How To Make Chocolate Cake

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This week has been pretty busy as I prepare for finals and graduation, but on Tuesday I had to opportunity to attend a Grammy U event with Will Hoge.  Will Hoge is a Nashville native songwriter whose song “Even If It Breaks Your Heart” (made famous by the Eli Young Band) was nominated for Grammy Country Song of the Year, ACM Song of the Year, and CMA Song of the Year.  His newest hit “Strong” has been featured in the new Chevy Silverado campaign, was number 2 on the Shazam charts, and has sold almost 200,000 copies.  Hoge’s newest album Never Give In (and one of my favorite tracks off the album) was number 4 on the American Airplay Charts and in the Top Ten for 15 weeks.

Ken Tucker, a former professor of mine for PR in the Music Industry and a former Country Weekly managing editor, conducted the interview portion of the night.  We began discussing Hoge’s roots which can be found in Franklin, TN where he was surrounded by a family with strong musical influences.  Though he picked up guitar later than most (his later high school years), Hoge quickly took to writing.  When asked about when he first got into music, Will said, “I fell for it pretty hard…and joined my first real-quote unquote-band in college with some older guys looking for a singer”.  Though he attended Western Kentucky for college and planned on becoming a teacher, he soon realized in his sophomore year (what he calls his Senior Year) that music was what he really wanted to pursue.  After dropping out, Will moved back home and focused on writing professionally.  Songwriting, “…was the first place that [Will] …really felt comfortable and [he] felt this sense of self-expression that [he] hadn’t found anywhere else”.

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The next single off of Never Give In is “Still Got You On My Mind” and was featured on a recent Episode of Heart of Dixie.

“More Than Your Life Story”

Will Hoge also touched on where he draws inspiration, sometimes from his own life and sometimes on character’s he creates.  He even went on to say, you can empathize with creating characters which you may not know, but can imagine how things would be if you didn’t have certain things in your life.  Will went on to say that there comes a point that you realize “Writing is more than your life story”; and compared it to the Beatles and their Sgt. Pepper Album he grew up with. The key to writing a song that is not your story is to “inject enough truth and realism into [a song] to make it believable”.

Will Hoge also shared with us his family and how they have impacted his writing.  From being a father to his relationship with his wife-Will is able to share his experiences in his work flawlessly and to adapt them to create songs which can showcase varies forms of humanity.

“You Can Have Career Highs And You’re Kids Don’t Care”

After “Even If It Breaks Your Heart” hit number one, the Eli Young Band and Will were thrown a number one party.  Will brought his whole family-including his young sons, and everyone enjoyed themselves with toasts and mingling.  However, by the end of the party some invitees were not happy.  Will asked his sons if they had had fun at the party and they had some news for him: No, There was no cake and you need cake at a party.  Needless to say, Hoge will have cake at his next number one party and I hope we see one for “Strong”.Selling Out and Making Cake

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The “Even If It Breaks Your Heart” #1 party.

When Will was first asked by Chevy to use “Strong” he admits he was a bit hesitant.  Could this move to go commercial be seen as selling out?  He debated it for a bit and realized that it could help the song and maybe he’d get a truck out of it, or it wouldn’t help the song and he could get a truck out of it.  An industry friend of Hoge finally told him.  “You can’t keep making vanilla cake and expect it to be chocolate cake, at some point you have to do something different to get chocolate cake”. In order to make big things happen you have to take big risks. By partnering with Chevy for the deal, Hoge as an indpendent artist was able to brand his music side by side with Chevy (a prominent country music supporter and known for a blue collar customer base, similar to that of country music) to attract a larger fan base.  Now not taking the deal would not have ended Hoge’s career, but it sure has helped it.   “Strong” has done well and he has gotten a truck out of the deal.  Hoge says he has no regrets.

“Ain’t Nothing Gonna Knock Him Off The Road He’s Rollin On, He’s Strong”

After being signed to a label for a bit, Hoge felt that having his own label would better suite his creative and business aspirations.  Recently, he started his own label Cumberland Recordings.  He says he is a great boss and that going on your own can be tough; “at the end of the day it’s just a different set of headaches”.  However, Hoge is not intent on being a label mogul, but wants to focus on music and independent projects.  After a serious accident a few years ago, Hoge found a renewed spirit to chase what is important.  To Hoge that will always be his family and music.

