’s plan, those are exalted (Matthew 6:33, 23:12; Luke 14:11). Though they are tried through fire circumstances, they have the militant training under the Word of God, the Holy Spirit, that they make it out refined (Romans 5:1-5).
I am encouraged that not only did Jesus go through the same struggles to be able to relate and help me, but Christians around the world are also multiplying that testimony of God’s grace and power through their weaknesses (2 Corinthians 12:9; 1 Peter 5:9; Hebrews 4:15). Our enemy is real and prowls around to seek who he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). If he is intentionally seeking our destruction, we need to hold fast to God now more than ever (Psalm 51:10; James 4:8).
Talent & Testimony (TNT)
Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:
“Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.” Revelation 12:10-12
I want to share about Talent & Testimony, an event I coordinate each month, and how I came to be a part of it. I felt it more easy-flowing to speak it rather than type it:
I was unawares that there is a snow storm forecasted for tonight. Well, perfect blogging weather as I sit in my hammock and watch the flurries continue outside my window! 🤷🏾♀️
What is on your music playlist right now?
I personally enjoy YouTube Music the best for listening to music, and all my music playlists are on there.
I recently started a morning walk playlist, because God has recently been waking me up with songs in my spirit that relate to what I am going through, and these have been encouraging to dwell on when I go on walks outside with Him.
Usually, I let YouTube create a playlist for me based on a song I have in mind or a particular artist. I am one to listen to music from individual artists’ discography on repeat, but once in a while I will use the radio feature to see what YouTube introduces to me. But here are three of my favorites (all are independent):
Jamie Grace… She is a trailblazer in my mind, as she is now independent, but used to be a part of Gotee records (TobyMac). Jamie Grace’s music has morphed into an indie style from her earlier pop days. She also seems to be more accessible as a human. I admire her approach overall, and love how she does not confine herself, though she does have a clear message advocating for awareness for mental health issues and even wrote a book called “Finding Quiet”. She talks about these things on her YouTube and podcast if you are interested in learning about her smart work-life dynamic.
I will share a bit more about why I like the independent approach rather than getting signed with a record label (look out for a future post in which I share what I learned from Michael W. Smith’s team). Briefly, I am not driven to make a living off of music as much as I want to build an effective ministry. That being said, being independent can stilll make you more money than getting signed anyways, depending on your approach. Either way, your approach depends on your goals, but the common thread is building relationships with people who can help you in areas where you are not knowledgeable. This can be with a management group, a label, and simply by building community with a collective of other artists and entrepreneur-types.
Josh Garrels… definitely one of those artists I first heard when in radio mode on YouTube Music. He exhibits a mix of folk, indie…uh… he doesn’t fit in quite one category, in my books. Maybe skater music? At least that’s what I like to call it because of his background story, and I like to listen to his music while roller-skating.
He is my favorite artist by far, because of the uniqueness of his style, biblical references in his music, and overall relevance to life (I know that’s vague, but try his music and it might click 😆). Certainly, the style may not be for everyone, and sometimes I have to be in a certain mood to better absorb it also. I would say my song, Pulling Weeds, is closer to his style of writing…but also, not really that close, as I do not know how to categorize that song myself (see my blog post titled, “Pulling Weeds“). Again, obviously not for everyone. As for me, I am really digging this semi-cyptic poetic-freeverse-indie-folk stuff.
Jonathan Ogden… I look up to this cat for his worship-oriented, contemplative/meditative style. He is a lo-fi-Christian-worship artist. I probably listen to his music the most out of the three mentioned. He may also be the most accessible artist out of the ones mentioned. Highly reccommend: You can join the global discord community he initiated for Christian artists here (he pops in the threads fairly regularly, and I personally can’t keep up with the discussions as much as I would like to).
Furthermore, his writing is heavily based on scripture, and the manner in which he uses the artist platform to glorify God is what I observe as a model for my own ministry, especially considering I desire to travel internationally (he also has pursued ministry endeavors over-seas). He has videos on YouTube that are great discipleship tools, and I would encourage any Christian in the music industry to take note of his intentionality to keep God first and foremost in his life. For artists creating for the kingdom of God, his project Magnify Studios is a helpful resource, to say the least. If you are looking for some neat instrumental study or prayer music, he released a mix-tape relatively recently based on the 24 hours in a day, succinctly called Twenty Four. He also creates visual art, including to brand his own album covers.
There are many more who have inspired me and will continue to do so one way or another: Britt Nicole (❤my❤adolescence❤), Francesca Battistelli, Moriah Peters, 7song, Daniel Martin Moore, and numerous artists in the gospel-music scene. I could not possibly name them all. I also have to credit my dad, and family in general, for fostering in me a musical diversity. God used them to make me feel its ok to explore musical styles like bluegrass and reggae.
