Interview with Brad McKinney, songwriter

by GSC Reporter, Daniel Reifsnyder

Brad McKinneyDan Reifsnyder: Tell us a little bit about yourself!

Brad McKinney: Well, I’m originally from Hyden, KY. Nobody knows where it is, but I always say it’s next to the city of Hazard.

DR: Oh, like where the Dukes of Hazard are from?

BM: Exactly! It’s a very, very small town, a population of about 500.  All my family is from there, we all lived in the same holler. In the mid 90’s I moved to Richmond, which is more central KY. I also started my day job in technology.

DR: What kind of technology?

BM: I’m a network engineer. I travel and work with school systems all over the state. So, I’ve got that during the day and then I’ve got the full-time job of songwriting. I try to write 4 or 5 times a week. It’s hard to find time for myself and my family and that balance. But I just try to make it work.

DR: So how did you get into music?

BM: Well, I had a very musical extended family. My uncle was a Grammy nominated songwriter in the Bluegrass genre. He wrote “Lefty’s Old Guitar” by J.D. Crowe. He and some uncles and cousins were in a Bluegrass band, so every family gathering there was always music. I never thought that’s who I was – I loved music and loved to sing but it wasn’t until 2013 that some friends said, “Maybe you should look into doing this in some capacity.” So, I thought “I wonder if I can write a song.” I sat down and wrote a song…it wasn’t great. Then I wrote another one and it was a little better. And then another one. And then another. The second song I wrote was recommended for the NSAI Publisher’s Luncheon and the third song got me onto the NSAI Ones to Watch list. I thought “This is easy!” But it’s not. *laugh* I just managed to catch some very very small bolts of lightning in a bottle. I was lucky enough to find GSC, and Songtown, and they’ve helped me to refine my writing skills. I discovered co-writing, and I love that. We’ve all got strengths, we’ve all got weaknesses, and that’s where I started to really write better songs – paired with other people whose strengths complemented my weaknesses. My only goal is to write quality songs and write more songs than I did last year.

DR: So, is Bluegrass one of your songwriting influences?

BM: It’s really not, as much as I hate to say it, sorry Uncle Dave. I was a hair band guy. Give me Def Leppard, Bon Jovi. Give me Poison. I didn’t even really discover Country until the 90’s. Then when I did, it was like home. Tim McGraw, Garth. Clint Black. Alan Jackson. It all just clicked.

DR: Do you consider yourself an artist as well as a writer?

BM: I consider myself more of a writer. I do release stuff from time to time but it’s more of a vanity project. I just want to get some music out while I can. The songs I end up releasing are usually solo writes or songs that fall through the cracks with publishers. My last release was December 2020, and I’ll probably release another song next year. My main goal is to be a writer.

DR: That’s great! What are some of your big dream board goals?

BM: Well, probably like most other people, major label holds and cuts. Staff writing deal. Sync placements. I’m a wine guy, I like a good Cabernet. My Cab of choice is Caymus – it’s not cheap, but it’s not on the very top end. It’s like $100 a bottle. So, I went out and got out a bottle. That’s my celebratory drink. When I have a success – staff writing deal, major label cut, I’ll crack it open. I can’t open it if it’s an indie cut or catalog placement or something. So far, I’ve not gotten to open it, but every day I walk by it and I think “What can I do today to help me crack that bottle?”

DR: Cabernet is for closers!

BM: There ya go!

DR: How did you get involved with GSC?

BM: I discovered GSC early on. When I first started writing I just tried to jump in and find as many organizations as I could. The problem was I didn’t really take advantage of everything Sheree had to offer. What I did – and what I thought you were supposed to do – was just demo everything. And I had these songs, and they weren’t terrible, but they were not door opening songs by any stretch. All I was doing with GSC early on was just pitching my songs. I didn’t really do anything else for a long time, but in 2020 I started back in with Sheree more seriously. She welcomed me in with open arms, and I knew that this is a person that really cares. She may legitimately be the nicest person I have ever met. She truly cares about the people she’s working with.

DR: I agree. I think she really walks beside the songwriters as they go through things.

BM: Yeah! You can kinda sense that when you talk to her. I knew immediately that this is the person that’s gonna help me. She’s gonna do everything she can to help.

DR: That’s Sheree! Do you have any projects coming up you want to talk about?

BM: I have a couple outside indie cuts. One with Matthew Wayne – he’s an up and comer. His most recent release has been added to a lot of Spotify playlists. I wrote that with Leslie Bowe and Kelly McKay. Then I’ve got two cuts coming out with a Norwegian artist named Tor Evanson. I wrote those with Bill O’Hanlon, Michelle Canning, Leslie Bowe and Kelly McKay. I had a catalog placement with Crucial Music the other day, too. I also won the Rising Star award from Songtown!

DR: Very cool!

BM: Yeah! The cool thing about that is that its peer voted. It wasn’t even a matter of a checked box, it was a write in. So, people had to take the time and effort to write me in. It’s amazing to be recognized by your peers. It was totally and completely unexpected!

