CMO: How would you describe your style of music for those who have not heard you yet?
I would have to say it's a pop-country kind of sound with some R&B influence. I'm not Jessica Simpson, but I'm not Gretchen Wilson either. I love the fact that music is just music anymore. We don't have to try to classify everything within a genre because it's just getting too difficult!
CMO: What kind of songs do you look for (or write) when you go into the studio to record albums?
I definitely look for songs that have not just a strong melody, but meaningful lyrics as well. The song really needs to be something I can relate to or else it needs to contain a message I want to share with others. When I'm writing, I don't always write from my own perspective, which can make wanting to sing some of my own songs difficult. But overall, lyrics are definitely key!
CMO: What goals have you accomplished and what do you still want to accomplish with your music career?
Wow! Tough question! Well, I guess I've accomplished a few things in the past 5 years or so- the biggest one to date being my latest album. The process was a lot of fun, but it was hard work and I learned a lot. I did it independently, so pretty much every decision was mine. From the songs, to the producers, to the photographer, and on down the line. It was very challenging, but I wouldn't trade the experience for anything.
As far as future goals go, I just want to keep on improving day after day. I don't think there will ever be a point where I'll stop and say, "okay, that's good enough." I really want to make this my full time career, so I'm going to keep taking one step at a time and keep working hard.
CMO: What is your motivation behind your accomplishments and what continues to motivate you?
My love of music and entertaining is really what motivates me. Living in Nashville where I'm surrounded by so many incredibly talented people can be trying at times. It can be hard to stay positive, but at the end of the day, the talent that surrounds me combined with my love for the music pushes me and keeps me driven. When I'm on the road, the fans play a huge part in motivating me. Entertaining wouldn't be nearly as fun or rewarding if they weren't as wonderful as they are.
CMO: Do you ever plan to work with the production on your albums?
Actually, I already have in some ways. I don't plan on being behind the sound board. I'll leave that to the engineers and producers, but I do intend to continue to maintain creative control on my albums. This basically means that I have a voice in what type of sounds we use, the overall feeling of the album, and of course, the songs that are included.
CMO: What do you like about touring? What do you dislike?
I love touring! Performing live is my favorite part of this career. Country music fans (and just music fans in general) are incredible! I get so much energy from them! And being on stage with such great musicians is a blessing for me as well. I especially love seeing all of the kids and teenagers out there because I know many of them are just beginning to follow whatever dreams they may have, and I love being able to tell them to go for it! I don't have many dislikes when it comes to touring, but sometimes it gets difficult to stay rested!
CMO: How would you describe the whole process of recording your new album, and what is a typical day in the studio like for you?
In one word.educational! I really meant it when I said I learned a lot throughout the recording process. It can be very trying and frustrating, but there's nothing like holding the finished product in your hand.
As far as a typical day in the studio goes, they vary depending on the type of session. Sometimes I'm just there listening to the musicians and letting the producer and engineer know what I liked and disliked so that we got the sound we all wanted. When I did my vocal sessions, I just went in and sang for as long as I needed to in order to get the sound and emotion I wanted.
CMO: Can you tell us about your favorite song that you've written? What does it mean to you? Why did you write it?
That would have to be "Beautiful," the song that I put on my album. I co-wrote it with a good friend of mine here in Nashville, and it's one that we can both really relate to, so it was a fairly easy task to write it! I just came in one day and said, "Jamie, I have an idea, and we need to write it." I sang him the line "oh love ain't been beautiful to me" and we went from there. I really think a lot of people out there can relate to the song as well, because whenever a relationship is over, or you're just frustrated about being on your own, someone always says things like, "oh, don't worry, there's someone out there, and when you find him/her, you'll just know. It'll be so easy and right that you won't have to try at all." Sounds good. I want to believe it, but until it happens, I won't. I guess the song pretty much says it all!!!
CMO: What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue a career in the industry whether as an artist, songwriter, or even through the business aspect?
Surround yourself with it! If you're an artist, sing every chance you get. If you're a writer, write every day. Think in four line verses and choruses. You have to write a lot of really bad stuff before you'll write anything great (in most cases), so get started! Look for song titles and ideas in everything you come in contact with! If you're on the business side, learn everything you can and more. I really encourage everyone, whether you're an artist, writer, or involved in some other way to educate themselves. Find books to read, stay up to date with what's going on in the entertainment world, read magazines like "Music Row" or "Billboard" when you can, and network, network, network! You've got to be willing to get out and meet people to survive in this industry. Nashville is like a small town and if you hang around here long enough, you'll get to know the right people.
CMO: What is your favorite song on this album and why?
I honestly don't know if I can answer this one! It changes by the minute! Hmm "Beautiful" is definitely the most personal, but I also really love a lot of the others. "Unchanged" says the most about who I am, but I love to sing "Take It" live! Oh forget it, I can't pick one. I can't even pick my top 3!
CMO: What is your favorite song that you've recorded of all time?
"Beautiful." When Jamie, the co-writer, and I recorded it, we didn't know how it would come out. We really wanted a live type of feel to it, and we got more than we expected. It's so much easier to record a song that I've written because the emotion is embedded within it and it just comes through!
CMO: If you could collaborate with anyone, who would it be and why?
I would collaborate with Martina McBride or Trisha Yearwood because they are two of the most phenomenal vocalists to ever hit country music and I'd love to learn from them! I'd also really like to collaborate with any late 80's or early 90's power ballad singer or band because that's just good stuff!
CMO: How do you think you have changed from your debut, Something Else to your new album, Unchanged?
It's funny asking how I've changed when the title of the new album is Unchanged isn't it?! I have changed a great deal though. I've definitely become much stronger vocally, and much more confident. I've also had a chance to really better define who I am and where I'm at for the time being. I chose the songs for the first album when I was 17 and 18 years old, and a lot has changed since then.
CMO: Where do you find the ideas and inspirations when writing a song?
Anywhere and everywhere! Some songs are inspired by my life experiences, past relationships, and so on, but others just seem to come from nowhere. For instance, one I'm currently working on came from a conversation I heard two people having when a group of us were out to dinner one night. Another came from watching the movie "That Thing You Do." The really great writers can take anything and make it a song, and that's what I'm practicing, so I write about whatever comes to my attention!
CMO: One of our favorite songs on this album is "Almost There." How did this song come about and why did you decide to record it on this album?
I actually heard a girl singing this at a showcase last winter and thought it was a good song. When it was pitched to me by Universal and I had the chance to really hear the lyrics, I just had to laugh. It just sounded a little bit like my first trip to Nashville a few years ago when it seemed like I was never going to here! It also really fits where I'm at now because I've left my small town, am on to a bigger place, and am getting closer to the goal I set out to reach!
CMO: Is there anything you would like to say to all your fans reading this?
You all are the greatest! It's a thrill for me to be on stage in front of you and your support means so much. You're a big part of the reason I do what I do! Thanks for coming to the shows, buying the albums, and sending me emails! I love hearing from you!