I have a very special guest today that many of you will already know. However, there may be things he shares that you aren't aware of. I'm talking about Nashville songwriter Marty Funderburk.
PB: Marty, welcome to my new blog. I’m happy to spend some time with you and feature you as my guest today. I’m sure I have many readers that may not know who you are, so let’s tell them.
PB: Where were you born?
MF: I am the only member of my family who was not born in Mississippi…I was born in
Waukegan, Illinois. But we moved back to Mississippi when I was still a baby, so I’m a Southerner by breeding and raising if not by birth certificate!
PB: Who are your parents?
MF: My father is the late Jack Funderburk (a Smithville boy) and my mother is Carole
Stevens McKissick (an Okolona girl). I grew up in Wren.
PB: Marty, I know your mom, Carole, and your step-dad Marvin, well since I attended church with them for many years. Actually, I knew them before I got to know you. Sweet, sweet people.
PB: I know you as a friend that is loaded with musical talent. Will you tell my readers
about your musical ability, any instruments you play and etc.?
MF: As a child I always loved the piano…so much so that my parents eventually moved
our old upright piano into my bedroom so they could close the door and have peace
and quiet! I would sit for hours and figure out chords to my favorite songs. While
other kids were out playing ball I was at home pecking out melodies and making up
songs on that old piano. Then, in high school, I became a trombone player and
Drum Major in the Amory Panther Band. I later attended Mississippi State
University as a trombone major with the intention of becoming a band director like
my mentors Ernest Cadden and Bob Taylor. But God had another plan and I
switched schools and majors during my Sophomore year. I graduated from Welch
College in Nashville with degrees in Bible and Church Music (Vocal Performance) in
1981. After college I toured with The Life Action Singers (a national revival
ministry from Buchanan, Michigan) for 6 years before returning to Nashville to
pursue a career in Christian music. I took on various part-time jobs that enabled
me to work in recording studios as much as possible. During that time I was a
backup singer on many projects including Homeland EZ-Key Soundtracks
(produced by Ben Speer) and albums by Dallas Holm, Steve Green, Lulu Roman as
well as a vocal collaboration with Cynthia Clawson. A highlight of those days was a
performance at The White House for President Clinton. I performed there as a part
of The Young Messiah Tour for The Clinton’s first Christmas in Washington. In the
mid 1990’s I formed a Contemporary Christian trio called Beyond the Blue and we
were soon signed to a major recording contract with Word Records. We toured the
country as the opening act for singer and comedian Mark Lowry.
PB: I know that you are one of the world’s greatest Gospel songwriters. Tell me how
you got into songwriting.
MF: When I left Life Action and moved back to Nashville in the late 80’s I met Gary
McSpadden (of The Bill Gaither Trio) at a dinner party. He learned that I was an
aspiring songwriter and asked me to come to his house and play him some of my
songs. He was just starting McSpadden Music Group and was looking for young
writers to sign to his company. After hearing my songs he offered me an exclusive
contract on the spot. He saw the potential but, in my heart, I knew I was not of the
caliber that I would need to be for success in the big city! Consequently, very little
became of my time with his company. In the late 90’s my group, Beyond the Blue,
came off the road and I accepted a job as Director of Publishing for Daywind. It
was there that I actually learned the craft of songwriting. I eventually resigned
from that position to became a full-time songwriter and producer.
PB: I might add that your songwriting is blessings hearts everywhere.
PB: At what age did you start writing songs?
MF: I had a rock band in high school called SyZyGy (pronounced C-Z-G) and I think the
first song I ever wrote was for them…I was probably 14 or 15. The song was an
uplifting number called “Grave of Love.” Teen angst run amuck!
PB: What are some of the names of the songs you’ve written?