DR: Nice! That’s amazing! I think that about wraps us up. Thanks for sitting down and talking today!

BM: Thanks!

Remembering John Cirillo

From GSC President, Sheree’ Spoltore’

John CirilloIf you were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to know songwriter JOHN CIRILLO then I know that you too are having difficulty finding the right words to adequately celebrate and honor John’s life, his legacy, and his contribution to our industry and our local songwriting community. His impact is immeasurable.

John…was my friend.

John and I met while I worked at NSAI. Like all of you, I instantly connected to John. John and I also had the “Italian thing” working for us as well which brought us many smiles and laughter! When I started my own company, Global Songwriters Connection, John joined within the first two weeks of me opening GSC on February 12th of 2013. John has been a valuable part of nearly every GSC event since 2013.

John and Lynn Wilbanks helped me to sign in the publishers for my private GSC Plays4U events.

John was the friendly face helping to sign in members and industry pros at every GSC Spring Mixer and Holiday Mixer.

John Cirillo

John, Lynn Wilbanks and Debbie Pascarella even helped my husband, Lou Spoltore, at Lou’s Live On Stage annual booking conference at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center. This is where talent buyers representing venues from all over the U.S. would come to watch artists from all over the world perform a 15-minute showcase for the purpose of booking them in their venues.


John was the consummate professional that I could always entrust with my GSC events. His smiling face was the warm welcome to over 550 songwriters and music industry professionals who attended our last GSC Holiday Mixer and his presence was a safe place for struggling up and coming talent.

I look forward to celebrating John and sharing our many wonderful and beautiful memories of John together at his Celebration of Life with his lovely wife Ruth Cirillo who has graciously shared John all of these years with his Nashville family. Our thoughts and prayers continue with you Ruth and John will always be remembered by GSC.

Pam Lack and Bobby Kropp – 700K Streams

Pam Lack and Bobby Kropp score big with over 700,000 streams of their song ” Find My Faith”

recorded by Christian Artist Ben Fuller

And Irish artist Ed Holland from the group

Pam and Bobby“Bobby Kropp, my partner in life and love, and I got on this crazy musical journey in Nashville in 2015, and a great piece of advice we got was to write with unsigned young artists. How did our story with rising Sony Provident artist Ben Fuller begin? In 2019, we got a call from our dear friend, Sandy Ramos, saying she had written a song with Ben Fuller, a new writer in town, and asked us to record the demo so she could pitch it. We were so impressed with Ben during that short recording session that we asked if he’d like to come on as a co-writer and write the melody on some song lyrics we had just written. That song was called “Catcher In The Rye.” Ben agreed, and we formed a powerful bond that day. Bobby and I truly believe that God brought Ben to us.

Realizing that Ben didn’t have much in the way of recordings, we all agreed that we’d co-write with him and produce an independent album. It was a huge commitment, but we were all in 100%. Ben was just finding his faith and becoming a Christian, and the whole theme of the album was to chronicle his journey from addiction to redemption, and our title track was called “Witness.”  The first line in the chorus was all about finding God… “You’ve been waiting on a witness; I’ve been waiting on a sign.”   Working with Ben was a true joy and a labor of love, and the 12-song album took an intensive 10 months to write and record. It was our honor to help his voice be heard.

We really learned through that album; it was a crash course in how to write for an artist.  The focus was always on Ben’s voice being heard. Bobby and I dug deep to find our shared experiences in every song we wrote with him. To me, the mark of a great artist and writer is someone who can make a deeply personal experience become universal.

Towards the end of working on ‘Witness’, Ben met Krystal Polychronis, an excellent Nashville songwriter who felt deeply moved to become his manager.  She had never been a manager before, but Krystal dove right in.  It was a huge undertaking, but she eventually mentored with Nashville manager Neil Speilberg last December, and together, they got Ben signed to Sony’s Christian label, Provident.   Fast forward, Ben has been touring with Cain, and playing Christian Festivals and churches all over the country.  He is gearing up for a 54-city tour with Zach Williams this fall.  In July, he was asked to perform at The Ryman Auditorium with Sidewalk Prophets and perform his first Sony Provident single, “Who I Am.”   As of 8/2/22 it stands at #11 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary Christian Chart.  It is such a joy to watch someone soar in their gifts in this town!

“Find My Faith”, one of our songs from ‘Witness’, has almost 700,000 streams and is still consistently rising by about 1,000 streams per day.  Another song on the album called “Other Plans”, chronicles a very dark point in Ben’s life when he was 16, and how “the Hand Of God” led him back to the light. Writing those two songs, Bobby and I tapped into our own dark places, and together we all shed a lot of tears and laughter on these deeply personal songs.  Nicole Lewis was a co-writer on both, as well, and they have been pivotal in Ben’s ministries.  