Solitude can feel painful, because so many fail to master it. My solitude is found in Jesus Christ. I love to walk in nature, because I feel close to Him, as it all points to a magnificent Creator (Romans 1:20). And when I do not read and apply His Word to my life, then I am failing to find solitude (James 1:22). Prayer is also an important aspect of solitude, as it expresses reliance and trust in God through every circumstance, because “Nothing of eternal significance happens apart from prayer” Jerry Falwell Sr.
In Hebrews 4, the rest that believers have in God is considered in greater detail.
Verse 16 says: “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Romans 12:12
When I fail to find solitude, things like envy and depression seep in. The scripture rings true: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” Proverbs 13:12
Jesus said: “Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” John 15:4
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. John 15:9-11
And I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from one person’s envy of another. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. Ecclesiastes 4:4
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21
Perhaps, you have the following dilemma as an artist, or even as an individual discovering your purpose…that you have come to the point where there are bits and puzzles pieces of things you are passionate about, or a cacophony of skill-sets you have, or want to have, to the point that you are not sure how to hone in on your thing. Here’s the thing, there is something extraordinary within you, and me, and God knows exactly what that is. He placed it there, after all.
Ben Shive is one of those guys that has honed into his marketable skill as a producer and studio musician, yet, he also has some other notable skillsets that are not obsolete, and actually enhance his primary role, such as a poetic gifting he utilized to write one of the popular songs sung by Ben Rector (quoted above, “Extraordinary Magic”). Ben Shive did not say all of that, but I gathered it as a personal lesson from a talk he gave to my school on October 18th, 2021.
As I observe people who are successful at what they do, I imagine what it must have been like to be just starting out, unsure of where God will lead them, and then I am encouraged. One day, even today, I will be walking out a purpose for which only I was designed. When you decide to take the dive and market one specific thing you are passionate about, you are not giving up the other passions, at least not completely. There are creative ways you will utilize all of what you are passionate about, and those little skills, ideas and characteristics you have, no matter how obscure and seemingly unrelated, to set yourself apart in your field of interest. Because those idiosyncrasies inevitably make up who you are. This is about thinking like an entrepreneur. Ultimately, however, you must surrender each desire and plan to God and ask for His direction.
That was a tidbit of encouragement to start off a series of posts based on presentations and interviews I have had with commercial music gurus. On deck are Jackie Patillo (Gospel Music Association), Leonard Ahlstrom, and a couple of folks from Michael W. Smith’s team. Disclaimer, I am sharing notes from the sessions I attended with them, thus, the words I share are mostly useful advices from the information they shared, non-verbatim.
One major theme I got from Ben Shive’s talk was the importance of networking in a musical community where the people have shared values. He also mentioned listening to music with “a high musical IQ” He has been influenced by artists and groups (some even collaborated with) such as Rich Mullens, Mark Classen, Andrew Peterson, Ed Cash, Colony House Records, J.J. Heller, George Martin, Harry Connick Jr., Spike Jones, Paul Simon, Rick Ruben, and Dave Barnes. One of the most impactful opportunities was working with Brown Banister, his daughter Ellie Holcomb, Amy Grant, and Michael W. Smith. Although Ben Shive’s background as a classically trained jazz pianist certainly helped land him excellent opportunities, he observed other important factors in play when it comes to playing gigs.
Here are some isolated notes for studio pianists/keyboardists as well as for aspiring producers:
Be humble and have a workable/teamwork attitude, know when and what to play, remember what you play…
Do not rely on the instrument, but try to make a melody
Listen to things with a high musical IQ
Learn to be dumber with your playing keys, especially if you are trained classically/jazz because nobody needs that for most records. (think diamond chords, which is particularly encouraging, as you do not have to be impressive, just functional).
Keyboard as an arranger: voice lead, avoid the vocal line, and know where the melody sits in the register so that you can compliment the vocal line
Arrange as a keyboardist: Arrange on the individual instruments’ terms, think “What are these instruments doing?”
Dynamics: What did I do last? You have to remember what you did and change just when it is needed
Do the right thing at the right time, and remember, silence can be just as dynamic; listent to your band mates!
In session playing, be able to receive correction, and be able to hang with what’s going on musically (be skillful/astute as needed), chord on 1st try, and be able to play it back on repeat in the other room if needed
Have technical proficiency, good ear, and think like a part-writer
Production & Technology
Producers do not need to know everything, but they do need to know how to build a team, it’s just cheaper to know more and hire less. 🧐
Be there for the artist: make them feel like a queen or king; the artist needs a chance to be heard; Create rapport with your artist
Have processes in place that never waste money
Producers attract certain types of artists due to the producer’s style
Make one decision at a time, to find out what the artist is NOT
>rather than trying to adjust the whole band at once
>and having references from the artist is helpful, especially when they do not know how to communicate verbally what they want to hear
Any programming should fit with the style of the producer and the band members
Know how to get on the talkback mic, to help get good vocals out of the artist (include very specific instructions and a compliment, so that it is constructive)
If at all possible, try to have session players whom the artist knows
Be assertive, but aiming to please. There will also be a frank exchange of ideas occasionally
Think about tempo, key signature, feel, and form; have quality pre-production
You’re getting somewhere once you feel the emotion when you listen to the artist; “lights are on”
You do not have to be an audiophile, as being a producer is more about workflow
If you are using live piano, it should only be right before the MIX; find what you want to do on a piano sample as it’s easier to adjust before mixing.
