Cheat Sheet: Christian Music's Star Producers
by Wendy Lee Nentwig | April 19, 2013
I guess it makes sense that most of the attention in the music world is showered on the artists, the larger-than-life personalities (and talents) who are comfortable stepping out front and shining under those bright spotlights. But our favorite albums probably wouldn't be our favorites without the contributions of the producers who helped shape them. It could be argued that these behind-the-scenes types are the true talent -- or at the very least, they're responsible for adding the polish to the stars, allowing them to shine brighter.
Music production is big business in Nashville, with hundreds of recording studios in the area. Despite all the talent in the region, there are a relatively small number of producers behind a majority of the bigger Christian releases. So maybe it's time you became acquainted with the pros behind the music. Many of them are also successful songwriters. Several of them play a wide variety of instruments. And a few of them even do double duty as performers in their own right. Some of these names may not be familiar to you, but they certainly should be.
He made a name for himself after working with worship-leader-of-the-moment Chris Tomlin, but Ed Cash was making waves in Nashville several years earlier with projects like Bebo Norman's near-perfect 1999 debut, Ten Thousand Days, and the notable Long Line of Leavers by Caedmon's Call. He was named Producer of the Year in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2012, more recently working with talents like Dave Barnes and Matt Wertz.
A relative newcomer to Nashville, Jason Ingram relocated his young family from Santa Cruz, Calif. He has since made a name for himself as a producer, primarily with worship releases. His credits include Tenth Avenue North, Aaron Shust and Chris Tomlin's 2013 chart-topper Burning Lights; he even nabbed a Dove Award Producer of the Year nomination in 2011 (with Rusty Varenkamp).
An original member of Jars of Clay, Matt Bronleewe decided to stay behind and finish school when his bandmates left for Nashville, replacing him with Matt Odmark. Bronleewe did just fine on his own, though, snagging production gigs for Natalie Imbruglia, Plumb, Rebecca St. James, dc Talk, Michael W. Smith and a long list of others.
Best known for his work with Amy Grant, he was at the helm of all of her biggest releases, including Age to Age, Unguarded and Lead Me On, in addition to producing several tracks on her 1991 crossover smash Heart in Motion. His credits extend beyond that, though. He has also worked with The Imperials, Debby Boone, Steven Curtis Chapman, Petra and many others, earning 25 Dove Awards and 14 Grammy Awards over the course of his career.
He started out as a performer and continues to record today, but Charlie Peacock also has an ear for talent unlike any other. He discovered Sarah Masen, producing her underappreciated self-titled debut. He also worked with Margaret Becker, The Choir and Out of the Grey. No wonder he received the Dove Award for Producer of the Year in 1995, 1996 and 1997. But his most recent find was The Civil Wars, whose 2011 release Barton Hollow (produced by Peacock) took home two Grammy Awards.
The Missouri native was a DJ and fan of dance music before he founded the band All-Star United. Throughout his career he has been a prolific songwriter, but lately he receives the most notice for his production work with Francesca Battistelli, Christ August, Stellar Kart, Hawk Nelson, Jason Castro and others, earning Producer of the Year honors in 2008 and 2011 at the Dove Awards.
This popular producer studied at Nashville's Belmont University before launching a successful songwriting career in 1996. He won an ASCAP award in that arena, but today's he's at least as well known for his production work with everyone from Chris Tomlin, Amy Grant, The Afters, MercyMe and Brandon Heath to acts like Backstreet Boys, Mandy Moore and Nick Lachey. He's the go-to guy for radio-ready pop, whether for Christian or mainstream audiences.
Here's a sampling of the best work from these studio heavyweights.