Another important point we witnessed watching Ben’s journey was that, as incredible of an artist as he is, I think that Ben’s heart is a huge part of his success.  When he is not opening for major Christian Artists, Ben regularly performs and uplifts inmates and those struggling with addiction at Christian Festivals, Recovery Centers, and prisons all over the country.  Because he is so transparent about his own addiction recovery issues, people can relate to him on an intimate level.  We are so honored that those two songs have raised up so many souls.  There are hardly words to express it.  

Honestly, sometimes you never know who is going to walk into your life and be that next special relationship or opportunity.  Even if you are at a low point, and everything looks dark, your life can still change in a moment.  My best advice…never stop doing what feeds your soul.   

One of the people who has been the most important to us on this journey is Sheree Spoltore.  I don’t know where we would be without her encouragement and helping us to connect with artists and publishers.  She continues to be one of our biggest blessings.   Such an incredible connector, I honestly don’t know where we’d be if not for being members of Global Songwriters Connection, and we are eternally grateful.”



A Meant-to-Be Connection – between GSC Members and Publisher

A very special “meant to be” connection and cut via a GSC POP Event

Briana Dallas and Steve

Steve Peters from Louisiana is fairly new to the GSC family and has just started pitching his songs on our GSC Publisher Online Pitch event.  Steve recently pitched a song to Dallas Gregory of Song Rocket Music Publishing.   During the process, Steve shared a very personal song with Dallas regarding the very recent loss of his son.  Little did Steve know that Dallas manages and represents artist and GSC member Briana Dominica whose mission and message is to reach people who are considering suicide with a message of hope.  Steve’s song is a great expression of love and hope.

Briana has been very open to the fact that she has lost a brother and several close family relatives to suicide.  Steve’s song regarding the loss of his son perfectly fits the work and message of HOPE that Briana is sharing through her Suicide Awareness program called “Warrior in Me” program.

Dallas was kind enough to play the song Steve pitched with his artist Briana Dominica. Briana loved the song and has committed to recording this song, putting this song on her next project, and there is a possibility that it will be her next single.  At GSC, we sometimes sit back and marvel at how the pieces and people come together and the incredible, nearly magical journey a song takes to reach its just right destination.

Over the past couple of years of Covid, there are a lot of people suffering anxiety from loss of jobs, fear, loss of family to Covid, and they are hurting more than they have ever known.  Suicide seems to be the only way out of their unbearable pain.  If you know of someone who may be experiencing these types of feelings, please connect them to Briana’s website and/or her social media pages.  Her website contains helpful video’s, tips, tools and resource materials that may save a life! Learn more about Briana at .

Steve, your GSC family thanks you for your courage to share this very special song.  We trust that millions will hear its message of hope and compassion and we thank you for including us on this special journey.  ~Your GSC Family

All Time Favourite – a Hurricane Highway Cut

West Ireland Band, Hurricane Highway, cuts GSC members song, “All Time Favourite”

Kevin Matt and Nancy

Global Songwriters Connection congratulates GSC members and songwriters Nancy Moser, and Kevin Rowe and their co-writer Kelly McKay on the single release of their recent cut of their song “ALL TIME FAVOURITE” and Publisher Matt Lindsey! The song “ALL TIME FAVOURITE” has been recorded and released by the West Ireland band Hurricane Highway.

Matt Lindsey is a wonderful, legitimate, hardworking, Nashville Publisher and Song Representative, or Plugger, as we say here in Nashville. Sheree is fortunate to have known Kevin and Nancy for some time as GSC members and hear their great catalog of pitchable songs.

Kevin and Nancy were writers with a handful of really strong songs, a growing catalog and lots of determination and discipline. Sheree felt they had a couple of treasures and made the “connection” to Matt and he agreed, took on the challenge and now they all three have another cut!

GSC congratulates ALL of the team on their efforts. Enjoy the song and the video and may there be many more to come! Click below to watch the video of Nancy and Kevin’s song and be sure to SHARE!

Hurricane Highway Video – “All Time Favourite”  

Breaking Through – Patrick Dodge

Breaking Through – Artist Cuts, Publisher Calls and Meetings

Patrick DodgeGSC Member Patrick Dodge from New York had an amazing 2021 year via GSC events such as our GSC FOCUS Retreats working with GSC artists and our exclusive POP Event Publishers!  Here is his story in his own words.

From Patrick Dodge: “COVID aside,2021 has been pretty darn good to me in the GSC music world: an incredible February FOCUS event , a cut written with Briana Domenica one her “Warrior In Me” EP called “Every time”, a cut on Sarah Taylor Young’s “Step Into Freedom” called “Love One Another” written with Sarah, Brian White and Matt Houston, many songs taken by publishers at the POP events, 2 cuts on Katilyn Pulcher’s Rock album “Feminengine” written with Katilyn, a co-write with Alexa Valentino called “Happy For You” that landed on her POP EP “A Guide To Moving On”, 5 publisher meetings and the restart of the Home Free “Dive Bar Saints” tour where I had a cut written with Jeffrey East called “Why Not” with a video that has over 450,000 views! 

