They Come Straight to Her

Video director Trey Fanjoy Helms Clips for Lonestar, Gilman

When singer-songwriter Jon Randall had a deal on RCA Records back in 1995, he made a music video for the single “I Came Straight to You.” He and his manager, Monty Hitchcock, wanted an honest, layman’s opinion on the finished product, so they took it to the label’s receptionist.

“She said, ’Well, they used the wrong lighting here, and I wouldn’t have done this,'” Randall remembers. “She’s talking all this tech talk, and I’m going, ’She’s the receptionist!'”

Much later, Randall learned that the receptionist was Trey Fanjoy, a temp worker who had her eye on bigger things. When Randall consulted her, Fanjoy had moved to Nashville only a month before to make her mark in music videos.

Three years after their first meeting, Fanjoy directed one of Randall’s videos for Asylum Records. She hasn’t slowed down much since. If you watch the credits on CMT closely, you’ll see Fanjoy’s name on Lonestar’s “Amazed” and “Smile,” Billy Gilman’s “One Voice” and Allison Moorer’s “Send Down an Angel.” More recently she created shorts for Sons of the Desert’s “Change” and “Everybody’s Gotta Grow Up Sometime.”

“I approach music videos a little bit different than some of the directors I’ve worked with,” Fanjoy says. “For me, it definitely is a marketing and imaging tool for the artist and the record label.”

Fanjoy’s Nashville climb has been five years in the making. A North Carolina native, she moved to New York and then Los Angeles to pursue acting. To survive, she waited tables and took a job as a production assistant for a commercial film company in the late 1980s. She quickly grew more interested in what was going on behind the camera than in front of it. She decided to try her luck in Music City after visiting songwriter Tammy Hyler, a friend from L.A. who had moved to Nashville. Hyler, who once dated singer Collin Raye, co-wrote his hit “I Can Still Feel You” and Martina McBride’s No. 1 song “I Love You.”

“I came to visit Tammy on the set of a music video for Collin and never left,” Fanjoy recalls. “That’s where I met Jon Small. It’s ironic that in the first month I was here I met some people who would change my life.”

Small, a well-known director and producer for Nashville production company Picture Vision, helped Fanjoy get her foot in the door. She first began producing videos that Small directed. Then, she slipped into the director’s chair herself with “Heart Hold On,” a video for the now-defunct trio Buffalo Club. A few years and some 30 videos later, Fanjoy is a director in demand.

Drew Womack, lead singer of Sons of the Desert, says Fanjoy’s appeal lies in her creative vision.

“The secret to Trey is all her videos don’t look alike,” Womack says. “Sometimes with directors, they have a certain image, but Trey can fit with the artist really well. Both of our videos look totally opposite.”

When Fanjoy was developing the concept for the Sons’ “Everybody’s Gotta Grow Up Sometime” video, she didn’t take the song literally. There are no shots of Barbie dolls or G.I. Joes, as the song describes. Instead, she took the band to a Nashville water park on Percy Priest Lake.

“It’s a totally juvenile environment. You can’t help but be a kid and check your ego at the door,” Fanjoy explains. “I got the opportunity to know the Sons on the ’Change’ video, and they are just off in the best way. Their sense of humor is so much a part of who they are, so I started thinking, ’Let’s set it at a water park and see how far we can go with it.'”

They went pretty far. In addition to having the guys pick on little kids (real ones who were there with their families) and stand ankle deep in the middle of a swimming pool, she had them take a plunge into the pool holding real $1,500 Ernie Ball guitars. The factory sent brand new ones to the guys, but not all of them made it into the video.

“Of course, Drew and Doug [Virden, the band’s bassist] got the new ones and switched them out for older guitars ’cause they liked them better,” Sons’ guitarist Tim Womack explains. “I stuck with the one that was sent.”

After the guitars dry out from their dunking, they will be auctioned off, with the proceeds going to the Jason Foundation, a teen suicide prevention group based in Hendersonville, Tenn.

Guitars weren’t the only thing that got wet on the set of the “Grow Up” video. During the shoot a major thunderstorm sent Fanjoy, the band and the entire crew of about 50 scurrying into a small makeup trailer for cover.

“We thought the motor home was going to flip over,” Drew Womack recalls.

The skies cleared just long enough for them to finish the shoot but not before some expensive equipment was ruined. Fanjoy says an audio playback cart, some camera equipment and a huge light were smashed.

“The day we filed the insurance claim, I didn’t even want to know how much it all cost,” Fanjoy says.

After surviving that mishap, Fanjoy continues to work nearly non-stop, jetting frequently to the West Coast. She has just shot the new Keith Urban video, “But for the Grace of God,” in Los Angeles, and this week she wrapped up a video for new artist Tammy Cochran’s “So What” at a drive-in in rural Lewisburg, Tenn. She’s set to shoot Billy Gilman’s second video, “Oklahoma,” Friday (Aug. 25) in Nashville.

“I think sometimes that I’m moving so fast that I don’t even feel it,” Fanjoy says. “I’m doing what I’ve always done, but some of the artists are getting higher profile, and the success of the records is changing. But my work ethic hasn’t changed a bit. It’s all just getting bigger and better.”