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Music pioneer lends his talents to benefit concert
1002Terry
Pat Terry will have a new album out later this year.

1002Terry-NewDay

Listen to a new mix of Pat Terry's song, "Brand New Day," slated to be on his upcoming album.

Pat Terry has experienced the best of all worlds, musically speaking.

Once part of the Pat Terry Group in the 1970s, he later split off to write his own music, and then spent time in Nashville, Tenn., writing songs with the likes of Travis Tritt. More recently, Terry has spent time writing his own music and producing his next album, which he hopes to release in November.

Terry will join seven other singers and songwriters Tuesday for the annual John Jarrard benefit concert, organized by Gainesville native Bruce Burch, himself a longtime Nashville songwriter and director of the music business program at the University of Georgia.

Jarrard, also a native of Gainesville, died from complications from diabetes in 2001, but not before he raised thousands of dollars for diabetes research and education. With that in mind, all proceeds from the concert will benefit the John Jarrard Fund, which is administered by the North Georgia Community Foundation. Local charities benefitting from the concert include Good News at Noon, the Good News Clinics, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Hall County, the Georgia chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and the Georgia Mountain Food Bank.

Terry will take the stage Tuesday with other established singer/songwriters Jim McBride, Randall Bramblett, Rachel Proctor, Mike Dekle, Colt Ford, Burch and local businessman and rocker Allen Nivens. In a recent phone interview from his home in Smyrna, Terry said he knew Jarrard from his time in Nashville.

"John and I wrote together a couple of times in Nashville, and we had a lot of mutual friends and we crossed paths a lot in Nashville, so it’s a real privilege to do this concert," Terry said. "He just had a real servant’s heart and cared about people and was a real inspiration to all of us."

When Terry and his trio, the Pat Terry Group, debuted in 1975, they were ahead of their time. By blending pop and folk music with Christian-centered lyrics, the group set the groundwork for today’s contemporary Christian music. And while the band broke up in 1980, they produced enough albums on the then-fledgling Myrrh Records to create a following and a buzz about telling Christian stories through popular music.

Terry continued this path with three solo albums he released in the 1980s, and then started spending more time in Nashville, pulled by his love of putting words to music. Plus, Terry said, he felt like there were more things to be said that could only be done by branching out into other genres of music.

"I did feel like at the end of that period in the ’70s there were things that I wanted to say that weren’t necessarily geared towards the kind of music that our group had done," he said. "I felt there were some limitations in that genre of music that I wanted to kind of stretch my creative wings a bit. And that carried on to my work in country music.

"I felt like there shouldn’t be limitations on Christian people who feel they are creative and artistically minded in the songs they write. Gospel songs aren’t the only kind of expression Christian artists can name."

In Nashville, Terry paired up with other writers, working with bands such as Confederate Railroad, the Oak Ridge Boys and Kenny Chesney. One of the first projects Terry did in Nashville was co-authoring Travis Tritt’s first No. 1 hit, "Help Me Hold On."

Some of the greatest songwriters in the world are in Nashville, Terry said, and the opportunity to work with them helped him raise his own standard of songwriting.

"I always thought of myself first as a writer. I’ve always enjoyed performing and recording, but I’ve always thought of myself as a writer," he said. "Through the years it’s been an adventure writing for myself, which is a different thing from writing for other people. But I love the whole process of trying to get something down on paper and trying to make it a musical form that people care about.

"That’s what I love the most — that process. And also just the fine art of the craft."

The job of a songwriter is to make the song sound effortless, he said. The idea is to craft a song that sounds like it was always meant to sound that way. "You want a song to sound like it wasn’t labored over. You want it to sound like it fell right out of your mouth," Terry said. "But there’s a lot of work involved."

Terry’s new album — a few new songs are available on his MySpace page — is a compilation of music he’s been writing for the past couple decades. The music itself is soft yet direct, with clear vocals that gently mix pop and country. "It’s interesting because I haven’t recorded my own album in a long time. I’ve got a lot of songs saved up during the years," Terry said. "But primarily they’re songs I’ve cared about."

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