But just when the year is coming to a close… one of GSC’s favorite publishers, Woody Bomar, calls me to let me know that he landed a cut with Kathryn Shipley with “Rise Above” written with GSC members Michaela Clark and Mary Haller. Then Dallas Gregory, another GSC favorite publisher, reaches out to let me know that “Why Not” is being licensed and cut on a limited release CD called “Songs of Joy”, being released December 28 with a compilation of pre-released songs recorded by “Various Legendary Artists”… I wonder who will be doing “Why Not”?!! ” 

But wait…. there’s more! Then Dallas emails me like the very next day to let me know that a FOCUS event song called “Must Be Love” written with Avrim Topel and Jeffrey East has been picked up by up-and-coming Country-R&B artist Tylar Bryant and that they’re putting the finishing touches on it this week!!!! What a way to end 2021 – woo hoo!!!

My GSC Journey – Avrim Topel

The Long Winding Road – to Song Cuts and Signed!


Avrim TopelI first sought out Sheree Spoltore and joined GSC back in 2015 after several years of frustration and desperation from having my songs repeatedly rejected. In my first meetings, I brought Sheree 30 songs and asked her to listen to them, identify my strengths and weaknesses, and chart me a path to become a better songwriter. Since then, it’s been a long and winding road.

Shortly thereafter, I also joined Songtown and participated in their many wonderful services. With time I became more and more active with both organizations eventually leveling off around 2018 by attending every GSC FOCUS Retreat and every Songtown Pro-Writer Retreat offered.  In addition, I started writing with Artists on my journey.

My consistency in “showing up” and willingness to be coachable…. started to make a difference!  Looking back, I see that clearly as I have extensive working relationships with pro songwriters and publishers that I never would have had.

Since that first meeting with Sheree’ and my many efforts, my songs have been picked up by top publishers and song pluggers in Nashville and LA including holds by major artists.  More recently my songs have been cut and signed through GSC events and relationships!  Read on….

I could go on and on about the many and various efforts I have made to become a better writer. My efforts have even been recognized with music industry awards!!  However, what is important in what I’ve done is this; by continuously showing up, working hard, and being coachable….. I’ve grown into a better songwriting.

A few years back, a major songwriting publisher contacted Sheree and volunteered to mentor me. He recognized something in me and my songwriting and work ethic that he thought was promising. As you can imagine, this meant the world to me! With all of the rejection in this business, every affirmation and attaboy is worth its weight in gold.

About a year and a half ago I received a phone call from another major music publisher I met through GSC, who told me he had pitched one of his writer’s songs to an artist who was going to cut it, and that I was a co-writer on. When he asked me if he could represent my publishing, I was ecstatic. This same publisher was someone who had selected another one of my songs at a Publisher Pitch event 6 months prior, so I was definitely getting his attention.

From this call, I kept our relationship alive by staying in touch and sending him occasional songs. Lo and behold, in November he wrote me saying a Grammy-nominated artist who he had pitched another song of mine to was putting it on her new album.

Two weeks later, the publisher who had offered to mentor me wrote asking for my new mailing address…he was sending me a single-song contract for a song I had sent him last year!

And just last week, a GSC member/co-writer friend of mine wrote me and another GSC member letting us know that a label had written him revealing that a new rising star Country artist was cutting our song!  All at once, it seems, my songs are seeing success, but really…it has been a long and winding road.

Until last June I had pretty much ignored writing for the sync/film/tv market. Then Sheree called me and told me she really wanted me to give it a shot by attending a special “invite only” retreat learning from top sync songwriters and industry professionals.  She felt I had the talent for the sync market as she heard that market in the chords and styling of my music. I confess, I reluctantly agreed.

Long story short, I fell in love with this part of the songwriting universe. I felt it gave my songwriting a newfound freedom. I dove in, and a few months later wound up with two single-song contracts for two solo written sync songs with one of the top LA sync publishing companies in the business that I connected with at the GSC FOCUS Retreat.

My most important takeaway from my GSC experience today is this; a few years back my songwriting was not what it is today, and I knew very few pro writers, artists, music publishers and industry professionals. Today I have dozens of these folks I consider my peers and close friends.  My writing has greatly improved simply by showing up, remaining open and teachable. More importantly, I am doing what I love to do and having fun. AND…my songs are getting cut by artist and signed!

For calendar year 2022, I’m taking my songwriting commitment to the next level by meeting with Sheree two times a month as she helps me focus to continue to grow. How could I not take this opportunity when the first 6 or 7 years with GSC have exceeded my expectations.

I’m a lucky guy!  There’s nothing more, I’d rather be doing than songwriting. I’m grateful every day for having the GSC family in my life.

GSC Honors John Hemmingway

GSC Honors Founding Member, John Hemmingway

John HemmingwayJohn Hemingway recently renewed his GSC membership for a 9th year in a row!  John first joined GSC in June of 2013 making him a “Founding GSC Member.”  Our members are never “just another number” and really matter!  We want to thank John for his loyal and faithful membership, and for including GSC in his songwriting career. 

