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Interview

Interview with Songwriter, Molly Lyon

by Dan Reifsnyder, GSC Reporter

Molly Lyon

Dan Reifsnyder: So tell me about your music!

Molly Lyon: So I kind of consider it singer/songwriter meets pop. I write more country because I have my guitar. But yeah, mostly that!

DR: So how’d you get started writing music?

ML: I started writing seriously in high school. But I had written my first song when I was 8 – it was about a star. But high school is when I started getting serious about it.

DR:  So are you from Nashville?

ML: No, Delaware actually! The first time I came to Nashville was July to tour Belmont! When I got to Belmont nobody knew where Delaware was. They’re like “Oh, next to Maine?” No! Delaware!

DR: So obviously songwriting brought you to Belmont.

ML: Actually, I’m majoring in Music Business to get that business degree. I wanted to do that anyway to learn that side of things.

DR: Nice. So how did you get hooked up with Sheree?

ML: It’s a funny story. My grandfather knows Pat Kelley – he owns a car dealership in Vermont, and he’s also a songwriter. My grandfather showed him my YouTube channel and Pat knows Sheree and so I emailed her and found out about GSC.

DR: Are you working on any projects right now?

ML: I’ve mostly been songwriting – I have my own YouTube channel where I do some of my own originals. But right now I’m writing for other people until I figure out what I want to do as an artist!

DR: That’s smart! What are some songs you wish you’d written?

ML: I really like “The More Boys I Meet” – I think it’s really clever. And do you know the song “Here” by Alessia Cara – it’s so good.

DR: Who are your musical influences?

ML: Her, honestly – Alessia Cara. She’s amazing. That song came out when I first started writing seriously. So I’ve been following her vibe. And actually Taylor Swift, too – when she tells stories! I especially like “Mine” and “Speak Now.”

DR: How are you liking Nashville?

ML: I love it! It’s been amazing! I actually don’t want to leave for the summer – but I have to. I’ll be back!!

DR: So what else are you doing besides writing and going to class?

ML: The most recent thing I’ve been doing is singing on demos. I do a lot of work with Bob Kropp and Pam Lack – they’ve been great and taken me under their wing a little bit! They’re both great songwriters, too, and have really helped me develop my sound. They’ve given me the opportunity to work regularly in a studio and have introduced me to many fellow GSC members and artists! They’re honestly like my parental figures while I’m here in Nashville!

DR: Well, thanks for spending some time with us and answering our questions!

ML: Thanks!

 

Interview with Songwriter, Lexi Peto

by Dan Reifsnyder, GSC Reporter

Lexi Peto

Dan Reifsnyder: So tell me how you got started in music!

Lexi Peto: I started in music very young – my dad taught me to play guitar at age seven, and my mom was a huge influence on my musicality. She exposed me to everything from the Chili Peppers to Mariah Carey. Collective Soul was a huge influence on me. Then my step dad entered my life and he introduced me to Rascal Flatts and I fell in love with country music. Even though I had kind of fiddled around with it before, I started taking songwriting really seriously at age twelve. I started keeping a song journal and playing open mics in the eighth grade and my mom was really supportive of it. When I found out about Nashville I was like “Wow, I’ve got to get there!” Then, unfortunately my mom passed away when I was fourteen. It was a really difficult time for my family, but I have really been blessed through my faith – I’m very strong in my faith – and my mom’s passing steered me even more towards music. The Lord took that hardship and made that into something beautiful. My dad and my step dad became best friends, and I told them that I wanted to go to Nashville. So they actually brought me here together! I was here for two years before enrolling at Belmont. I miss my mom every day but my dad and my stepdad have taken on raising me up in this industry together.

DR: What was the first thing you did when you came to town?

LP: I just wanted to play! I looked up all the places and went to every open mic I could! I did the Bluebird – way back before they did the call in system and you had to get tickets! It was part of the experience…and here I am!

DR: Are you working on any projects right now?

LP: I have a couple albums out, which are up on iTunes and Spotify, and my goal before graduation is a pub deal! I don’t know if it’ll happen, but I’m gonna aim for it. Just writing the best songs I can and spreading the love of the Lord. I’m thinking of releasing a single sometime soon too.

DR: How would you describe your musical style?

LP: I consider myself an artist/writer. Although I started out in pop country, I’ve lately felt called to be more in the CCM field. My stuff is definitely more lyric driven too. I not only write for myself, but write for other artists – pop, country, and Christian, and any combination of the three! I describe myself as Country-Pop-Christian. I incorporate Christian values into my music, but with Country Pop. It’s kind of my own thing!

DR: Interesting! So what are some songs you wish you had written?

LP: Oh, right off the bat would be “The House That Built Me”. That song just kills me! I actually got to meet Tom Douglas and shake his hand, which was such an honor! He really knows the craft, and I really respect that. So obviously that song. I love Collective Soul – my ultimate favorite is “Needs”. I wish I’d written that. “Drive Your Truck”…”I Hope You Dance”. My mom sang me to sleep with the song “Butterfly” by Mariah Carey, so I love that one too. I love anything by Bethel and Hillsong!

