THAT'S MY NICHE AND I'M STICKING TO IT
(THE ONGOING SAGA OF SCOTT SOUTHWORTH)
One of the hardest things to convey people from all over the world, trying to make forays into the music business, particularly those of Nashville, New York, Los Angeles, Austin. Toronto, etc. (music centers), is how much WORK it is to a music career these days that is "OFF THE FIELD", away from writing, rehearsing, recording, performing. That is only about 15% of a career. The rest is ALL NETWORKING, MAKING FRIENDS AND ALLIES, BUILDING AND NURTURING RELATIONSHIPS. That is EIGHTY-FIVE PERCENT OF IT.
You can write incredible songs, be a monster performer, have a solid social networking and packaging, all the connections in the world and you will DO NOTHING if you can't meet and befriend REAL PEOPLE who will show up, pay you for being you. Without that, you really are not going to go far beyond your friends and family. And many times, even they will not go beyond clicking a “Like” button on a computer or phone key. “Likes” are not CUSTOMERS.
But most newcomers to this are conditioned to think that all they must do is put something “out there” on social media, record something, “put out a ‘I’m now a songwriter’ sign” and they are in business and expect the money to roll in. “HOLD ON THERE PARTNER, IT’S A LITTLE MORE INVOLVED.” The reality of today’s music marketplace requires CREATING YOUR OWN NICHE! The actual successful people today do that. Here is one of them.
The point of this missive, SCOTT SOUTHWORTH. Scott, while being a friend of mine for over a decade, is the epitome of one of the people who know and DO what it takes to CREATE HIS OWN NICHE. He does it every day, and the approach and energy he expends amazes me. That’s what I wanted to talk about here.
Scott is a down home honest to God Honky-tonk writer and artist in the style of his influences, Merle Haggard, Lefty Frizzell, and others, and sounds like he stepped right off stage at Tootsies in the 1960’s. Yet he has updated real life lyrics on songs like BROWN LIQUOR, WHISKEY BOTTLE, and HEY HILLBILLY SINGER. And recorded with some of Nashville’s top veteran studio players, in some of the top studios. He also has a softer, bluesy side that can really take you across a musical journey. Throw in some humor, great looking jackets and you see someone that in a fair world, should be on the biggest stages in the world. This guy is GOOD.
I first met him over a decade and a half ago at a Nashville tradition called “THE THIRD SUNDAY AT THREE” a songwriter’s get together at a house in West Meade. Each third Sunday of the month, about 100-150 writer’s artists and interested people would get together to share food and swap songs. Being at a house, the parking was not always optimum, and Scott’s first trip has car sliding through mud to ding a fairly nice Mercedes Benz. He walked inside looking for the owner and found her in the personage of a petite, very attractive blonde. They shared information and she shook it off like it was nothing. Later on, we would find that woman was my significant other, Tina Swanson. Welcome to Nashville Scott. Never know who you’ll run into.
He had grown up in Oregon, playing in bands, from rock, blues, country, and had finally decided to take on the big time. His own style is if you want to get to know something, say a business, you go to the power players to find out how it’s done. That began a ten-year run on the syndicated THE MUSIC ROW SHOW along with his partner in crime, fellow songwriter, Heino Moeller. They interviewed nearly every hit writer, upcoming and established artists, record producers, publishers, and musicians. That way they could find out how the business worked from the people actually doing it. All the time, Scott worked multiple jobs in addition to writing and recording his own songs. He worked a variety of sales jobs that took him all over the country.
He would always find “extra ways” to combine his passions. When his jobs took him to other regions, he would pair up with the charity, “MEALS ON WHEELS” and book a night in a club, put a show together and give proceeds to the local charity. He continued to work in town as well, with packed houses at THE BLUEBIRD and DOUGLAS CORNER, and many of the songwriter’s festivals from ‘SMOKEY MOUNTAINS festival to the Gulf Coast, FRANK BROWN INTERNATIONAL SONGWRITER’S FESTIVAL.
As things continued to move on, he felt like he might not be in the right niche as the “usual” Nashville singer/songwriter. Never one to spend a ton of time in the co-writing world that most writers seek, live and die by, having some private conversations with some of the hit movers and shakers, who only were looking for the “hot, young artist with a shot at a record deal, who could do their own tracks and demos”, he felt it was time to quite trying to step to other people’s tunes and define his own target audience. A lot of that took him to Europe.
He booked himself tours into Ireland, England, France, Switzerland, and other areas, where he found himself shooting up international charts, and found his status overseas going from the obscure pub singer to major slots on huge outdoor festivals. And all of this was going swimmingly until the dreaded COVID epidemic hit in March of 2020.
But, he didn’t even let THAT stop him. He started getting up impossibly early, around 6:00 am (unheard of from Nashville musicians) to do FACEBOOK LIVE SHOWS that would be received in early afternoon or evenings in England, France and other areas where his fan base had reached. He would do a ton of LIVESTREAMING and consistently increasing his audience. His shows are always interactive with his audiences, he'll do requests and always held a lively court in his home music room.
At the same time, he would go on to do a group of music videos, (some I was actually a bit player in) which enabled him to get other opportunities. The guy just doesn’t quit.And he goes on to this day. He is currently filming episodes of a new podcast dedicated to country music, and there is really no telling where he is going to end up next.
This is the definition of the level of dedication, self-invention and promotion that it takes to continually expand in today’s marketplace where most artists can’t get people to put the cell phone down for 3 minutes much less tune into a live streaming broadcast. Yet that is EXACTLY what people have to do now. And really this is not just NOW. It has always been the nature of this business where you have to keep a dozen balls in the air simultaneously to have one actually pan out.
Yes, it ALL BEGINS WITH A SONG. And Scott’s songs are there. Each one, rich in visuals and memorable melodies, each one a crowd attention grabber. It can’t be HYPE ONLY. It has to be there. And he is.
But once there is a product, you have something to work with. And with some inventive marketing, it can be used to build momentum in a very crowded field.
My buddy Scott knows Momentum. He creates it every day. Get em boy.
Flaming Tortuga Records