“Some Dreams Keep On Gettin’ Better, Gotta Keep Believin’ If You Wanna Know For Sure”

Will Hoge is a rarity in today’s Nashville as his focus on artistry and music is forefront.  Some days I get so caught up in the business world and the strategic planning of the industry that I lose sight of what brought me here in the first place: making chocolate cake.  No not actually chocolate cake, but music that was real and authentic and worth being heard.  Having a message and a purpose.  We are taught in school that music is second, marketing deals and contracts, and budgeting tours, and saying what’s hip is first.  As a Senior, there have been times in the past four years where I’ve lost sight of the magic of music.  It’s why I fell in love with this city and why I want to be a voice for musicians and artists one day.  Will Hoge isn’t writing for Luke Bryan, he’s not trying to be someone he’s not: He’s writing what he feels and he’s doing a pretty damn good job at it.  And he’s doing it his way.

My first day at CMT, the Eli Young Band performed “Even If It Breaks Your Heart” and to close the evening Will Hoge also played it.  As my internship winds down and graduation nears, everything is coming full circle.  Why I came here, what I believe is important.  Being True to yourself.  Thinking back on the 17 year old girl with a Crazy dream to move to Nashville and everyone told her she’d never make it or that she could come home whenever she wanted.  And now that girl is graduating and she’s making her dream a reality.  Its all a bit cheesy, but for artists we all just feel things a little differently than most.

So here is to the pursuit of making Chocolate Cake.

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Will Hoge performs at the Grammy U Finale Event

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Changing Roles and Changing Communities

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Hello Again Friends!

I’ve been very busy working on some great new projects for CMT so pardon all the past tense posts!

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I’ve got a new view here at CMT overlooking Broadway and the Bridgestone/Ryman buildings.  I’ve also been working more closely with our CMT team whereas I focused on all of Viacom before.  Currently I’ve been working on Music Research, dabbling in some Contract Drafting, Managing some database materials, and reviewing some content for our new program lineup.  As we near the CMT Awards, I’m sure I will be busy working on tasks for that night.  MTV is also having their Movie Awards this SUNDAY at 8pm CST!! Let’s just say I’m secretly willing anything Hunger Games and Jennifer Lawrence to win. 

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Another thing that has been showing up in my inbox is how Viacom is giving back to the community.  Viacom offers their staff additional vacation days to do community service and to help better their community.  They even offer a website that will help employees track their hours and connect them with service projects.  Their Corporate Social Responsibility website Viacommunity outlines their projects and helps promote goodwill across the company. 

The mission of Viacommunity is: “to better the communities which Viacom serves, and make a positive social impact on the people and areas where we work and live. It’s about leveraging the power of Viacom’s brands to drive action on the issues that matter to stakeholders. And it’s amplifying those acts, spreading their impact to help others make a difference. Plain and simple, it’s Impact. Amplified“.  This is something that not only I agree with, but something that I feel I will require in a corporate atmosphere when I am looking for a job. 

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In my time at CMT, departments have come together to help build a home for Habitat for Humanity and have even hosted a Career Interest Day with students at our partner school McGavock High School.  CMT and Viacom truly invest in their community and encourages its employees to do the same.  By investing in our communities we can better understand our consumers and can give our employees a chance to feel more connected to the areas they work in.  This outlet benefits both the community and Viacom. 

Nashville Concerts: Brad Paisley’s Beat This Winter Tour

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In the past couple weeks, I had the opportunity to see Brad Paisley’s Beat This Winter tour finale.  My friends Lindsay and Ryan had two extra 8th row floor tickets and so my friend Chelsi and I joined them.

Prior to arriving, we read Brad’s Tweet which said “Cannot wait to play Nashville TN tomorrow. Big fan of the ABC show. Always wanted to visit there. I hope it’s just like on TV.” which is an obvious pun to the show his wife Kimberly Williams Paisley used to be featured on.

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Danielle Bradbury opened the night with a similar set to the one she did on CMT’s Listen Up-which we taped a few weeks back.  Chris Young was the second act  promoting with his newest single “Ah Naw”.

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However, Brad, in Headliner Fashion, came out with all the bells and whistles.  From his excellent guitar skills to the amazing graphics and laser show which was used during “Southern Comfort Zone“, the production was elaborate and left the crowd wondering what would happen next. What did happen next was better than any hologram, Carrie Underwood graced the stage to perform their duet “Remind Me“.

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One of my favorite things about Nashville shows, and especially those shows that end in Nashville, is that special guests always show up.  Carrie Underwood was not the only one to pop up on stage as Randy Houser, Sheryl Crow, and Eric Close also made appearances as Brad closed the show with his hit “Alcohol“.

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One thing I really liked about this tour was that it was very team oriented.  Everyone seemed to get along well and everyone appeared on stage at the end-even Brad’s Mascot of himself-to support and celebrate the end of the tour.

After a great night out with friends and witnessing the live aspect of the business, I remembered being invited to the tour’s after party at SEEN night club as part of the CMT taping we did awhile back at the location.  Although we did not stop by I heard it was a great networking night and that tour went out in style.  This is all just a reminder of Nashville’s Golden Rule: its not always What you know, its who you know.