Sheree met John while she was the National Membership Director at NSAI and John was a NSAI Chapter Coordinator.  John’s songs are frequently taken by publishers for further review and after moving to Nashville, John has created many wonderful working relationships with publishers.  One of the things we admire most about John is that  he is always taking young artist/writers under his wings!.

We are including John’s bio below so that you can learn more about him!

John Robert Hemingway is a full-time songwriter living near Nashville, Tennessee who writes image-rich Country, Pop, and Americana songs. Prior to moving to Nashville, John served as a Chicago Coordinator for the Nashville Songwriters Association, International where he led and participated in monthly workshops for aspiring songwriters. He has written and co-written hundreds of songs with more than seven dozen songwriters and performing artists from four different continents.

John grew up in a musical family with two brothers on a grain and livestock farm in eastern Iowa. His father played fiddle and accordion. His mother played the piano, clarinet, sang in choirs and was a high school marching band drum major. Both of John’s brothers became professional musicians. John learned to play piano and trumpet at an early age, and began playing in a six-piece country, western, and standards band as a senior in high school. He continued to perform and earn his way through college and grad school with weekend gigs, waiting tables, a graduate teaching assistant-ship, and various part time jobs. He wrote his first song while in the 8th grade.

John’s songwriting influences are too numerous to mention but include such greats as Steve Allen, Burt Bacharach, The Beatles, Mariah Carey, Johnny Cash, Chicago, David Alan Coe, Floyd Cramer, Hal David, Tom Douglas, Ronnie Dunn, Duke Ellington, Merle Haggard, Alan Jackson, Billie Joel, Tom Johnson, Toby Keith, Kris Kristofferson, Barry Manilow, Roger Miller, Willie Nelson, Jennifer Nettles, Jerry Reed, Kenny Rogers, Keith Richards, Don Schlitz, Steve Seskin, Ray Stevens, James Taylor, Phil Vassar, Brian Wilson, and Craig Wiseman.

Are you a GSC 2013 Founding Member and would like to be featured in an upcoming member newsletter?  Just reach out to Josie Bisto at [email protected] with your bio and approved photo.

Interview with Carrie Cunningham, Artist Writer

by GSC Reporter, Daniel Reifsnyder

Carrie CunninghamDan Reifsnyder: How did you get started in music?

Carrie Cunningham: I’m going to just word vomit and give you a brief history of my life and we can go from there. Music was kind of like a life-saver for me growing up. I had a very abusive childhood. I got a clock radio for my 8th birthday, and I would go to bed listening to music all night long. There was one night when I was laying in bed and I heard the song “Maneater” come on the radio. I’m lying there, and in my mind I just saw this dark scene of this woman attacking men. And she turned into a tiger! I just found this fascinating…this song created this in my mind! The song really resonated with me because I was being abused by my babysitter. Next thing you know, I started watching Hee-Haw, and then Barbara Mandrell and the Mandrell sisters. Barbara was amazing in how she could sing, and act, and the whole stage performance. I grew up thinking I want to be an entertainer just like Barbara Mandrell, and I wanted to create music just like “Maneater.” And then I bought “Born In The U.S.A.” with my birthday money – it was my very first cassette tape, and I had it in my walkman. I just remember sitting in Nebraska on my front porch and listening to “Born In The U.S.A.” and “I’m On Fire”. It just started snowballing for me, and music became a way out. More things started happening mentally and physically with abuse and music was a way to keep me focused and keep me going since I was 8. I did choir through Junior High and High School…and it wasn’t until I was a Senior in High School and my choir went to Washington State University for their music program. I already had in my brain that I wasn’t going to even go to school because I’m dumb, I’m worthless, and there’s no way a school would accept me. So we went to the auditorium for this program and out comes this a capella group singing “Africa” by Toto, Pentatonix style. This was back in 1993! The only person I knew back then doing that kind of vocal percussion style was Bobby MacFerrin. I lost it! I was like “What! I’m coming here, I have to be part of this group! Maybe I will pursue music as a career!” And of course, I couldn’t afford to go there, not even to drive for the audition. But my choir teacher knew that I couldn’t afford to go, let alone that my parents wouldn’t even take me. So he brought the choir director to me! He auditioned me in my choir teacher’s office. I got a call about a week later with him saying that I did wonderful and he’d like to offer me a vocal scholarship to Washington State! The evil step mom said no I wasn’t allowed to go. So I shifted gears and went to community college which turned out to be really great – I went to Hawaii, won awards with our group there. And I started working on developing this duo and starting singing…I was known as the next Shania Twain from all the radio stations that were promoting me, of course this was back when Garth and Shania were huge. So I’m like “Oh yeah, I’m the next Shania Twain! Woo!” Then I got married and wanted to move to Nashville…my ex-husband said “yes” until we got married and then he said “no.” So I continued to perform locally until 2003. He was making it really tough on me and me working at a software company was driving me mad. So I went back to school for audio engineering in Seattle. During this time I had two kids, so I would go to school, work at a store afterwards to pay for my rent, drive to Spokane from Seattle in the middle of the night on Fridays, to go visit my kids and also intern at a casino for their AV dept . During that time at school, I ended up meeting the label rep for Divulge records, so I was on their label from 2005-2011, all the while working as a lead sound engineer at the casino…just tell me when to stop ‘cuz I’ll keep going!

