Columbus Songwriters’ Association culminates its first year of existing by showcasing some of its best on Sunday, December 1st. We have invited those participating in the showcase to answer a Q&A that will help you get to know those who are participating in what will hopefully be the first of many events to put Columbus on the music industry map. For more information about CSA, whose final showcase places several rising performers in front of several industry persons, visit their website. Check out the music and learn more about each artist by visiting one of the following links:
Philip Fox | Sarah Overdier | Darby Smith | Anthony Mossburg | Andrew Bashaw | Matt Brent | Joey Hendrickson | Eric Clemens | JT Hillier | Brett Jones | Isken Cosip | Knic Pfost | Will Freed | Dan Heidt | Nick Wilkinson
IATU: What has been your most spun album(s) this month?
Phillip Fox (PF): Been listening to a lot of Black Crowes this month.
Sarah Overdier (SO): The Staves – Mexico
Darby Smith (DS): Lately, I have been stuck on a band from the UK, called The 1975. Their album, The 1975 has been on replay for awhile now.
Anthony Mossburg (AM): Ben Howard – Every Kingdom, Mat Kearney – Nothing Left to Lose, Fleetwood Mac – Rumors
Andrew Bashaw (AB): Birdy’s new album Fire Inside, Needtobreathe – The Reckoning, The 1975 – The 1975, The Killers – Battle Born
Matt Brent (MB): The album I’ve been listening to the most…I listen to songs more than albums. “A Team” by Ed Sheeran, “Sweet & Low” by Augustana, “Anything” by Amos Lee, & “Family” by Noah Gunderson.
Joey Hendrickson (JH): Civil Wars, Barton Hollow Vinyl
Eric Clemens (EC): Houndmouth’s debut album From the Hills Below the City has been an ongoing addiction since I first heard them a few weeks ago and I was able to catch them at A&R bar last week! Great band chemistry, you can hear it on the album and see it on stage.
JT Hillier (JTH): Ryan Adams – Ashes & Fire
Brett Jones (BJ): Lydia – Devil; Ben Gibbard – Former Lives; Frank Ocean – Channel Orange; Kid Cudi – Indicud; J Cole – Born Sinner
Isken Cosip (IC): Get Lifted by John Legend. I love gospel choirs. I wish I had one at my disposal.
Knic Pfost (KP): Probably a tie between Regina Spektor’s Soviet Kitsch and OK Go’s self titled. For some reason I’ve been craving some older stuff.
Will Freed (WF): I have to say 2… Hope thats ok! Bruce Hornsby – Here Comes The Noise Makers; Monte Montgomery – New & Approved.
Nick Wilkinson (NW): Josh Ritter, Andrew Bird, Bruce Springsteen – Nebraska
How did you hear about CSA?
PF: Joe Hendrickson called me up and said “I have a dream….”
SO: Several songwriter friends (Ron Freeman, JT Hillier) invited me to the very first showcase at Scarlet and Gray (Cafe) last November. I was immediately in awe of the talent and bursting at the seams to get involved!
DS: Joey Hendrickson introduced me to it when i was recording my Cover Demo with him.
AM: Through multiple friends and through the church I attend.
AB: My talented buddy Isken Cosip first told me about it.
MB: It’s really kind of fluky and funny how I got connected to CSA. My wife was about to transition into a new job and I wanted to create some income and connect to the music scene in Columbus. So I began the process of attending open mics and the first…and only…open mic I attended is when I met Joey. I enjoyed the songs he played and wanted to get to know him so we chatted the rest of the night. When I heard about CSA I expressed desire to join but Joey played coy. At the time there was a CSA membership cap at 35 members and they were approaching that number. I was just some guy at an open mic. Joey arrived too late to hear me sing or perform so he had no idea who I was. I completely understand his initial hesitation but as we talked and shared ideas and stories, getting to know each other. I joined later that week. I felt like I had gotten a date with the prom queen! What Joey and Derek have done is a great service for the music community. It’s been a mutually beneficial connection.
Dan Heidt (DH): From Joey. I met him at a mutual friend’s gig and I contacted him later about some stuff and he invited me to the CSA kickoff meeting last year.
JH: I first heard about CSA when Derek DuPont and I were drinking a beer around a bonfire, and I said to him, let’s call it “Columbus Songwriters Association”.
EC: Dick Plunk actually recommended me to look them up after a songwriters meeting.
