By Mike Killeen

Lucinda Williams recently told Rolling Stone magazine of an early meeting with a Columbia Records executive. “He said, ‘You have a lot of potential, but you need to work on your songs. None of them have bridges.’ After the meeting, I got out my Bob Dylan and Neil Young albums. I said, ‘These songs don’t have bridges either. So f*#@ that guy.’”

Williams has always recognized the signal from the noise That’s one reason she’s earned unbridled adulation from fans and artists alike for more than 30 years.

Many were introduced to Lucinda Williams via Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, the 1998 album that earned a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album and universal praise from music critics the worldwide (Car Wheels landed at number 305 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 best albums of all time).

But by then, those in the know already recognized Williams as one her generation’s most vital artists and a leader of the “alt-country” movement she helped create, thanks to her eponymous 1988 breakthrough album and 1992’s Sweet Old World. By the time Essence was released in 2001, Time magazine also had Williams in its sites, calling her “America’s best songwriter” the following year.

Part of Williams’s appeal is how she seamlessly blends the honored traditions of folk, country, and blues while introducing a sensibility that feels entirely her own. Perhaps this can be traced to her upbringing. Her father was Miller Williams, a literature professor and poet who read his poem “Of History and Hope” – containing the line “We know the sound of all the sounds we brought” – at Bill Clinton’s 1997 inauguration. Lucinda Williams followed her dad’s teaching job across the Southeast, including to Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Georgia. Later, under her own volition, she settled first in New Orleans, then Austin, then New York City, and finally Los Angeles, where her passion for music became a formal pursuit.

Today, Williams says she is writing and singing better than she ever has, and it’s hard to argue. She is surely more prolific. Once known for her measured perfectionism (it took 11 years for her to release the consecutive albums, Lucinda Williams, Sweet Old World, and Car Wheels on a Gravel Road), Williams’s most recent release, Ghosts of Highway 20, represented her second double album in a span of just 18 months, following 2014’s Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone. Both belong to Williams’s newly formed record label, Highway 20 Records, perhaps offering a bit of symmetry for an artist who has always been truly independent.

Lucinda Williams headlines the 2017 Amplify Decatur Music Festival on Saturday, April 22. Lucinda and her band will go on around 9:15 p.m. Visit AmplifyDecatur.org for tickets and more information.

A work by Lenz Creative Director Ben Barnes recently received worldwide recognition, when it was hosted at a museum in Milan, Italy.

The poster, entitled “Sow,” is the first in a series of three posters. Ben created the poster back in the mid 2000s based on the World War II Victory Garden Posters, most notably borrowing their militarist feel with a strong call to action. When asked why he made the poster, Ben said, “I wanted to do some good with the skill set that I had.” Ben wanted to motivate people to help the environment, and the poster does so by encouraging everyone to plant a garden.

When Ben began creating the poster, a professor that inspired Ben pointed him in the direction of a contest. The contest, called Green Patriot Posters, was hosted by two professors at the Rhode Island School of Design through an idea they called the “Canary Project.” The professors, just like Ben, wanted to use design as a way to do good and help the environment. The contest called for posters that had an aspect of environmental activism, and Ben’s poster fit right in. A year after the contest, the Canary Project picked Ben’s poster to be a part of a book produced from other art entered in the competition, alongside artists Shepard Fairey and DJ Spooky. The book received recognition from multiple online sources, including wired.com.

From there, the success of the poster snowballed. A year later, Ben was asked if his poster could be included in a large format calendar which would be released in Germany. Of course, he said yes. Fast forward yet another year, and the poster was included in a nationwide design museum tour alongside several other graphic design works. The exhibition was called “GRAPHIC DESIGN: NOW IN PRODUCTION,” and its travel list would make any voyager jealous. From New York to Texas to Los Angeles, Ben’s poster traveled across the states.