DR: So how are you liking Belmont?       

LP: I love it! I can’t speak more highly of the songwriting program! It’s so tight knit! It’s almost like a little community within a community. We all support each other.

DR: How did you hear about GSC?

LP: Well, actually I’m a new member to GSC. Chad Hamilton, my producer, has been trying to get me to get involved for a long time. Now that I joined I’m like “Why didn’t I do this sooner!?” I’m so glad to be a part of it. I’ve done a mentoring session with Sheree and she is just a sweetheart! She’s such a strong supporter.

DR: I agree. She’s such a strong supporter of songwriters…I don’t know anybody that works as hard as she does! Well…I think that’s all the time we have, but I appreciate you taking the time to talk to us!

LP: Thanks!

 

Interview with Songwriter, Ted Swormstedt

by Dan Reifsnyder, GSC Reporter

Tedd Swormstedt

Dan Reifsnyder: Tell us about yourself as an artist and writer.

Tedd Swormstedt: I am a songwriter pure and simple, not an artist in the traditional sense. I love the act of writing a song that will touch someone and get a reaction.

DR: What got you into music?

TS: Very good question because no one in my family is musical. I remember lying in my bed at night listening to my father play Johnny Cash on the big stereo console in our living room and the sound would come through the floor. I guess that is when I knew I wanted to play guitar. I got my first guitar when I was 10 years old – a rental at that because my parents didn’t think I would stick with it. And I started to write songs, but they were not good ones at all. In high school I was in a band and we played all the dances, then in college I did the coffee house thing. Then I had to get a real job and I took some time off from writing. I gravitated to country music because it is pure and authentic and you don’t need all the accessories to get the meaning across.

DR: Who are your musical influences?

TS: That is a difficult question because there are many from Steely Dan, The Rolling Stones, and Allman Brothers to Keith Urban, Miranda Lambert, Tim McGraw and Jason Aldean.

DR: How did you get hooked up with GSC?

TS: I had gotten to that point where I wanted to get more serious about writing songs and how to pitch them to win. I asked the question in an online forum and Jayne Sachs said join GSC, Sheree is a great mentor, teacher and works hard for songwriters.

DR: Jayne is great! What do you feel is different about GSC?

TS: The personal touch and attention that Sheree is able to give everyone. The incredible connections that Sheree has and is able to give her members that put you face-to-face with publishers that make it happen. You have to have the songs and Sheree and her team help you learn the craft. To this day I don’t know how she does it all, but she has such passion for the business of songwriting, her members and seeing us grow and taking the talent we have to the next level.

DR: What are some songs you wish you had written?

TS: Dan that is another hard question – so here are a few “When I Get Where I’m Going”, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”, and “Humble and Kind”

DR: Good choices! What are some of your goals right now?

TS: I am working on setting up and doing more co-writes in Nashville and with other GSC members based on the contacts that I’ve made through GSC, and building my song catalog and pitching as often as I possibly can.

DR: What drives you to write songs?

TS: I love the process of writing although sometimes it can be frustrating and painful, but I love the idea of being able to say something and touch someone with a message that they can relate to.

DR: As a songwriter what is the most powerful thing that you’ve learned?

TS: Songs can come from anywhere always be open and always remember that your best song is yet to come.

Interview with Songwriter, Chad Hamilton

by Dan Reifsnyder, GSC Reporter

Chad HamiltonDan Reifsnyder:  Tell us about yourself as an artist and writer.
 
Chad Hamilton: I definitely consider myself a writer first and foremost and then a producer–but not an artist. Don’t get me wrong, I love to ham it up in the spotlight, and I can carry a tune with the help of a bucket, but at this point in my life and with my commitments, it’s just not practical to pursue. Plus, having worked with artists, I can truly appreciate the title “recording artist.” Whenever I have a song I’m excited about, I can’t wait to replace my demo vocal with that of a true artist! I do most of my writing with artists. I find it very exciting to try to help them deliver something that resonates with who they are as an artist and what messages they want to send. Also, being close to the artist makes it more likely that I’ll get to hear one of my creations released to the world by someone who’s really putting his/her heart into the performance.

When I’m not in Nashville, which I am blessed to have a situation that allows me to visit every other month, I write almost 100% of the time over the Internet.  Technology is wonderful for allowing me to regularly connect creatively with co-writers from Nashville and various places like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Oklahoma – this year I hope to write with someone from another country! And I will write ANYTHING. In fact, I love to be pushed outside of my comfort zone. I write mostly country and pop, but I would love to do some hip hop and EDM – that’s another goal for 2018. My true ambition is to be the really cool guy that so many artists and writers want to have in the room with them. I want to watch my friends reach their goals and be successful, and if possible, play a role in helping them.

DR: Those are some pretty cool goals!  What got you into music in the first place?

