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Songwriting Session with Hillary Lindsey

EMMA MCINTYRE/ACMA2018/GETTY IMAGES FOR ACM

Hillary Lindsey was born into a musical family in Washington, Georgia. Her father was a drummer and some of Lindsey’s earliest memories include her grandfather playing an old pump organ while she helped by pushing the pedals as he played. Around the age of 10 she wrote her first song about a friend’s parents getting divorced.

“One of my best friends, I found out that her parents were getting a divorce, and she didn’t know about it,” she tells me over the phone. “I overheard my mom and dad talking about it. It really devastated me thinking about what that was going to do to her. I wish I remembered the song, but I wrote a song about that. As I got older, it turned into me having a crush on a boy that didn’t like me. Then I would write songs for my girlfriends who also had crushes on boys that didn’t like them. That’s how the writing started.”

From a young age, Lindsey entered the town’s singing competition. One year she debuted a song she wrote on piano, and a family friend urged Nashville session player Buddy Blackmon to take a trip to Georgia to listen to her songs. Loving what he heard, Blackmon suggested Lindsey attend Belmont University once she graduated high school. Belmont was the only school she applied to and after getting in, Lindsey majored in music business with the goal to be an artist.

Lindsey admits that it wasn’t until attending Belmont in 1994 that she realized a career as a songwriter was possible. She began writing songs in her dorm room and playing writers nights at local venues like the now defunct Jack’s Guitar Bar on Nolensville Road that frequently boasted appearances from Patty Griffin and Keith Urban’s former band The Ranch.

“I would sit on my bedroom floor with one of those old cassette tape recorders and just record my ideas,” she says. “I would hide [the tapes] in my panty drawer because I didn’t want anybody listening to them. One of my roommates snuck one out without me knowing [when] she was interning at MCA. She came home one day [and said], ‘Hey, don’t be mad at me. I took one of your tapes out of your underwear drawer and played it for some people. They liked it.’”

Unbeknownst to Lindsey, her tape was passed around in the industry and Pat Finch at Famous Music Publishing loved what he heard and invited her to lunch. During their lunch meeting he offered her a publishing deal. She accepted and never returned to Belmont. Her first year signed to Famous Music was a learning experience in itself as she began co-writing every day, which at first was foreign to her. Pretty soon she found her tribe of writers and mentors that included Tia Sillers, Tony Lane, Brett James, Troy Verges, Angelo and Gordie Sampson. Shannon Brown recorded her song “I Won’t Lie” and released it as a single in 1998, and Lindsey also garnered countless album cuts that year. “It happened fairly fast,” she says of getting her songs placed with country acts. “Mainly a lot of album cuts, but back then that was amazing because records were selling.”

Around the same time, Lindsey continued to pursue an artist career. She recalls a well-attended showcase at South By Southwest where she met Los Angeles-based lawyer Seth Lichtenstein who offered to represent her. Lindsey started to travel to L.A. to shop for labels and was offered two record deals. She ultimately signed with John Polk at Epic Records out of Los Angeles, but the deal lasted just three months. When Polk transitioned to a job promotion in New York he decided to leave the label, which resulted in Lindsey and two other artists being dropped.

Lindsey returned to Nashville after several months of co-writing in Los Angeles and had lost the will to create. After a month, she slowly began writing again and when Martina McBride recorded and released “Blessed” as a single in 2001, Lindsey’s luck started to change. “Blessed” reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart in March 2002 and Lindsay began to focus on her songwriting more while still toying with the idea of an artist career.

“The writing thing started taking off. Once I started writing more and meeting artists and understanding what that [artist] life meant, I realized I really was not cut out for that,” she says of the decision to pursue songwriting full-time. “The writing life is definitely the life for me.”

Lindsey has seen much success writing for Carrie Underwood, having penned 11 No. 1 songs for the American Idol alum. Underwood’s 2005 debut single “Jesus Take the Wheel” marked a turning point in Lindsey’s career as she had decided to leave Famous Music after being signed as a staff writer there for six years. She wanted to own her publishing and went independent. With enough money saved up for one year of expenses, Lindsey was determined to make things work on her own as she had already developed great relationships with the writers, artists and A&R staff in Nashville.

“I would just pitch my own songs. Within that first year it was something crazy like I had five Faith Hill cuts, a LeAnn Rimes cut, a Tim McGraw cut, a Keith Urban cut,” she recalls. “It was like, ‘Holy moly, are you kidding me? Why did I not do this sooner?’ Well, then the record came out. None of my Faith Hill songs made the record. I lost the Tim cut. I lost the Keith cut and they were cuts, not holds.”

The only song that did stick was a song called “Painless” that Lee Ann Womack recorded and featured on her 2005 critically acclaimed album There’s More Where That Came From. It never was released as a single and while earlier in the year Lindsey thought she hit the jackpot going independent, she was wrong and money was running out.

