Everyday, TuneCore’s staff members dedicate themselves to making sure our independent artists are getting heard worldwide. While we like to think work is fun all the time, it’s always an extra big blast when TuneCore artists visit any of our offices to answer questions, play some tunes, and mingle over pizza!
Yesterday, the talented country starlet Caitlyn Smith stopped by our Brooklyn office to dazzle the TuneCore crowd. If you don’t already know who Caitlyn Smith is, it’s likely that you’ve heard her songs: she’s written stand-out tunes for massive country stars like Jason Aldean, Rascal Flatts, Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton, Lady Antebellum and Garth Brooks, (among others). Hailing from Minnesota and now residing in Nashville, Caitlyn has been writing and performing since she was a young teenager. If her charming lyrics don’t get to you first, her undeniable voice certainly will!
We got a chance to discuss with Caitlyn her background, influences, and thoughts on recording, touring and more! Check it out:
1. How did you become a professional songwriter?
I started writing songs when I was 8 years old, and began traveling back and forth from Minnesota to Tennessee when I was in high school to co-write with songwriters in the Nashville community. After writing maybe 400 songs, I picked my best ones and made a little 4-song demo. After that I went around and met with every publisher in town and eventually landed a publishing deal with Brett James’ publishing company, Cornman Music Publishing.
2. You’ve written songs for artists such as Cassadee Pope, Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton. What is the difference between writing your own songs and songs for other artists?
First off, it’s an incredible honor when an artist I admire wants to sing something I’ve written. It will never get old! Most of the time I write what’s in the room that day and don’t focus too much on “this is for me” or “this is for such and such artist,” because it can be creatively stifling. Usually I know about halfway through writing the song if it’s a song for me, or a pitch. Then I like to try out the tunes with my band a few times before I decide if it’s right! Kinda like trying on a jeans…they gotta fit perfectly or there’s no use buying them!
3. Who are your top three artists you would choose to write a song for?
I’m such a sucker for female vocalists…Alison Krauss, Kelly Clarkson and I’d kill to write with Taylor Swift someday!
4. As a songwriter, you have written hundreds of songs. How do you choose which songs make your album/keep for yourself?
There are definitely songs that stick out throughout a year of writing and I’m constantly digging back through my catalog to see if I’ve missed anything. I love to take those favorites and try them out on a crowd. Lots of times their favorites are mine, too!
5. How do you balance writing, touring, and recording, as well as your personal life?
Good question! The answer is lots of planning. I’m a schedule freak so I usually sit down on Sunday nights and write out/visualize my upcoming week to make sure there is time for everything. It’s a difficult juggling act and I’m still learning how to balance everything. But I’ll tell you one thing…I’m never bored! Ha!
6. Do you manage your personal TuneCore account? How much are you involved in the business of “Caitlyn Smith”?
I’m extremely involved on the business end and love to know what’s going on at all times. I have a couple people who help me on the admin side, but I like to personally log in every week or so to see how we’re doing!
7. Our trend report sales show every day. Did you make sure you looked at your first day sales? Do you follow along to see the number of streams you have on Spotify?
I did! And yes, I do! I really love knowing where the music is being downloaded from and locate where my fans are in the world!
8. In addition to album sales, can you talk about how an artist can make a living on their publishing rights?
I feel fortunate that I get to see both the artist and songwriter side of things. In both areas, publishing rights are huge. Radio placements, commercials, other sync areas are all helpful on the publishing side.
9. You’ve toured alongside artists like Sheryl Crow and Willie Nelson. How did you end up on the road with such iconic artists?
I have to pinch myself all the time! It’s such an honor to get to play with my heroes. Getting to tour with these artists depends – I have a phenomenal booking agency that helps, and sometimes it’s being at the right place at the right time. The Willie tour came about after a performance I did at The Bluebird Cafe and was completely unexpected!
10. What’s the best and most efficient way to have a recording session?
I’ve finally gotten into a groove with doing sessions pretty quickly/efficiently in Nashville. I usually spend a good amount of time picking the songs and going through how I want each of them to sound. Preparation is key before you go in because you don’t want to waste time. Also, hire an amazing band and a session leader you trust, keep the energy and vibe good…a negative attitude can kill a session!
11. What tips would you give to other indie artists looking to grow their careers?
Write as much as you can, play out as much as you can…practice, practice, practice! Every show/interview/session you do is a learning experience and you grow so much every time you do them! I’m such a huge believer in dreaming big, too! So, make a list of goals. Figure out how a step-by-step plan of how to get there. Remember: you’re in charge and no one cares more about your music/business more than you!
12. What can fans look forward to next, especially with the holiday season arriving?
I’m currently in the middle of the #ChristmasWithCait tour, traveling around playing intimate house concerts for fans around the country. It’s so fun! My hopes and goals for 2015 include touring as much as I can and a new full-length album!