But the poster’s journey wasn’t done. Ben’s work made it all the way to Milan, Italy at the Triennale di Milaon Musuem. The poster joined other photographs, publications, and graphic materials produced by artists, architects, and community gardeners from across the globe. The exhibition, called ‘Urban Orchard’ and a part of the events of the 21st Triennale International Exhibition, presented a series of subjects related to urban agriculture.

Ben says, “It was all overwhelming, shocking, and surprising! I wasn’t expecting anything to come out of it. I was just thinking that this is something I could do and maybe use for my portfolio to show potential employers where my head is at. It’s just nice to feel like I could do more.”

Ben also said that, to him, his design and work isn’t about the recognition or awards. It’s about doing what he loves.

The 11th annual AJC Decatur Book Festival Presented By DeKalb Medical was, well, one for the books!

Hundreds of authors, beautiful weather, record crowds…this one had it all.

Lenz is proud to be a founding sponsor of the Festival, and has served as DBF’s marketing agency since the its inception, providing marketing, advertising, PR, graphic design, and social media services.

In celebration of another successful Festival, Lenz produced this video:

By Richard J. Lenz

When you work in a particular field, it shapes your worldview. Many times, I catch myself examining culture, business, and interpersonal relationships as the inevitable products and outcomes of communications, which is the essence of marketing. Kind of like, “Communications is Everything, and Everything is Communications.”

My usual elevator speech, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, is this: We use the evil tools and methods of advertising, communications, and marketing persuasion to advance the causes, people, organizations, and corporations that we believe are making a positive difference in the world. Through Lenz, we are trying to make a difference.

Lenz has viewed “Events” as communications and marketing as well, and has used events to advance our clients’ businesses in many ways.

This weekend, starting Friday night, is the AJC Decatur Book Festival, which has turned into, ahem, a Bookzilla of a book festival. Lenz’s efforts on the Festival started in 2005, when Daren Wang walked into my office and asked if we would be interested in helping to launch the book festival that the South needed.

As an author, editor, designer, and publisher of books, I told him, This is your lucky day!, and we jumped in with both feet. The festival has grown by leaps and bounds, and today requires my entire staff’s effort to support the event in the PR, Digital, Design, Social Media, Advertising, and Promotions areas.

In Decatur, Lenz has also been proud to support, in a variety of ways, the Arts Festival, Wine Festival, and Beer Festival, led by the city and an army of local volunteers and art, wine, and beer aficionados.  Just a few months ago, we helped launch Decatur’s first music festival, Amplify Decatur, which raised funds for Decatur Cooperative Ministry. I believe these events have gone a long way in positively marketing Decatur, which was recently listed first as one of the “Coolest Suburbs in America” on Thrillist.

After the Book Festival tents come down, I know the event I am most looking forward to, and that is the Atlanta Science Festival. Lenz will be working with the festival to help this great idea reach even more people and make a greater impact. Our interest and work on scientific and natural topics goes back to Lenz’s very beginnings, helping to market the Tennessee Aquarium, The U.S. Space and Rocket Center, The Junior Ranger Program, Project Wet, The Schoolyard Habitat Program, and editing and publishing 19 books on America’s greatest natural areas.

If I don’t see you at the Book Festival, I hope I will at the Atlanta Science Festival March 15-25, 2017!

amplifyLenz recently helped Amplify Decatur raise $30,000 to aid Decatur Cooperative Ministry’s efforts to prevent and alleviate poverty and homelessness in Decatur and DeKalb County.

Lenz is a founding partner of Amplify My Community, the organization that produced the Amplify Concert series, in partnership with Eddie’s Attic, the Southeast’s premier music listening room.

Amplify Decatur has raised and donated more than $110,00 to DCM since 2011; this year’s $30,000 gift is the most an Amplify concert series has generated to date.

“Amplify Decatur is a true win-win,” said Richard Lenz, the company’s president and CEO. “Our team has a lot of fun supporting the event and cause, and also gains great satisfaction knowing that we are helping Amplify and Decatur Cooperative Ministry. Decatur is very important to us, and we know no better way of expressing that than to support this awesome concert series.”

