Expert Advice: Relationships Are Everything

My career as an independent artist evolved out of my career as an entrepreneur and restaurant owner. I moved from my hometown of Boston to Atlanta in 2013 and opened my soul food restaurant Soul Delicious Grill and Buffet in Morrow, GA. I hired the gospel/soul group Joseph Wheeler and the New Praise Band to play there regularly. I would joke with the musicians that I used to sing and was thinking about getting back into it. More or less as a hobby/sideline, I started a label, Entertainment Plus, LLC, hoping to sign artists. At the same time, I started working on demos with the amazing Rodney Edge of Edge Music, who has toured with Anita Baker and worked with After 7 and Kelly Price.

Each year, my restaurant hosted an employee appreciation dinner concert to showcase local artists, and I would take the stage to perform a new song I wrote. Starting in 2014, I started performing one original song each year for several years, and in 2018, when I sang “A Storm Is Coming,” I realized I had a solid catalog and contacted promoters who requested an EPK. I got back together with Rodney and we fleshed out the original track. We started all of this in May of 2018 and, before I knew it, I had three albums and four singles. I have learned so much about engineering and recording music from Rodney. He calls me a sponge, and has helped me develop my ability to get inside every task in the studio and learn the process inside and out.

Early on, I would sing “off whack” and so I am grateful for what he taught me about autotuning. I also learned the importance of knowing your strengths. Mine are as a performer and executive producer, working with those who know how to bring out the best in me. When I heard Rodney’s full production, it gave me confidence in all of my talents as an artist.

Here are some things I have learned on my journey that you may find helpful:

  1. No matter how good you think you are or how great your song may be, stay in your lane, keep your head on your shoulders and listen to the expertise of others who know more than you about the recording process and marketing.
  2. Have respect for everyone you work with and especially for other artists. If you get into an ego driven artist battle scenario, you’ll just make yourself look bad and everyone will remember that for a long time. Relationships are everything. Once you put a bad taste in someone’s mouth, that doesn’t go away. And likewise, if someone talks smack about you, that can harm your career.
  3. Vocal-wise, you have to pay attention to the details and be objective about your performances. Acknowledge when you’re singing too high or too low, and learn the range your voice can handle. Don’t try to force beyond your comfortable level. Also, make sure the music on the track is balanced with the vocals. If it’s not, people will listen for four seconds and turn you off. It’s important to learn the best way to maintain that balance and the level of sound.
  4. Because they want to be kind, people won’t always tell you the truth about how they feel about your music. So look for signs, like if people you know, or anyone really, are adding your songs to their playlists or listening when you’re not in their presence. My 25-year-old son never talks about my music, but when I heard him listening to one of my older tracks without him knowing I was nearby, it meant everything to me. I knew my songs were having an impact.
  5. Enjoy your experience in the studio, but please take the music seriously and get every detail right. You have to be 100% committed to your tracks and your career in general to get to the next level. That’s just the beginning. Once you learn to work well with a team behind the boards, you will be ready to work with promoters and others who can help take your career where you want it to go. Commit to learning and growing every step of the way.
  6. Whether they’re socially conscious or personal, political or just to get people to enjoy life and party, write songs with a message that people can identify with. You never know when and how it will touch a person’s life or meet a global moment where what you sing could save lives. Pay attention to what’s happening in the world and how that touches your own heart, and use that for inspiration. And keep writing. Not every song is going to be great, but if you write a lot, you will find the ones that you know will rise to the top. With streaming, if you don’t release at least one song every 90 days, people are gonna move on.

If you believe in yourself and what you want to accomplish, you will invest in yourself. You may have to go broke and borrow money to make things happen, but it’s worth it––as long as you pay back what you borrow when you start making money. If you’re discouraged along the way, don’t give up. Weigh your thoughts about abandoning your dream against how much you have done and invested so far. Because you don’t want everything you’ve done to be for nothing when you have so much on the line. Also, look around for better people to work with, people who can help you and who believe in you even when you’re having a crisis in confidence.