I love connecting with people, even if it’s just through a song that makes them feel something.
I am here to help. In a sense, I always have been. I chose a career in service to others, and amid the considerable stress and turmoil attending that job, I found that the music I loved was able to quiet my mind and focus my heart. Slowly and often unintentionally, the power of crafting lyrics and melody drew me in a new direction. Eventually, I realized I had returned to the exact place I’d started – the place I was meant to be all along.
“Anyone Else,” my debut release for Show Dog Nashville and a duet with label mate Krystal Keith, is a tantalizing glimpse of the depth of creativity to come. Already a chart-topping songwriter (Kelsea Ballerini’s “Love Me Like You Mean It”), I have continually earned the notice of fans and gatekeepers, even without meaning to. Now, I’m poised to capture their attention on a much bigger scale.
My arrival as a songwriter and recording artist is, in many ways, an extension of a creative progression that became increasingly deliberate. The journey took me from a self-taught hobbyist and therapeutic outlet to a committed songwriter and Nashville-based professional hitmaker. Continually working toward developing my craft, a growing love of performing led to the recording session that changed everything. Unexpectedly so.
My introduction to country music was my mom playing it in her car, I recall. I grew up on a cattle farm in Northwest Arkansas. I never thought I would sing or play, but my stepdad has listened to the country countdown every Sunday for as long as I’ve known him. Country has always been a staple in my life.
Though several friends played guitar in high school, it wasn’t until I was leaving for college that I bought an acoustic at a local pawn shop. “The first thing was probably a Metallica riff,” I say. I’m country as a horse turd, grew up on a farm raising cattle, turkeys, and horses, but ‘Enter Sandman’ was my first song on guitar.
Without ever considering playing music for others, I started playing the guitar during the breaks between my classes and football practices. I needed an escape, and the guitar was perfect because I had no idea how to play it and was probably terrible at it. I had the guitar for six months before realizing that I should tune it every time I played.
I got a job with the state of Arkansas after college and subsequently with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), where I worked to support those affected by dozens of disasters, including Hurricane Katrina.
By this time, I was putting together my own songs. Creativity has always been important to me, and jotting down poems wasn’t unusual. When I finally learned a few chords and could put it to music, bad as it was, things started to sort themselves out. What I found is that it took my mind off everything else – football, girls, schoolwork, and eventually, my job, life stress, everything. I had to totally focus, or it would sound even worse than it already did. It was therapy, an outlet, an escape.
Encouraged by an impromptu performance while on a job in Maine, I began to think my material might find a greater purpose. My main thing was writing, so I found the Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI) by Googling ‘songwriting’ from my hotel room, sent in a few songs and heard back, overwhelmingly, that none of it was very good. But there were encouraging words about my lyrics and creativity. They pointed me to a song camp, and that weekend was the moment I decided music wasn’t a hobby anymore.
For three years, I visited Nashville a few times a year, each time for a week or two, to write, meet people, and network with industry folks. Then I decided to make the move. I worked in Nashville for six months during the 2010 flood, after which I stayed in a friend’s guest room while I searched for a house to buy. I made the official move on Feb 10, 2011, which was exactly three years after the NSAI Song Camp.
After moving to Nashville, I wrote incessantly, landed a publishing deal, and earned a few cuts on albums that were never released before “Love Me Like You Mean It” was recorded by then-unknown artist Kelsea Ballerini. The song became a No. 1 hit. I went to Walmart, bought three or four copies, and took pictures. Even now, when I go to the store, I pull those CDs out and put them on the front of the rack.
Working to get my songs heard, I played writer shows around Music City. As I did, my voice and guitar playing improved. When I really started to figure out how to use that muscle, people started asking why I wasn’t trying to be an artist. Meanwhile, getting a publishing deal is a little bit easier if they think you might get an artist deal and record your own songs. I realized that could be an added value thing, so I put together a 12 song demo.
Intending to give copies to family and friends, I took the suggestion to do an album release show. More than 300 showed up in support. I did nine or ten songs barely moving from the mic, but at the end, I got a standing ovation. I about fell off the stage and thought, ‘Well, I’ve got to do that again.'”
A mix of full band and acoustic shows followed, as many as 115 the following year. I also signed a management deal. I just wanted to continue that independent career and life, playing as much as I could and writing as much as I could. I never planned on pitching myself to labels. I didn’t think that was in the cards, but I guess I was wrong.
My appetite for new music extended to other writers’ work, and I came across “Anyone Else” years ago. I loved it on the first listen and thought I’d like to record it someday. Along the way, I also had a few co-writes with Show Dog Nashville artist Krystal Keith. We really hit it off, and it was great hearing about her life, her husband, and baby. She wasn’t like a star’s kid at all. I don’t think we mentioned her dad [Toby Keith] one time in that first writing session.
