The view from today

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The view from today: playing at Honky Tonk central in Nashville. A couple requested a slow song and said they came all the way from Ohio to dance together, so we had to oblige!

Check out my Saturday partner in crime at http://www.reverbnation.com/nealguinanemusic !

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2013- The Year of the anti-Resolution

Has it really been 7 months since my last blog post? So much for last year’s resolution of writing regular blogs, huh?

…Which brings me to this year’s resolution: to STOP making New Year’s Resolutions. Are there goals to accomplish this year, places to see, songs to write, and people to meet? Of course! I just decided that this year, I’m going to take some of the pressure off keeping up with resolutions away, and instead focus on enjoying the journey.

So this year, I’m looking forward to writing a lot more music, playing shows in different corners of the US, and recording some new music. I can’t wait to share the adventures with you guys!

In the meantime, check out my newest Free Download of a song that is one of my personal favorites from my catalog. I hope you enjoy “Flowers Will Grow”!

Download Flowers Will Grow Here!

*Or, grab it from the home page at http://www.anniekennedycountry.com!

On the road again…

Well, it’s been a busy, exciting, and extremely fulfilling month, to say the least. I went on a solo tour from Nashville to Washington, D.C., met some amazing people, wrote some new songs, played some cool shows… and then caught up on my sleep 🙂

I wanted to do a quick recap of my tour, along with some lessons learned along the way, because 6 days on the road taught me as much as I’ve learned in the last year!

Day 1:

Packing. Advice for any future trips I or anyone reading this may take: Pack the day before. I mean, I had the whole day to pack and I still felt like I was forgetting things. Luckily, I am a compulsive list maker so I think I have everything I need!

I’m also pretty sure I should win an award for my  mad car-packing skills. I drive a little 2-door Chevy Cavalier with a trunk that, although it is bigger than it appears, is still pretty small. However, I managed to fit into my car an entire PA system, including 2 speakers, stands, mic stand, mics, cables, and mixing board; boxes of CDs, a suitcase, a travel bag, a guitar, blanket, pillow, cooler, and bag full of snacks… and still managed to fit me! I may be exaggerating a little as it really wasn’t that hard once I did a little rearranging… but still. Advice: take up puzzle-putting-together if you have a small car and plan to travel with a lot of stuff 🙂

I got to the venue in Knoxville, The Well, which I have to say is owned and staffed by some of the friendliest, coolest people I’ve encountered at a new venue in a long time! I had arrived pretty early because I wasn’t sure what to expect from the traffic in Knoxville, and had planned to wander around town a little bit, but I ended up just hanging out at the venue until the show. If you are a band with any kind of following in that area, you should definitely check this place out. Great sound, great food, and great service!

I split the show with a new friend, country singer Leon Thomas. He brought quite a crowd with him and we rocked the joint for a couple of hours. I think everyone had a great time, and I really appreciated getting to play for and talk to everyone there!

Line up at the Well in Knoxville!

Day 2:

I left Knoxville this morning and got on the road to Roanoke. I took my time and made a few stops along the way… First stop was Bristol, home of the Bristol Motor Speedway AND the location of Ralph Peer’s historic Bristol Recordings. If you are not a super giant music history nerd like I am (and I suspect most of you are not, lol), the Bristol Sessions were where The Carter family and Jimmie Rodgers had a lot of their songs recorded for the first time. Pretty cool stuff!

Historic Site of the Bristol Recording Sessions

Bristol Motor Speedway

That night I had a really fun show at Froth Coffee Shop in Roanoke. This was a really cool little coffee shop that is still fairly new, and is run by a brother and sister! The food, coffee, and people were all wonderful, and I had a great time playing to fun crowd!

Lesson learned: There are nice people willing to help you out everywhere you go! Case in point- the only part of my PA system that I was nervous about dealing with while on the road by myself was the fact that the speakers are a little heavy, the stands are kind of tall, and I’m pretty short… luckily, one of the owners was nice enough to help me get them set up! I know it sounds simple, but it was just a really nice gesture that I definitely appreciated!

Day 3:

I had planned to spend a little time in downtown Roanoke exploring in the morning, but the universe had other plans for me. In the 5 miles from my hotel to downtown, I ran over a big wooden something in the middle of the road that I couldn’t avoid, and ended up taking my car to get inspected just to make sure nothing was wrong with it as I still had a lot of miles to cover on my trip. While my car was getting checked out, I did get to walk around the square, where they were setting up for a farmer’s market and a lot of restaurants and shops were located. I stopped for lunch at a great little Italian place, and by the time I was done with my pizza, I had a call from the mechanic that my car was done and everything was fine! I absolutely love my little car, and this just made me love here even more 🙂

Lesson learned: Even if things seem like they are about to completely fall apart, there is always a solution. Stay calm, take a breath, and find a solution. Also, smart phones really are great when you need to find a repair shop in a city you’ve never been to before!

Once that debacle was over with, I got back on the road. I think this was my favorite day of driving, and I got to see a lot of beautiful scenery.

Mountains!

I got into Washington DC right around rush hour, and boy was I glad that I was heading into the city and not out- the traffic was insane!! Luckily I didn’t have much to deal with until I got into Alexandria, where the venue was located, and the only challenge there was navigating the street-parking.