DR: No, this is good!

CC: Well, just when things were going good, my husband’s job as a US Marshal moved us down to Portland so I had to start all over. Finding a new AV job and building up a new fan base. A few months into Portland life, I found NSAI and left my husband. Two great things lol. In 2008 I became the NSAI coordinator for Portland until 2017 when my current husband’s job transferred us out here to California. In the Northwest I had been known as the go-to girl. I had opened up for over 50 national acts, all different ranges. From Chick Correa – who was the first person I shared a stage with! – to Collective Soul to Charlie Daniels, Sugarland, Diamond Rio, Kacey Musgraves… numerous country artists. When I moved down to California everything dried up. I wasn’t getting as many gigs and I couldn’t get a California band, so I had to keep using musicians from Nashville and the NW. Come November of 2018, I started having this breakdown. I left all the songwriting groups I was part of, became a person I didn’t like, and tried to just drive a wedge into everything I had loved. It wasn’t until I went to a dreamseekers event with Cathy Heller where I met my fear. After a few days of cleansing and getting to know the real Carrie, I was broken down even more. One night I called out to the universe and asked what I was going to do with my life. It was then when I heard my Grandfather whisper in my ear “Auctioneering, Carrie!”

DR: Wow!

CC: And I’m like “Yeah, why not?” The one thing I knew about myself is I have always been a helper. Many people say I help too much. I give away the farm with no money in return. It’s true. I’m working on that. Anyway, all the pieces started falling together. My grandfather was a cattle auctioneer, my great-grandfather was a cattle auctioneer. My grandfather, in WWII was selling war bonds, and he was able to auction off a blanket for $800 in 1942!

DR: Wow!

CC: I’m assuming that’s where I got my entertainment bug from, my grandfather. I knew that if I wanted to be on stage after my last tour of 2019, and still be able to touch lives as a helper, or even a healer for that matter, this was going to be my pivot.

So I went back to school – Mason City, Iowa to Worldwide College of Auctioneering. I’m with all these other cattle auctioneers and there were like 13 girls and about 50 men. So we’re there putting in rigorous hours doing this training. Like 12, 16 hours a day. By the time I was done I was certified as a Professional Colonel – when you go through auctioneering school, that’s what you’re called, a Colonel. I also got certified as a bi-lingual auctioneer, so I went through for Spanish and English. Then when I got through the process I decided I was gonna become a benefit auctioneer. In my heart of hearts, when I was singing up in Washington, I was still trying to give back to the kid I never got to be. The latchkey kid, or the kid that was being abused. I had already been a volunteer for Big Brothers Big Sisters for many years…I became a CASA which is a Court Appointed Special Advocate, which is the voice of a child in the court system. I was also part of the Lunch Buddy Program and Read Across America, and it made the decision easy when I decided to be a benefit auctioneer.

DR: Right.

CC: So that leads me up to right now where 2020 hit and it was a perfect moment because I was able to pivot. I started working on making sure everything was right with my publishing, and I wanted to become the liaison between the music business and the auctioneering world. These auctions were starting to go virtual because we couldn’t get together. But they were putting these events on over the internet and putting on unlicensed music and getting in trouble. That’s where I saw my window of being in the music world for over 20 years and being an asset in the auctioneering world. So that’s where I am right now! I have spent the last 8 months digging deep into building my brand as It shows me as an artist, my publishing side and also my auctioneering side. They all work really well together, or at least I work really well as the voice between the two worlds. It’s my niche. I also decided to make an album vs EPs. The new album is called “Showgirl” and I’m super excited.

DR: That is the most comprehensive answer I think I’ve ever gotten! That’s awesome!

CC: Thank you!

DR: Who are your musical influences?

CC: Well. That goes back. Starting off with Barbara Mandrell, and then Reba as far as stage performance goes. I was also heavily influenced by Diana Ross and the Supremes. Donna Summer and Lou Rawls, the Motown and the Disco scene, The BeeGees. Gretchen Peters as a songwriter! She was the first songwriter I knew or knew about. I fell in love with her in the 90’s…she was one of the reasons I felt like I needed to start writing. Patty Loveless is a huge component too. “Blame It On Your Heart” was the first song I sang in a Country competition. Her voice is so rich! She was able to cross over with Country music and Bluegrass – Mountain Soul and Mountain Soul 2 are two of the best albums out there. They’re so good! And Carl Jackson, he’s huge in the Bluegrass and Country world for being a producer and songwriter. I’ve known him and Sherrill Blackman since 2008 and their separate guidance over the years has helped me so much. There’s actually a ton of mentors over the years thanks to Nashville and just getting out there and networking. I don’t want to start naming people because I’m gonna forget somebody and next thing you know I’m in trouble! More recently, I’d say I like Old Dominion and Midland as far as music goes, but songwriters….geez, too many to name.

