Bethel recently gave a mini-concert at my apartment as part of my “Songs From My Couch” series. Additional guitarist/banjo player by David Myhre. Video by David Johnson. Sound engineering by M. Allen Parker. Couch provided by me, Radley Balko.
When did you decide you wanted to become a musician?
There wasn’t really ever any one moment. I’ve wanted to make music for as long as I can remember. I’ve also always loved entertaining, loved performing for people. I did dance and theater at an early age. I started playing guitar and writing songs at 14. From there, I just started playing everywhere I could — bars, coffeehouses, parties, just about anywhere.
What artists influenced you growing up and got you interested in music?
Definitely Willie Nelson. He’s probably the only male country artist I listened to regularly growing up. I loved Patsy Cline and Reba. And of course the Dixie Chicks and Shania were big when I was a kid. But I also loved classic rock. I’ve always loved ’70s groups like Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles. And of course the Beatles.
I always find it interesting to hear stories about an artist’s first few years in Nashville. Tell me a little bit about yours. What odd jobs did you take? Did those have any influence on your music?
Once I left Belmont, I had to take a few different jobs to support myself. I worked for a holistic wellness center. I managed a huge indoor yard sale. I sold athletic equipment. I worked at a furniture company. I met a lot of good people, but I can’t say it had much effect on my music. It was just a way to make some money.
So what was life like — working those jobs and pursuing a music career at the same time?
It was definitely hard to do both. I was pretty much running on empty all the time. I would get up at 6 a.m. to work at an office until 3 in the afternoon. And then most nights, I was up until at least midnight writing, recording and performing. About two years ago I decided to quit my day job and pursue music full time. I’m sustaining myself by touring. It’s been awesome, it isn’t easy. I do all my own booking. It’s a busy life, but I no longer have the distraction of a day job.
How many shows have you played in the last year?
I don’t have an exact number right now, but at least 200. I’ve played all over the country — Alaska, Arizona, New Mexico — all over the map.
Artists once came to Nashville in search of a record contract. That was the only way to do it. Now there are lots of other ways to grow a following and establish yourself. Sounds like you’re doing okay without the big-label deal.
My ultimate goal is to make music for the rest of my life. Touring the world, making music, meeting people. That’s my main goal. I want to win CMA awards. The whole thing. If that means working with a label, I’m happy to do that. But my strategy right now is that I am an independent artist. So I’m working on my fan base and working to grow as an artist. You can do it on your own today, but it’s a lot of hard work. Not just from me but from people around me. I’m constantly meeting great people and adding them to my team.
Do you have an “only in Nashville” story?
Oh my God, I do! It just happened two weeks ago. I was walking my dog on 12 South, and I saw this woman walking toward me. I thought to myself, “Holy s—, that’s Patty Griffin!” So I asked. And sure enough, it was Patty Griffin. She was looking at my dog. He loves people, so he was wagging his tail. She asked if she could pet him. I mean, of course. Patty Griffin was petting my dog.
I started telling her what a big fan I was. I’m sure I sounded ridiculous. I was probably blabbering. I mean, I’ve worked with a lot of great artists and I’ve never freaked out like that. That was just a big freakout moment for me.
Tell me about your new record.
The title is still under wraps. But we’ve been working on it for about a year. It’s been a really difficult record to make, but I’m so proud of it. It’s a very intimate experience for listeners. It also pushes my limits a little more. We use instruments in unconventional ways, create sounds we wouldn’t normally put together. It’s also a good blend of my influences — old country music, ’70s rock, and old school soul and R&B. It should come out this month. We don’t have a release date yet, but check my web site.
A couple more questions that I like to ask everyone who plays for us: First, if you could collaborate with one artist right now, who would it be?
I’d love to work with Willie Nelson or Patty Griffin. They’re two of my very favorites.
Can you recommend some Nashville-based artists people might check out when they’re in town?
Well there’s my very good friend Rachele Lynae. She’s getting radio play all over the country right now. I co-wrote her current single, “Fishin’ for Something.” Also check out the Devious Angels, a great country duo.