CH: I really think it was my dad. There was always music in the house. He had a big component stereo. Turntable, tape deck, reel-to-reel, tuner, EQ . . . eventually a CD player. I feel like so frequently on the weekends, there would be music playing throughout the house – he put speakers in three different rooms. I learned to LOVE the sound of vinyl.  In fact, he never let my brother or I buy a cassette tape – we had to buy records and then he would record them onto cassette for us as a portable copy. It’s fun to see vinyl make a comeback, because I have a ton of it, and memories to boot.  I can still feel the light green shag carpet in the living room where I would smell the vinyl as I pulled it out and dropped a needle on it, and I can still see myself reading the sleeve from Michael Jackson’s Thriller, which was my older brother’s first record. My mother and father, together, had at least a hundred albums from the 60s through the 80s, including a boatload of 45s.

But that living room carpet I mentioned was more important to my story. Occasionally, the four of us would gather in the living room, which was not a place a spent I a lot of time since it was “off limits” unless there was company or we were gathering there as a family. And no, there wasn’t plastic on the sofa – Mom just didn’t want her boys in there wrecking the place! Anyway, my father had and still has a 1960s or 1970s Martin guitar and a knack for playing folk songs.  He’d sing to us – I specifically remember Puff the Magic Dragon being a favorite of mine as well as The Marvelous Toy. Later in life, I realized he wasn’t a virtuoso by any means, but as a kid, I thought he was great and those moments being together as a family were truly magical – much better than watching TV or staring at cell phones. From there I made a journey from country music to 80s pop, 80s rock, hip hop, classic rock, club, alternative rock, folk and Americana, orchestral and classical, jazz, hardcore rock and metal, and back to country and pop. I loved it all and still do.

DR: So who would you say are your musical influences?

CH: I really don’t know how to answer this, based on my broad exposure. I know when I was about five years old, I had a Care Bears tape deck, and I picked two records from my Uncle Bob’s collection – he’s my dad’s brother. I’m not sure what prompted it, but I can still vaguely see myself sorting through a stack of vinyl and finding a cover with a guy and a casino table. You got it – Kenny Rogers, The Gambler. Who says you can’t judge a book, or album, by its cover?! I brought home two Kenny Rogers records and my father copied them onto cassette for me and I played it nonstop, for hours at a time. I don’t think any of my music sounds like those records, but I guess it’s a fun story. Then I went through that journey of genres I mentioned before until Shania Twain caught my ear, and I guess my eye, too, if I’m being completely honest, and hooked me into country music. From there MANY songs and artists really captured my heart with their powerful emotions, honesty, and stories, and that’s definitely what inspired me to be a songwriter and learn to tell my stories and share my emotions in a magical 3-minute melody. But as far as influences go, it’s tough. I mean, I had a Jimi Hendrix obsession, but I could never really play like him, and I don’t think I hear any Purple Haze in the songs I’m writing. I would love for someone to tell me what influences they hear in my songs and my productions, because as far as I’m concerned, the question more easily answered is, “who aren’t my musical influences?”

DR: Nice. Well, your tastes sound pretty eclectic. How did you get hooked up with GSC?

CH: The Cincinnati-Dayton NSAI Chapters in Ohio meet every week. They really are an awesome, active group. After taking about a ten year break from writing, for whatever reason, maybe it was my divorce or new perspectives on life, but I decided it was time to truly pursue excellence as a songwriter and do it in a way that would keep me at it for the rest of my life. That group really gave me a home every week and I started rebuilding contacts and making friends there. Jim Melko, one of the coordinators, is a SESAC member, and he contacted SESAC and recommended they meet with me. Unfortunately, SESAC was not interested in an out-of-towner, which is very understandable, but they were very gracious and helpful and recommended I meet Sheree’ Spoltore’. I actually met Sheree’ in the SESAC lobby, and as they say, when one door closes another opens.

DR: It definitely seems to happen that way! What do you feel is different about GSC?

CH: There’s nothing more frustrating than feeling like you aren’t making progress toward your goals, and GSC truly has enabled me to make that progress and more importantly really appreciate it. It’s been one of the most inspiring and encouraging and empowering relationships for me. I look back when I had just moved to Nashville after college and think about the reasons I gave up the dream and denied myself for many years the creative time I needed, and I think it had to do with direction. I knew where I was and where my songs were, and I knew I had to grow, but while there were plenty of industry folks willing to give feedback or offer knowledge, there was no one helping me make those tactical decisions, like, OK what should I do right now, and tomorrow and next month? Sheree’ has figured out a formula that truly allows each GSC member to understand his or her personal journey and she helps teach, encourage, and equip us along the way.  It’s like having a life coach or a manager – there are more than several great organizations and programs that give value to a developing writer or artist, but I don’t know any that can give the personalized guidance that Sheree’ and GSC provides. I don’t make a living on my music, can’t afford to do it full time, and haven’t reached any of my BIG goals, yet, but I still love waking up early every morning to write or produce or do the administrative work, and I don’t have to lie when I say, “I’m living the dream,” because I believe it – I owe a lot of that to GSC.