JTH: I was at Java Central Coffee House in Westerville, I believe it was after an open mic. I was having a cigarette with Isken Cosip who I had known musically and been friends with for a while at that point. He kept talking about this group he had just joined, CSA. Any time throughout the conversation that I would try for a subject change, he’d just go right back to the group and asking me why I hadn’t “signed up already”. This exchange went on for months in one form or another until I finally realized that he was completely right.
BJ: Joey Hendrickson found me on Reverbnation and invited me to the first informational meeting as CSA was getting under way.
IC: Joey Hendrickson actually contacted me during it’s inception. I had been friends with The Castros. And at the time that Joey was looking for local talent, Marco Castro had told him about me. So Joey did his research and found my website and invited me in.
KP: Through Hanif Abdurraqib, a delightful host and a good friend. He prodded me to join.
WF: Joe(y) Hendrickson at a show.
NW: They followed me on Twitter.
If your music had a mission statement, what would it be?
PF: Doing what I love to do with folks I love to do it with, and telling a few stories along the way.
SO: The mission of my music is to provoke an emotion(s), trigger a memory, introduce a new idea, encourage or heal someone.
DS: Calm, cool, and collected.
AM: Just trying to be myself, and make music that I’m proud of, Be completely honest and real in every song.
AB: To make people feel something. Whether it makes someone laugh, cry, or dance, music should always make you feel something. Emotions are powerful; if you can call upon someone’s emotions, you really have a chance to make an impact on them.
MB: “Music that is simple and honest.”
DH: To tell a story that people can connect with in a positive way, without angst, politics, or whining.
JH: To help people feel more.
EC: “Do what you love, play what makes you happy.” This has never been about business or a career, I just love having the opportunity to play for people and share messages in songs.
JTH: Just to share my love and understanding of music with people.
BJ: Hmmm, I suppose to just keep making stuff that I’d want to listen to — to bring together all the stuff that has influenced me musically and put it in a blender to come out with something unique, and to keep breaching into new territory. Artists that seem to evolve and keep you guessing with each new release are doing exactly what I want to be able to do.
IC: There’s too much negativity in this world, so I want to inspire people daily about a kind of bliss that we can all achieve through the songs that I sing. I write honest stories that can be applied universally. And a lot of that honesty can be traced back to my personality. So in one word, poptimistic!
KP: My music intends to spark moments of delight and joy. It’s whimsical and fun, though not meaningless.
WF: We make this music for you & we hope it makes you feel something…anything really.
NW: Play music I believe in, and hope other people believe it too.
What judge on the panel are you most nervous to perform in front of, and why?
PF: I’m not really concerned about the ratings, I’m more interested in sharing my songs with the audience.
SO: Me nervous? Psh. Never. (Just kidding). I’d definitely say Leslie James. People forget how much impact local reputation and networking has. At the end of the day, the other two judges will go back home to Nashville and may or may not remember my performance. It’s very possible I will run into Leslie James at a local event and she’ll think “God it’s that one girl who bombed at CSA Finale.”
DS: Barbara Cloyd. My dream ever since i learned that i could sing, I have wanted to move to Nashville to pursue my dreams of making it big. And with the genre that I like to play (country/pop) what better place to be than the Music City itself?
AM: I’m not really nervous, more excited to play in front of new people and hopefully build new relationships!
AB: Brady Barnett has produced a ton of great artists. He’s heard so much and has such an ear for marketable music. I’m nervous and excited to hear his comments.
MB: The judge I’m most nervous about is the crowd. You never know what the crowd will like or won’t like…or why. Some nights they love you and you stunk and other nights they don’t get you and you think you killed it. I’m excited about the judges panel. I hope to make it to the round where I get the feedback. What a great opportunity! Nervous is probably a strong word…playing in this finale is a great privilege. I’ve got nothing to lose and a great experience to gain!
DH: I’m not nervous. I’m there to have a good time and make music with my friends. I’ve never been a fan of the competition aspect of CSA… To compete suggests that one piece of art is better than another. Ask a mom to choose between a Rembrandt and her kid’s fingerpainting, and see where a higher quality product gets you.
JH: Lesley James. All the other judges go back to Nashville after the Finale Showcase. Lesley could wake up the next morning and tell everyone in Columbus how pitchy I am on local radio!
EC: I’m not sure yet, but for now I’d have to say Barbara Cloyd. I eventually want to land a spot playing at the Bluebird and if I make a good impression on her here, that could be a lot easier!
