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.
Marriage can be a tightrope act: when everything is in balance, it is bliss and you feel safe, but once things get shaky, you are unsure about next steps. Add outside forces into the equation like kids, work, finances or a personal crisis and now there's a strong chance that you'll need extra support to keep you from falling.
My husband and I are no strangers to misunderstandings, which are expected in any relationship, but after 7 years of marriage, we were really being tested on how strong our bond was and it had nothing to do with the "7-year itch"--it was when I was diagnosed with PTSD. As a survivor of child sexual abuse who is a perfectionist, I felt guilty about not being the "perfect partner" in our relationship; frustrated that I might be triggered while being intimate; and worried about being seen as broken or weak because of panic attacks. My defense mechanism is to not need anyone, yet my biggest fear is often abandonment.
I am not a trained therapist or relationship expert, but since 2016, I have learned a lot about managing survivorship and PTSD triggers while being in a heterosexual marriage, so I am now sharing some of my practical relationship advice to the partners of survivors to support my fellow female survivors who may be struggling to have a stronger voice in their relationship. Partners of survivors have needs too during this process, but before those needs can be met, they need to understand how to support their survivor partner, and it isn't always an easy path to navigate.
To my fellow survivor sisters in romantic relationships, I write these tips from the perspective of giving advice to your partner, so schedule some quality time to talk with your boo and read these tips together.
I challenge you both to discuss if my advice resonates with you or not! Ultimately, it will help both of you develop an open line of communication about needs, boundaries, triggers and loving one another long-term.
1. To Be or Not to Be Sexy: Your survivor partner probably wants to feel sexy, but is ambivalent about sex. She was a sexual object to someone else and that can wreak havoc on her self-esteem and intimate relationships. She may want you to find her sexy and yet not want to actually be intimate with you. Talk to her about her needs in the bedroom, what will make her feel safe, what will make her feel sexy but not objectified, and remind her that you are attracted to her for a multitude or reasons--not just because of her physical appearance.
2. Safe Words = Safer Sex: Believe it or not, your partner's mind is probably wondering while you are intimate (yep, she isn't just thinking about how amazing you are, ha!). Negative thoughts can flash through her mind depending on her body position, things you say, how she feels, etc. Have a word that you agree on that she can say if she needs a break. It could be as simple as "pause," but it needs to be respected and not questioned so that she knows when it is used, you won't assume that you can sweet talk her into continuing. This doesn't have to be a bedroom only rule. Daytime physical touch or actions could warrant the safe word, as well.
3. Let Her Reconnect: Both partners need attention in a relationship, but sometimes a survivor is distracted. Maybe she was triggered that day, feels sad or her defense mechanisms are up because you did something to upset her and you didn't even know it (and she doesn't know how to explain what happened). If she is distant, ask her if she needs some time alone. Maybe she does, maybe she doesn't, but acknowledging that you can sense some internal conflict will go a long way. Sometimes giving her the space to reconnect with herself before expecting her to be able to focus on you/your needs is just what she needs to be reminded that she is safe and loved in this relationship.
4. Take the 5 Love Languages(r) Test: If you haven't read this book yet or taken the test, please at the very least take the free quiz to learn your individual love language. My top love language was Touch and Words of Affirmation before remembering my abuse and thereafter it became Acts of Service and Words of Affirmation. Knowing how your survivor partner prefers to be shown love goes a long way and it will in turn help your needs be met, as they might be different.
5. Be Patient: I know it might be frustrating at times and you can't possibly totally understand what your survivor partner is going through, but patience goes a long way. If your survivor partner is going through the early stages of PTSD, she feels like a lot of her emotional well-being is out of her control. Panic attacks are scary and there are triggers everywhere in society. For example, studies have shown that sexual references are made anywhere from 8 to 10 times during one hour of prime time television (source: Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media). My husband is now on high alert when we watch TV and film. He quickly paused a Game of Thrones episode when we started season 2 because he realized a potentially violent sexual scene was coming up, and ultimately we turned it off and never watched the series again. He didn't make a big deal about it and I was relieved.
6. Courage to Heal, Together: The Courage to Heal book has been around for many years and it supported me well during the onset of my first flashbacks of my abuse. At the back of the book is a partners section for couples to read together. I highly recommend it so that you can try to understand from a psychological, physical and emotional stand point what your survivor partner is grappling with and how the two of you can support one another on the path of healing and enjoying life together.