May 9, 2018, Hollywood, CA
On Wednesday, May 9 the annual ASCAP Music Expo kicked off at the Loews hotel in the heart of Hollywood. Music industry moguls including Jermaine Dupri, Jason Mraz, and St. Vincent as well as several other well-known artists, writers, and producers were all in attendance. Guests from all over the country came to attend the event and get exclusive access to the experts at their panels and breakout sessions.
For country music fans, “It Takes a Village to Raise a Songwriter”, a panel featuring rising country music star Adam Sanders and Nashville music execs from Spotify, Red Light Management and other music city experts was the highlight of day one.
In my exclusive interview with songwriter turned country music star Adam Sanders I got the inside scoop on his latest inspiration, his journey into the music industry and what defines the Adam Sanders sound on his debut album which was just released on Friday, May 11. Before Adam took the stage for his panel he shared some of his insider tips telling me about the process for creating his debut EP inspired by 90s country sound. He told me his number one piece of advice for those looking to break into the music industry saying,
” I think the biggest thing is to find your champion and also find your team. I remember when I very first moved to Nashville a lot of the guys that I met were guys like Cole Swindell, Dustin Lynch, Tyler Farr and all these different people that I’m very good friends with now and as I met these guys we were all in positions where none of us had publishing deals, record deals, none of us had anything going on, we were all just young and hungry artists and writers and I remember looking at the guys that were getting no. 1s at that time thinking I need to write for these guys or I need to go on tour with this artist. And I’ve been able to accomplish some of that but all of my success came from the group that I rose together with. The Cole Swindell’s of the world or the Dustin Lynch’s so I think it’s just find your group, find your champion whether that’s with ASCAP or your management company or your booking agent. My panel that I have with me are five key people that I have with me that have really shaped my career, so your team is really important and also along with that determination and to work very hard goes a long way.”
During the panel, Sanders introduced his team including his manager Tom Lord from Red Light Management, John Marks from Spotify, and early supporter of his music, Kevin Meads his agent at WME, and Ryan Beuschel VP of A&R at Warner/Chappell. He emphasized the importance of finding the right team and the group shared stories of good times in Nashville. Sanders also spoke about several of his artist friends including Morgan Wallen, Cole Swindell and other now famous country stars. He talked about the importance of rising together sharing stories of how the crew had started out hanging out in Nashville bars or at friends’ houses writing songs together before any of them achieved success. One story Adam told about his song “Ain’t Worth the Whiskey” had the crowd cracking up. Cole Swindell was working as a t-shirt salesman for Luke Bryan and Adam was working in construction in Nashville when they all decided to get together one weekend after Cole had just gotten out of a relationship. After drinking and talking about his ex-girlfriend they all decided the story was definitely worth writing a song over and soon enough they had the beginnings of a song. Adam finished it and later took it to Cole who loved it and now it’s a top hit on country radio. The panel closed with a live performance from Adam of “Ain’t Worth the Whiskey” and the crowd loved hearing it from the voice of the writer for a different experience. Adam also previewed a song from his new album giving the audience a mini concert which everyone enjoyed. The panelists covered many topics and finished out by talking about the future of the music industry. John Marks of Spotify noted how it had evolved over the years and how music streaming had changed many aspects including making it possible for behind the scenes talent like Adam to come forward and get their brand out there. According to John Marks, 75% of the current country artists write their own songs in the Nashville market meaning that artist and writer roles have blurred. The panel was definitely a success and the first day of ASCAP closed out with a great concert from some famous writers and music industry veterans at Ohm nightclub in Hollywood. Appetizers were also served on the Loews hotel rooftop during the annual ASCAP mixer that evening. Guests enjoyed mingling while watching a great view of the sunset over Los Angeles before heading to the show to see Jason Mraz and many other talented musicians give their performances.