DR: Well said, Chad! Considering how broad your tastes are, this might be a big question, but what are some songs you wish you’d written?

CH: I try to keep up with a list of these and it’s over 100 long now! Some include:Letter to Me– Brad Paisley – I remember I was in my shop and just stopped in my tracks when that song hit me. The Secret to Life– a lesser known Faith Hill cut, that song helped me during a very dark time in my life. Don’t Blink, There Goes My Life– Kenny Chesney. Fifteen– Taylor Swift. Austin– Blake Shelton. Riding With Private Malone– David Ball. Back of the Bottom Drawer– Chely Wright. All of those I admire for their creative delivery, story, and/or emotion. Chandelier– Sia for it’s ridiculous melody and lesser appreciated serious message. I Want It That Way– Backstreet Boys because I wanted to be in a boy band, and how cool would it be to have millions of people around the world sing your super catchy infectious song? All I Want For Christmas is You– Mariah Carey – it’s a legacy, it’s a gravy train, and it’s for my favorite time of year. How awesome would it be to write a song that maybe your grandchildren would listen to during Christmas? Some of those Christmas classics have persisted many decades, which is really cool.

DR: That would be pretty awesome to have a legacy cut like that.  Tell us about some of your recent successes!

CH: Early in 2017, I had the honor of working with a talented artist and writer, and truly special young woman, Lexi Peto, who is currently a freshman at Belmont in their songwriting program. I produced her EP and co-wrote three songs with her – I also started a label and took care of the release. It’s hard to articulate how fun, how much of a learning experience, and what great satisfaction came from that process. Another talented young woman, Jordyn Kenzie, who is a junior in an arts high school in Pennsylvania, recently was in Nashville and cut two songs that I co-wrote with her. I’m anticipating them to be released sometime early this year. I haven’t even heard them yet – I’m so excited!

DR: So I noticed you’re a parent. How has that changed your writing, if at all?

CH: Honestly, I haven’t noticed my perspectives changing much, per se, but I’ve included my daughter in my journey, even since she was an infant, and she’s not even three now. It’s funny because she’s known for most of her life that daddy goes to Nashville a lot, but I know she has no concept of what or where Nashville is, but she’ll help me get ready! Anyway, Monday through Friday, she joins me in my studio early in the morning before I commute to Cincinnati, and whether she’s making a ruckus pounding on her drums while I’m trying to record a work tape, emptying a box of tissues and ripping them up all over the floor while I’m laying down a demo track, or sitting on my lap singing with me – I cherish every minute of it. I don’t know how important music will be in her life, but I hope the moments we spend together are as magical for her as they are for me. She’s starting to sing some of my songs when I’m working on them, and that’s just the most exciting feeling for me!

DR: That’s really cool.  I appreciate you taking the time to talk, Chad!

CH: Thanks!

 

Interview with Riley Roth

Riley RothThanks to GSC Reporter, Dan Reifsnyder

Dan Reifsnyder: What first got you into music?

Riley Roth: My parents tell me that I have been singing since before I could talk, but it really became a bigger interest when I started musical theater at eight years old. I fell in love with singing, picked up the guitar, and started writing songs at 10 years old. By the age of 12, I was playing local shows, then doing shows out of state. My love for performing just kept growing.

DR: How did you meet Sheree and get involved with GSC?

RR: I made trips to Nashville every month for two years, before I moved here last March. During that time, I had the opportunity to meet a lot of great writers and connections. Someone whom I met, here in Nashville, reached out and suggested that I join Global Songwriters Connection. I met Sheree after I joined. I absolutely love her! She is a blessing and inspires and encourages me to grow as both a writer and an artist.

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Interview with Anne-Louise Sterry

Anne Louise SterryThanks to GSC Reporter, Dan Reifsnyder

Dan Reifsnyder: How did you meet Sheree and get involved in GSC?

Anne-Louise Sterry: My friend Amy Russ, was at the Live on Stage conference. She shared a CD one of my songs with Sheree and we got connected. Now I am working with her on getting my song ‘”If I Had Loved You More” out into the world, as well as helping me share Audacious Joy around the world!

DR: Audacious joy! I love that term. So you’re a speaker, author and storyteller…tell me more about that.

AS: Long story! I started singer and storytelling with with toddlers. I was asked to speak at an early childhood event, sharing how to use music and storytelling with children. From that small beginning came performing at grade schools all over the country, then Europe, writing a book, speaking at many different kinds of events, creating a CD course, an online course, writing songs and so it goes! I can honestly say I never planned this – I just wanted to sing and tell stories!! I realized that through all of this, joy was my focus. Now my speaking work always has the theme of ‘Sharing the Power of Audacious Joy.’ I also have an alter ego ‘Aunt Lena who also speaks and performs!!’

You can go to my web site http://www.anne-louise.com to see her! Oh gosh, you see why I said long story!

DR: Who are some of your musical influences?