The Grammy-nominated duo The Milk Carton Kids co-headlined the outdoor festival along with bluegrass upstarts Elephant Revival. Also performing were Penny & Sparrow, Eliot Bronson, The Bitteroots, Kristen Englenz, The Dammages, and Magic Birds.

Amplify My Community Executive Director Spencer Smith said Amplify Decatur was a community-wide effort. “It truly takes a whole community to produce this concert series,” he said. “From the sponsors – including our Presenting Sponsor Lenz Marketing who has been with us from the start – to the volunteers, the musicians, and of course all those who attended—we are forever indebted for everyone’s support.”

Amplify Decatur also featured a three-night stand at historic Eddie’s Attic, featuring The Roosevelts, Delta Moon, Dwayne Shivers with Anthony Aparo, and Abbie Gardner and Jesse Terry, as well as a Prince cover night, called “Let’s Go Crazy,” which featured 10 local and regional acts.

Plans are already underway for the 2017 Amplify Decatur Concert Series.

Lenz is proud to present Amplify Decatur 2016, a three-day concert series that will feature an outdoor music festival for 2,500 people on June 18. The Milk Carton Kids and Elephant Revival are headlining the outdoor concert, which is expected to draw 2,500 attendees. Amplify Decatur will also feature a three-night stand at Eddie’s Attic, June 17-19. The concert series benefits Decatur Cooperative Ministry, and is produced in partnership by Amplify My Community and Eddie’s Attic.

Buy your tickets today.

Lenz is a founding partner of the Amplify Decatur music festival, and has supported Amplify My Community (AMC) since its inception, presenting each of its five previous Decatur concert series, which have raised more than $80,000 for Decatur Cooperative Ministry.

Richard Lenz, president and CEO of Lenz, also serves as chairman of the AMC advisory board. “I have always believed that Decatur deserves a quality, sustainable music festival that reflects its values,” he said. “Our company is proud to support Amplify Decatur and help the good people whom Decatur Cooperative Ministry serves.”

The mission of Decatur Cooperative Ministry (DCM) is to help families facing homelessness settle into safe, stable homes and build healthy lives filled with peace, hope and opportunity.

Joining The Milk Carton Kids and Elephant Revival at the June 18 music festival are Penny & Sparrow and Eliot Bronson. NPR called The Milk Carton Kids, “Gillian Welch and David Rawlings-meet-Simon & Garfunkel with a splash of The Everly Brothers.” The New York Times said, “If Elephant Revival doesn’t make you smile, there’s something wrong with you.” Paste Magazine called Eliot Bronson’s most recent album “An Americana Gem.”

The June 18 festival features both a free and a ticketed component. From noon to 3 p.m. the festival will showcase emerging and local bands and will be free to the public. The daytime lineup includes Kristen Englenz, The Bitteroots, The Dammages, and Magic Birds.

From 5 to 11 p.m. the event will be ticketed, with admission restricted to ticket holders. Tickets cost $30 and are available via AmplifyDecatur.org. Premium seating is available for $45; VIP tickets are $100 and include preferred seating, complimentary beverages, and other benefits.

The festival will include food trucks, craft beer, and more. Re-entry will be permitted, allowing attendees to access Decatur’s award-winning bar and restaurant scene.

Amplify Decatur will also feature a three-night stand at historic Eddie’s Attic from June 17-19. Participating bands include The Roosevelts, Delta Moon, Dwayne Shivers with Anthony Aparo, and Abbie Gardner and Jesse Terry. Sunday, June 19, will include “Let’s Go Crazy,” a Prince cover night featuring 10 local and regional acts. Full information is available at EddiesAttic.com.

Based in Decatur, Georgia, Lenz partners with its clients to grow together. For more than two decades, Lenz’s specialized expertise has helped its clients reach their goals. Lenz offers the full range of digital and traditional marketing expertise, including brand strategy, advertising, PR, website development, inbound marketing and more.

Meet Rachel Cushing, Lenz Media Manager and digital marketing aficionado.

