People 08 May 2017
Named one of Music Row's “Rising Women on the Row" and Billboard Magazine's “30 Under 30 Power Players to Watch," Beth Laird, one-half of the power couple behind Creative Nation, Nashville's hottest music publishing company, is not only following her passion, she's creating a place for country music artists to flourish, professionally and personally.
A career in the music business wasn't on her radar until an internship at Capitol Records hooked her freshman year. “I immediately fell in love and haven't looked back," says Laird.
After a series of positions with some of the biggest publishing houses in the business, Laird and her husband Luke, a country music songwriter and Grammy winning producer (he's written 22 number one singles for artists like Carrie Underwood, Blake Shelton, Sara Evens, Trace Adkins, among others) decided it was time to try publishing on their own, using their own methods.
Five years later, the couple and the company are thriving. With 10 publishing clients on their roster, they've accomplished significant feats in a short span of time. With 43 radio singles, fifteen of which have been #1 songs, their writers have won ACM, CMA, and Grammy awards, and have been named ACM and BMI songwriters of the year.
SWAAY got the lowdown on what it takes to nurture an artist and how the couple are helping others fulfill their dreams.
What is it about country music that attracted you?
I love the honest lyrics and storytelling. We both grew up listening to all genres of music, and still do, but country music has a special place in our hearts because it's authentic and relatable.
What draws you to a new artist?
I always look for songwriters or artists who have a unique voice and say something in a way I've never heard it said before. I love writers who know who they are and sit a little outside the box, but also take songwriting seriously and are willing to work as hard as we do.
As fans of the music, how does it feel to be working alongside artists that you admire professionally?
It's very surreal. I was a fan of most of the songwriters we work with before we ever even signed them so I want to do my best and help them all fulfill their dreams. It's a big responsibility and an honor.
Break down the role a music publishing company plays in the career of an artist.
It's different for songwriters and artists. For songwriters, we try and oversee the entire business side of their work so that they can put all their time and attention into being creative. For artists who are songwriters, we help them find the best co-writers for their sound and artistry and help them evolve that sound over time.
What's your approach when it comes to publishing and management?
I think the key is being strategic and making sure you know what each client's individual goals are. They all have different definitions of success, so we strive to help them achieve their personal goals (whatever those may be). Time management is key, so we always want to bring them opportunities that align with their vision and some that stretch them so they can grow and evolve.
Beth Laird and Co. at the ACM awards
What sets your company apart from the others and makes it a unique place for an artist to be a part of?
We are highly focused, have a great team, and support each other. It is truly a place where everyone can fully be themselves. We are competitive but in a way that inspires each other to be better and we celebrate everyone's successes together. Culture is extremely important to Luke and I and I think that sets us apart as well as how strategic we are with each client.
In 2012, you formed an exclusive partnership with Pulse Recording, blending together the LA and Nashville music - what does this collaboration mean for your company as well as your artists?
It allows more opportunity for us, our writers, and Pulse. The deals are flexible depending on the writer and their needs. Plus, it allows us to provide broader, more diverse opportunities outside of Nashville and get administration for our writers.
As young entrepreneurs running a successful music company, what lessons do you and your husband hope to pass along to your two young children?
We hope it shows them that they can follow their passions in life and if they work hard and treat people with respect along the way, they will be fulfilled and love what they do every day. I also hope they see how much love and respect we have for one another and that it teaches them to respect and love the women in their lives.
What advice do you share with young hopefuls looking to follow in your footsteps?
I'd say focus on what your strengths are and what makes you feel energized and happy. Relationships are key so make as many authentic ones as you can and nurture them along the way. You have to stand out and make yourself valuable to your company and clients.
What's up next for Creative Nation?
We've been working with and developing a few new writers and artists that I think will make big impacts in music, like Kassi Ashton, Steve Moakler, Muscadine Bloodline, and Mags Duval. Also, our writers have some big cuts and singles in the works that I look forward to being released.
What's your vision for the future of Creative Nation?
The music business is changing so quickly that I don't make plans that are set in stone. We dream about the future but are always open to new opportunities – that's why we expanded from publishing into artist development, management and records. We are small and flexible so we can evolve with the change and our vision can evolve as we go.
"Sh*t!" my daughter exclaimed as she dropped her iPad to the floor. A little bit of context; my daughter Victoria absolutely loves her iPad. And as I watched her bemoan the possible destruction of her favorite device, I thought to myself, "If I were in her position, I'd probably say the exact same thing."
In the Rastegar family, a word is only a bad word if used improperly. This is a concept that has almost become a family motto. Because in our household, we do things a little differently. To put it frankly, our practices are a little unconventional. Completely safe, one hundred percent responsible- but sure, a little unconventional.