JTH: Probably Barbara Cloyd. With her experience in the open mic scene, especially at a venue like The Bluebird Café, I feel like she has to be really good at gauging the potential of musicians pretty quickly. Potential is everything for most of us, the idea that we have limitless potential, given that we are willing to work really hard etc is what drives us to keep going. I’m curious to see if she is as optimistic about my potential as I try to be.
BJ: (I) guess I can’t play favorites in this scenario. Although it does seem a little intimidating that a couple are from Nashville where all things musical seem to happen, and here I am as this kid from Columbus, Ohio who is more used to playing in his bedroom or front porch than in front of any judge.
IC: I think I’m nervous with everyone. I’m still young in this career and haven’t been in deep into the music scene as everyone else. So the chance for these judges to hear me is quite intimidating. But that’s overshadowed by excitement. It’s great being in this environment, constantly learning, and always meeting people. With all the tools I’ve acquired so far, it makes standing in front of the judges a lot easier.
KP: I work really hard to free myself from expectations. If i’m playing my music for two friends in my living room, I try to play at the same level of quality that I will aim for on Sunday. So in that sense, I’m not nervous at all.
NW: Haven’t thought about it, just heading down to play a gig.
What trend in music/the industry is the most exciting and why?
PF: The opportunity to do so much independently. It’s made it sort of like the wild west, which has it pros and cons, but there’s a whole industry of independent support folks in PR, Radio, Marketing, etc. that didn’t exist 20 years ago.
SO: I am thrilled that the music industry is becoming more accessible. Getting your music to you fans and developing a brand through an online presence is 10 times easier than before. Finally, hardwork and talent are starting to balance the scale with money and labels.
DS: I really find it all interesting. It’s pretty cool to see totally different genres come together to make something beautiful.
AM: I love the amount of power and success behind indie bands and artists lately. Gives the little guys more of a chance than we have ever had.
AB: I think it’s exciting to see how fast “nobody” artists can rise to the top these days. Twenty One Pilots is a great example of how dedicated fans can really make the difference in the success of an artist. It’s no longer just about getting signed to a huge deal, it’s about creating music people want to hear, and if you can do that, the people will do the rest.
MB: Technology has made it possible for the independent musician to do what only the signed musician could do before. You can produce great music and get yourself out there. The other trend in music that I’m loving is the resurgence in the popularity of the singer songwriter and what seems like greater opportunity for a solo artist to stay solo. House concerts. TV opportunities. There are so many ways to be seen as an artist. The flip side is that since it’s easier to be seen, there are more people to see and it’s harder to be seen. Music is still about relationships and that will never change.
DH: Sadly, I don’t keep up very much with the music industry. Although through the CSA, I understand a lot more of it than I did before. It no longer seems like an unattainable ivory tower. The music industry needs to keep up with where technology is headed. It doesn’t have the monopoly on audio anymore. I just saw an artist make his album (as well as a ton of extra material) available on a really nicely personalized flash drive. That’s the new format.
JH: Sync Licensing – You can do it from your hometown as long as you’ve got at least Windows 8, a friend who’s a music supervisor, and an amazing song.
EC: The internet and digital distribution! I have a love for local, and there’s definitely a particular culture of music here, but on the internet it’s so great to be able to hear different indie artists across the globe and how unique everyone still is.
JTH: As much as I’d like to say the vinyl revival, 3% of overall music sales isn’t really much to be too excited about, unless you’re a traditionalist like me. However, the promise of music licensing and music publishing at the moment has a lot of songwriters like myself very excited from a business perspective. I would also argue that the phonograph cylinder is due for a comeback.
BJ: I suppose just what the internet has allowed us to do with music. From what Radiohead did with their online donate-what-you-wish approach to In Rainbows to resources like Reverbnation, Frettie, and the like for independent artists — it seems to have leveled the playing field a bit for everyone, but yet it’s constantly changing and evolving at a pace that makes it tough to guess what the future holds.
IC: It’s interesting to look at because, at least from my perspective, music has begun to become more inspirational. I listen to songs like “Brave” by Sara Bareilles that send out a good message as far as caring about other people. Songs like “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore, or “Royals” by Lorde are starting to counter the negative image that some artists have done in the past by countering the “rock star” persona. These are the kind of trends I’m excited about. But then again, I could be way off. So I’ll focus on the positives haha.