Rising country star Adam Sanders attended his first ever CMT awards this past weekend where household names like Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson were honored. We had the chance to sit down with the songwriter- turned -country- singer a few weeks ago at the ASCAP music expo in Hollywood right before the release of his debut EP. The singer had a lot to say about the transition from behind the scenes to center stage.
Adam, who spoke at a panel during the ASCAP conference, described his background and childhood growing up in Florida during the panel. When asked what led him to country music he referenced growing up listening to 90s country music.
Check out the interview below to get the full scoop on Sanders music and inspiration.
Q: Let’s talk about first your new EP that you’ve released. You are a songwriter so it seems like you know what you want to say, but how have you worked on defining your sound?
A: My career and my journey have been awesome so far. You know I started out as a songwriter and you know I was able to have a lot of cuts and things and a couple number ones and as I transition into the artist’s career it was something that I really didn’t think about a lot. When I first started, you know, I knew how to craft a song that I didn’t know how to write a song for myself and so it really took some digging to go back and find myself personally and figure out who I was as an artist. And about a year-and-a-half ago all that made sense to me and my brand is family, faith, fitness, the outdoors and music so moving forward you know we just started to look at some of the songs that I had written that applied to me and also took that brand and started to write with that mindset and so it was a learning process honestly you know to try to figure out you know I knew how to ride a Cole Swindell song or a Dustin Lynch song but I didn’t know to write an Adam Sanders song and so we’re really excited it comes out this Friday so it’s going to be awesome.
Q: What has kept you coming back to Country? Because I read that a couple times you thought maybe you were going to switch genres, but you always came back to Country. So what is it about country that keeps you coming back?
A: Country, you know I grew up on 90’s country and that is my absolute love deep down in my heart.
I think as I was going through the process of trying to figure out who I was as an artist I told my team several times look I’ll sing the phonebook if that’s what it takes to get me to a certain point because this is my dream from day one. You know music has always been my life one goal and I was sort of willing to sacrifice and do anything to get there and I realize now that that may not have been the right approach that I needed to do what was you know true to me and true to my heart and so you know we released a few songs that may have been a little bit more of a pop sounding side of things and it’s crazy that as we released some of these songs it’s almost like everyone got one click more pop than country and I sort of was like a flower wilting I was dying a little bit slower and I was like man and finally it clicked and so moving forward you know I will say that I ‘m a country music artist and I will always be that and so I want my fans to know that moving forward there is no question of hey is that is that a country or he isn’t and you know it’s definitely going to hit you know radio country.
Q: So you’re here today to talk about song writing so what is your piece of advice for up and coming songwriters?
A: I think the biggest thing is to find your champion and also find your team I remember when I first moved to Nashville some of the very first people that I met were guys like Cole Swindell and Dustin Lynch and Tyler Farr and all these different people that you know I’m very good friends with now and as I met these guys we were all in positions where none of us had publishing deals, none of us had record deals we didn’t have anything going on we were still young and hungry artists and writers and I remember looking at the guys that were getting number ones at that time saying I need to be writing with these guys or I need to you know go on tour with this artist you know.
And I’ve been able to accomplish some of that and been able to do that but all of my success came from the group that I rose together with the Cole Swindell’s of the world and the Dustin Lynch’s of the world and so I think it’s just you know find your group and then find your Champions along the way whether that’s with ASCAP or your management company or your booking agent, my panel that I have with me are five key people in my career that have shaped my career today and without those people my career wouldn’t be what it is but also you know determination goes a very long way and to work very hard so I would say find your champion and find your team.
Q: So when you’re writing your songs and you know a lot of your songs are kind of stories that you’ve said are kind of inspired by your own life, what is inspiring you right now is there anything that’s going on in your life right now?
A: Yeah you know it’s just like I said when I found what my brand is those five pillars, Family Faith Fitness the Outdoors and Music are what means the most to me personally and so that’s what I want to sing about and I want to write about I want to make sure it’s true and authentic and so right now you know family is a big emphasis you know as my grandfather is getting older I’m spending as much time with him as I can and taking him fishing you know on days I don’t have anything you know fitness is a big side I love the outdoors you know I’m always loved hiking and hunting and fishing you know when and so my faith also you is something I have dipped into the last year or so and so I think those are the things that I really want to sing about and I want to inspire people in a positive way you know I think there’s so many different subjects of songs and I want to put out songs that can inspire people positively in a positive way.