And that's because my husband Ari and I have always felt akin in one major life philosophy; we want to live our lives our way. We have dedicated ourselves to a lifetime of questioning the world around us. And it's that philosophy that has led us to some unbelievable discoveries, especially when it comes to parenting.
Ari was an English major. And if there's one thing that can be said about English majors, it's that they can be big-time sticklers for the rules. But Ari also thinks outside of the box. And here's where these two characteristics meet. Ari was always allowed to curse as a child, but only if the word fit an appropriate and relevant context. This idea came from Ari's father (his mother would have never taken to this concept), and I think this strange practice really molded him into the person he is today.
But it wasn't long after we met that I discovered this fun piece of Ari Rastegar history, and I got to drop a pretty awesome truth bomb on Ari. My parents let me do the same exact thing…
Not only was I allowed to curse as a child, but I was also given a fair amount of freedom to do as I wanted. And the results of this may surprise you. You see, despite the lack of heavy regulating and disciplining from my parents, I was the model child. Straight A's, always came home for curfew, really never got into any significant trouble- that was me. Not trying to toot my own horn here, but it's important for the argument. And don't get the wrong impression, it's not like I walked around cursing like a sailor.
Perhaps I was allowed to curse whenever I wanted, but that didn't mean I did.
And this is where we get to the amazing power of this parenting philosophy. In my experience, by allowing my own children to curse, I have found that their ability to self-regulate has developed in an outstanding fashion. Over the past few years, Victoria and Kingston have built an unbelievable amount of discipline. And that's because our decision to allow them to curse does not come without significant ground rules. Cursing must occur under a precise and suitable context, it must be done around appropriate company, and the privilege cannot be overused. By following these guidelines, Victoria and Kingston are cultivating an understanding of moderation, and at a very early age are building a social awareness about when and where certain types of language are appropriate. And ultimately, Victoria and Kingston are displaying the same phenomenon present during my childhood. Their actual instances of cursing are extremely low.
And beneath this parenting strategy is a deeper philosophy. Ari and I first and foremost look at parenting as educators. It is not our job to dictate who our children will be, how they shall behave, and what their future should look like.
We are not dictators; we are not imposing our will on them. They are autonomous beings. Their future is in their hands, and theirs alone.
Rather, we view it as our mission to show our children what the many possibilities of the world are and prepare them for the litany of experiences and challenges they will face as they develop into adulthood. Now, when Victoria and Kingston come across any roadblocks, they have not only the tools but the confidence to handle these tensions with pride, independence, and knowledge.
And we have found that cursing is an amazing place to begin this relationship as educators. By allowing our children to curse, and gently guiding them towards the appropriate use of this privilege, we are setting a groundwork of communication that will eventually pay dividends as our children grow curious of less benign temptations; sex, drugs, alcohol. There is no fear, no need to slink behind our backs, but rather an open door where any and all communication is rewarded with gentle attention and helpful wisdom.
The home is a sacred place, and honesty and communication must be its foundation. Children often lack an ability to communicate their exact feelings. Whether out of discomfort, fear, or the emotional messiness of adolescence, children can often be less than transparent. Building a place of refuge where our children feel safe enough to disclose their innermost feelings and troubles is, therefore, an utmost priority in shepherding their future. Ari and I have come across instances where our children may have been less than truthful with a teacher, or authority figure simply because they did not feel comfortable disclosing what was really going on. But with us, they know that honesty is not only appreciated but rewarded and incentivized. This allows us to protect them at every turn, guard them against destructive situations, and help guide and problem solve, fully equipped with the facts of their situation.
And as crazy as it all sounds- I really believe in my heart that the catalogue of positive outcomes described above truly does stem from our decision to allow Victoria and Kingston to curse freely.
I know this won't sit well with every parent out there. And like so many things in life, I don't advocate this approach for all situations. In our context, this decision has more than paid itself off. In another, it may exacerbate pre-existing challenges and prove to be only a detriment to your own family's goals.
As the leader of your household, this is something that you and you alone must decide upon with intentionality and wisdom.
Ultimately, Ari and I want to be the kind of people our children genuinely want to be around. Were we not their parents, I would hope that Victoria and Kingston would organically find us interesting, warm, kind, funny, all the things we aspire to be for them each and every day.
We've let our children fly free, and fly they have. They are amazing people. One day, when they leave the confines of our home, they will become amazing adults. And hopefully, some of the little life lessons and eccentric parenting practices we imparted upon them will serve as a support for their future happiness and success.