By ROBERT PIERCE • Daily Leader
Music videos became popular in the early 1980s with the advent of MTV, and a former Liberal resident, who grew up watching that station, is now directing videos for many of country and Christian music’s top stars.
Eric Welch, son of USD No. 480 Superintendent Vernon Welch, graduated from Liberal High School in 1987 and graduated from college in 1991.
After working in advertising for about a year and a half in Tulsa, Okla., Welch got a job editing a film for the group DC Talk, which moved the Southwest Kansas native to Nashville.
While making one of the band’s live concert videos, Welch started Broken Poet Productions, the company he now operates.
“When we were doing the DC Talk ‘Welcome to the Freak Show’ project, we were editing that, and we had to call it produced and directed by somebody,” he said. “We were trying to think of a name we could come up with for a production company.”
Welch said through the process of post-production, company officials discussed several names before coming up with Broken Poet.
“We formed the company and released a project under the banner of Broken Poet Productions,” he said.
Welch has done work for many other artists, including Vince Gill, Rodney Crowell, Chris Ledoux and Rodney Atkins, who he said is one of the artists he enjoys working with most.
“I worked a lot with Rodney Atkins,” he said. “We did the ‘Going Through Hell’ video. I’ve done almost all of his videos. He’s just a really good guy, a down-to-earth good guy.”
Welch has also worked with Christian artist Toby Mac, who has won a Dove Award, for 10 years.
“Toby Mac’s just a great guy,” he said. “He’s a very sincere person.
He has incredible music, and it’s always great to put visuals to music you enjoy. Working with Toby has been really great.”
Welch also directed the video for Heidi Newfield’s big hit “Johnny and June.”
“It actually got nominated for an ACM award,” he said. “It’s also nominated for a few CMT Music awards. She’s just a sweetheart. She’s a real great girl, and she’s got an amazing voice and tons of energy and just a really talented person.”
Welch has some current projects in the works, including a video for Randy Houser.
“We just shot a video for him that’s on CMT right now,” he said. “I shot a video for a group called Jars of Clay. I actually do a show for CMT called 3:30 Sessions. It’s kind of their Storytellers uncut.
We shot Dolly Parton and John Rich. Every month, we shoot two or three artists.”
Welch likewise directs videos for other Christian artists, including a shoot he is getting ready for on Contemporary Christian Vocalist of the Year Brandon Heath.
“We’re shooting him on Monday,” he said.
Welch said he has always had a passion to work in music dating back to his days at LHS.
“I was in a band in high school, the music choir, and I did radio work while I was in Liberal,” he said. “I was always involved in music and grew up shooting home movies. When I went to college, I really refined my passion and skills. When I got out, I wanted to make music videos.”
Welch said God put him in the right place at the right time, and he was able to accomplish what he set out to do in college.
“I’ve been really blessed,” he said. “I’ve been able to make a living doing music videos, and there’s really just a handful of people in the world that can do that. It’s a very competitive field. There’s very few directors who focus exclusively on music videos.”
Welch said MTV played a huge role in his love of making videos.
“I remember spring break, and I was a senior when the U2 video came out for ‘With or Without You,’” he said. “I remember watching that video over spring break. That really impacted me.”
Welch also felt the impact of MTV in a different way.
“I also played guitar,” he said. “I would watch MTV. Every time I come home from work, I would try to play guitar to the top 10 songs on MTV. I’ve seen so many videos that when artists talk about ideas or we discuss ideas, I can reflect back. Having watched MTV and growing up and seeing how they tell stories, that definitely had an impact.”
Growing up in Liberal, Welch said he has his family to thank for his beliefs and values, and when he does a video, he likes to portray strong Americana values and themes, particularly when doing country videos.
“I was born in Texas, raised in Kansas,” he said. “I understand those people that they want to reach. That’s one of the things I think that’s helped me make videos for artists like Rodney Atkins. Rodney is a total down the middle Americana roots type person, and I get that about him. I understand where he’s coming from. I understand his values and who he wants to talk to. He understands that I came from that background, so we can talk about an idea in broad strokes.”
Welch said life in the Heartland is somewhat different from life in New York and Los Angeles.
“Having not grown up the way that we did in the rural community, there’s some experiences that they haven’t had,” he said. “The Christian and the country work that I do seems to really connect with that value system.”
Welch has won a Dove Award, and he has also been nominated for the ACM Video of the Year, CMT Music Award for Director of the Year, Duo Video of the Year, USA Weekend Breakthrough Video of the Year and Female Video of the Year for Newfield’s “Johnny and June.”