Remember what you did last time, talk numbers, and shape the tones you play
As a producer, you will use: subtractive synthesis, juno emulator, oscillators, and signal chains (to shape tone with reverb and delay)
Bonus Note for Artists
You can make a record off of nothing
Play shows and build a following, then think about a budget for an album
If you have any questions about the notes above, please comment below
And I would love to know, are you an aspiring or already established musician or producer? Could you add some tips or questions related to anything mentioned in this post? 🙂
P.S. I am late for my second #bloganuary post, as it is now technically day three
Thank you for your friendship and patience with me as a broken vessel; God is patching me up, re-forming me. Sometimes, I am not ready or willing to receive something because I have yet to learn a lesson, or become a doer of the Word in that area. Essentially, there’s been fear…bitterness…and conditions which I allowed to hinder my love.
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
1 John 4:18
Prayer and Affirmation
Thank you, God, for helping me to do what I need to do. I pray you overshadow me with power and grace in the areas I am weak and tired. I pray you overcome my insecurities and help me to grow past them.
Wash me with your Word, Oh God, and let not the worries of this world hinder it (Matthew 13:22; Mark 4:18-19; Luke 8:14; Ephesians 5:26).
His Word will produce fruit from me, a positive growth (Isaiah 55:8-13).
He is able to complete the good work He started in me, perfecting my faith (Philippians 1:6; Hebrews 12:1-3).
Create in me a clean heart, O God (Psalm 51:10).
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
I did not realize that the #bloganuary challenge was initiated. Better late than never…
I have been entrusted with a voice, to say something of my Creator, the gospel, to exhort, encourage, and ultimately to leave each place better than I found it. This blog seeks to better represent my artistry and connect with my supporters.
Whether you are a fellow musician, friend, promoter, or manager, this blog is present to update you on my music, ministry, and personal life.
Discussions will reference music as a form of worship, in the context of ministry, and in the commercial realm. You will also be able to read about developments with my music, people in my network, and activities in which I am involved. Stylistically, I tend to sing and create either folk, worship, gospel, or funk music content. This because I grew up in a diverse musical situation; my dad was a worship leader, my Hispanic grandmother writes songs, my uncle is in a reggae band, my aunt and I share a love for Motown, and I am a classically trained flutist, amongst other instruments I ventured to learn. Folk music is more of a recent admiration for me, as my dad introduced me to bluegrass after we moved to a rural town in Florida. Coming from a city in New Jersey, I was not immediately accepting of folk music, but grew to be inspired by it.
In short, I hope to make it easier for people to follow my artistic journey by my sharing original music more effectively and consistently documenting my personal growth.
If you are like me, you take Biblical matters seriously and seek truth whenever theological matters are addressed. I have asked a pastor of mine to review drafts of certain posts for his insight and constructive feedback, as I am no exegetical expert!
Plans fail for lack of counsel,
but with many advisers they succeed.
Proverbs 15:22 (New International Version)
My goals for the blog are to feature new music, including monthly collaborations with other artists, and to release two new songs/compositions within the next year.
My plan is to also formulate a giveaway within the next year as a way to bless someone else during this journey. I do have personal goals in terms of followers and activity on posts, however, I will keep those private for now and release the results at the end of ‘22.
My desire is to connect and grow within the reach of my surrounding community. This means you who are reading are some of the most accessible people to me. Perhaps you know of a business or family who would like a “backyard concert” or you yourself have an event coming up. I would love to discuss playing for your business or event.
As I gain support, I could employ personal equipment. At this time, however, please keep in mind I will only be able to perform if you are satisfied with an acoustic setup [simply my instrument(s) and I] or where equipment and tech accommodations are already provided within the venue.
To be transparent, you are witnessing me grow artistically and brand myself better. Thank you for your support of Gianna Elyse!
For collaboration inquiries, or to book a “backyard” concert, please use the contact form at the end of this post.
Why I share music:
This world is a broken place, and the pieces are too many to be put together by one. Yet, Jesus did the impossible. He transcended cultural and spiritual boundaries to connect us back with God, and challenged us to do the same with other people, by the power of the Holy Spirit. His love is so powerful it freed me from the power of darkness! I can’t help but share how good is my God through the music He has put on my heart.