Super Stars and Emotional Intelligence

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This past week was such a blur! Not only was I excited for Spring Break on Friday, but I also had some exciting experiences at CMT.

On Monday we had a workshop within MML which focused on Emotional Intelligence or EQ.  EQ is all about controlling and knowing your emotions in the workplace in order to perform efficiently and professionally.  EQ also enables employees and team members to work together more cohesively by allowing for understanding and encouragement.  I can truly say that the workshop-which was via video conference from New York and shared with Santa Monica-allowed our department to grow.

Martina McBride performs "Do Right Woman, Do Right Man" during her taping.

On Tuesday we had a taping of Live @ CMT with Martina McBride which is done in-house.  Although I don’t work on Tuesday, I was given the opportunity to attend.  Martina’s performance was exceptional and the production was interesting to watch.  The set was simple and gave a feeling of a more jazz environment as Martina showcased her phenomenal vocals on some new soulful tunes and a Elvis classic.  You can catch a performance here: http://www.cmt.com/videos/cmt-exclusive/martina-mcbride/1009617/suspicious-minds-cmt-exclusive-martina-mcbride.jhtml

In the following days, some of this performance was even showcased on HOT 20 where the back of my head was clearly evident 🙂

As the week progressed, my supervisors met with our NY boss to plan their goals for the year.  I think this activity goes well with the EQ conference earlier in the week and allowed for them to plan for the next couple months.  This week as very forward thinking and problem solving.

Overall this week was a great week and added greatly to my understanding of CMT’s corporate culture.

Lights, Camera, Invoices?

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Its my third week of interning, and I’ve got a good routine down.  Park, throw my stuff in my cubicle, Starbucks, meetings, lunch, task, emails, emails, home.  This week I haven’t gotten lost in the halls and I now know where the big pantry is on our floor.  Its the small victories people.

This week I’ve been trained to work on setting up payments for material we’ve licensed.  Its really great that I have experience with excel and customer service as both are required in this task.  We have a policy of “killing people with kindness” and helping as much as we possibly and legally can.  I really appreciate that we have these kinds of policies; although it may take some time on our part, it can really help with our relationships for the future.  Plus it sends a message to all the peImageople we work with that we really care about their concerns and setting things right. 

This week I was also treated to a Live Taping for a new show.  Five of my fellow interns and I showed up to a local venue to be “bodies” in a preliminary taping.  We were given a private concert by Thomas Rhett and Danielle Bradbery and were able to observe the backstage experience of a taping.  Basically its all about sound, lighting, Imageand blocking.  The major point is to also capture a good run through in the event that the live taping with the real crowd doesn’t go as well.  

All I can say is that both performers were very personable and down to earth.  Thomas Rhett even posed for some pictures with us while Danielle also filled in as a crowd member to demonstrate the blocking.  Both were great live and I was really impressed with Danielle’s vocal range-no wonder she won The Voice.  

Although I was invited to stay for the real taping, I had to get back to work so I could go to class.  I am so lucky that my department encourages me to attend these events and allows me to work on tasks that they do themselves.Image 

In other news, My best friend was in Nashville this past weekend for her birthday and we went to the Keith Urban Light the Fuse Tour Finale at the Bridgestone Arena.  ImageDustin Lynch and Little Big Town opened the show, but nothing compared to Keith Urban on guitar.  With Special Guest Performances by Eric Church and Peter Frampton, this Imagefinale was one of the best I had ever seen.  

All of these artists (excluding Peter Frampton) have great new music out and can be found on iTunes and in stores such as Wal-mart if you’re feeling a little throwback. 

 

Abiguity, Confidence, and Leadership

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Today our Senior Director sent out some great articles to our team to discuss how to deal with ambiguity in the workplace along with confidence in your leadership decisions.  I thought they were great and I think you will too:

http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20130606150641-658789-9-qualities-of-truly-confident-people?utm_campaign=LinkedIn150&utm_content=Dealing

http://www.melanieallen.co.uk/articles/dealing-with-ambiguity/?utm_campaign=LinkedIn150&utm_content=Dealing%20with%20Ambiguity%20the%20New%20Business%20Imperative

http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20130829124922-284615-dealing-with-ambiguity-the-new-business-imperative

I think these articles are not only great for the workplace, but especially for interns as we deal with not really knowing what we are doing on the regular.  We’ve all heard the phrase “fake it till you make it”, but I do think there is something to be said for asking for help.  As interns we have to realize our main point of being on location is to learn.  Yes, everyone wants to be the star intern, but at the end of the day if you make a decision that you are not fully informed on-then you’re going to look like a fool.

So be wise and try hard to learn as much as you can.  As my supervisor says, “be a sponge”.