MF: Wow…I’ve written close to 700 songs. But here are a few of the more popular ones:
Three Rugged Crosses (written with my brother Ricky for The Freemans)
I Believe God (Brian Free & Assurance)
I Still Glory in the Cross (The Bowling Family)
I Have Never Walked Alone (Jake Hess)
All That Matters to the Lord (The Imperials)
The Journey’s End (The Blackwood Brothers)
I Still Have it All (HisSong)
Die Another Day (Brian Free & Assurance)
Wandering Heart (LordSong)
The Cross Said it All (Kim Hopper)
Hope is Alive (The Ruppes)
Right in the Middle (The Booth Brothers)
I’ve Got Family There (The Dixie Melody Boys)
But for a Cross (The LeFevre Quartet)
Whenever I Hear His Name (The Hoskins Family)
I Want to Know That You Know (Greater Vision)
It’s All About the Blood (Brian Free & Assurance)
More (Lauren Talley)
I Love Lovin’ Jesus (The Crist Family)
There’s Only One Well (Legacy V)
Good Morning Lord (Young Harmony)
When They Found Nothing (Legacy V)
A Quartet Christmas (Ernie Haas & Signature Sound)
PB: Marty, there's no doubt about it. You're a super talented man that God has given much talent to.
PB: Do you write solo or do you co-write with anyone?
MF: I’m comfortable writing by myself but I prefer collaboration. Two heads are better
than one! There’s a tight-knit community of Christian songwriters in Nashville and
I am privileged to work with such talented and dedicated individuals. And,
pragmatically speaking…there’s nothing like having a songwriting appointment on
your calendar to make you get up and write a song!
PB: Are you on staff at a particular company?
MF: I have been a staff writer for Daywind Publishing for almost 15 years.
PB: How do you get your songs recorded? Do you write a song, then “pitch” it to an
individual artist or group or how does that work?
MF: I write the song and record a “work tape” (a simple piano/vocal rough demo) that I
send to my publisher. They then hire professional musicians to create a real demo of
the song. Once it’s recorded my publisher pitches the song to various artists who
are looking for new material along the lines of what I’ve written. Sometimes it take
years to get a song placed with an artist. For whatever reason some songs just don’t
find a home for a long time while others get picked up right away. I’m convinced
that God knows who needs each song and, in His time, He makes it happen if it’s
meant to be. Though I have people pitching my songs for me, I still send songs to
those who request them from me personally. But most of my time is spent creating
PB: Do you find it’s easier to get your songs recorded since you work in the music
industry as opposed to being an unknown writer, an outsider?
MF: Most definitely! A reputation is a powerful tool (for good and bad). Success begets
further success. I made a conscious choice to position myself (physically) where the
action was taking place. I sacrificed a great deal of financial and personal stability
in hopes of one day fulfilling my dreams. Because of that concerted effort I was
eventually able to place myself before the “gatekeepers” and when opportunity
presented itself I was there to present what I had prepared for all those years in the
trenches. Had I not showed up with “the goods” I would not have succeeded. So it’s
not enough to be in the right place at the right time…as my first boss, record
producer Bob MacKenzie, said to me, “The longer the line of preparation, the more
likely it will intersect the line of opportunity.”
PB: Do you have a favorite song that you’ve written?
MF: There are two that come to mind…”Once Upon a Cross” (recorded by The Mark
Trammel Trio) is epic in scope and lays out such a clear gospel message. And “Love
Came Gently” is just the opposite….very sweet and simple and yet profound. It’s a
Christmas song that has been recorded by Ricky Skaggs & The Whites and
performed on CMT many times, and it’s also on a project by The Hoppers. I also
love that both of these songs are now living in the church as choir anthems.
PB: What has been your best-selling song so far from a monetary standpoint?
MF: That’s easy…”For the Love of God” recorded by Kenny Rogers. The project was
Kenny’s first Gospel album and my song was the title cut. It was initially
distributed exclusively through Cracker Barrel Country Stores, but was just
recently re-released through The Gaither Gospel Series into all other markets.
PB: Which of your songs has charted the highest right “out of the gate?”
MF: I really don’t know…but “Forever Changed” (The Kingdom Heirs) and “Life Goes
On” (The Talleys) both went to #1 pretty quickly!
PB: I know my church choir has sung some of your anthems before and I know that
you write songs for specific individuals sometimes. I was at a concert one night in Aberdeen, MS and you mentioned that there was an open call for a song for Brad Paisley. Do you have a preference over the two ways to get a song recorded, considering they are in different genres-solid Gospel and Country?