AS: Broadway Musicals! The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Peter Paul and Mary, Kingston Trio…

DR: What are some songs you wish you’d written?

AS: Oh, so many cause the world is filled with beautiful music! Right now it is “Imagine” by John Lennon.

DR: Do you have any projects in the works?

AS: Yes, right now I am recording a CD of stories for children. I am also preparing for a tour of schools in California and a keynote for an early childhood conference.

DR: Wonderful! Well, the world could certainly use more audacious joy! Thank you for spreading it and spending some time answering questions!

 

Interview with Jessica Mack

Jessica MackThanks to GSC reporter, Dan Reifsnyder

Dan Reifsnyder:  So what brought you to Nashville?

Jessica Mack:  I guess ultimately the Lord – I was just praying like “Lord, where do You want me to go?” and He made it pretty clear that it was Nashville. He even kinda redirected me to music after I gave up on that dream.

DR: You gave up?

JM: Yeah, I kinda did. In college, I started out as a music major and you know you have to take classical theory and stuff. It just wasn’t my jam. I was falling asleep in class and worried it would destroy my love for music. So I switched majors and got a job in the corporate world – I got a job as a receptionist. What was cool about this job was that they had a company band! They had auditions for a lead singer because the old one got a deal or something, and I got the gig! It reintroduced me to my love of music! Then I felt like the Lord was calling me to pursue music on a full time basis.  So I returned to Arkansas for a year before moving to Nashville.

DR: So you’ve also been to Honduras and Haiti?

JM: Yes! And that was another cool thing. I remember hearing from the Lord in Haiti about what genre of music to do. This guy we were on the trip with – a pastor – was always singing. And someone on the trip was like “You’re always singing songs to the Lord!” and he said “If you’re going to sing about something, sing about the truth!” And that reinforced that I should do Christian music.

DR: So who are your musical influences?

JM: I’m very much a Pop girl. I love the Top 40. I love me some 90’s Pop…Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey. “Always Be My Baby” was my jam. And riding with my mom we’d always listen to Country or Christian – Reba, Jo Dee Messina, Shania Twain. I’ve always leaned more towards the females. For Christian music Natalie Grant, Nichole Nordeman, Stacie Orrico, Jaci Velasquez…a new influence I’ve discovered recently is Hollyn. She’s brought something different to the genre.

DR: What are some songs you wish you’d written?

JM: There’s so many good songs…I’m a sucker for worship songs like “Good, Good Father”. It’s simple and true. Songs that are glorifying to God and speaks to people and are transformative, you know? Pop songs, like just fun songs, this is totally opposite but like “…Baby, One More Time”. It’s a fun song that everybody knows. Or even like “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” – songs that bring joy, you know?

DR: How did you get hooked up with GSC?

JM: I think it was through Tanya Sue!

DR: She’s great, I love her!

JM: Me too! We had met on the street actually. So random. We were walking out of a concert or a hockey game and her and I just started talking and she’s just a little ball of joy. We wrote together and she told me about Sheree. I talked to my manager Paul, and he said “I know Sheree! She goes to my church!”  So I introduced myself and showed her my music and the rest is history. I know God orchestrated it. She’s been a huge blessing.

DR: I mentioned this recently, but she is the most supportive person I know for songwriters – she is 100% in their corner.

JM: It’s such an amazing thing. I relate it back to the Gospel  because it almost doesn’t make sense how supportive and sacrificial she can be of herself. She’s the embodiment of Christ.

DR: Do you have a project coming up that you want to talk about?

JM: Sure! I released my first EP in December, that was my Country EP. But I felt led to change tracks and do Christian. So I’ve been writing a lot and trying to build a catalog. I’m excited! I’ve written some songs with some really great writers. I’m hoping it’ll be out by the end of the year, maybe October. I might have a single this summer too.

DR: So aside from releasing an EP, what are your goals for this year?

JM: Good question. Have you ever heard how we’ve got 7 or 8 different spokes in our lives? Like, family, spiritual, financial, etc. So I’ve set goals for each of them but I guess in the forefront is finishing that EP, and another is going deeper into relationships with teen moms that I’ve been working with. The Lord has also called me to start a non profit home for teen moms.

DR: Tell me about that!

JM: Sure! When I got involved in Young Life, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. But the Lord just broke my heart wide open. I came to realize there are so many young mothers who are in abusive relationships, who are homeless. And there’s no place that will take teenage mothers and their children. A lot of places won’t take both of them, they will separate them. It’s definitely one of the biggest calls I’ve had on my life.

DR: Well, very cool. Thanks for talking today!

JM: You’re welcome!

Interview with David Borys

David BorysThanks to GSC reporter, Dan Reifsnyder

Dan Reifsnyder: How did you get into songwriting?