Rachel sat down with us to discuss how she got her start at Lenz, what she enjoys most about working in the marketing world, and top digital trends to look out for in 2016.

 

 

 

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The end of the year is fast approaching, and many of us are simultaneously looking backward and forward. We take a moment to assess our personal, professional, and spiritual progress as we complete yet one more orbit around the sun, and wonder what the next trip will bring.

We Americans are strivers who believe life should be the steady upward march of measurable, material progress toward perfect happiness. When we take our annual “holiday review,” we become frustrated if our bank accounts haven’t grown, our waistlines haven’t shrunken, our teeth aren’t whiter and brighter, and all our relationships aren’t in tip-top shape.

So we make our resolutions to save more, eat less, forgive and forget, work harder and smarter, make it to church more often, call our parents and/or our kids, check insurance policies, reduce taxes, clean the gutters, fix that leaky faucet, and on and on, ad infinitum.

There is so much to do. And so little time – our most precious resource – to get it all done.

Good grief! Just like last year! This is madness!

If we’ve made progress, do we believe it to be enough? Does everything end with a, “Yes, but …” because everything is on a relative scale? Does Warren Buffet, looking at his $47 billion in assets, say to himself, “Dang, I’m not as rich as Bill Gates! He has $53 billion! Maybe next year!”

Maybe never being satisfied is the truth of the human condition, and the source of all progress. But when you boil it down to the individual, where do we find our deepest satisfaction and happiness?

I love the story of the woman who decided as an experiment to watch the Oprah Winfrey Show, and follow her advice to the letter for one year, and write down what happened, which later became a book. When she concluded her quest, she was exhausted and depressed, and her marriage was on the rocks.

So, we can’t have it all, even if we follow all the advice. And we need to make choices. Perhaps the focus should shift from doing to being. Think about the why more than the what.

One of the best, sweetest annual expressions of what is really important this time of year is found in the beloved Charlie Brown Christmas special, which celebrated its 50th anniversary this year.

Believe it or not, the show originated as an idea from an advertising agency and was commissioned by the Coca-Cola Company and created in only six months, start to finish. One of the most successful pieces of entertainment ever produced, the show was the result of a collaboration between cartoonist Charles M. Schulz, producer Lee Mendelson, who happened to be Jewish and who also helped write the lyrics to Christmas Time is Here, and animator Bill Melendez, with a jazz score by Vince Guaraldi.

When shared with CBS network executives, they thought the special would bomb, because the pace was too slow, the animation too limited, the voices too unpolished (the first time children’s voices were used to voice children), the jazz score was inappropriate, and there was no laugh track. The audience, however, loved it. Schulz, Mendelson, and Melendez went on to create 45 more animated specials.

The cartoon opens with Charlie Brown depressed about the commercialization of the holiday (and this is 50 years ago!). Snoopy has blinged out his doghouse to win a contest; Sally is writing Santa Claus for “tens and twenties,” and Charlie Brown, directing the school play, is ridiculed by his class for his extremely modest Christmas tree. In despair, he asks if anyone knows what Christmas is really all about, and Linus steps up and recites scripture from the Bible, describing the birth of Jesus, finishing with, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and goodwill towards men.”

Inspired, Charlie Brown leaves the school and attempts with a single bulb to decorate his tree, which nose-dives, and he thinks he’s killed his tree and failed again. The rest of the gang shows up, and restores and decorates the tree, then wishes him a Merry Christmas and they sing “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.”

Charlie Brown learns the meaning of Christmas, and maybe of life.

Which I will summarize here: The value of friendship, family, and community; the importance of peace and goodwill toward men; and the need for every individual to feel appreciated and important.

Thank you to our great clients, without whom our business would not exist; thank you to the staff at Lenz who work hard every day to deliver on our promises; and thank you to our excellent partners who strive to help us in so many ways.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

-Richard Lenz

This time of year is always special at Lenz. There’s something different in the air. You can feel it when you walk through our doors. Laughs are heartier, eyes are open wider, steps are lighter, and our trains of thought are admittedly a bit spacier, all because of one thing – the holidays. Get to know the softer side of our team this season as they share their favorite traditions and precious moments.

