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.
New parents re-entering the workforce are often juggling the tangible realities of daycare logistics, sleep deprivation, and a cascade of overwhelming work. No matter how parents build their family, they often struggle with the guilt of being split between home and work and not feeling exceptionally successful in either place.
Women building their families often face a set of challenges different from men. Those who have had children biologically may be navigating the world of pumping at work. Others might feel pulled in multiple directions when bringing a child into their home after adoption. Some women are trying to learn how to care for a newborn for the first time. New parents need all the help they can get with their transition.
Women returning to work after kids sometimes have to address comments such as:
"I didn't think you'd come back."
"You must feel so guilty."
"You missed a lot while you were out."
To counteract this difficult situation, women are finding mentors and making targeting connections. Parent mentors can help new moms address integrating their new life realities with work, finding resources within the organization and local community, and create connections with peers.
There's also an important role for parent mentors to play in discussing career trajectory. Traditionally, men who have families see more promotions compared to women with children. Knowing that having kids may represent a career setback for women, they may work with their mentors to create an action plan to "back on track" or to get recognized for their contributions as quickly as possible after returning to work.
Previously, in a bid to accommodate mothers transitioning back to work, corporate managers would make a show at lessoning the workload for newly returned mothers. This approach actually did more harm than good, as the mother's skills and ambitions were marginalized by these alleged "family friendly" policies, ultimately defining her for the workplace as a mother, rather than a person focused on career.
Today, this is changing. Some larger organizations, such as JP Morgan Chase, have structured mentorship programs that specifically target these issues and provide mentors for new parents. These programs match new parents navigating a transition back to work with volunteer mentors who are interested in helping and sponsoring moms. Mentors in the programs do not need to be moms, or even parents, themselves, but are passionate about making sure the opportunities are available.
It's just one other valuable way corporations are evolving when it comes to building quality relationships with their employees – and successfully retaining them, empowering women who face their own set of special barriers to career growth and leadership success.
Mentoring will always be a two way street. In ideal situations, both parties will benefit from the relationship. It's no different when women mentor working mothers getting back on track on the job. But there a few factors to consider when embracing this new form of mentorship
How to be a good Momtor?
Listen: For those mentoring a new parent, one of the best strategies to take is active listening. Be present and aware while the mentee shares their thoughts, repeat back what you hear in your own words, and acknowledge emotions. The returning mother is facing a range of emotions and potentially complicated situations, and the last thing she wants to hear is advice about how she should be feeling about the transition. Instead, be a sounding board for her feelings and issues with returning to work. Validate her concerns and provide a space where she can express herself without fear of retribution or bull-pen politics. This will allow the mentee a safe space to sort through her feelings and focus on her real challenges as a mother returning to work.
Share: Assure the mentee that they aren't alone, that other parents just like them are navigating the transition back to work. Provide a list of ways you've coped with the transition yourself, as well as your best parenting tips. Don't be afraid to discuss mothering skills as well as career skills. Work on creative solutions to the particular issues your mentee is facing in striking her new work/life balance.
Update Work Goals: A career-minded woman often faces a new reality once a new child enters the picture. Previous career goals may appear out of reach now that she has family responsibilities at home. Each mentee is affected by this differently, but good momtors help parents update her work goals and strategies for realizing them, explaining, where applicable, where the company is in a position to help them with their dreams either through continuing education support or specific training initiatives.
Being a role model for a working mother provides a support system, at work, that they can rely on just like the one they rely on at home with family and friends. Knowing they have someone in the office, who has knowledge about both being a mom and a career woman, will go a long way towards helping them make the transition successfully themselves.