David Borys: Well, I started in a band in Canada, a band called The Steel Toe Boots, and we had some moderate success as an independent act, yet I noticed that as the band grew in reputation and I started to develop a strong network of other musicians, songwriters and music professionals, songwriting became more and more of a required activity. Eventually I found that songwriting gave me far more artistic satisfaction then performing, so much so that I was enjoying writing for other artists, watching them perform those songs, more than I was enjoying performing my own songs. Thus through the band and my early years in the country industry I really became interested in songwriting.

DR: Who are some of your musical influences?

DB: There are many. Certainly in musically everything I do is on a Bruce Springsteen barometer, meaning, would Bruce approve of this. Most of the time he might not, but nonetheless to me Bruce is the greatest. I love the classics CCR, The Band, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, etc, they all inform me musically one way or another. In terms of current songwriters, I love the work that Hillary Lindsey, Chris Stapleton, and Shane McAnally, (just to name a few) are creating.

DR: How did you hear about GSC?

DB: Through Canadian representative Doug Folkins. One of many good pieces of advice he’s given me on my journey.

DR: What made you want to join?

DB: Doug mentioned that Sheree and the GSC provide a real forum of support, networking, connecting. It’s not just about taking your money and then letting you go on your merry way, it’s about giving you the tools and the knowledge to succeed.

DR: What do you feel is different about GSC?

DB: Simply that Sheree is so hands on with people. That if you want to be a part of the GSC community and grow as a songwriter/artist Sheree, and in turn GSC, is genuinely excited and motivated to help you succeed. so many other organizations will pay lip service to wanting to facilitate this type of growth but never really act on it.

DR: What are some songs you wish you’d written?

DB: Cop Car” written by Zach Crowell, Sam Hunt, and Matt Jenkins,  ・ Smoke” by A Thousand Horses, “A Case of You” by Joni Mitchell, “Thunder Road” by Bruce Springsteen, “What Are you Listening to” by Chris Stapleton.

DR: Not living in Nashville – much less the US – must present some interesting obstacles career wise. How do you work that out?

DB: It痴 not easy, especially with the dollar so low in Canada. I focus mostly on creating a strong writing group in Canada, there are some amazingly talented writers in Canada, many in Vancouver where I live, and I am trying to create a stable of writers that I feel I can create songs that are equal to those coming out of Nashville. While doing that I continue to build my relationships with writers in the US, yearly trips to Nashville, Skype writes and continued networking are all extremely important when you are not at the centre of an industry.

DR: What do you feel is the biggest difference between the Canadian music scene and Nashville?

DB: The Canadian music scene is so spread out, there is no one centre of creative output. Thus I write constantly with writers across the country via skype. But the Canadian music industry is strong, and because it is so much smaller than the US, one can network fairly effectively if at the write events. In general Skype has been an extremely useful tool in connecting me with so many other writers and industry professionals, as far south as Texas, and as far east as Nova Scotia.

DR: Thanks for your time today, David!

DB: You’re welcome!

Interview with Tanya Sue Pollard

Tanya Sue PollardThanks to GSC reporter, Dan Reifsnyder

Dan Reifsnyder: I feel like everyone who has had contact with GSC knows who you are – you often reach out to members on Sheree’s behalf, you’re at mixers…but how did you get started with them?

Tanya Sue: Well, I knew Sheree from her days with NSAI – I had gone in to a mentoring session there, and I was in a low place. And she kind of stopped me, and said “I’ve gone through things as well, and we’re not going to count this as a session. You’re not alone.” She talked to me about what was going on in my life, and gave me a picture of a purple flower, which I still have to this day. So I started helping her with events she used to have, with events at the Orbison building. It was definitely a God thing.

DR: So you’ve been with GSC since day one, then. I don’t think I realized that!

TS: Yeah, she’s like my favorite person. I watched her build her company from the ground up.

DR: What do you think is different about GSC?

TS: GSC is fully based around heart – there’s so much heart and love, hard work and soul in that program that Sheree puts in. Her husband, and Jim, and everyone that’s a part of it. I’ve never known any organization that has that much love and care for members. She wants to encourage her members all the time, and she really loves and cares. No matter who the member is, she’ll always remember something about them – where they live, a lyric that they’ve written. No other place is like that.

DR: So what’s it been like working for Sheree?

TS: Honestly, it’s been amazing therapy for me. This sounds whatever, but she’s like an angel on this earth – I always call working with her therapy sessions. It helps me grow as a person – not just on the business side, but knowing who I am and believing in myself, and believing that I can do what I was meant to do in this world. So working with her is really a miracle, because I don’t know where I would have been if I hadn’t met her. Her positivity, her spirit, is just so contagious.

DR: It really is! So you have a mission, a purpose behind your music. Tell me about that.

TS: It was through Sheree, and she helped me realize this program. Dark City Light is bringing awareness to suicide and letting people know they’re not alone, and letting people know that you can get through it. And during that process when I was suffering, when you lose hope that’s like the danger zone. I was kind of in that phase when I started with Sheree, but as I went to therapy and started talking to Sheree more, she said “You know, you’ve lived through this….this is your calling.” She really helped encourage that inner spark in me that wanted to speak to men and women of all ages and all walks of life. Suicide is just a statistic, people are embarassed about it, it’s shunned. Peope don’t understand unless they’ve gone through it. So I’m out there to be a voice for those suffering with mental illness, depression, negative thoughts that have been programmed into their minds. To be a role model and spokesman, to let them know that they can get through this.

