Highway Songs

The Land of Lincoln

So I remembered that I have a blog… :-p

I figured in honor of re-launching my website and new things to come, I would dive back into blogging, and a great starting point seemed like it would be a re-cap of last weekend’s mini-tour to Illinois.

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First up was a stop in my college-days hometown of DECATUR, IL for a show at Timbuktu Saloon. My good friend Chance Phebus and I played a show together and had a great time playing country covers and originals for an AWESOME crowd of fans and friends. I brought my guitar player Tony Merz with me this time around to spice things up a little bit on stage, and we definitely had our fair share of adventures. We made a pre-show stop at one of my favorite little restaurants, La Gondola, for a Torpedo sandwich… I had forgotten that these things are like 18 INCHES long! I wish I had remembered to take a picture of the monstrosity before we devoured it, but it was definitely a delicious trip down memory lane from the ol’ Millikin days.

Here are a few pictures from that performance:

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The next day we drove up to the Chicago area and played at an Irish Pub in Villa Park, close to where I grew up. This was probably my favorite performance because I got to see SO many family members and old friends, including friends I hadn’t since high school and elementary school! It was amazing to feel so much support in my home city, and I had a great time playing some new songs and old favorites. I even got Tony to play a song that we wrote together, and he rocked the house. You can check that song out here:

“If Things Were Different” by Tony Merz

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Our last stop to end the weekend was back in the Decatur area, opening for my good friends Day 40 at their EP Release Concert at the Mt. Zion Convention Center. It was great to get to warm up the crowd for this talented band as they premiered songs from their brand new release “Enemies.” It was pretty great to get to play in a bigger venue with lights, big sound, and even some fog effects! Thanks again to Jim and all the guys in Day 40 for inviting us, we had a great time.

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It was a short trip, but definitely a great experience. It felt so good to be back on the road and playing for fans in my home state. Can’t wait to get back out again soon!

As I mentioned up top, I’ve just re-launcehd my website! Check it out at www.anniekennedycountry.com. From there you can link to all my other social media to keep up with the latest news, music, and tour dates!

-Annie

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A day in the life…

So, a lot of people wonder what happens on an average day  for an up and coming songwriter… so here is a day in my life during a typical week! Be warned… some days are not that interesting, and it is sometimes repetitive… but a little routine never hurt anyone 🙂

Monday:

Day job, practice, workout, play at a writers’ night. What’s a writer’s night, you ask? Well, a bunch of songwriters get booked to play short sets at a venue. You play your set, you hang out with writers you’ve met before, and do a little networking. Sometimes, you meet new co-writers, sometimes you meet publishers, sometimes you just meet new friends.

Tuesday:

Day job,  send booking emails, practice and write.

Wednesday:

Day job, co-writing session, send more booking emails. Oh, and on Wednesdays I usually write my blog! (Yes, I know today is Thursday… sometimes I like to break the routine!)

Thursday:

Day job, workout, send booking emails, just relax!

Friday:

Day job, workout, write, try and have a social life!

Saturday:

Co-write or go to a workshop, do normal catch-up things like cleaning and grocery shopping.

Sunday:

Practice, write, possibly co-write… and usually do 15 loads of laundry that have been neglected the rest of the week!

So there you go… a typical week for one up coming singer/songwriter. In an ideal world, I would have a lot more time for writing and co-wiriting… but those are good things yet to come!

By the way, keep an eye on my website for new tour dates… I’ve got some exciting shows coming up in the next few months!

The Dream Team

With football season drawing to a close, basketball season kicking into high gear, and baseball season just around the corner, I figured now would be as good a time as any to hit you with a little sports talk. Ready? Here goes.

One of best quotes I’ve ever heard in the realm of motivational sports-related sayings is this gem from Kareem Abdul-Jabar: “One man can be a crucial ingredient on a team, but one man cannot make a team.” I love this idea, because it is so universal, not only for athletes on the field, but for any person lending a hand to a larger cause.

I present this bit of wisdom today because one thing that is becoming more and more clear to me is that in order to find success in this industry, you need to have a strong team surrounding you. As I’ve mentioned before, one thing that I’ve learned is  that knowing your strengths is important, but knowing your weaknesses may be more important. When you are able to identify your weaknesses, you in turn acknowledge that there are others more qualified and better equipped to find a solution to whatever issue you are currently facing than you yourself.