DR: Nice. How did you come to GSC?

CC: Well, like I said earlier I became the NSAI coordinator for Portland back in 2008, and Sheree was our mentor. She was our cheerleader for all the coordinators. So once everything started to fall apart, I stuck with her and I really loved her drive and determination. She’s infectious!

DR: She is!!

CC: Her and Debbie Cochran are awesome. And Trish Matthews!

DR: They all are wonderful! What are some songs you wish you’d written?

CC: I like some of the stuff Ingrid Andress is doing. I like her song “Lady Like” I think it’s so creative. “More Hearts Than Mine”would probably be the number one song I’d say I wish I’d written. I heard it the first time and I made my daughter listen to it as we were driving in the car. She looks at me and says “Mom! This is our song!” and I’m like “I know! Why didn’t I write this?” I fall in love with anybody my daughter brings home, even if she doesn’t. Im turning into a hopeless romantic. There are many more but that one resonates the most.

DR: And you talked a little bit about your projects…tell me some more about Showgirl.

CC: Showgirl really was a concept as I was driving home in 2019. Being the artist, I was the truck driver, hauling gear and musicians in my truck. We had just finished a tour that had us up in Washington, Oregon, North Dakota, Colorado. Doing this big loop. And we had just gotten home from the Pendleton Roundup, which was grueling – it was four shows a day for five days! I was driving home and I’m in Northern California thinking “I’m not gonna do this anymore” because I had just finished Auctioneering school and knew this was my last gig. So I started coming up with these words. “In fourteen miles I’ll have seven hundred more to go/I can’t wait til I climb out of these miles I’m wearing/at least until I’m back out on the road” and I was like “Yeah, I’ll always be a showgirl.” I grew up listening to Motown and Disco and Classic Rock and Country and I was influenced by all of it! And as I was thinking about this album I thought I’m not going to make this album be straight up Country – I’m going to take all those influences and put it in this album.

DR: Very cool. Where can people hear your album?

CC: Well right now, releases are by singles, everywhere. On all streaming platforms and my website. I’m not gonna release the whole album until sometime in the middle of the year when it’ll come in physical CD and vinyl. But the only way they can get those is through my website,, until the end of the year. That way the single releases still hold value digitally. I have a Showgirls series on my website and each month has a dedicated page. So right now I have January,- “Click” written with GSC member Diann Hammer and dueted with Clayton Jones. February- “Happy to me” with artist/writer Christen Cooper and March -”Showgirl” which is a solo write. People can check out all the interviews, press, social media links, streaming like Spotify and iTunes for each individual song, plus lyrics.

DR: Nice. Well, maybe this is a dangerous question, but do you have any closing thoughts?

CC: *laughs* I dunno, I just gave you my whole life! Except please visit my website and let’s be friends!

DR: Well, I’d say that about covers everything then. Thanks for sitting down with us!

CC: Thanks!

Interview with Daniel Schaefer, Artist Writer

by GSC Reporter, Daniel Reifsnyder

Daniel SchaeferDan Reifsnyder: How did you get started in music?

Daniel Schafer: I’ve been basically doing music all my life. When I was a teenager, I went through the band phase…punk bands and heavy rock all the way up to metal. Then I started rapping just for fun, and eventually I wanted to do more with music. There’s been a few times I tried to run away from music but then I ended up doing music anyway. So I figured maybe I’m born to do that.

I made it through college, but was always pursuing music on the side. The music was always present.

DR: So you’re from Germany which is a totally different area than Nashville. What ways is the music scene different there?

DS: For one, the language. It’s really hard to find people who write in English here. The music scene in Germany is further really exclusive. I can’t go to a major band and present songs to them, whileI get the feeling that in Nashville it’s more of a community. The first time I was in Nashville was 2013, and now when I go there I feel like I’m already part of that scene. I don’t feel like I need to go there to make connections because I already have made connections. It’s always great to catch up and see what everyone else is working on. Germany is also really technical, which was difficult for me at first. All these audio engineers we have are among the best on the planet. So when you have a pitch here, they tear it apart for things like frequencies being off, or kick drums being out of tune.

DR: That’s crazy!

DS: Even the mastering guys I work with get thrown off by the tiniest bits that no person would ever hear.

DR: Are they that way with the music and the lyrics as well?

DS: Not specifically with English lyrics because there’s not a big English songwriting scene. But with the German lyrics, yeah. It’s a little bit tricky, because we have German Pop-Rock, this is more lyric driven and there’s a story behind it. And then there’s this Schlager which is like party music. It just has to rhyme because the target audience is drunk.

DR: And it’s called “Schlager”? What does that mean?