MF: I just want to reach the largest audience with my music…I don’t really care about
genres or labels. I’m going to write the truth as I know it and hopefully in a way
that makes a difference in people’s lives. There are many Country songs that have
deeply moved me in recent years. I love that many Country artists are not afraid to
voice their love for God and Country.
PB: In your line of work I’m sure you’ve met some amazing individuals. Can you
share some names with us of folks that have awed you, maybe musical heroes of
MF: I’ve been fortunate to have spent time and labored alongside some monumental
figures in music and in my faith. I truly hesitate to begin calling names, but I would
have to say that Del Fehsenfeld, Jr. (the founder and director of Life Action
Ministries) probably had the greatest impact on my spiritual life. He was a man of
intense focus and unquestionable integrity who walked humbly before God and
man. He was taken from us far too soon.
PB: Is there any one person that you’d like to record one of your songs that hasn’t
done so yet?
MF: Sandi Patty…that would be a sentimental milestone.
PB: Where do you see yourself 10 years from now where music is concerned?
MF: While I’ve primarily written for the Southern Gospel and church choral markets
I’m somewhat restless and finding I need to be challenged in order to keep building
momentum. I’ve written more and more Worship music in the past few years but,
without a vehicle to deliver those songs to churches, I’m not satisfied that I’m
making the best use of my time and talents in that genre. Most modern worship
material comes from a handful of Worship artists who write their own stuff. So I’ve
begun to work with some new Pop and Country artists who are wanting to present
positive messages. Most recently I’ve been writing with American Idol finalist
Naima Adedapo, who many will remember from Season 10 of the show. I find that
collaborating with young talent helps keep my music fresh and hopefully relevant.
PB: Besides Facebook, are you on any other social media sites? How can your fans
interact with you?
MF: I have a MySpace page that features some of my songs:
PB: What is the best way for folks to become familiar with your music?
PB: Do you have a website?
MF: No. But it’s on my list of things to do.
PB: Marty, thank you for allowing us to get to know you a little bit better and for
opening up your life to my readers and me. Do you have any parting advice for
MF: Writers write. If you want to become a great songwriter you have to write a lot of
bad songs first. Seriously. There are no shortcuts. It takes years of honing your
craft, so be patient and diligent. And please, resist the urge to cling too tightly to
your ideas. Remain teachable and flexible. Nothing will close doors quicker than a
closed mind. Remember, great songs are not written…they are RE-written! Oh, and
never say, “God gave me this song.” To make that claim is to place your song on the
same level as The Holy Bible…and we all know that God’s not adding material to
Scripture! That statement implies that no one should question the song in any way
because doing so would be to question God Himself. We are all inspired by a
lifetime of experiences and materials we’ve read or sermons we’ve heard or movies
we’ve seen or songs we’ve enjoyed. It’s a big stewpot of stimuli that we draw from
and it results in something of unique beauty that could only come from each very
special life. When I traveled with Mark Lowry I recall people approaching him
with songs that “God gave them” and he would listen to them and say…”I know
God, and He can do better!” So when, and if, you have the opportunity to share
your song with a “gatekeeper” present it humbly and accept critiques graciously
and realize that not every song has to be commercially viable to be used of God.
Some songs are meant just for you, some just for your family or your church family,
some just for your community or region…and some, if you really get it right, might
just reach the world. Finally…I just want to say how grateful I am to do what I love for a living. I know that many people invested in my life along the way and I owe them all a debt of
gratitude. I thank God for allowing me to be raised in an unusually special
community. Amory, Mississippi is not just another town. It was, and is, an
exceptionally good town with good people who inspire the best in all of us. It will
always be my home.
PB: Marty, thank you for taking time from your busy schedule for this interview. I know my readers have learned much about you that possibly they didn't know before. I certainly have learned some things about you that I didn't know too. You are a super talented person. May the Lord continue to bless you with good health so you can keep blessing others.
Well, folks. What a thrill it was to interview Marty Funderburk, a great presence in the Southern Gospel music industry. I hope you will tell others about my new website and blog and encourage them to read Marty's interview and to make my blog a daily part of your life.
Until next time,
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