On Friday May 11 the final day of the ASCAP Music expo in Hollywood kicked off with panels from the music industries top professionals. The highlight of the day for many attendees was the chance to attend po icon Meghan Trainor’s panel. The powerhouse singer/songwriter attracted a large crowd to her panel where she spilled secrets on her success and how she came to be a writer for household names in the music industry such as Rascall Flatts, Fifth Harmony, JLo, and Lauren Alaina.
Trainor, a longtime ASCAP member had come full circle as she took her seat on the stage to talk about her career. At 16 she had been an audience member at this very ASCAP expo in LA where she got to hear from music industry stars such as Justin Timberlake who inspired her to pursue her career as a writer. Now, getting to come back to the conference as a speaker herself she gave an amazing speech that no doubt inspired many audience members. Trainor was so excited to be back she even brought her parents with her and kicked off the panel by telling stories of how her dad had encouraged her music career from a young age. The singer told stories of how she played instruments from a young age. She told the audience about how when she wrote her songs as a teenager her father would encourage her telling her to finish the songs even when she wanted to give up. By 17 Trainor was already writing hits and working on her own brand. She told the crowd about the lessons she learned from being successful at such a young age. Sharing some hilarious stories of her trials and errors in the music business she said, “Don’t sign stuff!” and described how she made the mistakes of signing deals she didn’t fully understand saying that was a mistake she hoped to share with others. The pop singer also joked about being a young success in the music industry saying that giving orders as a young blonde boss wasn’t always the most fun. She even told a story of having to fire someone, and how nervous the whole situation made her. But the singer came out stronger and definitely didn’t let any of these obstacles intimidate her.
Her story of turning from a behind the scenes writer to a celebrity pop singer was so inspiring and the artist truly lives her brand when it comes to being unapologetic and celebrating yourself. She told the audience that she never believed she could be a star because of her looks and lack of celebrity qualities but then one day she realized that she could be front and center too. And she hasn’t let anything get in her way since realizing that was what she wanted.
She got personal spilling details about going from average girl to world famous pop star. Trainor spoke about how the transition isn’t all fairy tale endings and shared that it had been hard at times because shed lost friends and sometimes struggled with relating to people form her past life. She told the crowd, “My therapist said that you can’t really go back. And I will probably never relate to my old friends the same way.” But the singer has been hard at work making new friend and stardom hasn’t been all bad.
Speaking of friends, the singer also brought her co-writer J Kash to the panel who recounted stories of working with Megan in the writer’s room. He helped her write her latest single “no excuses” which has been another hit on the radio. She said she came to him and said hey I need a song about respect and that’s how they came to the idea of “no excuses”. The two also talked about working with different personalities in the music industry giving their advice for how to deal with creative differences.
Megan said,”if you really hate the idea you have to let them know. But do it in the nicest way you can like, hey, you’re crazy I hate this, you’re gorgeous.”
Great advice for in and out of the writers’ room.
The singer also shared the top tips she would’ve given herself as a young aspiring musician saying, “I would’ve given myself a heads up like hey, you’re gonna be a pop star!” she continued after the audience stopped laughing saying,
“No, I would say just believe in yourself.”
And the singer turned “the four” judge is living proof of this advice as she’s continuing to find success in her career and even help mentor new talent. During the panel one guest pitched a song to Megan based on the singer’s recent engagement to her fiancée Daryl Sabara. Trainor was so impressed by the pitch that she sent the young writer to talk with her father about producing the song. So, the conference definitely paid off for that attendee. It was a great way to end the day and everyone really enjoyed the chance to learn from such a down to earth and truthful discussion.