American Idol was around then. I don’t remember this conversation, but my dad very vividly does. He said that I called and said, ‘I think this girl’s gonna win American Idol and if she does, if I could just have one song with her maybe this would change things.’ Then she won and ‘Jesus Take the Wheel’ was her first single and the dry spell stopped.”

For more of my interview with the Academy of Country Music’s 2020 Songwriter of the Year, visit Sounds Like Nashville.

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Song of the Week

Song of the Week: “Wrong Baby Wrong”

Photo Credit: Wendy Hu

One of the most beautiful voices in country, Martina McBride has been singing her heart out for nearly two decades. With uplifting songs that celebrate friendship and independence, her music strikes a chord, particularly to young women.

I was lucky enough to meet and interview McBride last summer at the CMA Music festival where she gave me advice to relay to women working towards accomplishing their goals and overcoming obstacles: “Perseverance and support. If you can get support from your friends or from your family, that’s important.”

It’s no surprise that current single, “Wrong Baby Wrong Baby Wrong,” is a song that celebrates the friendship and support girlfriends can have when the wrong guy is finally “gone baby gone.”

Watch the video below for “Wrong Baby Wrong Baby Wrong.” I’ve included one of my favorite Martina McBride videos as well. What’s your favorite Martina song? 

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lkkG1hGZaD0]

“This One’s For the Girls”

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oTowId2CWHA]

Related Links:
Q&A; with Martina McBride
Martina McBride and Former Miss America Speak Out on Domestic Violence
CMA 2009: Six Artists to Watch
CMA Music Festival Recap

Categories
Festivals Interviews

Martina McBride

Martina McBride‘s career is what dreams are made of. Each release garners more recognition and her fan base is greater than it has ever been. A veteran to the country music scene, McBride has been belting out hits for the past 17 years. Not to mention her current single, “I Just Call You Mine,” from her tenth studio album, Shine, has been referred to as the wedding song of the summer.

With over 18 million album sales, 22 Top 10 singles, and raising thousands of dollars for YWCA, a domestic violence shelter in Nashville aimed at empowering women and eliminating racism, McBride is an inspiration to women everywhere. “It’s so important for women to support other women. It should be like a family. We should be out there rooting for each other and helping each other out,” she says.

I was lucky enough to chat with McBride at the YWCA auction as well as sit in on her press conference at this year’s CMA Music Festival in Nashville. Of her YWCA celebrity charity auction, McBride said, “This event goes to help women and children really start over and rebuild there lives in a positive way and I just think that that’s important.”

Read on for more on Martina’s musical collaborations, her signature wine, and upcoming fall tour.

Can you tell us about your Twittering frenzy?
Is it really a frenzy? I discovered it about 2-3 months ago. It’s really fun. I’m really enjoying it. I don’t try to overdo it, I check in a couple times a day. It’s a cool way to keep in touch with your fans.

You’re not a big fan of flying. How does touring in the UK go for you?
You know, I’ve gotten better. There was a period of time when I was really paralyzed by it, but I’ve gotten a lot better. I flew to Italy last year. Especially when there’s something really worthwhile on the other end and it’s worth the plane flight, I’m okay with it.

Your single “I Just Call You Mine” is the wedding song for the summer.
Well, I hope that it’s the wedding song of the summer! It’s just a love song. I don’t know that I’ve done a straight-up love song like this since “Valentine.” I’m excited about it, it’s beautiful.

Your YWCA fundraiser is this Saturday.
We’re doing the YWCA celebrity auction on Saturday. It’s our 13th year to do it and it just gets bigger and better every year. All the proceeds go to the domestic violence shelter here in Nashville. I’ve heard testimony after testimony that it’s really changed a lot of lives. It’s a place where women and children can go and get a fresh start and get the support that they need to start rebuilding their lives. So, I’m proud to help with that.

I heard you’re putting a tour together. Will it be more arena based?
Yup, we’re going to be going back to arenas. Last summer we did the amphitheaters outside. This fall of course we wouldn’t be outside in amphitheaters in November, so we’re going to be in arenas. I haven’t really started or seen any drawings yet or anything. The thing that is cool, is usually I put out an album and we go right out on tour. This time I do really feel like I have a lot of time to really plan and create a whole new show. We toured so extensively on Waking Up Laughing, even went back to markets a couple times. I really want to create something that’s a whole new experience for the fans.

You recently released the 2006 Martina McBride “Signature Series” wine. What made you take your passion for wine to the next level to have your own line?
It’s funny. We have Blackbird Studios and there’s a Blackbird Vineyard. So, when we were in Napa we stopped by and checked it out and met with the owner. And, really just sat down over a glass of wine and said, “We have the same name. It’s kind of a coincidence. If you ever want to do a signature wine, we’d love to do that.” About a year went buy and he called and said it was the right time to do that.

Can you explain your wine?
It’s really good! I’m not really a good wine speaker, but it’s a lot of fruit. It’s a Cab. It’s a blend of Cab and Merlot and some other kinds of wines. I love it because it has a little bit of chocolate. It’s just a little bit sweet, lots of jam and fruit. A fruit forward is how I think I’d say it.