Hearing her sing at a recording session, I immediately thought of “Anyone Else,” and Krystal agreed to record it as a duet. When it was done, she played it for her people, and they started jumping up and down. Then Toby heard it, flipped out, and played it for the Show Dog staff. He was like, ‘This song needs to be on the radio, and we’re going to put it there. And also, who is this guy?’
Within a few months, the answer to that question became Show Dog Nashville recording artist Lance Carpenter. It was such an organic thing. If Toby had been looking for an artist or I’d been trying to get on his radar, it probably wouldn’t have happened.
Now, I’m doing what I was always meant to do and, in a sense, what I’ve always done. When I worked for the federal government, it was complicated to explain what I did. I had to boil it down to, “I get to travel the country and help people when they need it most.” In the same way, it can be hard to explain what I do now to people who don’t know the music business. So, I say I travel the country and help people or use my success to help up and coming songwriters and artists through my Music Row Coach program, or to produce music for artists I believe in. It’s a different way of doing the same thing I did before.
We’re not responding to a tornado or hurricane and giving someone food, water or shelter, but I still get to have that interaction on a person-to-person level. I love connecting with people, even if it’s just through a song that makes them feel something.
I am here to help.
I am learning more and more about content creation. In the past, I mostly shared music moments, new music, shows I was playing, and the occasional little life moment. I was focused on myself, but now I’m wondering how to shift my focus to what my audience wants to see about me.
The more I grow my audience, the more it gives me the opportunity to touch the lives of more people through music.
In essence, as I grow, so does my ability to help people.
I am consuming content all the time. The more content I consume, the more I am able to grow and learn.
I am constantly in contact with other artists, and I follow a lot of them to stay informed.
First instinct is to say nothing…because I love my life. But, so long as we are talking about what positive changes would have been helpful, here are a few:
1) I was 27 when I made my first trip to Nashville to learn about songwriting. I wish I had come sooner.
2) I don’t know many cover songs. I wish I had learned more over the years (I play mostly original songs and prefer that, honestly).
3) I have a few friends that have had massive success, and I didn’t want to “coattail” them, so I chose not to pursue writing with them more because I thought they were busy and why would they want to write with me when they are working with massive successful writers? I didn’t want to mix friendship and business, and to my detriment, even now with my success, I haven’t reached out to some of them and said, ‘Hey, let’s get together and see what we could create.
Voice messaging to text is so much faster than just texting, but it likes to misspell my words or change them completely. So, I have to proofread my messages to ensure that I don’t send something confusing or inappropriate.
I am a singer, songwriter, recording artist, producer, and coach. I use my abilities to create music that serves as the soundtrack to life, and I coach, mentor, equip, and inspire the next wave of creators to do the same.
It means that there is always an open door to me, but it’s limited to what I choose to share. As long as you respect it and those in the space, it’ll remain available.
It’s also an opportunity to connect with someone whom you otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to (more than likely if they are “famous”), as long as you go about it in a genuine, professional, and non-stalkerish way. Ha!
It allows me to connect with business partners I’ve met and share my music with them and the other members as it grows. I’ve shared it with some of my music friends and will continue to do so.
Recently, I started my first paid access channel and I’m learning a lot about monetization of my skills and offerings. I am using it to connect with people that I feel I should meet and as a way to get introduced to a products or services that could help someone else. I like connecting with people even if it’s of no benefit to me.
I’m constantly working on new music as both a songwriter and an artist. I post weekly content to my Music Row Coach community, and I am planning a music festival to support local youth in my hometown on May 20th, 2023. I could use a few more sponsors and invite any music fan to join us.
If you have never heard of my music, search for my name on whatever platform you listen to music on and pick any song, then listen to the whole thing. If you like it, listen to another one. If a song reminds you of someone, share it with them. If it touches you in any way, makes you smile, dance, cry, or laugh, message me and let me know.
If you enjoy live music, you can hire me to play at a backyard party or corporate event. Alternatively, you can ask the local bar, club, or theatre you frequent to book me for a show. I have a guitar (and a band) and I am willing to travel.
I will go one step further, and this might be getting a little shameless, but the music industry is an expensive endeavor. The costs of recording and releasing music, music videos, designing and purchasing merchandise, running marketing/PR campaigns for singles, touring, gear, band, transportation, lodging costs, they all add up. If you are someone looking to support an artist as an investor, let’s have a side conversation.
But it all starts with just one song. If all you do is listen to one song or share one song with a friend, I will be grateful.
THIS INTERVIEW IS PART OF THE ‘QP CREATOR SPOTLIGHTS’ WHERE WE SHINE THE LIGHT ON SOME OF THE MOST AMAZING CREATORS YOU NEVER KNEW EXISTED