DS: It’s like EDM but with really basic sounds and stupid lyrics.

DR: *laughing* wow!

DS: There’s one song called “Johnny Depp” and it’s just “Depp Depp Depp” and they repeat it over and over again.

DR: Wow! So what drew you to Nashville?

DS: It was basically a road trip! I was studying in Wisconsin at the time and I convinced my buddies that instead of Florida we should go to Music City because I always wanted to see it. They didn’t enjoy the trip too much, but I had the time of my life. I just kept coming back. There was a time when I was considering a PHD, so Vanderbilt was on the list. I always extended the stays to check out more live music and get a feel. This is where I discovered that “trying it in Nashville” is actually a pursuable goal. The A&R people actually watch you develop over time and you build relationships. I just kept coming back and wanted to be present.

DR: It’s a different feel even than in any other place in America. The scene in NY and LA is different too. Nashville is more of a community, as you said. And once you’re in it you’re part of the mix. Have you played any rounds here?

DS: Yes! I played one in November 2019 at Belcourt Taps.

DR: Good place! So let’s get into what kind of music you write.

DS: I write Pop music for the most part, Country is maybe number two, and I also write EDM which is for other producers who need a topliner. They give it to me, I write lyrics, I do a few revisions, and if they like it they send it out to somebody else who’s actually doing the cut.

DR: Nice! So for people who don’t know what toplining is, you would make a track and they would build out on that?

DS: No, over here it’s the other way around. So the producer gives me the finished instrumental and I add lyrics. Then they send it out to the artist who’s actually recording the vocals.

DR: I see! Here it’s the other way around. The topliner creates the tracks and others add to it. So you flip it over there! So how did you get connected to GSC?

DS: It’s a long story. There’s this girl Ava Paige…I visited her in the hospital two years ago. Melissa Bollea Rowe was there and we were all talking and hanging out. I connected with Melissa after that and she referred me to Sheree. I reached out to Sheree and that’s how I wound up at GSC!

DR: Yes! I know them both. Great people! Who are your musical influences?

DS: Ray Charles, definitely. I’m a big Guns N’ Roses fan, even if I don’t do a lot of rock related stuff right now. I have this rock and roll in me, that’s just part of it. I always have to reference Pantera because they were one of the biggest influences I’ve had. I love some of the newer stuff too…Jason Derulo. There’s a guy named Jay Sean from the UK, who is not really popular anymore. But at his peak he was doing really amazing Pop music. I could listen to that over and over again. Right now, Ariana Grande. I love her!

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

DS: Church Bells by Carrie Underwood. Thank U, Next by Ariana Grande. There was another one…are you familiar with the TV show Empire?

DR: I haven’t seen it, but I know about it.

DS: There was a song on the show that was called Conqueror which is a really cool song. And I totally love Red by Taylor Swift.

DR: Cool! Can you talk a little bit about your experience with GSC. How do you feel it’s helped connect you?

DS: It’s been really helpful. I started gradually, I signed up for the “View Only” option with the online pitches to get an idea of how that works. You talk to some of the other songwriters while that’s going on, and I ended up getting some work for hire gigs piecing demos together, and some other writers that wanted to write with me. It’s been beneficial from two sides: on one hand I’m getting gigs for production and on another I’m getting gigs for co-writing.

DR: Excellent! Do you have any projects you want to promote?

DS: There is one project I’m doing with a producer from San Francisco. He made a concept album that’s revolving around the country and culture of Colombia. He went down there and recorded the sounds and asked if I wanted to contribute to that record. I was head over heels for that, and he gave me access to all the sounds, drums, and brass that he recorded there and I’m building a track out of it right now. I took his samples and fitted them to the tempo I wanted to do the track in, and there’s a Colombian girl here in Germany I’m working with because I can’t write in Spanish. We will soon start to work on the actual songwriting of it. Right now I’m just doing the production and arrangement.

DR: Cool! Do you see yourself as more of a writer or more of a producer?

DS: I feel like I’m caught in the middle which I don’t think is a bad thing. When I write a song, I already have the production in mind. In my songwriting, I leave gaps because I already have in mind how I would fill them with delays and everything. Likewise, I can also do the production based on songwriting because I have both backgrounds. I can just bring these two pieces together.

DR: Is there one you prefer more than another?

DS: I love it all! Sometimes it’s writing time, sometimes it’s production time. I actually met a producer in Germany who’s basically working the same way I do, which nobody else does. We have a production phase where we have the sound design and just make it vibe. And then we export all the tracks and there’s a mixing phase and we clean it all up. When I get to the end of one phase I’m excited to do the other!

DR: Very cool Do you have any closing thoughts?

DS: This was just another sign for me that GSC works even for me out here, doing projects remotely. Before COVID, I was used to connecting through Zoom and sending files back and forth. I think GSC added a really valuable component where I can foster that and get better at both, songwriting and producing..

DR: Well, thanks for sitting down!

DS: Thanks for the interview!