 

“At my house, we would always:

  1. Look at holiday lights on Christmas Eve or sing Christmas carols at home or in the neighborhood.
  2. Eat oyster stew on Christmas Eve.
  3. Get to open one present on Christmas Eve.
  4. Set out a note, milk, cookies, and carrot for Santa and reindeer.
  5. Take turns opening one gift at a time in the morning. You had to guess what you thought it was, turning the gift giving into a game.
  6. Wonder why Santa’s gifts didn’t come wrapped. Apparently the guy’s too busy!  In fact, he’s so busy, he would only eat parts of the cookies, and drink only some of milk, and the reindeer would eat only part of the carrot.”

-Richard Lenz, President

 

“Back when I was 8 my brother Richard gave a gift to my sister Suzan. It was a large box that was fairly heavy. Little did my sister know know that she was the initial recipient of an original Claxton Fruit Cake. It was a great gag gift because that fruit cake was as hard as brick. So of course my sister kept the fruit cake for the next year’s celebration, boxed it in a trick box and gave it to another member of the family. This unopened Claxton Fruit Cake is still hard as a rock and continues to make the rounds through the Lenz family today.”

-John Lenz, Vice President

 

“My favorite holiday tradition is interacting with my mom during the Christmas season. I’m well into my 30s and she maintains the idea that there’s a Santa Clause. Once, we shopped together for my Christmas gift and I thanked her on the way to the car for my new jacket. She hurriedly stuck the jacket in her trunk, turned to me, and said, “Oh, you want a jacket? Well, we see if Santa thinks you’ve been good.” Without saying another word, she got in her car and drove off. Sure enough, on Christmas morning, the jacket came wrapped, “To Michael, From Santa Claus.””

-Michael Killeen, Vice President of Marketing

 

“When I was a child, my mother would decorate our tree from the inside out. She would position toys, treats, and decorations on the limbs right next to the trunk, working her way up to the top. Then, when she was done, my sister and I could lie down on the floor, and look up through the tree from the bottom. It was magical sight for a little kid. I’ll never forget that, or all the other little ways Mom made our holidays so special.”

-Cameron Spivey, Creative Director

 

“The Cushing family tradition around the holiday season is pretty simple: spend Christmas Eve together! Whether that’s congregating with extended family at my parent’s house in Poncey-Highland, or taking a trip down to Fairhope Alabama to visit grandparents, we always make the time to be together.”

-Rachel Cushing, Media Manager

 

“Because of my family’s Italian heritage, Christmas Eve – with the Feast of the Seven Fishes – has always been a favorite night. While the menu has evolved over the years, it has variously meant appetizers of shrimp cocktail, fried smelts, fried calamari and mozzarella in carozza – an egg-dipped, Italian-style fried cheese sandwich – followed by pasta in a red sauce of mussels, clams, shrimp, stuffed calamari and maybe a lobster claw or two. The final course is one for which my son, a fourth-generation Italian-American, pines: baked stuffed lobster with a crabmeat stuffing. As you can see, food has always been very important in my family, especially around the holidays.”

-John Manasso, Media Relations Manager

 

“Every year since my three cousins and I were born, my Nana bought us each an ornament to hang on the family tree.This year, she is giving all of our ornaments to us to have for our own trees. I’m sure it will be interesting to see the progression of myself through my grandmother’s eyes and the fortunate feeling of being able to continue to make memories with her.”

-Chelsea Hoag, Media Coordinator

 

After I came back from my first semester of college, my parents decided they were too tired to make the usual Christmas feast. Little did we know that out of that fatigue would come a new Whitted family tradition. Now, instead of the traditional holiday smorgasbord, we cook finger foods! Every year I look forward to the fruit trays, chicken tenders, fancy cheeses, meatballs, and empanadas.”

-Ivan Whitted II, Account Coordinator