There was a great turn-out at St. Elmo’s Coffee Pub in Alexandra, and the barista told me that a lot more people stuck around for this show than usually stuck around for an entire set, which really made me happy! I met some really great people and had some great conversations about music in between sets. I also had an amazing coconut mocha drink… I definitely recommend stopping into this coffee shop if you are ever in the DC Area!

Day 4: 

I took Day 4 off and spent it with one of my closes friends, who lives in Maryland, just outside of Washington, D.C.  Yay!

Day 5: 

As sad as I was to leave my bff behind, I was excited to get on the road for the last show of my little mini-tour! I only had a couple of hours to drive today, which was good because this was the worst day weather-wise. The NorEaster blowing through the East coast was causing a lot of rain and really cold weather, so it was a pretty dreary drive. (And I swear I saw some snowflakes! yuck.)

I got to the venue in Harrisonburg, Virginia, the Artful Dodger. This was a very cool little coffee shop lounge. I had a lot of fun playing to a small but enthusiastic crowd with Jeremiah Prophett, the host for the day. After we got a chance to talk and trade stories about life in music and all of the adventures that go with it.

Lesson learned: Even if the crowd is small, play your heart out! The people there were so appreciative to hear the music, and you never know who in the room needed to hear something you had to sing that day!

Day 6: 

I got up and on the road pretty early to get back to Nashville. It was still rainy for the first part of the drive, but as I got closer to Tennessee, the sun came out and it warmed up outside. I had a lot of time to reflect as that day was by far the longest drive yet, and I was so happy with the experiences I’d had on the road! I’d been apprehensive before I left since I wasn’t sure what kind of people I’d meet, how the shows would go, or if I would have fun being on the road by myself. It turns out I had nothing to be worried about though! Big lessons learned: There are great people to meet everywhere you go… yes, you have to be careful and smart and have your wits about you when you are by yourself, but this trip really reaffirmed my faith that people are generally good, and there are friends to meet everywhere you go! I also learned (or re-learned, as I had already known this about myself) that I can definitely do things by myself (although it is definitely nice to have help!).

 

 

Thanks for reliving my journey with me on this blog, I know it was longer than I usually write! Stay tuned for lots of exciting things coming up. First, a showcase at the Listening Room here in Nashville this Friday at 5:30 PM! If you are in the area, I’d love to see you there 🙂

The art of co-writing, OR first co-writes are a lot like first dates…

One of the things that I have learned a lot about since moving to Nashville is the art of the co-write. It’s a simple premise: 2 or more writers get together and combine creative forces to write the next #1 country song… or so we all hope. Not only is this a great way to step outside of your own comfort zone, but it’s also a great way to network and move up the ranks in Music City.

One of the other things I’ve learned a lot about since moving to Nashville is being single and living on your own in your 20s… which inevitably includes some adventures in dating. Surprisingly, I’ve found a lot of similarities between the two! So, here we go: the good, the bad, and the sometimes depressingly hilarious (or is it hilariously depressing?) lessons I’ve learned through 3 years of co-writes and dating.

1. Background checks/ facebook stalking does not always make you a creep. 

Seriously! Just like going on a first date, sometimes it’s good to do just a little bit of homework before your first meet up. I’m all for giving people chances and forming my own opinions, however, if a potential co-writer has a track record of stealing song ideas or trying to force unfair song contracts on a co-writer, it might be best to avoid the situation altogether.

2. Don’t judge a book by its cover. 

Sometimes, the best co-writes can happen by surprise. I’ve found that I’ve had some of my most creative and successful writing sessions with writers who I didn’t necessarily click with at first. Like I mentioned before, co-writes can be great for breaking you out of your own creative box, and opening yourself up to different writing styles.

3. Sometimes, a good relationship takes time to blossom. 

Just like awkward first dates can sometimes turn into great relationships, awkward first co-writes can turn into great creative relationships! You have to think of a first co-write, especially with another writer who you may not have a long personal relationship with, as a getting-to-know you session… getting to know each other’s style, language, and writing preferences is key. You have to learn to communicate with each other to communicate anything of meaning through a song, and depending on the personalities in the writing room, this can take longer to develop for some pairs, or couples!

4. And then sometimes, the chemistry just isn’t there. 

You gave it your best shot; you really tried to open up and communicate, and you put your heart into it 100%, but sometimes, the chemistry just isn’t there. Some co-writing teams just simply aren’t meant to be, and that’s ok! Just like when some relationships aren’t supposed to work out, you have to know yourself as a writer to know when that “something,” that je ne sais quoi just isn’t present in the writing room.

5. When the chemistry is there, magic can happen!

Sometimes it’s just about being in the right place at the right time with the right person, and the magic of writing a great song just seems to happen. I feel like this is more rare than not, so when it happens, just enjoy the ride!

6. The best relationships are founded on respect. 

Writing with somebody new can sometimes be a very sensitive situation, especially if the two writers don’t see eye-to-eye on every line, note, and chord being put on paper (and just like in life, you will be hard pressed to find anybody who agrees with you 100% of the time!). It’s best to treat each other with respect, and be truthful but not hurtful in working through the challenges that come with putting multiple creative personalities together in a room. I like to go in with the opinion that just because something isn’t right for the song, doesn’t mean that it’s bad.

7. Above all, be true to yourself. 

Be open to new ideas and experiences, but know who you are and stay true to it. It makes for a richer writing experience (and a richer life, too!)

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!