KP: For better or worse, I am a huge fan of the move towards digital discovery services. I’m stoked to see how we evolve as a million sub-industries of the main industry. We no longer have to wait to be “picked”!! We can just “pick” ourselves, and do whatever we want! And create a following and possibly even a living!
WF: Not a trendy guy so I’m not sure. But I like all the writing tools you can find for smart phones no’a days. Recorders and tuners, all kinds of cool stuff. I dig that a lot.
NW: Return of control to the artist. Making music less of a commodity and more of an expression.
How do you see yourself fitting into the changing music industry landscape?
PF: Someplace where the Allman Brothers and Creedence left off but arriving at a different place than the Black Crowes and Blackberry Smoke.
SO: 5 years ago, having my music recorded was a foreign idea to me, something I often dreamed of but never imagined I could achieve. Never in a million years would I guess that hitting the studio to work on some new tunes would become a weekly thing. I am thankful that I have the connections (aka talented CSA friends) and resources to do most things myself.
DS: I can adapt to change pretty easily. I’m a ‘go with the flow’ kind of girl and I see myself being able to take whatever can and will be thrown at me.
AM: I am not trying to write music for any label or radio station. I think thats the format it is moving toward. Hopefully I can help that in some way!
AB: I like to think that I’m a very real, honest person. I don’t pretend to be the best at what I do, but I genuinely enjoy doing it, and I think that makes people want to enjoy it with me. I write about what’s real to me and it becomes real to those who listen. With all the superficial shallow music in the industry now, I like to think music from the heart could be just what some people are looking for.
MB: I think there will always be a place for the creative, the simple and honest songwriter who lets the music stand on its own. The best songs can always be performed with an acoustic instrument. An artist like myself who is willing to be who I am in a place that sort of stands aside from lots of production will always be attractive. It’s classic. But Classic is classic for a reason…there’s lasting value in it. The singer songwriter genre will always be around because it’s where lots of music starts. The song starts on an acoustic guitar but becomes a rock anthem…a country sing along…a pop number 1. I guess what I’m saying is the music landscape is always changing but some things never change. I see myself in that place of constancy.
DH: I really don’t see myself fitting in too much. If I can get my music published and licensed, that’s all I’m really concerned about. I’m not in this to become a hit singer/songwriter/performer/
JH: I want to be like Johnny Appleseed. I’ll plant seeds in other music cities, that grow branches back to Columbus, until apples drop on hungry local songwriters.
EC: I’m not sure I want to fit in. I’ve received (negative) feedback about songs that don’t have a chorus, or have too much guitar or too much repetition, but that’s the role of the song. I would take these things to heart if I want to write a song for the masses, but I will probably never go back and change a song because they each mean a lot to me and that is reflected in how they were written. If the industry is constantly changing, I hope we can challenge and break some of the traditional rules of songwriting.
JTH: Continuing to play in front of as many people, as many times, as well as I possibly can. Google searching constantly, reading books, asking questions, feeling generally pretty out of the loop, working really hard, and constantly pushing myself to learn.
BJ: That’s a tough one. I’m not sure how much I really do/could fit into it much. While parts of the dream to “make it” sound somewhat appealing, I have a pretty comfortable life staying in Columbus and wouldn’t mind if music stayed as primarily a passionate hobby rather than a full-time job.
IC: With everyone being stuck to their screens nowadays, it’s nice to be reminded that not everything should be electronic, and that there is plenty of human to go around. Musicians are going back to instruments and have started to go away from pure digital emulations. I see myself fitting in because of my approach to music and songwriting. I enjoy singing. I enjoy playing my instrument. And having a good sound that goes alongside a good message is something to be very excited about.
KP: I expect i’ll be mostly a background guy, pushing other musicians to market themselves, and explore how to create moments of delight and joy for an audience. The singer/songwriter community struggles with expressing happiness, sometimes, I think, unless it’s connected to some “more legitimate” emotion like love. But people are more complex than that! People **like** to be happy! Why can’t we express that more often? that’s my push, as a songwriter.
WF: I don’t try to fit in at all, I just do “my thing” and hope people enjoy it enough to come out to shows and buy albums. So far so good. I’ve tried to do the “hip” thing that others are doing and are having success with and it never felt right to me. So I learn to be comfortable with who I am as a writer and performer and hope others dig it 😉
NF: I don’t really, but I’ve never really fit in anywhere.