This month we are excited to have had the opportunity to interview Hit Songwriter and Bluebird Cafe Open Mic host Barbara Cloyd. This interview is full of really great insight and advice that any songwriter at any level will find beneficial. Find out how Barbara stays inspired and how important getting feedback on her music is to her.
Q: Where do you call home?
Q: Where did you grow up?
St. Louis, MO
Q: When did you write your first song?
In high school.
Q: How did you get started in songwriting?
In high school I played guitar and sang in musicals and I loved writing short stories. One day I just wrote a song. I hadn't really thought about it - it just sort of happened. After college I was playing covers in bars and working in a few of my originals. I started reading about the business side of songwriting, particularly how it was done in Nashville. I knew I wanted to grow beyond the local club scene and that meant moving to an industry center. Once I moved to Nashville, I started plugging into the songwriting community and got serious about writing.
Q: Did you have any parents, siblings or was someone else in your family musical?
My mother played a little piano and both my parents love to sing. We always had lots of music in our house but no one was in the music business.
Q: What is your songwriting process typical like?
If I get an idea that is personal to me, something important that I need to express, I tend to get obsessed with it and I'm working on it whether I'm doing dishes driving the car or sitting in a room full of people. Other than that, I usually co-write. I make an appointment to get together with someone, then we bat around ideas until we lock into something we're both excited about.
Q: Do you have an ideal setup for writing music?
What works best for me is to write with younger guys who are great guitar players. I'm not a good guitar player but I get really inspired by interesting chord progressions, chord voicings and grooves. I may not have any ideas of what to write about, but the music will suggest ideas to me. Working with younger people helps me keep my music relevant and not dated. I especially like writing with artists, because when a guy is writing a song for himself, he's not going to want to sing anything contrived and it helps keep it real.
Q: What book(s) or blogs are you currently reading?
Mostly when I read, it's fiction for relaxation and entertainment. I'm a junkie for a good story. As far as reading about music, I'm doing good if I can keep up with the email updates from Music Row magazine and Billboard.
Q: Who are your top three favorite artists or songwriters?
Not a fair question! There are too many. I'll pick 3, but they're only a small sample of the ones who inspire me. In my heart and mind no one has ever had more depth, range and brilliance than the Beatles. Taylor Swift blows me away because this skinny, curly haired little girl that everybody made fun of at first is turning out to be one of the great writers of all time. But in truth, I'd have to say that right now my very favorite writer/artist is a guy who doesn't have a record deal yet named Adam James. Check him out on Soundcloud. I met him when he first moved to Nashville about three and a half years ago. Even his early efforts showed the kind of intelligence and originality he has. He's been at it full time since he got here, and the stuff he's coming up with lately just blows my mind.
Q: What album are you currently listening to?
I have to listen to so much music as part of my job that I don't really listen to music that often just for entertainment. When I do its usually something old, like Rubber Soul or Rumors or the Eagles Greatest Hits.
Q: How do you stay inspired?
I live in a sea of creative energy called Nashville. If you live here and you're not constantly inspired by the amazing people around you, then you're probably brain dead.
Q: What's your biggest challenge as a songwriter?
For me it's getting out there and trying to get my stuff cut. It's the easiest thing in the world for me to go to bat for other people, but its hard to do it for myself.
Q: What time of day do you prefer to write your music and where?
I have a little house right in the middle of Nashville where I'm most comfortable. Luckily most of my co-writers like it here too. I think I tend to write best in the afternoon. I have a business to tend to, and if I feel like I've gotten some good work done before I write then I'm more relaxed.
Q: What's your favorite memory as a songwriter or musician?
When I wrote "I Guess You Had to Be There" I lived in a little apartment. My co-writer, Jon Robbin, would come over, I'd sit on the couch and he'd pull up a chair across the coffee table from me. I remember telling him, "Let's write this like its an actual conversation. What's the first thing she'd say to her husband when he got home? Probably, 'Hello honey, how was your day?' Let's start the song like that." Then about 2 years later I was sitting in the same spot on my couch watching the ACM Awards and there was Lori Morgan on my TV singing, "Hello honey, how was your day?"
Q: How do you maintain your professional growth?
Three times every year I put on a workshop where songwriters get to play for publishers who give them feedback on the craft and commercial potential of their songs. I learn so much everytime I do one. Also, I am always asking for feedback on my songs from anyone who will give me an honest opinion. To me, trying to write a song without getting feedback is like trying to put on makeup without looking in a mirror.
Q: What are some of your greatest accomplishments to date?
Being part of the Bluebird Cafe since almost the beginning, having a top 10 single on a platinum selling album, opening doors for a dozen or so songwriters who went on to become very successful, and creating a workshop series that some of the very top publishers in Nashville love attending.
Q: If you could provide any advice to up and coming songwriters, what would it be?
Don't write to entertain yourself, write for your audience. Ask yourself, " If I had no idea what I was talking about, what would this song say to me?" Songwriting is a wonderful creative outlet, a great way to express yourself. For that alone it is a worthy pursuit. If you can share your music with people who are moved by it, then you are successful. If you want to make it your profession, be realistic. Very few people who want that actually have the level of talent it takes. Very few of those who do are willing to put in the amount of time and make the sacrifices necessary to succeed. I see people all the time who are spending tons of time and money trying to make it, to the detriment of the rest of their lives, but they won't go all in, so they end up wasting their efforts. Chasing your dreams is a noble endeavor, but not if you're kidding yourself.
Q: What online tools do you use today for songwriting?
Skype, YouTube, Spotify, SoundCloud and ReverbNation.
Q: How does Frettie benefit the songwriting community?
Music is a collaborative art form. You can't do it in isolation. Being able to connect with a supportive community of other writers is invaluable to anyone who wants to grow. That used to be really difficult to find for songwriters who did not live in an industry center. Now it's as close as your computer screen.
Q: What's next for you?
More of the same. I love my life.
Q: Thanks for your time Barbara. How can readers keep updated on what you are doing?
You can stay up to date with me by visiting my website www.BarbaraCloyd.com and or Play for Publishers Facebook Page. There's lots of info on my website that might be helpful to your readers. If they want to get notified of any of my workshops, they can sign up for my email there as well. Thanks for the interview!