As an artist and writer still in the beginning stages of a career, I don’t necessarily have the means to hire someone to fill every “position” left vacant where my knowledge leaves off. For now, I make connections with those who know better, talking to artists and other music business professionals who have been at this longer than I have. I have to say, so far, most people in Nashville have been so nice and willing to help out a new artist…. definitely one of the things I love about this town. For now, I’m doing the best to fill these roles, but can only hope that one day I can pay people to do these things for me 🙂

And so, I present to you my Dream Team; some of these are people I have already stumbled upon, and some are more of a “wish list” of those that I would like to have helping me:

Marketing/Social Media Strategy/ Digital Strategy; Booking; Business Manager; Personal Stylist; Song Plugger; Guitar Player; Roadie… and the list goes on 🙂

 

Who are some of the people on your dream team?

 

Oh yeah, to find more of those nice people in Nashville that are willing to help, I recommend checking out several organizations: NSAI, Indie Connect, and any Performing RIghts Organization- BMI (mine), ASCAP or SESAC all have great resources!


Learning the ropes of the music business… at my day job

One of the things that has helped me survive in Nashville has been my day job. I have always felt extremely lucky to have an income that puts a roof over my head and food in my cabinets, and although there are days that I wish I had more daylight hours to devote to music, I know that time will come soon enough. While I expected to work hard and learn a lot at my position, I never expected to find so many connections between the insurance industry and the music industry.

Lesson 1: Know Your Product 

Seems simple right? You can’t sell something unless you know the product inside and out. If people have questions, you need to be the expert. Your confidence will instill confidence in others as they decide to buy from you instead of the competition. I think the same thing applies to being an independent artist, musician, or songwriter. Knowing your own style and your strengths, and being confident in what you do is essential to getting anyone to buy what you are selling, whether it be recordings, live performances, or songs.

Lesson 2: Learn to overcome rejection 

Any sales person will tell you that “low-hanging fruit,” or the easiest sales tend to be more sparse than those that are more of a challenge. In insurance sales, there are always plenty of reasons that people don’t want to buy, whether it be price, coverage, service, payment options, public opinion, and any other number of things that are largely out of the salesperson’s hands. Success comes when you learn to overcome rejection, whether it be by using another tactic to make the sale, or at least learning from the rejection and  moving forward. The same applies to being an independent artist; it is unlikely that you will book every venue that you want to play, or get a publishing deal from every meeting you take- especially as you are starting out. Instead of getting discouraged or giving up, assess the things you can do better, dump the techniques that aren’t working for you, and move on! Doing so will eventually find you more success, and each self-evaluation will get you one step closer to landing the next gig, or deal, that you are trying for!

Lesson 3: Set goals, track your progress. 

It’s one thing to feel like you are reaching your goals, but numbers don’t lie. Obviously, creative goals may not be as easy to track as numerical sales, but the simple act of setting goals with a timeline attached to them helps keep you constantly working towards something, and not just floating along without a destination in mind. Even if you don’t hit your goals by the deadline, you have a realistic view of what is possible, and something to work towards for your next goal-setting timeframe!

Lesson 4: Find a need and fulfill it. 

You can talk to hundreds of people in a day, but if you don’t identify what they actually need, you probably won’t make a sale. You may be the greatest new artist out there, with amazing songs, stage presence, and artistry, but if you can’t identify what a potential fan or industry connection are looking for, they probably won’t take what you have to offer. Whether it’s finding the venues that book your style of music or reaching out to fans who enjoy your genre of music, you can save yourself from a lot of unnecessary struggle by identifying your high-propensity prospects, or those that are more likely to buy what you are selling.

 

I certainly don’t claim to be an expert in sales, but these are some of the best lessons I’ve taken away from the time at my “day job.” Like I said before, I never expected that so many of the basic principles I learned to succeed at my job would help me so much in my music career. I was pleasantly surprised in the past year to find that not only is the whole sales process is getting easier, but I’m more confident when it comes to the business of me. Although that may sound funny, being an independent artist truly is like running a business, and I for one am glad to have at least a little experience in the business world to help me along the way!

 

Lessons learned, or, How NOT to record your first album

I finished recording my first mini-album about a year ago, and as it’s close to the New Year, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on the last year, so I thought a post with some perspectives from my first recording experience would be appropriate.

Let me start by saying that I am beyond thrilled at how “Highway Songs” turned out. Going in, I had absolutely no idea how this thing was going to turn out. For the first time, I was turning my songs, my babies, over to somebody else, and would then be putting them out there for the world to hear (and judge… eek!). Once I had decided that I had enough songs I felt were “good enough” to put together on an album and had saved up a little bit of money, I went to work trying to find the right studio and producer to help my vision for these songs become a reality. I had been talking to a lot of friends in the network I had created for myself in Nashville, doing research online, and getting referrals from almost everybody I talked with. (Hey old lady in the grocery store, you say you recorded a birthday greeting once? Who was your producer?) After about a month of searching, I was getting really frustrated with the results I was coming back with. Some of the best studios I looked at were way too expensive, and the ones more in my price range just didn’t have the quality of sound I was looking to achieve. I couldn’t seem to find a middle ground, and was starting to feel like I was going to have to cut the number of songs I wanted to record or seriously compromise the quality of my recordings unless I wanted to throw a lot more money at the project than I had initially planned.

