February 28, 2016

Wonder what takes to make it in 'Music City USA'? Janine Le Clair's hard-earned advice applies to all singers, anywhere.

When you come to Nashville as a singer, you need to remember that you're one of hundreds of singers that have probably arrived here this month alone. It does not make your talent any less valuable. It does not mean you don't 'have a shot'. It only means that you are now among the best of the best, and the fact that you are a 'singer' is nothing unique in itself.

But in fact, you are unique, and you always will be.

You want to remember that your voice and what you have to offer is always yours and no one has that certain blend of voice, delivery, interpretation, ideas and presentation, the way in which you do. I've put together a little list of some things you should keep in mind when coming to the famed capital of country music, in hopes of not only expediting, but getting the best out of your experience here.

Keep in mind:

1) Nashville is first and foremost a community. It's like a large family unit, and highly protected. You won't be just accepted without observation; they want to make sure you're here because you love the music, you value your craft, and you're willing to work at it.

Connections in Nashville happen mostly through the song itself

2) Your achievements back home in your hometown are not necessarily of interest here. You may have won the biggest award ever at the county fair, but what they're more concerned with is what you have done here in Nashville. Who have you met and started collaborating with? Are you playing anywhere? How long have you been in town? Are you in the process of recording or have you recorded?

3) Even if you're not a songwriter, you need to realize that this is a song driven town. Connections here happen mostly through the song itself. Don't think of this as a discouragement, because truthfully: there is no job for the singer without the song. The song is the baby. And it's well nurtured and cared for in Music City USA. The sooner you embrace that, the better. So, you ask what happens if I'm not a songwriter? That's fine. Just be on the look out for great songs. Partake in venues that have original music; mingle with songwriters; and listen for songs that suit your style. Saying you sing, but you don't know what won't be good enough here. The good news is that a great voice is always welcomed. Don't forget that the songwriters are looking for incredible vocalists who will inspire them to write beautiful songs.

Now you ask, how do I navigate around this new community? I have some advice for you:

1) Get out there amongst others in this community. Attend as many writers' nights as you can. Yes, that's correct – 'writer's nights'. This is where interaction and networking in Nashville takes place. You listen to new songs; hear new voices; and meet new writers. It's a great place to introduce yourself and let it be known that you are new to Nashville. Have business cards with you that list your website and social media links. Approach the writers whose songs you genuinely enjoy, and do so as a legitimate fan. Often relationships are formed that way.

It is difficult to perform in Nashville if you are new, so it's very important to network!

2) It is difficult to perform in Nashville if you are new. Spots are filled up months in advance. However if you are out there networking you will most likely meet someone who has a gig booked. Support them at that show. They may end up inviting you up to sing a song. Or you may end up meeting someone that helps you connect with that venue for a later date. Don't be afraid to pair up with great vocalists. There is power in numbers. Join a gig where there are several other great singers performing. It's not a competition. Surrounding yourself with great talent makes your own caliber grow as well.

3) Introduce yourself at the recording studios that are known in town for doing demos. You may hear of those opportunities through fellow musicians. (Also, there are plenty of helpful Nashville musician websites that list all this kind of information.) You know those writers you met at Tuesday night's writer's show? Let them know you are available to sing their songs (keep in mind, musicians in Nashville play for tips). They'll probably take you up on it!

I love Nashville and you will too. Trust me, it is worth the blood, sweat and tears. Welcome to Music City!