On Tuesday, TheBlaze debuted the first installment of a two-part musical special called Believe Again. A few months ago, Glenn asked several musical artists of different faiths to come together to record a full Christmas album over the course of four days.
Mark Mabry, a member of Glenn’s American Dream Labs team in Dallas, headed up the project and sat down with GlennBeck.com for a quick interview during the editing process.
GlennBeck.com: So, what was it like when Glenn first downloaded the idea for Believe Again?
Mark: Glenn, (composer) Clyde Bawden, and I sat together in, I think it was May, Glenn’s office. We were eating cookies and talking about doing a few Christmas songs, when the album idea was born. Glenn mentioned Andy Williams and a lot of other ideas. The concept kind of snowballed, Clyde went to work on some fantastic arrangements, including Go Tell it on the Mountain, Oh Come all Ye Faithful, and some others. He also made a fantastic version of What Child is This that we’re saving.
Anyway, we ate all of the cookies, then found a sharpie and wrote our plan – which, by the way, totally got turned on it’s head when we found out that none of the songs were in the public domain – on the back of a paper plate!
Glennbeck.com: So what was your role in the production of the album?
Mark: Officially, I was the producer of the TV show and co-producer of the album. Glenn, Jason, Clyde, and I were all equally nuts enough to think you could jam 9 strangers into a room and make an album from scratch in 4 days. So whatever you call that job, I was 25% of that.
LJ Herman was also a big part of coordinating the idea around the offices, and then he helped get the album into the music world. Unsung hero.
Everybody on the album arranged, composed, performed, etc. It’s tough to pin down “roles” for this kind of project.
GlennBeck.com: What are some of your favorite stories from the recording process?
Mark: There was so much good stuff, more than we could possibly include in the album. There was Jason, Clyde, and I late at night wondering if we had gone off the cliff and what Glenn would say when he saw the stuff. It was the energy of seeing the moment of creation of these songs. I grew more in awe of my long time collaborators Jason Barney and Clyde Bawden. It was tough to relate in the show how much I love and respect them.
GlennBeck.com: It’s well known around the office that what we affectionately call “Glenn Ideas” usually have a pretty nontraditional creative process. Can you go more into what those late night conversations were like and how the three of you worked to execute Glenn’s vision?
Mark: We took some liberties with traditional Christmas songs that we knew might ruffle a few feathers. Glenn is a creative enough guy to understand and appreciate just about every style of music that is well performed, so we weren’t super worried about his acceptance. I’ve been with him jamming to Muse, Sinatra, and classic rock. But, we have a conservative audience and that extends beyond political conservatism in a lot of cases into traditionalism on a lot of fronts. Putting an electric guitar on Angels We Have Heard on High is not a traditional Christmas music choice.
But here is what makes me comfortable with it – Our musicians are not a bunch of Godless rockers locking to capitalize on a commercial holiday. They are worship leaders, churchgoers, and God fearing people. The last thing they would do is offend the spirit of Christmas.
When they sang Angels We Have Heard On High it was in a spirit of praise and happiness. They felt that the louder they did it, the more right it felt. If people understood the composers of that version, Cody Carnes and David Osmond, they would understand the spirit of the song. That song should rock chapels all over the country.
GlennBeck.com: And Glenn’s been a big part of the behind-the-scenes too, right?
Mark: It’s tough to explain to people just how good Glenn’s ear is. He could pick out audio issues with precision and also had a great handle on what would hit when released. People forget that he was a music guy for decades.
GlennBeck.com: What was the biggest challenge with putting the album together?
Mark: Time was our challenge. Being so close to it that there was no time for evaluation. We had to produce on the fly, dropping all egos and trusting each other to say if something wasn’t right. That made our greatest challenge also our greatest strength. It was a speed of trust thing.
Also, we have kind of made a big deal about the artists all being from different branches of Christianity. That’s isn’t just part of marketing the special, but it was an internal issue early on because some people we reached out to declined to participate. But to these guys, our guys, it was a non-issue. They were all smart enough to recognize their theology differences, but they were also smart enough to realize that those differences should not define us.
GlennBeck.com: So how did you pick these musical artists?
Mark: Glenn, Clyde, Jason, and I chose them. Since time was compressed we only had time for phone calls and YouTube videos. Generally speaking, they were all in the first wave of people we wanted on the show. We realized that we wanted another girl on the album and it was tough to put our finger on exactly what sound. Cody recommended Dianne Michelle, whom he knew, we watched her on Youtube and fell in love.
GlennBeck.com: What are your favorite songs on the album? Why?
Mark: It’s changed a bunch of times. I love Angels We Have Heard On High and Deck the Halls for when I want to put on a red Christmas sweater and boogie.
But not too long after Oh Come all Ye Faithful was done my family was having a rough time with something and that song was playing in the kitchen. It ended up with everybody embracing in tears during that song. That’ll always be a favorite. I love where the choir hits on Go Tell it on the Mountain as well. Kim turned them into a pretty good gospel choir for that song.
GlennBeck.com: Mark, thank you for taking a few minutes to talk with us. We know you have to go get the special finished before air time.