You had the Jonas Brothers in the studio. Was that a business decision or were you trying to impress your children?
Well, we’re so happy that he came to record in the studio. Of course Delaney and Emma were very, very excited. John said right up front, “I want to tell you, we will try for our daughters not to stalk you while you’re here.” They were actually really good. They ran into each other, but Delaney was very poised. It was great to have him there.

How did you become collaborative with them?
Well, I got to sing with them when they were here in Nashville at the Ryman. They asked me to come sing with them onstage so I got to go to rehearsal, hang out a little bit. They’re really serious about their music, really sweet kids. Got to meet their parents. I wouldn’t say we hang out and are really close friends, but we have connected quite a few times.

How has music festival changed or evolved since you started?
Well, there is the obvious change that it’s not at the Fairgrounds anymore. Sometimes I miss that. There is a certain charm about it being at the Fairgrounds. It’s gotten bigger, we obviously can have more and more fans come every year. So that’s exciting, that we have more room for fans to enjoy what I will always call Fan Fair.

What is your advice to women accomplishing goals and overcoming obstacles?
Perseverance and support. If you can get support from your friends or from your family, that’s important.

You’ve been in the music industry for a while. What keeps you motivated?
I love it. This is my dream, ever since I was a little girl. For me, every minute that I get to do this is a dream come true.

When you’re writing your material, do you feel a song comes out better when it’s based on a real person or experience or fantasy?
I think it’s a little bit of both. I’ve done songs that are obviously about my life and I’ve done songs that are story songs about someone else. The most important thing is that you connect with the lyrics and it feels honest when you sing it.

Be sure to visit Martina’s Web site for upcoming tour dates and for more on YWCA, visit their site here.

Categories
Q&A

Poll of the Week: Which Interview Do You Want To Read Next?

I’ve been interviewing many talented musicians over the past few months in numerous genres. Everyone from rappers to country legends to up-and-coming singer-songwriters. My question for you this week is, who do you want to read about first?

Check out the MySpace page of each band below and fill out the poll on the sidebar to let me know!

MaryAnne Marino
The Throwbacks and Rapper Steph
Eren Cannata
Martina McBride
Categories
Features Festivals News

Martina McBride and Former Miss America Speak Out on Domestic Violence

For the thirteenth year, Martina McBride’s charity fundraiser in Nashville auctioned off thousands of dollars of celebrity memorabilia. Items like Darius Rucker’s autographed guitar sold for $775 while popular garments, such as Reba McEntire’s black sequined top went for much more. All the money raised was donated to support YWCA, an organization with the goal of eliminating racism and empowering women.

This year has seen the rise of relationship abuse portrayed by A-list stars in the media. Just take Chris Brown and Rihanna’s ongoing coverage and it’s clear that married women with families are not alone when it comes to abuse. YWCA’s mission is to support women and with popular artists like Martina McBride and former Miss America Ericka Dunlap providing needed awareness, much more can be accomplished to combat domestic violence. However, McBride and Dunlap aren’t the only ones who can help. “We can have it all if we work together. Girls are so competitive and catty and it’s not necessary to be mean girls,” said the former beauty queen.

More can be done. No woman is alone.

“If I had one message for women, it would be that we have the ability to reach out and help other women,” said Patricia Shea, President and CEO of YWCA. “When women help women, we change the world and we change the future. I want women to know that we are so powerful and we can change the world so we have to step up.”

Chart-topping and four-time winning CMA Vocalist of the Year, Martina McBride has a similar message. “It’s so important for women to support other women. It should be like a family. We should be out there routing for each other and helping each other out. This event goes to help women and children really start over and rebuild their lives in a positive way and I just think that that’s important,” McBride said.

Although new to the music business, aspiring country singer-songwriter Ericka Dunlap is familiar to the entertainment scene. Former Miss America 2004, Dunlap talked of how she first became involved with the YWCA. “I have become friends with some folks who are involved in the YWCA. I love the mission, it’s very clean and clear and it’s just so obvious that we all need to be a part of the issue of domestic violence and solving these problems,” Dunlap said.

While being an African-American country star may turn some heads, Dunlap had an important message for young women making their way in the world. “I think one of the most important things that young women can learn is to really pay attention to who you are. Find out who you are. Ask yourself some of the deeper questions about life that really are simple,” she said. “There’s a lot of things that people just don’t know about themselves and when you’re tested and when you’re tempted in certain situations, if you don’t know the little things about yourself, you’re not going to be able to handle the really big things that come along.”

She continued with a shoe analogy every girl can relate to. “Don’t ever devalue yourself. If you go into a shoe store, it’s great to get a pair of designer shoes on clearance, but you’re only going to get it somewhere else. You’re not going to get it from the designer for a discount because they always know the worth. So, make sure you know your worth and don’t discount yourself for anyone. Your parents, boyfriends, best friends.”

For more information on the YWCA be sure to visit them at www.ywcanashville.com or call their domestic violence 24-hour hotline at 1-800-334-4628.