DR: So you actually are a public speaker as well?

TS: Yes, I worked with Glen Cliff school where we worked with the students for a few weeks and then put on a show in front of the high school body. My goal is to keep doing that, keep working with the high schools. And with the few high schools I’ve been talking to, the principals are pretty very responsive. They’ve had this stuff going on in their schools, and they feel it needs to be addressed. So that’s definitely a route I’ve been taking, and I’d love to start talking to different organizations as well.

DR: How did you get into songwriting, and being an artist?

TS: I have always loved music, from like 2 years of age. I probably shouldn’t have been watching Sister Act, but I loved it at 2 years old. The two movies I watched were Sister Act and Pocahontas. I wanted to be Whoopi Goldberg, because she was singing and on stage and I wanted to be Pocahontas because she was singing and dancing in the wind. My mom put me in dance lessons, and that was really the start – I was always known as the girl smiling on stage. I was singing from young on, I started in my church, in the youth group. I had a karaoke machine by the age of six. I didn’t think I was songwriting, I was just journaling a lot, like in my diaries. Who knew you could take stuff from that? I sang with my best friend for multiple years – duets at weddings, churches, funerals…fundraisers, a lot of that. Then him and I made it on that Can You Duet show. That was a great experience that awakened me to that whole Nashville scene, because I’m from a small town of less than 2,000. We never had any of that kind of thing by us.

DR: Who are you musical influences?

TS: I loved Karen Carpenter, Meat Loaf – the theatrical stuff – I loved Freddie Mercury. Nowadays I try to base my music off people like Avril Lavigne and Pink – strong voices saying something like “Wow, did she just say that?” You know, gutsy. And I love my girl Kelly Clarkson.

DR: How did you end up moving to Nashville?

TS: Well, after I did that Can You Duet show, I went back to college, worked with a producer, then I did a year abroad studying in Ireland. I still kept up with voice lessons and stuff at school, playing out with my band and stuff. Then senior year, I was like “Alright, I can either move to Chicago or move to Nashville.” The only person I knew was the producer/engineer I had worked with, but I picked up and moved. My housing fell through, so I ended up staying with him and his family for like, six months. In my heart I knew I had to go. It’s hard moving, but I had to do it. This is where I was being called to, and no it’s home.
Main stage.

GSC Interview with Bruce Miller

Bruce MillerGSC Interview with Bruce Miller

provided by reporter Dan Reifsnyder

Dan Reifsnyder:  Hey, Bruce! Thanks for talking today. So how long have you been evaluating songs?

Bruce Miller:  That’s a good question! I have to go back and look…I think It’s been about 7 or 8 years. I started at NSAI working with Sheree when she was there. I think they had like a 6 month backlog of songs to evaluate, and I got them caught up in like a month or something ridiculous like that. I had never done evaluations before, but I had taught songwriting and studied songwriting. And I had been writing for 25 or 30 years…more than that, really. I had studied songwriting a lot and I discovered that I was really good at song evaluations and I really liked doing it. I think I figured out that when I was at NSAI, I evaluated something like 14,000 songs – including contests – and I was their most requested evaluator. So I mentored writers on about 14,000 songs and I really enjoyed doing it. So that’s kind of the history of it.

DR: What would you say is the #1 thing that you constantly come across?

BM: Writers at different levels make different mistakes. I’d say the #1 thing that developing writers make is that they assume the listener knows what the story is about. They don’t give enough detail. They don’t give enough who, what, when, why, and where and the listener is lost. It’s a very common thing. Even professional writers I work with can sometimes forget that, and we have to go “Wait a minute…why does nobody understand this?” I think Jason Blume said something great one time. Someone asked him to explain the song to them, and he said “Unfortunately, songs just don’t come with instruction sheets.” So that’s probably one of the main things. And learning how to find a great hook is another thing, and making it pay off emotionally.

DR: Tell me a bit about your evaluation process.

BM:  I evaluate very organically. When I listen, it’s almost like I’m outside of myself, observing what I’m listening to. So if I’m not really engaged in the song, if I’m not feeling it, I need to find out why I’m not emotionally engaged by the song. And to me, that’s one of the most important things. Even if the song isn’t crafted well, if it doesn’t have the emotional content to it, it’s not doing its job. And each song has a job. I try to work with people to figure out what the job of each song is, and how to make sure that song is actually fulfilling what it’s supposed to do. As writers, we decide what that job is. There’s a few techniques I used to help people, like a checklist they can look at to see if the song is doing what they want it to do. In a vacuum it’s hard to know whether it’s doing its job, and if you know the right questions to ask, you can have a little more of a sense of what you’re writing. I tell people a song should move you in one of four ways: It should move your body, or your heart, or spiritually, or intellectually. If you get all four of those going at once, you’ve got a song that will live on forever.