Then, out of the blue, I got an email from a contact of mine who booked songwriters at a local bar. He was recommending the studio of a friend with some great production and engineering credits behind his name, and who had very reasonable prices. I checked out his website and found just what I had been looking for. As God or fate would would have it. the next time I played at that particular bar, the owner of the studio was there, and talking with him, I felt an immediate creative connection, and knew this was the guy to take the reigns on my recording. After several emails and phone calls, we met to discuss my goals, and started talking pre-production. I booked a block of time, and after one more pre-production meeting, we got to work recording my songs.

Lesson learned: It just takes one to be the right one, so don’t get frustrated if things don’t fall into place right away. Patience truly IS a virtue.

Now, in order to record  an album, you need more than songs and ideas; you need musicians as well. Through my contacts in Nashville, I had secured several great players for my recordings… or so I thought. Through a series of events, it came to be the week before my sessions and the friend-of-a-friend I had enlisted to play one instrument (trying to save the money of hiring a pro player) stopped responding to my texts and calls. After several days of no contact, I accepted that he was not going to be playing on my album, and hired a professional. This turned out to be one of the best decisions I made on the whole album, because what he added to the album really helps to define the whole sound! Through another series of unfortunate events, it came to be the night before my recording session, and the friend I had enlisted to play a different instrument called me to back out. I understood his reasons, but was suddenly in a huge bind. Another friend stepped in, but unfortunately, since it was so last minute, he just wasn’t achieving the sound I was looking for. After the first day recording, I felt like there were no cohesive sounds coming from the quickly-assembled backing band I had put together, and I was again feeling discouraged. When our first day of tracking was over and everyone else had left, I sat down with my producer, and we decided that he would handle the rest of instrumental parts that were just not working with my current players. We also hired another pro player to come play some additional string parts, and with his help, I feel like we achieved exactly the sound I was hoping for on this project.

Lesson learned: Sometimes it’s better to not be such a cheapskate. Pay your musicians, and hire pros. Don’t be afraid to know exactly what you want, and if somebody isn’t exactly right to fill the position or play the part, say so (nicely… it’s also good to keep your friends!). Also, allow more time for planning ahead of time.

Now it’s time to reveal a secret. One of the songs on the album was finished right before recording began. I was so excited that it was done and thought it was such a strong song, that I really wanted to include it on the album. (No, I’m not going to tell you which one). Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love this song, and I still think it is a great song and am so proud to have it included on this project, but one of the things I have learned since is that when it comes to songwriting, sometimes you have to give a song time to really… marinate, for lack of a better term. In the last year, I’ve learned that living with a song, letting it breath, and taking the time to re-write, re-work or even just tweak it can make all the difference between a really good song, and one that is off the charts. My only wish is that I had saved the song for a later project so it could have grown into something even more than it is now. (No, I’m still not going to tell you which song it is!)

Lesson learned: Patience is a virtue. (How come this one keeps popping up?) Re-writes and re-works are key to the success of a song.

Once the album is done, there’s all sorts of post production stuff that needs to get done. Mixing, mastering, duplicating. Photo shoots, album artwork, and liner notes. The same type of lesson here applies as from a few paragraphs before…. I’ve found that it’s always better to set very clear expectations for the people you are working with. It doesn’t make you mean, it just means that you know what you want, and it will help everyone have more realistic expectations. Most of these tasks are completely out of my hands (as they should be… my visual artistry skills are on par with those of a 2nd grader!) but I should have done a little more research ahead of time to get a more realistic idea of how long each step would take, and probably have caused less anxiety for myself just by being more in the loop of what was going on.

Some final thoughts and lessons learned: Producers are your friend, even when it’s scary to put your songs, your heart and soul into somebody else’s hands. Don’t be afraid to go outside your comfort zone, but stay true to who you are. Don’t be afraid to speak up or say you don’t like something. Don’t be afraid to change your mind. Make the hard decisions, they will be worth it in the end.

I really do love my first attempt at an independent studio release, and I am so thankful to have gotten to work with the small and talented group that brought it to life. I can’t wait to get another chance at recording, hopefully in the next year!

For anyone who might be looking for the right person to producer their project, check out Patrick Himes at Reel Love Recording Company! http://www.reelloverecording.com