DR:  Good answer.

BM: (laughs) Long answer. And you  know, people don’t realize how much of songwriting has to do with the human brain, and patterns. That’s how the brain really works, and how it’s really comfortable. When our brains can recognize a pattern quickly, it makes us feel good – the brain is really comfortable with that. That’s why we get anxious when things change. If you’ve ever moved, the first several months, you feel like you’re not in your body as much. You don’t know where the bathroom lightswitch is. And then finally you get acclimated to that and you become comfortable again. Part of being a commercial writer is about making people feel comfortable in a certain way. Like an old sweater. But we also crave variety, which is a paradox – we want variety in our patterns. We want the patterns, but we also want something new. I like to say we need something shiny. Songs that are memorable have something shiny in them that you haven’t seen before.

DR: Great thoughts. What are some songs you wish you’d written?

BM: I wish I had written “Ghost in this House”. I think it’s one of the most perfectly crafted songs that I’ve ever heard. I mean, I haven’t heard every song written, you know. But Alison Krauss does the best version of it – her voice captures so much of the emotion of that song. That’s one of my top ten. “The Song Remembers When” is another one. Both written by Hugh Prestwood.  I’m a huge fan of almost all the Beatles’ catalogue, melodically. I think their melodies are just unsurpassed in the 50 years since they’ve been around. It’s hard to find melodies that touch their stuff. I’m a big fan of the Eagles, and that whole cadre of songwriters from the 70’s – country rock writers. JD Souther, Glenn Frye, Don Henley, Don Felder. Linda Ronstadt wasn’t a writer, but she picked great material to record. Crosby, Stills, and Nash. And my all-time favorite writer/artist is Joni Mitchell. I’ve followed her music and her career pretty much since the beginning. I’ve just watched how she progressed and developed as a lyricist. It’s kind of like “learn everything you need to know about songwriting, and then throw it out the window”. She really knew the importance of a hook, and returning musical themes that are memorable.

DR: Let’s talk for a minute about your background. What got you into songwriting?

BM: Well, I’d been playing guitar since I was 13 and joined my first band when I was 14. I was always in bands, up until the time I was 40. When I went to college, I actually moved down to Los Angeles to be in an original project – we were being produced by Andy Johns who was Glyn John’s brother – he engineered Zeppelin and the Who. He was a big time British engineer. I moved to L.A. and I started doing club work as a professional guitarist and singer. I had written maybe 4 or 5 songs in high school. I later worked with Paul McCartney and Kenny Loggins. I was Laura Brannigan’s lead guitar player for several years – that was probably my longest gig. After being in several original bands, none of which I did the writing in,  I got tired of just being the guitar player. I felt like I had something to say, and I wanted to say it. I had a friend in Nashville who was a publisher, and he agreed to listen to my songs – I thought I knew how to write, and I thought I was writing country. You remember the sound tapes made when they were fast forwarded? (imitates the sound) That was the sound of my meeting. After that, I started taking songwriting lessons. I got involved with a songwriting organization out in L.A.  called NAS. I went to every meeting. I saw what the business was about, and just really got an education. I started writing and figuring it out – my songs were getting better. I started commuting to Nashville and went to Song Camp – that was a religious experience. Rick Beresford, Jon Ims, Don Henry, James Dean Hicks, Hugh Prestwood and Angela Kaset were teaching.

DR: They’re great.

BM: Yeah. I learned a lot. So that’s kind of my progression from wanting to do it, to learning how to do it, to doing it and eventually moving to Nashville. I love what I do. I love this part of it – being a teacher and mentoring people. Because I know how hard it is. I also love songs and songwriting, and being a songwriting mentor is really, really exciting for me. I get to witness this process with someone and get to help them find their legs as songwriters and get good at it.

DR:  Awesome. Well, do you have any parting thoughts?

BM: Yeah. I think what’s really important for people to understand is that they need to have an order of business they need to take care of in order to be successful. And the first thing they need to do is get their songwriting together. I don’t care how much networking you do, how much social media you do, I don’t care about any of that stuff. If your song is not competitive with what is happening within the market you’re in, there’s no way you’re gonna go anywhere. The most important thing you should be focusing on is getting your songs competitive. That is job one. Being able to have immediate feedback and have it from someone who isn’t going to make you feel bad, or make you feel like quitting is really, really important. That’s why the evaluation service with Global Songwriters is so crucial. It’s a great deal, and not to toot my own horn, but it’s with someone who can really help them. People complain all the time “Well, I can’t get anyone to help me.” You’ve got it right in front of you – this opportunity to increase your marketability by becoming a better songwriter. And you need good feedback so you can improve. It’s almost exponential how much better you get when you have someone who can nurture you along the way, and you’re working with them consistently. You’re gonna get a great feeling of progression that way.

DR: Thanks for the interview, man!

BM: You’re welcome! Have a good one!

 

 

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